So Duotrope is going to a paid model, which is not surprising as they’ve been telling people they would go to that model for years if “keep it free” didn’t pay the bills.

The Important Announcement!

So their roll out is just announcement that basically says “thanks for the donations, guys, but now it’s going to cost $5/month!”

Well, or $50/year.


So on a personal level, I’m not going to cough up that much money. Sorry guys, but just no. For various reasons I’ve just cut my subscriptions to things that cost money by a TON, so adding a new thing was really banking on it being in the $1-$2 a month range (I actually assumed it would be something like $20 a year with an option to pay more).

I think I know where the numbers came from. Previously they’d said that “if every user gave $5 a year” they’d make enough money. Since about 10% of users donated some money at some point, I guess the assumption is that those 10% will now remain users and give $50/year and everyone goes home happy. Or something.

Mostly this has resulted in a wild flurry of free-flung assumptions on Twitter, which is always fun. As usual, we end up in the swamps of doom and confusion and “my financial decisions are more pure than yours” or whatever, which is usually reserved for the conversation about whether or not an e-book should cost $15.

My personal, “What what what!?” response came from a) sticker shock, because $50/year is considerably more than their previously quoted yearly amount, b) because, sadly, the main value for the site for ME comes directly from the submission tracker being free, thus inducing writers to give up their data for free to be crunched and obsessed over, and c) because even assuming the data didn’t degrade in quality, I’m not sure the site subscription would be worth that to me.

Yes, I’m aware that in the dark ages, authors bought Writers Market for $20, and it wasn’t that great. Well, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone suggest paying for market info in the past six or seven years because, uh, we have the internet. This isn’t 1993.

I’ve also seen both the coffee comparison and a cell phone comparison, neither of which make a ton of sense, and both of which primarily exist to shame the other party into feeling bad about what they have or haven’t chosen to spend money on. I mean, yeah, I spend considerably more than $5 a month on my cell phone. I have also indulged in overpriced coffee beverages, both of which give me more enjoyment than paying $5 to have a look at some market listings, most of which I can recite from memory at this point. But mostly, whatever. I don’t have to justify whether or not I have a $5 bill somewhere and whether or not I’d rather go blow it on pinball and hard cider down the street.

Likewise, I know some people for whom the site is worth it, in which case they’ve probably already set up their subscriptions. To whom I may say BUT THAT $5 COULD TOTALLY HAVE BEEN SPENT ON VEGETABLES.

I was being slightly facetious when I suggested on Twitter that a Duotrope Kickstarter (keep it free for one whole year!) would have probably funded and overfunded, at least for the first one. But… the thing is that’s probably true. What would have helped Duotrope would have been to be less terrible at fundraising, which has never been their strong point.

2008-2011, I gave them $10-$20 a year in donations* to keep it free, because they said they wanted $5 and I was like “well, this is for me and 1-3 other people.” The thing is, I have no idea how much that helped. At no point in their years of “if you don’t donate, we’ll have to make this subscription!” have they ever said “you know, it costs us $X a month to run this site.” So that might have been a good start? You know? Instead of “give us some unspecified large amount of money or we’ll never stop nagging you.”

Here’s a cache of the Keep it Free page from about a week ago.**

As far as making most of the site subscription only… Why not do it in a way that isn’t stupid? Like … here’s the subscription tracker, but for free you can only look back at your last month or two months of submissions history — if you subscribe, you can see the full history. Or here’s the submissions tracker, but if you want to see the response times, that costs money.

Since I wrote the majority of this post last night, Duotrope has responded to concerns: I know some of you want specifics on our numbers, our decision process, etc. While we understand your desire to know the inner workings of Duotrope, we are a private company, and our internal data is not public domain.

Oh, okay. They couldn’t tell us how much money they needed us to donate because they’re a private company. That’s cute. It’s a secret as to how much money they needed us to give them to remain free, but we were supposed to just come up with it passively. Now they want to charge us twice as much as the average yearly contribution to donate our data to their super secret company. I guess it’s good to know that they’ve always been coy about how much they actually need in donations on purpose and not just because they’re substandard fundraisers.

But anyway. Duotrope can charge whatever they want for their service, and I’m free to point out that I’m perfectly capable of tracking my submissions in a searchable excel file for free. I’m sad to be losing access to their searchable index, but it’s not worth $50/year to me as I rarely go spelunking for markets and when I do the majority of the new ones I find there are non-paying or token. There are others for whom it may be, and who aren’t annoyed by the company communications. It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out.

*I didn’t donate this year because I haven’t had stories out anywhere I didn’t know about and barely visited the site compared to years previously. However, some of the people who did donate (including last month) are annoyed that there’s no acknowledgement of that, no subscription discount for people who just dropped $20+ on them, nothing. Good job. Because the last thing you’d want to do is warm up to the people who have given you money in the past.

**Also, based on a highly informal poll that is biased as all fuck, most people assumed the subscription rate for Duotrope would have been in the $10-$20, which tracks well with the data from the cache of the Keep it Free page, where they give the mean and median average donations as $19 and $10, respectively.

And now I’ve officially spent way too much time talking about this.