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May 4, 2010

Tor.com: A rare, hard-to-find actual “market report.” No, really.
Posted by Patrick at 02:58 PM * 51 comments

[Cross-posted from Tor.com.]

Tor.com has been a venue for original SF and fantasy since 2008, but we’ve never formalized our process for submissions. Indeed, for a long time, we were totally winging it. I was buying and editing almost all of our original prose fiction, but I resisted giving excessively specific information to various “market report” organs, because I was reluctant to deal with the explosion of submissions that would be generated thereby.

But that barn door has sailed. (As we professional “wordsmiths” say. Don’t try this at home.) Tor.com gets more submissions all the time, and I’ve gotten farther and farther behind at dealing with them. Some people have been awaiting responses for over six months—a few, for embarrassingly more than six months. Clearly something must be done. If only…if only I had an editorial colleague at Tor.com so smart, energetic, and discerning that just this year she’s become the youngest editor ever honored with a Hugo nomination. Oh, wait.

Going forward, then, Tor.com’s original fiction will henceforth be co-edited by me and Liz Gorinsky. Submissions should henceforth be sent via email, not to my personal or work email addresses, but to the newly-created tordotcomsubs@gmail.com. (If you already sent a submission to one of my addresses, please don’t resubmit. We can cope.) Tor.com welcomes original short SF and fantasy, broadly defined. We’re particularly interested in stories under 12,000 words, although we’ve made exceptions in the past and will do so again. We pay 25 cents a word for the first 5,000 words, 15 cents a word for the next 5,000, and 10 cents a word after that. Although we try to employ common sense in dealing with edge cases, “original” means original—not previously published. Contrary to some previous reports, we do not want you to query first; to submit to Tor.com, just send us your story. Stories should use standard manuscript format and be emailed as Word, RTF, or plain-text attachments. Stories sent inline in the body of an email will be ignored. Questions? Send them to tordotcomsubs@gmail.com.

Comments on Tor.com: A rare, hard-to-find actual "market report." No, really.:
#1 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:10 PM:

I have passed this on to a friend who would be interested. Thank you!

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:19 PM:

Wow. My timing sucks.

I assume the same rules apply wrt simultaneous and multiple submissions (no and no respectively) as before.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:36 PM:

Congratulations to Liz on the new role! I'm sure she'll absolutely rock at it.

#4 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 04:58 PM:

What are your submission guidelines for comics stuff, if any? After all, you've got a lot of that stuff up there as well...

#6 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:20 PM:

The last man on earth stared at his computer. Suddenly, there was an e-mail.

#7 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 06:42 PM:

@6: The Internet was getting lonely.

#8 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 07:11 PM:

I see you're closing your ship after the chickens have hatched.

#9 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:16 PM:

#8 went over like a lead sink.

#10 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2010, 10:42 PM:

Congratulations to Liz for getting the job. Congratulations to Patrick for getting the help.

#11 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 02:16 AM:

@8,9 People mixing their metaphors like a barman mixes beers...

#12 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 06:59 AM:

Metaphors no so much mixed as pureed.

Can we get a product placement credit from Osterizer?

#13 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:20 AM:

@ #11, in the blender, with some kiwi, a splash of rum, poured into a tall glass and finished off with a cocktail onion with a paper umbrella stuck into it?

#14 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:48 AM:

Ingvar@13, Colonel Mustard, in the kitchen, with a blender?

#15 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:53 AM:

14
No, the mustard goes in the blender. It's Mrs Peacock, in the kitchen, with the blender.

#16 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 12:15 PM:

@13 - Oh, that old Janx Spirit....

#17 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 12:37 PM:

It's the new combination word and food processor! Slices, dices, and splits infinitives! But wait, there's more! For a limited time only, the Wonderful Adjective Cellar is included, as previously advertised in science fiction! Act now! Operatives are standing by!!!!!

#18 ::: minerva ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 02:16 PM:

Fabulous news. Though I wonder about using Gmail, because I am concerned with what their license agreement means.

I followed the advice on backups that was posted here a bit ago, starting with the "gmail your baby pictures to yourself." So I gmailed my developing novel to myself.

Then thought: hey, why not get a new gmail addy just for backups? Handy! So I started the process and read the TOS. And in it, my use of the Gmail service gives Google a non-exclusive right to any content I put through their system. They note I retain copyright, but I give them that non-exclusive, royalty-free license to anything I post through their service - including my novel.

