Next steps and a friendly writing PSA

It’s been almost three weeks since I have finished the final edit of Weeping of the Willows. Since then, I haven’t played as many video games I wanted, but I did go down to Indy to attend Mo*Con. And if you’ve been on my FB, you’ve been seeing other ways I’ve been celebrating.

I’m now sitting down and looking at what I need to do to send this novel out. One of the first things I realized was that aside from get my novel out now now NOW, I had no clue where to start, how to do it, when to do it, or what I would be doing while the novel was on submission.

What I needed was to become organized. I needed direction.

I needed a submission tracking system.

Before I went full-time, I used to keep track of all my short story submissions in Outlook. It had been super useful. But then my job became more intense and my short story output sank so low so that I was only able to work on the novel and the occasional short story and novella novelette. Those I were able to keep track through Gmail, Submission Grinder and Habitica.

Now that I’m in my new position at work, I bring my laptop with me for writing, which means I don’t need to work across scattered apps. I also have more time to dedicate towards writing, and I have the headspace to actually plan things. With the novel being done, I need a new record management program, something more robust to keep track of queries and deadlines, and also help me get back into practice of writing and submitting short stories, as well as help me to brainstorm the next large writing project I have.

So I’ve decided to resurrect Outlook. Truth be told, I’ve always had it on my laptop for work related things, but I hadn’t opened my personal PST file since 2014. Initial impressions:

  1. I had a running list of over thirty short stories I had started but never finished. That startled me, because I don’t remember being that prolific in my writing. It’s a nice surprise, and it tells me that I can be that way again.
  2. It was also nice to see that I kept notes on the revisions of the novel. Granted the notes go back to 2014, but still that’s five years that I have been working on the final draft of my novel. It’s nice to have a record of that history.
  3. I’ve completely forgotten how much I changed Outlook to make it work for my needs. I made my own task forms, I created my own custom fields, I created my own views so that I can one click of a button, I could show which stories were being worked on, which stories I decided to trunk, which stories were rejected and needed to be sent out again, and which stories had been accepted. I was an Outlook wizard. Seeing that made me feel good….

…until Outlook saw that I had opened an old folder and rather than wait until I moved the old data to the new folder, it instead updated the folder and in doing so, wiped out all the tracking information and submission notes for every story that I’ve ever done, including the novel notes.

anime-freak-out-gif-8

Okay, so now here’s your friendly writing PSA reminding you that backups are more for just stories. If you use any project management or tracking software, be sure to back those up as well. So after I picked my beating heart off the floor, I turned off Outlook sync, went to my backup, restored the old files, moved them to the proper new folder, turned the sync back on, and now everything is backed up and fine again.

OH DEAR GOD FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY PLEASE BACK UP YOUR SOFTWARE I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH REALLY I MEAN IT BACK UP YOUR SOFTWARE BACK UP YOUR FRICKEN SOFTWARE GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

So Outlook’s up and running, and according to my novel’s task list, the next step is for me to start researching and compiling a list of editors and agents. How will I do it?

Uhhhh…that would be the next post. Although suggestions would be appreciated (hint hint)

The End of the Free Duotrope Era

Last Saturday, I returned from another zombie outing with my son to learn that Duotrope will be doing what they’ve been warning us would happen: as of January 1, 2013, Duotrope will be a paid site. Writers up and down the nets have been having their say about it, so what the heck, I’ll do so too.

I use Duotrope. Perhaps not as much as when I was a new writer, but what drew me to Duotrope was the saved search function. I could plug in genre, style, wordcount, for any written piece I wanted to submit and get a customized list of markets. Just recently I got the hang of the feature where you can run a search and exclude markets you’ve already submitted to. I found that pretty neat. I also made use of the submission tracker, which served more as a backup for me since I also keep track of my submissions through Outlook, which I have written about in an earlier post (I have since upgraded to Outlook 2007 and added a few more custom fields, like keeping track of previous markets I’ve submitted to). I mainly used Duotrope’s tracker so I could add my submission statistics to the response time reports.

