This month marks three years of Urban Phantasy, and this post is number 100. Neat, right? There have been some changes here, and a lot of changes for me since I started writing on this blog. I started out writing here as an assignment in one of my classes at college during my Junior year, and I’ve kept it up semi-regularly since then largely as a challenge to myself. In that time, I’ve graduated from college and moved twice, the second time going clear across the country.
I had some ideas for what to devote my 100th post to, and I will get to those, but then I learned that Duotrope’s Digest is going to a subscription model in 2013. You can read the full announcement straight from the source right here.
I was first told about Duotrope about four years ago and have been using them ever since. In fact, I was told about the site by the same professor who taught the class where I started this blog. (You can follow her blog here.) It’s a valuable resource to writers of fiction, poetry, and, as of this past year, non-fiction, offering a searchable database of thousands of writing markets. More valuable than that, though, is their submissions tracker, which does what it sounds like, but also offers statistics on acceptances, rejections, re-write requests, and response times for every market. Since the website was launched, all of these services were offered for free and without ads, though there was a donation button, and every page showed information about how the site’s operating budget was doing for the month. In all the time that I’ve been a Duotrope user, I don’t think the site’s ever been in the black.
If this were a perfect world, everyone with the means would donate based on what Duotrope was worth to them. I’ve always donated when I felt I could, and I’ve donated more regularly since I got a steady job, but I’m in a very small minority of Duotrope users who do actually donate. It’s like public radio, only without Carl Kasell.
How do I feel about this? Mixed. As a writer, I’ve come to rely on Duotrope’s Digest–it’s a modern-day version of Writer’s Digest that I can access from anywhere–and it’s something that I can easily fit into my budget. For a year’s access to all of the site’s features, it’s $50, or if you want to go monthly, it’s $5/month–a few dollars more a month than a subscription to Clarkesworld. That’s something I don’t even feel the need to justify over the course of a year. At the same time, I do worry that going to a subscription model could hurt the service–part of the strength of Duotrope is its huge user-base, all of whom help to improve the statistics available. By excluding people who aren’t willing to pay, the statistics are likely to get skewed somewhat, though I don’t know in which direction. (As Duotrope already notes, rejections are under-reported, so the statistics for most markets skew towards acceptances.)
Whatever the effect is on Duotrope’s user-base, I’m glad that they’re making a move that will allow them to survive financially. Whether or not every current user decides to subscribe, I think it’s good that this move will make people ask themselves what this service is worth to them, and that’s a question that should be asked more often, whether the service in question is Duotrope’s Digest or Google or anything else that we too-often take for granted.
Remember, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.