From their Terms of Service:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

They say its for the "for the sole purpose" of provision of services, but is that a solid legal limit, or merely a statement of intent that is not actually binding?

Just wondering if you kind folks here have taken a look at this and any implications it might have...

#19 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 04:59 PM:

minerva @ 18:

They say its for the "for the sole purpose" of provision of services, but is that a solid legal limit, or merely a statement of intent that is not actually binding?

I'm not a lawyer, and this isn't legal advice, but my understanding is that it very much is binding. If it wasn't, then the following would make it so:

"9.4 Other than the limited license set forth in Section 11, Google acknowledges and agrees that it obtains no right, title or interest from you (or your licensors) under these Terms in or to any Content that you submit, post, transmit or display on, or through, the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in that Content (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist)."

Also, note that their privacy policy effectively excludes them from being able to do anything nefarious with email content, whether they get a license to it or not.

#20 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 05:00 PM:

That's the kind of question I'd like to see put before the EFF (maybe they've already considered it, it would likely be worth digging around on their web site).

#21 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:00 PM:

Independently of any licensing issue, I'd think it's a good idea to make the address something like submissions@tor.com, even if it's currently forwarding to Gmail, because that way if you decide you don't want to use Gmail you can switch over internally without having to send out a notice and hope everyone with a good story notices.

#22 ::: Nathaniel Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:23 PM:

@18: That's the generic baseline TOS that Google uses for all their services (including things like Picasa or Google Pages, where people do upload stuff for public display).

If you look at the terms of service for Gmail specifically:
http://mail.google.com/mail/help/intl/en/terms.html

Then there's an additional "Legal notice":
http://mail.google.com/mail/help/intl/en/legal_notices.html

Which says: "We will not use any of your content for any purpose except to provide you with the Service." I would *think* that was binding...

#23 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 04:44 AM:

There's a long history of rather sweeping rights claims being made by providers of services on the Internet.

In at least some cases, I suspect legal boilerplate, untested in court, written by somebody who doesn't sufficiently grok post-1976 copyright law.

And remember the practical details: once your copyright material is in the service provider's back-up system, it's somewhat reckless, in terms of safe and secure data management, to expect it to be deleted from the back-ups.

I really don't like where some outfits get to with their claims. If company X wants to use some of my work to promote their service, why can't they be bothered to ask me? What's the reason for a blanket rights-grab?

If I posted a sonnet here, you guys would ask me before it got put up on tor.com, and you'd pay me. Here, I know I'm dealing with the professionals.

#24 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 05:18 AM:

Even if Google had the legal right, despite their terms of service and their privacy policy, to trawl through their email databases and steal our stories, can you imagine what that would involve practically? And you thought a slushreader's job was hard!

(Admittedly it's Google so they could narrow the search down somewhat before a poor human being had to get involved; but still it'd be a horrendous task. I suspect it'd work out cheaper for them to just commission a piece.)

--Which is not to mock people who want to be more careful of their privacy, it's just an amusing image that came into my head. :-)

#25 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 07:51 AM:

Hooray! Congratulations to Liz. And congratulations to Patrick & everyone else involved for making Tor.com such a success.

I was going to submit my one circulating story to Asimov's today--glad I came here first! Not that I don't also want a shiny Asimov's rejection for my collection.

#26 ::: minerva ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:45 PM:

@20 thanks for the EFF suggestion - I've flipped through their site a bit, and I don't seem to see any flags up for that aspect...

Given the whole Google Books thing - and that's certainly on EFF's radar - I don't think we should assume Google wouldn't use the capacities its licenses give it. Instead, we should be concerned why they 'need' to build such capacities in. (See this interesting EFF post on Google Books and privacy).

I agree that it is unlikely they'll uncrack my .zip file and have at it. But the fact is, although I retain copyright, they *do* have that non-exclusive right to publish. Why do they need it?

#27 ::: minerva ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:52 PM:

@21 - good idea to have an addy you control (i.e. info@mydomain.com), for just those reasons. When we needed to change web providers for our online academic journal, our addy remained the same - it was seamless to our users. Also, depending on your level of tech savvy, you can control your own mail servers and spam filters. The 'back-end' interface used by most web providers is pretty easy to use, even for mostly-novices. Though I assume TOR.com would have a web-guru on staff.

