Monday, December 31, 2012

10 Free Alternatives to Duotrope for SFF Writers


If you have any short fiction writers in your webosphere, chances are you've heard a lot of chatter this month about a website called Duotrope. For the uninitiated, Duotrope is a searchable database of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry markets. They also have a detailed submissions tracker and user-provided market response statistics, which helps writers gauge how long they might be waiting for an answer when they submit work to a particular market. It's a helpful website for writers trying to sell their work, and until now its been completely free to use. But earlier this month, the Duotrope team announced that they would be moving to a paid subscription model on January 1st—to the vocal chagrin of a large number of its users. The services they've previously offered free of charge (with regular pleas for donations) will now cost fifty dollars a year, or five dollars a month.

The corners of the interweb where we short fiction authors gather to encourage and console each other have been abuzz ever since. The response has been divided, but most of the writers in my circles (many of whom have been regular donaters in the past) have made it clear they won't be supporting Duotrope in this move, either because they think the subscription fee is too high, or because they think it will reduce the usefulness of the site. I'm in the latter camp myself. I wouldn't have a problem paying Duotrope for the awesome service they provide, but if they scare a huge chunk of their userbase away, the accuracy of their market statistics will undoubtedly be affected. Since that's the most valuable part of the site for me, this makes it hard to justify dropping the cash on a subscription.

So for those like me, who probably won't be returning to Duotrope tomorrow, I've compiled a list of websites that offer similar services for free. Many of these (particularly the market listings) are aimed toward speculative fiction, but quite a few of them can be used by authors of any persuasion.

Market Listings


Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza 


Despite its antagonistic relationship with my eyeballs, Ralan.com is one of the oldest and most comprehensive lists of speculative fiction markets on the web. Ralan has been a regular part of my routine since I started submitting, even before The Great Duotrope Controversy of 2012. From pro to semi-pro or below, if they take SFF, you'll probably find them listed here.

SFWA's Pro Market List


Whether you have aspirations for membership or not, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website is a great resource for writers. Part of their membership requirements include sales to professional fiction markets that meet their approval, all of which are listed on their site. You can consider these markets vetted by the pros.

Speculative Literature Foundation List 


I'm not quite as familiar with this site as I am the others, but they've gathered a ton of market lists on this one page. I haven't investigated all of the links, so it's possible some of them might be out of date. Worth a look, at any rate.

Submission Trackers


Sonar 3


Spacejock Software (owned by author Simon Haynes) has been releasing free software for years, many of it aimed at writers. Sonar is probably the best submission tracking software I've ever used, and has long been my primary method of wrangling manuscripts. The biggest advantage is that it's all on your own computer, so you don't have to worry about anyone's server going down.

Writer's Planner


Writer's Planner works very much like a web-based version of Sonar, tracking your submissions using the data you've entered. The key difference is this site's tracker comes coupled with a huge list of markets, which saves you the time of having to create one yourself.

The Writer's Database


Like Writer's Planner, the Writer's Database is a web-based submission tracker. They also allow users to share market information so you don't have to enter all of the data yourself, though their list doesn't seem to be quite as large.

LibreOffice


When all else fails, you can always use a good old-fashioned spreadsheet to track your submissions. Most people (myself included) use Excel, but this is a list of free resources, so I'm going to recommend LibreOffice, a free and opensource office suit that comes with a great spreadsheet program.

Market Response Statistics


Black Holes


Hosted by Critters.org, Black Holes works similar to Duotrope's own response tracker. Users report the response times from their submissions, in hopes of giving each other a better idea of the wait times they might be facing for each market. While this site has nowhere near the number of data points that Duotrope has, I'm hoping that will change as former users look for a substitute.

The Write 1/Sub 1 Forum at Absolute Write


Write 1/Sub 1 is a self-imposed challenge to write and submit a new story on a weekly or monthly basis, and has been a great motivator. Many members of the W1S1 community meet up on the Absolute Write forums, where we share condolences in the "Rejectomancy" thread and rejoice in the "Braggage" thread. It's not only great for moral support, but serves as a good way to keep up with some of the goings on at the markets we're submitting to.

The Rejections and Acceptances Log


The R&A Log is a shared blog that allows anyone to report their response times, organized by post tags. They have a decent amount of members who are fairly active, however it's worth noting that you'll need to create a livejournal account to participate.

Edited to Add:


Submitomancy


Since writing this entry it's come to my attention that there's currently a project seeking funding on IndieGoGo called Submitomancy, which seeks to provide all of the features that Duotrope does (and a lot more, by the looks of it) for less money. It's a very ambitious project which might not see the light of day without some crowd sourcing, so you might think about contributing. I'm not going to include it in the list above, since it hasn't launched yet and it won't be totally free (they will apparently have a free option, plus a premium option with more features) but I think it's worth keeping tabs on at the very least.

