Escape Pod is always looking for quality fiction to feed our listeners. If you’re a writer with a speculative short story that you’d like to hear narrated by one of our very nearly talented performers, we’d like to see it. Probably.
What We Want
EP is a genre ‘zine. We’re looking for science fiction, fantasy, and some horror. (We’re actually planning to do very little horror, but we’ll consider it.) Please don’t send us anything that doesn’t fit those descriptions. And by the way, we mean SF/F/H on a level that matters to the plot. Your story about a little boy receiving a balloon before his heart transplant may be touching literature, but it probably isn’t something we’re interested in, even if you edit it so that the balloon’s an alien and the heart came from Satan.
We’re primarily interested in two lengths of fiction, which we’ve dubbed (somewhat arbitrarily) “short fiction” and “flash fiction.”
Short Fiction: This is our meat and potatoes, the heart of our weekly podcast. We want short stories between about 2,000 and 6,000 words. Shorter stories would get overwhelmed by our intro and outro segments, and longer stories are difficult to fit into our upper time limit (defined rigorously as “The length of Steve’s morning commute.”) No, we won’t be pasting your e-mails into Word to count exact words, so don’t lose sleep over which prepositions to cut. We’ll know if the story’s the right length by looking at it, and “the right length” is a bell curve. The sweet spot’s somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 words, if you insist on a target. If you do have a story that’s longer than 6,000 words, use your own discretion; we’ve run longer stories than that, but be aware that it’s a much harder sell. The longer the story is, the more brilliant it needs to be to sustain audience interest. We pay $50 for short fiction at this length.
Flash Fiction: We often podcast short five-to-ten minute “bonus” pieces between our weekly main episodes. For this we’re looking at fiction up to 1,000 words, with a sweet spot at 500 words. Yes, that’s really really short. That’s the point. Our flash pieces are frequently quirkier, more experimental than our weekly features. We pay $20 for flash fiction.
What happens if you have a story between 1,000 and 2,000 words? We’ll make a judgment call, based on whether we think the story would work better as a featured story or a bonus. We’ve actually bought one 1,500 word story at the full-length rate and another one at the flash rate. Doesn’t sound fair, but it made sense for those two stories. In general, your odds are considerably better if your story’s either shorter or longer than this.
We prefer works with a prior publication credit. We define “publication” as any venue that paid you money for your work, online or on paper. Unpublished work will be considered fairly as well, but consider: if your story’s good enough for us to buy it, it’s probably good enough to sell to another market first. Why not try that, and get two audiences and two checks?
Content: We are an audio magazine. Our audience can’t skim past the boring parts, and stories with beautiful language at the expense of plot don’t translate well. We’re looking for fiction with strong pacing, well-defined characters, engaging dialogue, and clear action. It can be beautiful too, if you’ve got all those other bases covered, but above all we’re looking for fun.
Humor is highly encouraged. Upbeat, optimistic stories are encouraged. Moody, depressing stories are discouraged. People will listen to these on their way to work, and we don’t want to ruin anyone’s day. (Hence the light touch on horror. If you’re going to send us a dark story, it’s better if it’s an ironic or witty darkness.)
We are extremely unlikely to purchase stories focusing on rape, incest, child molestation, body mutilation, hate crimes, unsubtle religious or anti-religious propaganda, or politics. We don’t need the headaches, and frankly, it’s very unlikely that your story is fun in the sense we mean.
We will not balk at sexual content or strong language, but if your story is primarily erotic or scatological in nature, it may not be for us. Consider Open Source Sex for the former or satellite radio for the latter.
Again, above all: fun stories. You can get away with breaking almost any of these rules if the story is fun enough. What’s fun? We know it when we see it.
How We Want It
We accept stories in e-mail, in plain text format, at the address firstname.lastname@example.org
. We don’t want Word files, PDF files, scanned images of a book, or sound files of you reading the story. Messages with any such attachments will get bounced. We will accept messages that are HTML formatted, but if you know how to turn it off, we prefer plain text. Send it from the e-mail address at which you want us to correspond with you; if you give us three e-mail addresses and say “Use this one on Tuesdays, and this one when Neptune is ascendant,” we’ll probably forget.
On the Subject: line of the message, be sure to include the title of the story. Most of our workflow involves bouncing your e-mail message from one folder to another, and we use the e-mail subject to identify the story. A subject like “story submission” doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know.
In the body of the message, what we want is as follows:
1. Your name. (Your real name. The story can have a different byline, and we’ll credit that byline in public, but we need to know who’s legally offering us this story and to whom the check should be written.)
2. Your mailing address. (Optional, but if you don’t give it to us you’ll have to be paid by PayPal.)
3. A cover statement briefly giving us your publication credits, and in particular telling us whether this story has been published before or adapted into audio. If there’s anything we need to know about available rights, tell us that too. This cover is optional, but if you omit it we’ll assume the story is unpublished and response time may be longer. (Note: When we say “briefly,” we mean your top five or six publications. We have literally had people send us resumés that were longer than the story submitted. This only makes us sigh.)
