Write It Sideways

Should Writers Pay to Use Duotrope?

Today’s article is written by regular contributor Sarah Baughman.

A writer friend and I recently tried to justify why we’ve done such a terrible job of submitting our work to literary magazines. We arrived at a pretty simple answer: time.

First there’s the actual writing. Then the revising, and the obsessive re-revising. But after this substantive work is done, or as done as it ever can be, hours of work await: finding appropriate literary magazines, checking their requirements and deadlines, writing cover letters, formatting manuscripts properly, tracking which submissions go where, and figuring out when to send what where next.

“The people I know who send a lot of work to literary magazines have practically made it a part time job,” my friend said. “They have whole spreadsheets tracking all of their submissions.”  Spreadsheets! we sighed admiringly.

Yet that’s what it takes, right?

When I recently decided to see if I could find new homes for a few essays I wrote ages ago, I froze: where to start? I knew of a few online literary magazines and blog posts with links to more literary magazines, and I clicked haphazardly through those, not really sure what I was looking for. Then I remembered Duotrope, an online database of literary markets I’d read about a few years back.

Duotrope made waves in January 2013 by starting to charge for site membership: $5/month, or $50/year. I’d seen some grumbling online about this new fee, but decided to purchase a month’s membership to scope out what the site entails.

What does Duotrope offer?

Duotrope currently catalogues 4,568 (and counting!) literary markets for writers of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Purchasing a site membership means you can:

Who could benefit from a Duotrope membership?

Who might not want to pay for Duotrope?

The bottom line

For me, it’s worth it. I might let my membership lapse when I hear back from this round of submissions, and wait to join up again until the next round is ready to go. But really, for people with plenty of work to submit and limited time, Duotrope offers an excellent streamlined, user-friendly method for navigating the potentially maddening world of literary submissions.

What is your method for initiating and keeping track of your writing submissions? 

Editor’s note: This is a positive review of Duotrope based on one writer’s positive experience using the system. The beauty of having a variety of contributing writers is that we can offer readers a variety of perspectives. For another perspective on Duotrope’s membership fee, check out this post by The Missouri Review: Duotrope Digest Announces Fee-Based System. I love the Missouri Review, but keep in mind that they, too, have begun charging writers a fee for submitting work. Bottom line: organizations have the right to charge a fee for the services they provide, and we have the right to pay or not. There’s no right or wrong, only what works for an individual.