The Submission Grinder


If you've paid attention to the comments section for this entry at all, you might have been waiting for this one. The Submissions Grinder is a project helmed by Diabolical Plots, and has been designed as a complete (and most importantly, free) alternative to Duotrope. It still looks to be a little rough around the edges at this point, but it sounds like they have great plans for this service as it takes shape. Right now, they're focused on gathering data points and building their market list, which you can help out with by registering an account and importing your Duotrope data.

Did I miss any? If you're a short fiction writer or poet and you know of any other Duotrope alternatives, feel free to let me know in the comments. Good luck and happy writing in 2013!

Original photo by boxchain via cc. Modified by J.W. Alden.

36 comments:

  1. Great list -- I'm sure it'll be of much use to short-story writers of all shapes and sizes!

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  2. Wow, thanks so much for this list. I'd been wondering where to go now that Duotrope is a paid site. This is really helpful. And I know what you mean about Ralan being hard on the eyeballs. :)

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    1. You're very welcome, Lauren. Glad to be of service!

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  3. Incoming useless comment:

    That picture of the dog is kick-ass. Stolen for future viewing.

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    1. Isn't it? I wish could take more credit for it, but the only thing I did was add the Duotrope logo on the little guy's collar.

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  4. I blogged about Submitomancy earlier today, since I've given them what would have been my Duotrope money. The short version is - the free version offers pretty much what you'd get from the soon-to-be-defunct free version of Duotrope, so will be a good replacement for it if it can get funding, and the paid version looks like it will be more features than paid Duotrope for less money.

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    1. Also, great links, thanks! I will be looking into the market search ones particularly.

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    2. No problem, C.L.! Glad to pass them along.

      Submitomancy really does sound like a dream come true for ex-Duotrope users. I really hope they can get the funding they need. I expected someone to come along and try to fill their old shoes, but I didn't think it would be something even better.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I hate to hear that. I like what QueryTracker does. They have so much free content and everything else is pay content. You still get good stuff like statistics and access to the agent database with the free membership. I'm glad there are alternatives duotrope. And that you listed them for everyone! I don't have a lot of short stories but until now I only had two places to go if I wanted to submit something.
    Happy New Year!

    I also like the dog, though perhaps it's the fattest chihuahua I've ever seen.

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    1. He does like he could stand to lose a few, doesn't he? I definitely think Duotrope has made a big mistake with this "all or nothing" approach. It may very well be the end of them in the long run. By the time they take steps to correct it, we might all have moved on to another service.

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  6. Hey, thank you for the mention! I agree, Submitomancy is pretty ambitious, which is why I went the crowd-funding route. I want to be confident that we can get the project up and running with committed users who are excited about the extended features. It's all very exciting. :)

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    1. No problem, Sylvia! Thanks for being one of the first to step into the very large footprint that Duotrope is leaving behind. Submitomancy sounds like it will be a fantastic service if you can get the support you need. I'll definitely keep spreading the word. Good luck!

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    2. Presuming it comes around, would you be interested in working on some sort of data sharing/API? I always wanted that with duotrope, some way to pull market info, sync it, add notes, update submission statuses, etc, with writersplanner....

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    3. I'd be interested in hearing the answer to that myself! Thanks for stopping by, Kaolin.

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  7. It's a bit too early for a full, but Anthony Sullivan and I over at Diabolical Plots are working on a Duotrope replacement called The Submissions Grinder.

    We will never require subscription fees, because we believe that drives the data away that is the real value.

    It's intended to do similar things to what Duotrope does, offering a submissions tracker from which it gathers anonymous market data for market listings. And it can import from a Duotrope export file so you can pick up where you left off.

    It's not quite ready to share with the public yet, but it's getting pretty darn close. The Submissions Tracker portion is complete enough that I'm using it now that Duotrope has locked me out, but the market listings and search aren't quite done yet.

    I'll be happy to come back and share a link when there's a version ready for prime time. :)

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    1. That sounds awesome, David. I look forward to seeing the results of your work. The time is definitely ripe for someone to step in, and your commitment to a free service should definitely attract the Duotrope refugees. By all means, drop a link here when you're ready, and I'll add it to the main article as well.

      Good luck, and thanks for stopping by!

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    2. David—would you be interested in working on some sort of data sharing/API? I always wanted that with duotrope, some way to pull market info, sync it, add notes, update submission statuses, etc, with writersplanner....

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  8. Thanks for this list. I'll be passing it along to students.

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    1. You're very welcome, Cat. I hope your students get some use out of them!

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  9. Great that somebody is doing this. I'm never going to use Duotrope as long as it's a paid service.

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    1. You're certainly not the only one that's expressed that sentiment over the last few weeks. It's been a divisive move, to say the least. Hope you got some use out of the list!

