3 min read

Signal Boost: Escape Artists Need Help

Escape Artists, the company that brings us PodCastle, PseudoPod, and EscapePod, is in serious financial difficulty, and needs an upswell in their subscriber base (and/or a lot of donations) to stay afloat, or they’ll need to close operations by the end of the year.

I’m only really familiar with PodCastle, so that’s what I want to talk about, in a fairly mercenary brass-tacks way that will totally fail to convey the enormous affection I feel for the editors and production team and the hard work they do to bring us cool stories.

I used to think that selling a story was the be-all and end-all of working as a writer. Selling a story was kind of an inconceivable event horizon for a long time, when I was writing one or two stories a week and preening over the cleverness of my dialogue and the originality of my re-told folk tales that read like 5th Xerox copies of early Charles de Lint.

And then it happened! I sold a story! And then another! And another! And then I sold a story for pro rates! And then a story I sold for pro rates got nominated for an award! And I learned that when stories sell for pro rates and get nominated for awards, would you believe it, people will keep asking you to publish them. And pay you MORE MONEY for the right to do so.

PodCastle was my first experience of the continuing life-cycle of the short story after first publication. I’d sold “And Their Lips Rang with the Sun” to Strange Horizons, celebrated — and then learned that there was this zine that paid $100 for reprints of full length stories, which it then broadcast to an audience that preferred listening to stories over reading them. It pays $20 for flash stories too. (So does PseudoPod. Turns out that EscapePod pays pro rates for original science fiction. I did not know this until today.)

So PodCastle has expanded my view of what I can earn per story, which has in turn brought me more money. Now when I sell a story I think “I wonder if PodCastle would like this,” and out it goes again. Sometimes the staff members beat me to it, reading something of mine on Strange Horizons or in The Honey Month and soliciting for it, which never ceases being this amazing thing that leaves me grinning speechlessly at my laptop for a while. And when you’re beating yourself bloody against a monstrous degree that allows you no time to READ let alone write anything creatively, seeing the work you’ve already done continue to earn you money — and continue to be read, listened to, commented on, discussed — is tremendously heartening. And I’ve written before about how amazing it is to hear others read my work.

Since 2010, PodCastle has broadcast “And Their Lips Rang with the Sun,” “Cranberry Honey,” “To Follow the Waves,” “A Hollow Play,” and has purchased rights to “Wing.” In addition to sharing my work for free with audiences that might not have encountered it otherwise, that’s $340 they’ve put in my pocket for work I’d already done and been paid for. That’s money that I was then able to put into buying groceries, cheap tickets to theatre and music gigs, comics, and supporting Kickstarters. And they put out a podcast every week. I very much want to see them stick around. I want to continue to support them with my voice (I read for them sometimes! It’s great fun and I get to see stories I mightn’t have read otherwise!), and because it’s a tiny investment in my own writerly future, I’ve subscribed at the exorbitant price of $2 a month. According to their appeal, their subscriber base is huge, but only something like 1% of their listeners pay anything — so it’s not so much a matter of getting those who pay to pay more, but of encouraging those who pay nothing to pay a tiny little bit in a sustained fashion for a program they enjoy.

Bogi Takács has provided a great link round-up of stories that have appeared on the various pods along with Bogi’s reviews of them.

You can listen to the MetaCast for more details or read Alasdair Stuart’s summary of the situation.

You can donate or subscribe to PodCastle, PseudoPod, and EscapePod through the sidebars of their respective pages. If you’ve ever enjoyed my work — or that of any of the dozens of other writers they’ve broadcast over the years — I sincerely hope you will.