Today’s Twitter feed brought up some interesting developments over at Escape Pod. What used to be just a podcast now has a monthly magazine containing the text of the stories that have been published in audio. There will also be book reviews. What’s more, they are clearly going for the semiprozine market as they talk about paying professional rates. Obviously they need donations, but they sound determined to pay their authors good money.
Or almost. Because, as is depressingly the case, there is a catch. Being a suspicious type, I sent to look at the submission guidelines, and I found what I expected:
At the present time, EP does not offer payment for reviews.
So yes, they’ll be paying their authors, which is a wonderful thing to do, but only if they write fiction.
This is by no means an isolated occurrence. I don’t mean to dump on Escape Pod because they are only doing what many other venues do. One of the reasons I work for Clarkesworld and not for anyone else is because Neil is prepared to pay the same rate for non-fiction as for fiction. Other magazines don’t do that. Indeed, in the past couple of weeks I have caught a couple of people using the term “professional writer” to mean “professional fiction writer”. There’s a widespread view that even if non-fiction writers get the same money as fiction writers, they are still not worthy of being viewed as “professional”. SFWA’s membership rules don’t help here.
So it is all very well for people to complain about the quality of book reviews online (here and here most recently). But if there’s nowhere that recognizes that non-fiction is worth paying for, then there’s no real incentive for people to get any better.