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  10. Good list. Thank you for posting this. There are some on here I didn't know about before.

    Here is some further discussion about many of these topics (as well as a free color-coded submissions tracker): http://nathanieltower.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/is-a-duotrope-subscription-worth-the-cost-part-three-response-statistics/

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  11. It's also worth adding that Ralan is becoming much more selective about what it lists. It seems they are removing all journals that use Submittable.

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    1. There's lots of good discussion going on around the web about this whole thing right now. I hadn't heard that about Ralan! Interesting. I'll have to look further into it.

      Thanks for stopping by, Nathaniel.

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    2. My own lit mag, Bartleby Snopes, used to be listed as a token market on Ralan (We paid $5 per acceptance for our special issues). This past week, Ralan emailed saying he was removing our market unless we stopped using Submittable. The idea was that since Submittable has become a paid service, Ralan feels that using it is taking away from the payments that could be made to the authors. However, many of the lit mags still get to use Submittable for free (including Bartleby Snopes) because the company was kind enough to grandfather everyone in if they'd already signed up. Submittable is a great company, and I really applaud their efforts. I understand their decision to start charging (but, unlike Duotrope, they didn't make people pay who'd already been using it for free). Ralan's other problem with Submittable was that they archive all submissions, and they are worried this may cause a copyright problem in the future. He mentioned something about how he was nervous that they would one day do something with all those archives that could endanger the copyright. Therefore, any lit mags (except pro markets) that use Submittable would no longer be listed on Ralan.

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    3. That's an interesting decision on their part. I can certainly see the logic behind it, but there are some great markets out there that use Submittable. It's a shame they now have to choose, like you, between using such a convenient service and being listed on one of the biggest market lists on the internet. I wonder what the overall fallout will look like from this?

      Thanks for sharing your insight on it, Nathaniel!

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    4. Strange! I can perhaps understand why Ralan might object to Submittable charging magazines. But how is blocking Submittable-using magazines supposed to help? Then those magazines get to pay twice--money to Submittable and again with a lost listing.

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    5. Submittable still offers it's service for free to any publishers with two staff members or less.

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    6. Yes, as long as the publication receives under 100 submissions per month.

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  12. Speaking for myself only, I don't mind giving Duotrope $50 a year. I used to give them $75 a year as charity just because I admire what they do and how much they help writers and the magazine I run, On The Premises. I figure $50/year is a price cut.

    One thing that bothers me about these Duotrope alternatives is that nearly all of them are for speculative fiction only. What about non-speculative? The only reliable places I know for that kind of information are Duotrope and the various Writer's Market books. Since I write both speculative and non-speculative, I use Duotrope. (Not to track my fiction, but to do market research, especially about new markets.)

    We also rely on Submittable, and they've never charged us, at least not so far. I've gotten extensive e-mail support from them, too--all for free. I *do* wish they'd make it easier to batch delete old submissions, but I was told those are kept for the benefit of the authors submitting, not for the benefit of the magazines. I see their point and I wish I had a solution that made both sides happy.

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  13. I'm also quite happy to pay Duotrope $50 a year, which is less than $1 a week. This isn't a price-gouging move. $1 a week is almost literally nothing. I drop more than that on M&M's every week. I've been seriously disappointed by how many people have reacted negatively to this. As the author of this piece himself notes, Duotrope really did their best to keep it from coming to this. They conducted long and public donations campaigns, and were genuinely trying to keep it as a free service. I - and probably many of you - was guilty of ignoring those fundraising drives, just like we ignore those of Wikipedia, despite getting much, much more out of these services than we put in to them.

    You're entitled to spend your money how you like and use whatever services you want, but anyone who believes that Duotrope has sold out and is trying to squeeze money out of people is demonstrably wrong.

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  14. Thanks for your great post - there is alot to think about and alot of well informed comments too. Here's my bit. I had so many submissions on Duotrope, across different markets in both poetry and fiction that it was very difficult to NOT sign up, though $50 does seem a bit hefty given it's the first time theyve requested funds. They could have implemented it a bit more smoothly, or offered it on a cheaper two year plan or something similiar. From nothing to $50 is a big step.

    It's also very annoying as I had made a donation within the 12 months prior and felt it was unfair for those who had donated while others had used it for free. They could have offered some sort of subsidy for those people.
    While it is a great service (though not without some flaws) I will have to reconsider next year as I'm a family man with a mortgage and it's really a luxury.

    Hopefully by year's end, some of these alternatives will be more developed.
    Thanks again for your helpful information.

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  15. Thanks for the post its very informative. I used to use Duotrope, but now I'm only using the submission grinder. Steffen Wolf the creator of Submission Grinder did a post on my website about it's creation. Since then I have only used the grinder. (more about that post here: http://www.danielwallock.com/2013/12/27/submission-grinder-switch/)

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Thanks for reading!

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