But all that’s going away…or rather, as of 1/1/2013, we’ll now have to start paying for saved searches, submission tracking, the control panel, the deadline calendar, response statistics, etc. A lot of people are decrying that, saying Duotrope is charging too much per year, that limiting the response tracker will skew statistics, etc and so forth.

Me? I’m more like meh.

Since I’ve been focusing more on my novel, I haven’t been on the site all that much. I also know the market field much better now, so that I have a running list in my head of places I could send my subs to. The only time when I go on Duotrope is when I’ve exhausted those places or to see if a market is temporarily closed. I get my new market news and editor info off Twitter and other sources, I use the deadline calendar sparingly, and I don’t use the response statistics at all. And I’ll go back to using Outlook as a submission tracker. It’s probably better this way–I won’t be recording the same information in two different places.

This is not to say I won’t miss Duotrope. I think it’s a fantastic service. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to spend $50/year on the site. If it was $20 or even $30/year, I would subscribe with no hesitation. But I’ve reached the point in my writing career where I can survive without Duotrope.

What I feel bad for are new writers. They will be the ones who would benefit from Duotrope the most, and there’s a good chance they won’t be able to afford it. Used to be, I’d suggest Duotrope as the only go-to source for market information. In 2013, I don’t think I’ll be able to do that. I can’t justify telling them to spend $50 a year on the service. 6 months, maybe, but not a full year.  Then again, Duotrope isn’t the only one giving market info. Ralan.com is still free, comes with a free monthly newsletter and can be found on Facebook. And there are tons of info on Twitter. For response times, The Black Hole at Critters.org is, surprisingly, still around, so I can report reponse times there.

Edit: Since I wrote this, a new website has opened up that looks to be serious competition for Duotrope. The Submission Grinder includes many features that Duotrope has:–a strong search engine, the ability to do submission tracking– and some features Duotrope doesn’t have, like graphs. I’ve been very impressed with the site; it’s still pretty new, so try it out.

I’ve seen some people suggest a tiered payment option where they pay for certain features like only saved searches, and I agree. The way Duotrope has things now, there’s hardly anything left free to entice new writers to pay up, and there’s nothing to keep those who are familiar with the service from staying.

With that said, though, I’m not writing off Duotrope entirely. Ferrett Steinmetz goes into more detail about this with his post “A Failure of Duotrope,  A Failure of Their Audience: Thoughts by Someone Who’s Been There”:

The lesson in this is, “If you use a service that you like, and they’re asking you to pay for it, pay them.”  Doesn’t have to be much.  Like I said, if all you can afford is $5, then pay them $5.  If you’re flat broke and would pay them if you could, well, I’ll count those intentions as good.  But the world does not run on free labor, and at some point labors of love fail to pay for the labors of the stomach.

In the future, to avoid this sort of thing, give when you can.  Stop assuming that “free” means “a buffet for you” and start thinking, “How can I reward these people for their work?”  Maybe you pay it back by volunteering at their site, or telling about it to all your rich friends, or whatever.  But stop dining and dashing, and start helping the world be a better place by rewarding those who do good things.

This is very, very true. Duotrope was indeed a site I liked so much, I contributed to it. Several times. It wasn’t much, but I felt that it was a worthwhile service. And there’s a very good chance that I would do the same thing again down the road–pay $5 to gather some good searches, and then let the subscription lapse for several months. Duotrope did say that information will be kept on file (though I don’t know how intermittent usage work with response time statistics–probably not so well, I’m guessing).

So if you want to pay for Duotrope, go ahead and do so. Granted, the way they dropped this news reminded me of the Netflix fiasco earlier this year, but it’s still a good site. And if you wish to get an annual subscription, by all means, do so. And if you don’t, try some of the other free sites above. Keep track of your subs in a spreadsheet.

Heck, we’re writers. We’re supposed to be creative about such things.