Duotrope for Dollars

I was outraged last year, when Duotrope announced that it was shifting to a paid model. Well, not actually outraged. In fact, I thought it was a very reasonable decision. Possibly even sensible, though it’s hard to be sure without knowing the financial data.

In any case, I found Duotrope to be a valuable service, and I had already been donating $20-25 per year. I thought $50 was a bit steep, but I signed up anyway, since in my search a couple of years earlier, I hadn’t found a good alternative.

So, here we are at the end of the year, and it’s time to decide whether to re-up. I’ve been surprised to find no other blog posts covering the same ground, so here are my own decision and reasoning.

I’m not going to renew my subscription.

As with most decisions, there are many factors that play into this.

Output – I simply haven’t done much writing this year, and even less submitting. While I’ve had a number of acceptances, some of them won’t be published (or pay off) until next year at best. From a purely financial perspective, $50/year just doesn’t make sense when my writing income is low, and my needs are slight. Depending on real life, my output for next year may rise dramatically, but it’s also very possible it will dwindle to almost nothing. Real life often chooses the less fun outcome. All in all, I just don’t expect to need Duotrope much.

Responsiveness – When Duotrope was free, I occasionally sent in suggestions for improving the site. All were acknowledged; none were acted on. Fair enough – it was a free site. Earlier this year, I sent some more suggestions – some new, some renewed. All were acknowledged; none were acted on. Not so cool, this time around – after all, I was paying a pretty good amount for the site. I thought at least one or two of the more simple and logical suggestions would be followed up on. For example, when I get a rejection, I often turn right around and send the story out again. But the page that comes up after entering a rejection doesn’t offer a ‘search for new venues’ link. To be fair, Duotrope continued to offer the very same service I signed up for. But so far as I can tell, they’ve added very little to that service over the year, and certainly none of the things that were important to me.

Alternatives – A year ago, there was discussion of a number of possible, putative, or extant Duotrope alternatives. Many of these seem to have softly and silently vanished away. One, however, remains – the Submission Grinder. The Grinder is (despite its horrid name) an almost slavish Duotrope clone, but one that promises to be forever free. (I take that with a grain of salt; Bigfoot – remember Bigfoot? – promised me a free e-mail address for life, up until they started charging.) Still, the Grinder tries very hard to be like Duotrope used to be. In some ways it’s worse, in some ways better, but all in all, it comes pretty close. And it is free.

Statistics – According to what they claim, here are some comparisons of Duotrope and Grinder, based on recent self-reported statistics:

Duotrope Grinder
Markets 4,861 2,590
Recent market updates 222 34
Recent market additions 20 21
Users 30,885 1,965*
Submissions 138,000 33,415*

* Grinder claims 1,965 users, while Duotrope claimed to gain 30,885 new users just in 2012, with slower but continued growth in 2013.
** Duotrope claims 138,000 data points, while Grinder claims 33,415 submissions.

These aren’t exact apples to apples comparisons, but the result is clear – Duotrope has substantially greater coverage and membership than Grinder does.

So, where does that leave us? Well, it leaves me deciding to drop Duotrope. It’s a good service, and one that’s far more comprehensive than its strongest alternative. However, I don’t need the service enough to warrant the cost, I find Duotrope unresponsive, and, most important, Grinder is good enough for my purposes. Late addition – I sent a minor query to the Grinder site owner, and he responded promptly, while on vacation, during the holidays, and was apologetic for a very short delay. So, that’s another substantial difference between the two, and it convinced me to send a donation now, rather than wait to see how much I like the site when using it regularly.

Still using Duotrope? Happy with Grinder? Using your own Excel spreadsheet and Ralan? Let me know what you think.

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