I’ve just freed myself from the tyranny of duotrope

I’m sure that every aspiring writer in my audience is well familiar with Duotrope. It’s a great search engine and tracker for short story submissions. You just enter your requirements (mine are usually: accepts science fiction / pays above 5 cents per word) and you get a neat little list of every publication that meets those requirements and is currently open to submissions. It’s invaluable.

But until recently, this invaluable service was intermixed with a truly horrifying one. When it takes you to the market page, Duotrope also lists the average time it takes that market to accept or reject a story (they usually take longer to accept than to reject). And you can click on a little button that will list all the responses that Duotropers have gotten from that market in the last 30 days. Ostensibly, I guess this is to see if a market is still actively responding to submissions (few recent responses = really nonresponsive market). But actually, the purpose of all this data is to propagate horrible euphoria and anxiety amongst aspiring writers. Basically, when you have a submission out, you spend hours just staring at these statistics and trying to scry some meaning from them.

You think, “Oh, look, here are a bunch of responses to stories that were submitted 15ish days ago AND a bunch to stories that were submitted 45ish days ago. The latter must be the stories that got past the slush readers. Thus, since my story was submitted 25 days ago, I must’ve been passed up to the next level of editorial scrutiny, woohooooo!”

And, yeah, sure, that’s fine and it’s exhilarating. But it’s also just a huge waste of time. If a publication wants to buy your story, they’ll definitely let you know. Anything less than that really doesn’t matter very much (I mean, a positive rejection is nice, but rarely has much of a positive effect on my mood nowadays). Furthermore, the constant agonizing over submission status is just exhausting. It’s way more emotional variance than I want or need in my life. I just want to send out my stories and then forget about them.

But my efforts were doomed. It required a constant act of will to avoid the teeming mass of data that lurked on duotrope, just waiting to be picked apart and used to fuel my hope-machine. And I succumbed quite often, too often, to that pointless game.

And then duotrope saved me! Recently, they put all of their response-time data behind a registration wall. You can access all the publication info (i.e. the useful stuff) with no hassles, but you need to log in to see the response-time data! As I was walking around the lake the other day, I realized that my problems were solved! I could just log into duotrope and change my password to random and unmemorized letters. I mean, I’m sure the password is recoverable, but I’ve found that putting even a slight barrier between me and a negative activity is often enough to stop it. And now there is more than a slight barrier between me and this horribly annoying response-time browsing.

Yet another victory for good mental health. I think that someday I will regard today as one of the greatest days of my life.


Comments (



  1. prezzey

    I write much more ever since I’ve stopped using Duotrope. In my case it was not as much the response times thing, but rather that every single time I logged into Duotrope, I started putting markets on my blacklist and wasted a lot of time with that. (There are markets with “token pay” where the pay is ridiculously low and others I’m OK with – especially for flash, not that I’ve written much flash lately -, and there’s no easy way to differentiate between the two.) At some point I wondered if I should just sell my blacklist as a service.

    Also, there are plenty of markets with misleading pay rates, ones that flat out lie on their Duotrope page, ones that no longer exist, etc. (I think at some point I must’ve been the most prolific correction submitter on Duotrope. And didn’t write anything. *headdesk*) But I realized it was pointless to bother with all this. Unless people specifically paid me for it LOL!

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yes, wading into the token payment markets is a hassle. I submit to a few of them, but it is kind of difficult to figure out which ones are worthwhile. Usually, I just look to see if they have a professional-looking website. Actually, you _should_ publish your blacklist on your blog. I think that’d actually be pretty interesting.

  2. Ben Godby

    Hooboy. I will not here be revealing how much time I spend staring at my index of submissions on Duotrope. ‘Tis shameful.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Well…the first step is admitting you have a problem.

      Also, it’s great to see you on Codex! I’d always been meaning to tell you about it, but I just kept forgetting.

  3. six blocks east of mars

    I find myself expecting to get rejected after submitting to cushion the sting of rejection, which is not healthy at all – for me or the writing process. But I also have a ‘I’m For Damn Sure Getting Published in This Magazine One Day List.’ It’s grown huge over the years, but it does provide me motivation to write and make my writing better, especially on those days when I don’t want to look at a computer screen.

    It’s funny; I hadn’t gone to Duotrope in months, until I just happened to glance at the Weekly Wire email I get from them and see a call for submissions for an interesting antho. I usually ignore the email and delete it immediately, but for some reason I looked at it. So I submitted to the antho, and immediately thought to myself, ‘I got this.’ And then I read the story again right after submitting, and decided it would be rejected.

    The joys of submitting and writing.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yeah, the psychological defense mechanisms that we build in order to withstand rejection can take weird forms (I’ve personally indulged in both the reactions you mention). I mean, the right thing to do is clearly to submit in a state of zero expectation: to submit without fear of rejection or hope for success. But that’s also pretty damn hard to do.

  4. Terra LeMay

    Oh my goodness! I want to do this, but I don’t know if I’m ready yet. I may have to talk myself into it. But what a brilliant idea! On the other hand, how do you update your submissions in the tracker? I mean, duotrope serves a very practical purpose for me, for that, and I don’t want to give that part up. It’s very useful for me to help me figure out where I have and have not yet sent submissions.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yeah, that’s kind of a tough one. I track my subs in a spreadsheet rather than in their sub tracker, so I’m not really sure if it’s possible to sever their sub tracker from the response-time data.

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