#28 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:24 PM:

Perhaps they need the right to reproduce your information because otherwise they wouldn't be able to show you your own email?

#29 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:40 PM:

#28 ::: heresiarch -

Perhaps they need the right to reproduce your information because otherwise they wouldn't be able to show you your own email?

That sounds right. Since the transfer of information over the Internet by necessity involves creating many copies, a carrier or other service provider must need that legal ability. It's sorta like a Bill of Lading - it doesn't confer ownership, but it does specify a contract of carriage.

#30 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 02:57 PM:

I strongly second the motion to have the submission email address be an address at your domain, such as submissions@tor.com . Whatever address you use for submissions will be part of your branding as you pursue stories from authors, and it's to your advantage for that branding to be as permanent as your company. If the submission address is through gmail, and gmail is acquired or otherwise changes name, or for some reason becomes a toxic property, you have a publicity problem not of your own making, not of your own timing, and over which you have ceded control.

Once upon a time, AOL and Hotmail were new and shiny, and Yahoo! was a rising star. Can you imagine the credibility baggage associated with tordotcomsubs@hotmail.com? Hanging your hopes on tordotcomsubs@gmail.com subjects your reputation to the ongoing good behaviour of Google corporate actors who don't necessarily have your best interests in mind, and who can't be relied upon to care for their good gmail name in the way that you care for yours at Tor. Looking down the decades of companies past, using gmail for a public-facing email address is a very unnecessary risk.

#31 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 03:31 PM:

I would have thought it was usual practice, when subbing to a publication, to check the address and guidelines every time? Even back in ye olden days when email didn't exist, people could move their offices.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 06:19 PM:

When I first saw Liz at Tor's party at the 2006 worldcon, I thought "Wow! Jim Frenkel's kid is all grown up now!"

:-)

Congratulations to Liz!

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 08:02 PM:

Mattathias #30: "Once upon a time, AOL and Hotmail were new and shiny, and Yahoo! was a rising star. Can you imagine the credibility baggage associated with tordotcomsubs@hotmail.com?"

Oh my god, you're right. People who jump to conclusions about other people based on what email service they use...might not submit fiction to us. I'll be sure to schedule some time to worry about that.

Seriously. I've long observed that any online discussion of fiction-submission procedures has a good chance of devolving into pointless nitpickery. But for the life of me I never expected this particular Tor.com announcement to lead to an extended discussion of the evil of Gmail.

We set up a Gmail address because it's a lot easier than dealing with Macmillan's IT department. If you don't like it, with all due respect, don't submit fiction to us. I don't for a moment believe that Google is an altruistic enterprise devoted entirely to pretty flowers and happy thoughts, but on the list of Things To Worry About Before I Die, the idea that something dreadful might happen because Liz and I set up a nonce Gmail account to receive Tor.com submissions...is well below "will Archie Comics still exist 50 years from now" and "Yonkers, New York might secede from the US and obtain an independent nuclear deterrent."

#34 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 08:30 PM:

Patrick @#33:

Also I gather gmail is nifty for streamlining the submission-and-selection process, because of its tagging and threading features. Sumana Harihareswara got all geeked up about it on a panel of short-story editors at Wiscon last year.

#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 08:50 PM:

"Query: You set your tale of nuclear war between neighboring powers of Yonkers and Scarsdale in the offices of Archie Comix in 2060. Is it really credible that Archie Comix will still exist then?"

#36 ::: Benjamin Biggs ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 12:36 PM:

Mary Dell @ 34

As someone currently trying to deal with a pile of slush submissions in physical form, I can only dream that we would adopt a gmail address for submissions. It would cut down on the load of work probably by half, just in terms of sheer organizational structure.

*sighs*

#37 ::: thanate ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 01:24 PM:

Thank you for posting this; I am relieved to learn that it was not just my web searching incompetence preventing me from being able to find the tor.com submission guidelines. I had marked you off my list of places to send wandering stories on the grounds that the Ralan's listing emphasized professional quality submissions only, and I figured that not being able to find the guidelines probably meant I was insufficiently professional.

#38 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 01:55 PM:

Gosh, why is everybody sending so many stories about offshore bank accounts in Nigeria and people who want to enlarge their p3n15?

