Welcome to the new streamlined look. I decided I had too many gadgets on the sidebars, so it was time to clean up, and in the process, I thought a new design was in order. I hope you like it.
This was actually incited by my deciding that I could no longer advertise for Duotrope in my sidebar. Duotrope, for anyone unfamiliar with the service, is a combination market list, search engine, and submission tracker all rolled into one. It's got a lot more features than that, and it's awesome. I use it all the time for my short story submissions, and it has helped me find no end of markets to send my work to.
So why, you might ask, do I no longer feel that I can advertise for them? Well, there's been a lot of controversy about them for the last month because they just went from being free to being a paid service. And I don't have a problem with that overall, but their price seems to have jumped pretty steep in my opinion. I, and I'm not alone in this thinking if the huge number of comments on their facebook page are any indication, feel that they'll be driving away a lot of users--and they'd probably keep more people AND make more money at a lower price point. And the number of users they have is important, not just to their ability to make money, but to all users, because one of their awesome features is submission statistics for all of the markets they list. You can see average response times based on self-reported data from other users, which can be helpful in deciding whether a market is a good one to submit to, whether it'll respond too fast or too slow for you, and also in helping you determine if your response has taken too long and a query is in order. If they drive away a lot of their users, their statistics will suffer. Duotrope has stated that they don't think the stats will suffer, that most of the users they'll lose will be those who don't keep track of their submissions as regularly, but I don't share their confidence. Personally, I plan to purchase one month every quarter or so, and just do my submissions in waves. If I have a clear idea of where a story will go next during my "off" months, I'll still submit it and just report the submission later, but if I need help finding a market, the story will just have to wait around for a few months. The one good thing is they say your account will still be there, even if you don't subscribe all the time. So my data will all be waiting for me each time I purchase a month.
But all this isn't necessarily a reason to remove a link to Duotrope. They provide an awesome service, and I've just said I will continue to use them, just not as often. The reason I'm no longer linking to them is because they've chosen to not offer any kind of trial period for the service. Virtually nothing remains free on their site. Now, my link was worthless to authors who already know about and use Duotrope, because they already know how to get to it. Having a link pointed potential new users to their site--something I was eager to do until now. However, I don't see Duotrope attracting new users without a trial period. Most people aren't going to plunk down money to use a service sight-unseen. They won't get a chance to play around with the search engine and see how awesome it is, nor will they experience the thrill of trying to interpret the stats. Without any type of trial, I don't feel comfortable directing people to try them out. So I took down my link.
I've been rather disappointed with how Duotrope has handled this transition, to be honest. Their PR was terrible and they just seem to have made a lot of mistakes. They're new to this business model so I can understand, but it was disappointing. I'm fully expecting there to be a lot of flux in this first year, which is another reason I don't intend to pay for a full year's subscription. What I really hope is that this doesn't kill them, because they really do provide an incredible service. It helped me find the only market that has purchased my work thus far, and they've regularly helped me stay on top of my game. I want to see them succeed, and I want to see their users remain happy as well.