How to Use Duotrope to Advance Your Writing Career

Photo by Terrye Turpin

If you are looking to expand your writing beyond Medium, the Duotrope website can be a useful tool. You, the artist, purchase a subscription that grants access to Duotrope’s large searchable database of markets. The pricing starts with a free trial after which you can pay a monthly fee or purchase a year’s subscription. I’ve been going month to month with the fees, and if I continue the service, I’ll save money if I sign up for the yearly rate.

What does Duotrope offer?

Basically, it’s an easy way to manage your writing submissions. When I sign onto the website, the first screen I see is my Control Panel. From there I can go to manage the list of pieces I have submitted, search the markets for a new place to submit, or open another page to view all my submissions. The Control Panel also lists the overall number of submissions I’ve had and breaks this down for the past 12 months and for the current month, so I can stay on track with my submission goals.

The database at the time of this writing has 6,841 markets. If you’re searching for publishers, you can select to search for fiction, nonfiction, visual arts, or poetry markets. In the fiction category Duotrope’s search function then lets you narrow your search down by screening for 15 different subtopics including genre, style, minimum payment amount, and length of your piece. I’ve found it helpful to save my searches, and also “favorite” certain markets I think might be a good home for my writing. Otherwise I could spend hours weeding through listings.

Once you’ve submitted a story or essay, you can track the process toward publication or rejection. On your submissions page Duotrope provides a table with columns for your pieces, the listing where they were submitted, the date you sent the piece to the publication, the date you received an acknowledgment from the publisher, and the status of the piece, (pending, accepted or rejected). Duotrope calculates for you how many days the piece has been out for review at each listing. You can screen and sort for these column headings, which is useful if you want to review which stories are still pending and you have many submissions.

Other Helpful Features

Besides the submission manager, Duotrope has other features I have found useful. They have a listing of over 600 interviews with editors at magazines in the database. The interviews give insight into what each publisher is looking for in terms of writing, and offer helpful hints on mistakes you should avoid when submitting. Duotrope always has a link to each listing’s website once you click on their name in the search results. Most of the publications have links to prior and/or current issues, so you can get a sense of what sort of writing they publish.

The Calendar tab includes a listing of contest deadlines and publications that have submission periods. You can filter this list to see listings in a particular genre.

A new feature in Beta testing right now is the ability to search literary agents. You can search and sort agents by the same categories as you would for your written submissions. There are also links to the agents’ websites.

What have I found most helpful on Duotrope?

I love the page that provides Publication Response Statistics. This dry sounding title gives you results filtered out by exciting topics like “Publications that Send Personal Responses” and “The Top 100 Most Approachable Poetry Markets”. You can also see who has the most rejections and who is most likely to ignore your writing and never respond.

What isn’t helpful?

A drawback to Duotrope is that you don’t submit directly from their website. Once you select a market, you will be directed to that publication’s website to submit according to their procedures. This often includes a redirect to the Submittable site, a free service for managing submissions that also includes a searchable database.

So why not use the free Submittable site to manage all your submissions? Duotrope includes markets that do not use Submittable, their database has more filters available, and Duotrope provides statistics on response rates, a big plus if you’re a new writer looking for a market to publish your stories.

My results

I began using Duotrope back in October 2017 and I’ve had one piece accepted out of the 13 submissions I’ve made. Am I rolling in the big bucks? Sadly, no, because I’ve been submitting to newer publications and those that don’t pay. I hope to build an audience for my writing and I’m chasing exposure in online magazines. I don’t begrudge the $5 monthly fee I’m paying out to Duotrope because I feel like it’s an investment in my advancement as a writer.

Is Duotrope a good choice for you?

That depends on where you want to take your writing. If you hope to build an audience outside Medium or your own blog/website, it wouldn’t hurt to use all the tools available. If you’re aiming for literary recognition, the Pushcart Prize is awarded annually to the best writing in a small press, the type of publication you’ll find listed in Duotrope’s search results.

The best advice I can give to you is — try out the free trial of Duotrope. If you then go to the monthly payment plan, you can still cancel. In the meanwhile, you might find a new home for your writing.

You can find out more about Duotrope on their website.

Helping each other write better.

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