4. The word count of the story, rounded to the nearest hundred words. Don’t go nuts over which word count method to use, or whether to round up or down. We pay flat rate; we really don’t care. We just want a ballpark.
5. The title of the story.
6. The story’s byline. (Optional if it’s the same as your legal name.)
7. The text of the story. Use single spacing, with blank lines between paragraphs and _underscores_ for emphasis.
What You’re Telling Us
This is the annoying (but necessary) legalese. By sending us your story you understand and agree that:
* You are the original creator of the work submitted to us;
* You are the copyright holder of the work;
* You are not prohibited by any prior agreement from the transfer of non-exclusive electronic and audio rights to the work;
* All information in the contact and cover sections of your e-mail is accurate and truthful;
* You accept sole responsibility for any false statements or encumbrances upon rights not disclosed to us.
If we buy your story we’ll send you a contract, and you’ll be bound to all of the above. So if you aren’t willing to agree to it now, you’re just wasting our time, and we have little enough of that already.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering whether you have audio rights to your stories: unless you’re doing work-for-hire for a game company, all reputable SF/F magazines of which we’re aware acquire serial print rights, often with non-exclusive electronic or anthology options. We know of no regular short fiction market that contracts for exclusive audio rights. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen; always check your contracts. We’re just saying we’ve never heard of it.
What We Do With It
Once you’ve sent us your story, we will review it and respond to you via e-mail. Right now our maximum response time is in the vicinity of a month to six weeks. We have a team of volunteers reading on a monthly cycle, so your actual response time depends somewhat on the calendar and luck. If it takes longer than six weeks to respond to you, it probably means your story was promoted a second review round, which is a hopeful sign. If it takes longer than two months, please query.
If we decide we’d like it for our podcast, we’ll send you a contract as a PDF file in e-mail. You will sign it and send it back to us via e-mail (after scanning it), fax, or postal mail. Then we’ll pay you via check or PayPal and start producing.
Escape Pod pays $50 for short fiction and $20 for flash fiction. (Effective January 30, 2006.) If we’re receiving sufficient donations or sponsorships to pay more, we’ll pay more. We know how quickly word gets around about SF markets, and we’ll do our best to treat people right.
During the production process we may contact you with questions about the story, its background, or pronunciations. We’ll also ask you for a brief bio, if your cover letter and Web site doesn’t give us enough to say about you. We hope and expect that you’ll be available to help us, as a good performance makes all of us look good. Unfortunately, as everything we do is on a somewhat fluid schedule, we usually can’t give you an accurate timetable of when your story will appear in the podcast. We’ll notify you when it’s up, but not necessarily before.
What the World Does With It
The audio files Escape Pod produces are released under a Creative Commons license. Specifically, we use the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. Briefly, this means that the entire world has permission to distribute the podcast for free, provided they give credit for it, don’t try to make money off of it, and don’t change it in any way. Transcribing it, extracting portions from it beyond fair use, and mashing it up are all prohibited. This license applies only to our audio performance of your work, for which we’ve contracted and paid you. It does not apply to your story itself; you retain your copyright and all rights to any other use of the story.
We’ve had some questions about this from the writing community, so we’d like to make our reasoning clear. We know that Creative Commons licensing is scary to many writers, and it’s certainly a radical break from traditional rights that expire after a period of time. Our take is this: when we create a podcast, we are putting an MP3 file on the Web. That MP3 file is going to get downloaded and copied onto thousands of hard drives, CDs, iPods, and other portable devices across the world. That’s the point. We want people to listen to it. But once you’ve done that, you can’t take that file back. There is no way to delete the file everywhere it exists. There are some highly fallible ways to lock things down, but DRM sucks, and even if we believed in it it’s too complicated for us to implement.
So from a purely practical perspective, we can’t make our content expire. And we can’t stop people from copying our files, nor should we. Given that reality, why not give our listeners to the full legal right to do what’s totally natural for an audio file (copy it, share it with people, and listen to it whenever they want), but make equally clear to them what they can’t do (share the story outside the podcast, or alter it in any way at all)? That’s our reason for the Creative Commons license. We’re not trying to plant a philosophical flag in the ground here; we’re just trying to reflect reality.
We hope you’ll agree with our reasons and choose to share your story with us. If you don’t, then we’re deeply sorry, but we feel it’s better that you know this now, before you make the decision to submit.
Whew! If you’ve read this far, pat yourself on the back. Or get a friend to pat you. You’re amazing. We know it’s a lot to digest, but we’ve had very good luck so far with people submitting exactly within our guidelines. This only shows what brilliant, brilliant people science fiction writers are. (Or perhaps we’re just successful because we flatter.)
If you have questions, comments, suggestions, or criticism (but not stories) send them to our staff at email@example.com
. We’ll do our best to get back to you within a few days.
Thanks very much for your time, and we look forward to reading — and hopefully speaking — what you’ve got!