Paying Back, 2013 Edition

December 26, 2013

Every year, I spent a bit of money I’ve earned from my fiction on supporting worthy writing-related web sites and magazines, be it via subscription or donations. In the past, I made most of these purchases in December, but this year I ended up spreading it out more throughout the year because of so many worthy Kickstarter projects I simply had to support. Even so, there are two in particular that I supported this month that I’d like to draw attention to in this post:

Crossed Genres

This is a quality magazine that is extremely supportive of diverse voices as well as new authors. They began to pay professional rates at the beginning of 2013, and are now holding a subscription drive in order to continue to publish and to pay writers fairly in 2014.  I was one of over 300 people who already bought a subscription, but they aren’t there yet — they need 600 subscriptions total to fully fund, and the subscription drives ends December 31.  Click here for more details.

 

The Submission Grinder

There is a fine balance between supporting the writing-related services you love, and becoming an over-charged customer. When Duotrope became a paid service at the rate of $50+ a year, I could not justify paying that much for what they offered. I was happy to donate $20 per year in previous years because it was a) voluntary and b) more along the lines of what I felt comfortable spending on a service where most of the value is added by its users Wiki-style to begin with.

Fortunately, the fine folks at Diabolical Plots have stepped in and created an excellent alternative service called The Grinder, which they are committed to keeping free for everyone.

While the Grinder is new and does not yet have the volume of users of Duotrope (they are growing fast, though!) — a much greater percentage of their users are neo-pro SF/F writers, and so the data for the markets that interest me is generally as reliable or more reliable than Duotrope, even with less people reporting.  They are constantly updating the site, introducing new and innovative features, and they’re extremely open to feedback. All in all, I am very thankful for the service they have provided to the SF/F writing community this year, and I encourage those of you who can afford it to kick in a few bucks and those who cannot to support them by uploading your submissions data, therefore improving the accuracy of their database.

 

Whether you choose to support these two venues or someone else (and there is no shortage of worthy candidates!) please consider spending a few extra dollars with venues that provide you with free, quality services year-around.  Your help will keep them going and available for you and for many other users who may not be fortunate enough to have the disposable income for this.

And while I’m updating the blog, also check out my story Nuclear Family, podcast by the wonderful folks at the Cast of Wonders.

NuclearFamily

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

#SFWApro

 

 


Submitomancy Launches a Crowdfunding Campaign

December 30, 2012

submitomancy

Almost exactly a month ago, Duotrope announced that they were becoming a pay site, asking writers to fork over $50 a year or $5 a month to take advantage of their robust web site and an extensive database. Many writers (myself included) felt that it’s perfectly reasonable for a site to charge a fee, but that $50 was way too much money to pay for the privilege of feeding your own data into a Wiki-style service.

Most of the writers I know agreed that $20 was the sweet spot of what such a service would be worth to them, and many posited that someone will come along and launch an alternative to Duotrope very soon. That someone turned out to be Syliva Spruck Wrigley, a speculative writer and an online marketing professional.

I expected some webhead to cobble together a very basic online database, capable of tracking subs and performing basic analysis. Sylvia’s vision is far grander. She wants to create a sophisticated, slick site with lots of social media features, a detailed market database, and varying levels of membership. In short, it would be Duotrope 2.0. Advance feature membership would cost about $20 per year but, best of all, basic features would be free.

The project, titled Submitomancy, is currently seeking 5,500 British Pounds (or around $8800) in funding.  The money will be used to pay programmers and developers, and cool additional features can be unlocked via stretch goals.

So yeah, that $20 I was going to donate to Duotrope this year? Sumbitomancy can have it instead. Please consider buying your annual membership in advance in order to help them get off the ground sooner!

http://www.indiegogo.com/submitomancy


Paying Back, 2012 Edition

December 21, 2012

A year ago I wrote a post about paying back by supporting some of the great free writer resources available on the Internet.

As I continue to earn a modest income from my writing, I hope to make this an annual tradition. Today I donated again to Absolute Write and Critters (for the same reasons described in last year’s post.)  Unfortunately, Duotrope will no longer be a free resource as of January 1st and I have no inclination to donate to a business. Instead, I chose to support my writing group, Codex Writers, to help pay server costs and whatever other expenses are associated with operating the site. Although Codex isn’t a resource open to the public (there’s membership criteria to join) it provides an invaluable and free service to neo-pros like myself. Codex has been the most useful and important writing resource for me in 2012.

Although the amounts I donated to each site are fairly small, I have also supported various writing endeavors throughout the year by backing Kickstarter projects, donating to causes, subscribing to magazines, and, of course, buying lots of books.

