Posted in Publishing, Writing

Why Duotrope is So Important to Your Writing Career


In one of my recent graduate seminars in creative writing, we had an exercise nearly every class to write a piece of flash fiction that related to that week’s topic of discussion. Some of my pieces were good, and some were pretty damn awful, but mid-way through the semester, I had amassed three stories that I felt semi-good about, and the question hit me…

Where do I send these?

I had some ideas of where to submit longer short stories, as well as stories with YA and LGBT themes, but I didn’t have a clue where to submit flash fiction. Asking friends didn’t help. Google searches led me nowhere.

Thankfully I came across Duotrope, one of the best resources on the Internet for submitting your work. However, upon looking at the site, I noticed it cost fifty dollars to sign up for one year. Was Duotrope worth fifty bucks? Did I need to pay a service that merely allowed me to search for magazines to submit to?

I decided I had nothing to lose, so I paid the fee and started navigating the website for magazines to submit my flash fiction to. By the end of the first week, I decided I would write at least one new piece of writing each month and submit it through the use of Duotrope. In addition, I decided that if I could make more than fifty dollars through the sales of my writing to magazines I found through Duotrope, I would sign up for a second year. If I made fifty dollars or less, I would say no more. Alas, the game was on.

What I love most about Duotrope is its user-friendly search engine. First, it gives you the option of searching for markets in fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. Since I mostly work in fiction, I use this market page the most, but since I dabble occasionally in poetry and creative non-fiction, I have submitted in those markets, and have been accepted there as well.

You have many options on the fiction page of how to search for literary magazines. There is a genre option — since I write horror fiction from time to time, this is a useful search device — and a style option allows you to choose what kind of tone your story is: dark? literary? mainstream? The length option is especially helpful because it allows you to search magazines that accept only flash fiction, or both flash fiction and short stories, or only novels (the latter of which I’ve used to submit an LGBT novel I wrote that still hasn’t been placed anywhere).

You can search by minimum payment — with any story submission, I look at what pays the best and also what is most prestigious, then go down that list as the months go on if the first batch of submissions have all ended in rejections. I write a lot of young adult stories, and there’s an audience search device that allows you to find magazine editors that are specifically looking for fiction aimed at teenagers. Everything about this search engine page is helpful, and now having used it for a year to place my writing, I can’t imagine no longer having it.

The other great page on Duotrope is the submissions document, which not only keeps a record of every piece of writing that’s been submitted and to where, but also how many days the piece has been out, and how often that specific magazine usually responds to its submissions. I’m able to look at every story I’ve submitted and note what’s ultimately been published in a magazine and what still hasn’t been placed yet.

And what’s really important to note is if I really want to place a piece of work I feel strongly about, even if takes me a year, which it did for one of my pieces, I will likely be able to find a home for it. The first story I submitted through Duotrope, for example, was one of those flash fiction pieces I wrote in the workshop, a dark literary story called “Larry’s Last Day.” I submitted it to ten magazines, and was eventually rejected by all of them. A few months later, I submitted the story to five more. Rejected again. I tried five more, and then voila: Fox Cry Review, one of the oldest college literary magazines in the country I never would have heard of without Duotrope, accepted the piece and published it last summer.

Both stories I workshopped in the seminar I eventually placed, too; it definitely pays to be patient! I submitted my YA short story “Final Shot” to twenty magazines and was rejected by every one of them. Then I tried ten more. All rejected. Then I tried another ten. Tincture Journal, an Australian literary magazine, accepted the story.

The year’s best success story came with the second story I wrote for the class, a horror short story that was, like “Final Shot,” rejected everywhere for nearly a year. It was turned down by at least thirty magazines, and eventually I decided I was going to put it to bed.

But then at the end of the month, I did one last search for horror short story markets, and a brand new anthology appeared through my search: The Deep Dark Woods, which was looking for horror stories specifically set in the forest, which my story is! So I submitted it and six weeks later, ten long months since I first started sending it into the world, it was accepted and placed in the Deep Dark Woods anthology, with a payment of three hundred dollars! Woo hoo! Not bad for a story I had just about given up on.

I’ve written a few poems and non-fiction pieces as well, and while I consider myself much more of a fiction writer, another joy of Duotrope has been submitting my poetry and non-fiction writing to markets, some of which have even accepted my work. I wrote a poem called Sally way back in 2012 that I had almost forgotten about, but then decided to submit to a few markets once I joined Duotrope. I submitted the poem to five paying poetry magazines, and within just two days, the editor at Strong Verse Magazine notified me that I was accepted! This was my first poem ever published in a magazine, so I was elated. Just as exciting was learning that another poem I wrote entitled Hands was accepted to a printed poetry magazine called RoguePoetry.

In addition to poetry, I had written a few academic essays since starting graduate school that I have been able to successfully place. I wrote a piece about gay young adult fiction that eventually found a home with a literary magazine called Southern Pacific Review. Later my creative essay “A Window to Dreams” found a home in New Mexico Review.

Well, it’s time to pay for another year of Duotrope or cancel it forever. What have I decided to do? It’s probably not a surprise to learn that I have already signed up for another year! At the end of my first year, I have made more than the minimum fifty dollars I was hoping for, and instead made more than five-hundred dollars (wow!) through my writing by using Duotrope, and successfully placed two poems, two essays, and five short stories. I don’t know what the future brings in my writing, but so far Duotrope has been a huge help in placing my work, and — gasp — getting me paid for my endeavors. I don’t ever want to be without it!

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