#39 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 03:08 PM:

As it happens, Patrick, my email address is essentially virtual. The domain name is real, but all it does is shove stuff to elsewhere. Gmail in this case, but it used to be an ISP mail account which, every time I connected, put my email onto my computer.

My understanding is that corporate IT is often dominated by control freaks, and they have some reason to be like that. But if the result is that people such as yourself resort to Gmail, the balance is way off.

#40 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 05:23 PM:

Apropos the Particle, if I submitted a story featuring an extinct terrestrial reptile of the Mesozoic era that was a catamite, would it increase my chance of publication?

#41 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 05:25 PM:

For 'Particle', read 'Sidelight'.

#42 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 07:03 PM:

None of the links on the main page of Liz Gorinsky's web site are clickable at all if Javascript is turned off.

#43 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 09:27 PM:

Dave Bell @#39:
My understanding is that corporate IT is often dominated by control freaks, and they have some reason to be like that.

In my experience (speaking as an IT control freak) it's because most IT departments have a set of priorities similar to this: 1. preserve data integrity 2. ensure service availability 3. extend existing/introduce new services. Which means that every new thing takes a back seat to keeping the current stuff running, and is eyed with suspicion because of the risk it will break the current stuff. A large organization with a lot of money will keep some staff dedicated to responding to client requests for new stuff, resulting in a happy user community, but small organizations and those with slim profit margins don't have the luxury of doing that. So you can end up with an entire IT department whose job is to protect what's already there, rather than to create useful new things for the user base.

Also, some of us are just cranky bastards.

#44 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 12:39 AM:

Actually, I'm looking forward to the Archie Comics crossover with Red Dawn, where Riverside High School has to obtain nukes of its own and use them on the Commies in Younkers.

Should be fun, particularly the point where Veronica has to give up her makeup to properly mark the bomb pieces as Betty and Archie are fitting them together.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 02:37 AM:

Mary Dell @ 43... priorities similar to this: 1. preserve data integrity 2. ensure service availability 3. extend existing/introduce new services

Mine seems to keep the fucking boat from sinking.

#46 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 06:39 AM:

Well, we've seen what happened when Albert Shanker got hold of a nuclear warhead.

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2010, 06:45 PM:

The question that intrigues me is what happens when corporate IT admin gets ahold of a nuclear weapon (see Charlie Stross' "Atrocity Archive" for a relatively benign possibility). "Cranky" could be very counterproductive in that situation.

#48 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:11 PM:

Bruce Cohen @#47:

Well, first we'll need a steering committee to decide how to deploy it. Charging back to the whole company as part of the per-desk PC cost will be discussed, but the poorer divisions will object since the warhead would probably not be deployed equally to every business unit. IT won't want to pay for training, so we'll "laterally promote" someone with a few spare cycles to learn how to keep the warhead up and running, with the hope that there won't be a need to deploy it until at least next fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the better-funded business units will get sick of waiting for access and will hire an outside developer to come up with something for them; that developer will invent a slick biological/neurological weapon, and the nuclear project will get backburnered in the current fiscal year and then cancelled in the following one.

Several years later, someone will notice it blinking away in the back of the data center during a junk-cleanup initiative, and since no-one will be able to point to an active project that's using it, it'll get marked for salvage & recycling. An enterprising admin will score himself a little side money by putting it on Ebay.

Everyone from the steering committee on down will put "Expert-level nuclear warhead administrator" on his or her resume.

#49 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:32 PM:

Mary Dell speaks Truth.

#50 ::: Brad R. Torgersen ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 06:38 PM:

For $0.25 US per word, if Patrick said he wanted the MS chiseled into thin slabs of hardwood, and air dropped onto the roof of his building via paraglider, I would do it. You can't really beat that word rate, for a short fiction venue. The only market that comes close to that word rate is Writers of the Future.

Patrick, much obliged for the heads-up on the new co-editor, and the new e-mail address. Good luck digging out from under. I've got a MS in there somewhere. Hopefully it gets a look-see.

Given the currently lengthy delay between submission and response, what's your opinion on an author having more than one MS in the TOR.COM slush at any given moment?

#51 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 11:34 PM:

Brad, multiples (which is apparently what that's called) are not allowed...last I heard.

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