Season’s greetings to everyone, and if you had a successful 2012, please consider supporting your favorite online resources.

 


The Duotrope Conundrum

December 1, 2012

If you’re a working writer who actively submits short stories to markets for publication, one of the most useful sites on the Internet for you is Duotrope.com

Duotrope collects and displays information about markets. Let’s say you wrote a 5000 word epic fantasy story and want to sell it for at least 5c a word. Using their search function you can quickly generate a list of markets that accept stories at that length and pay pro rates, and are open to submissions. You can then sort them by average response time, or even by perceived difficulty of the market (i.e. what % of reported submissions has been accepted).

Anyone who follows this blog knows how much I love stats. As such, it’s no surprise that I really enjoy DT. So much so that I have donated money to help defray their costs last year, and was going to donate again in December (when I will be supporting several worthy writing-related sites with my dough).

But this morning I woke up to learn that Duotrope will no longer be a free site. Furthermore, they’re asking for a whopping $50 a year (or $5 a month) for their services. And while I was happy to give them $20 a year when I didn’t have to, I won’t pay $50. Here’s why:

Duotrope does three things that are relevant to me:

1) Track submissions.

I’m able to see all my active submissions at a glance and quickly pull up my submission history for that particular market.

Pro: Ease of use
Con: Only marginally better than an Excel spreadsheet. In fact, I use both. Partly because I want access to my data on my local hard drive and partly because while DT lists MOST markets, it doesn’t list ALL markets I submit to, such as private anthologies, invitation-only projects, etc. There are also other programs and web sites I can use if I ever felt that Excel was’t sufficient.

2) Track new markets.

DT lists dozens of new markets every week. Many of them are useless (to me) no-pay sites read by the editor, his mom, and maybe 15 other people per month. However, it does list all the pro and semi-pro start-ups as well, and makes it easy to find them.

Pro: Ease of use, very thorough.
Con: There are other sites out there that track new markets. Most notably, Ralan.com which has been around longer than Duotrope, specializes in speculative markets, and often posts new market info before DT has it. Their site isn’t pretty to look at, but it gets the job done.

3) Wiki-fy the submission process.

What makes DT really, really good is its volume of users who are willing to report their rejections and acceptances. Say I have a story on submission at Daily Science Fiction. A quick look at DT’s recent reports lets me know where the editors are in their slushing process. Are they responding to submissions in about 2 weeks, or should I expect to wait 3? Hundreds of DT users reporting their subs provides a very useful and relatively accurate snapshot of the slush status at various markets.

Pro: Amazing at helping users track the slush habits of various markets/editors.
Con: Only works if enough users are reporting their data.

And therein lies a problem. With Duotrope being a free service, about 10-20% of all submissions are reported there (as per my experience comparing actual slush numbers at UFO with what’s been reported there, as well as talking to other editors.)

Once DT becomes a paid service, a vast majority of their users will leave. They will no longer report  their submissions, which will make the DT system far less accurate. A critical mass of users is needed in order to maintain the usefulness of a Wiki-style site, and I don’t feel that DT will be capable of holding on to nearly enough people at their proposed rates.

I am not mad at the DT folks. It’s their web site and they can do whatever they want. We writers certainly shouldn’t expect them to operate at a loss for our benefit.

However, I feel that they’re making a very poor decision from a business standpoint. $50 is a lot to pay for a web site subscription. And anyway, can you think of many *successful* Wiki-style sites that charge for membership? the only one I can think of that remotely qualifies is Angie’s list.

By charging these rates, DT is likely to cause a downward spiral whereas even those users who’re willing to fork over $50 won’t be happy, because DT will no longer have the critical mass necessary to provide those paid users with a meaningful service.

So what could Duotrope do to raise funds? There’s no silver bullet, but there are a number of options to pursue:

* Lower rates. Personally I’d pay $20/year. Even at the risk of much worse results, I would fork over a $20 bill just to help them with the experiment and see if DT could sustain itself as a useful service. $2 a month or so is an amount a lot of users might actually pay.

* Charge markets a small annual fee to list them. Once again, I wouldn’t fork over $50 as a publisher, but I’d pay $10 a year or something to that tune in order to have UFO Publishing listed on Duotrope. Obviously having too many markets unwilling to pay would ruin the service, but DT could still offer some data about the other listings with “premium” markets offering a greater level of detail.

* Sell advertising. I’m guessing that plenty of fledgling markets would fork over some money in order to have their banner ad appear at the top of the DT listing.

There’s no perfect solution and someone will be unhappy regardless. But I mourn the end of the Duotrope era as we know it and hope that they will either reevaluate their 2013 strategy or someone else will step up and design a free-to-use bare-bone Wiki site to help accurately track response times.