On Duotrope

I love Duotrope. I really love it. So their announcement today did a little break on my heart: https://duotrope.com/notes_current.aspx

They are going to introduce a $50 annual subscription fee from January 1st 2013. All their previously free features--just some of which are comprehensive fiction and non-fiction listings, statistics about your submissions and statistics about other writer's submissions--will now only be available to those that pay.

The justification is understandable. They run an amazing service that relied upon donations, but according to their announcement only 10% of users gave the minimum contribution amount. At times I have scratched my head over how they manage to operate without charging and part of me had a suspicion that all their recent upgrades and updates were moves toward creating a market-ready product.

I totally get it, Duotrope. I sympathise. But I'm hurt you didn't give me more time to adjust. And I'm worried about your future. I'm concerned you might be shooting yourself in the foot. I hope I'm wrong.

I'll probably pay the fee. I feel I should be loyal to them at this time of transition. I would never have had the tools to start submitting my work at the rate I do and I wouldn't have had the confidence to keep going when I started if it weren't for DT's sobering acceptance statistics for given markets. Plus what would I do with the extra few hours in the day that leaving DT would give me?

But I have some worries:

- If only 10% of people donated money, it may be only 10% of peope are hardcore users. If these figures translate to subscription take up then Duotrope will lose one of the things that makes it so brilliant: the accuracy of it's response statistics.

- If the product they are selling is actually going to be worse than its free incarnation, will this possibly put off even hardcore users from subscribing thus lowering that 10% even further. If that happens DT will be even less reliable.
- It may be that users can still report their responses, but why would they if they lose access to their submission tracker?

- I'm sure lots of editors get frustrated with the increase in submissions Duotrope has contributed to. But at the same time, I would never have discovered some of the markets I now have subscriptions with had it not been for DT. I certainly think new markets will suffer from these changes as DT is a great way of announcing yourself to writers.

- Why $50? That seems a lot if previously the donation suggestion was around $6. Surely it's in DT's interest to get as many current users over to the privatised model to keep the integrity of the product. And why a deadline so close to Xmas, a time when people's wallets and bank accounts are at their emptiest.

- How are new users meant to discover how good and useful DT is over a long run? I'll pay for it, but I've been using it for 2 years. I wouldn't have paid for it had I not known how good it is. I'm not sure even a trial period could help here. I can't see how DT will attract new customers.

- I'm not sure Stephen King would have had the spare income to pay for DT had he been starting out today. Not to get all class warrior about it, but $50 is definitely a lot for some people to pay. And I don't want to see a fiction landscape dominated by wealthy writers.

It's a sad day, but I do hope that this isn't the death of a brilliant service that I've become addicted to. Perhaps a rival to DT will arrive and make that sub fee a bit more competitive? Perhaps a rich donor will step in and offer to pay for their service? Perhaps they will have a rethink and look at a really concerted donation drive with the threat of sub fees in the background? Maybe an advertising led model might be preferable?

Bottom line is this has ruined my weekend.