I’ve just freed myself from the tyranny of duotrope
Posted by R. H. Kanakia on July 2, 2012
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.