Cast of Wonders is a young adult short fiction market, open to story submissions up to 6,000 words in length.
We’re dedicated to publishing fiction that reflects the entire spectrum of the human experience. We acknowledge the realities of unconscious bias and make our best effort to account for it during our review process. Read our full statement in support of lowering publishing’s barriers to entry for authors from historically underrepresented backgrounds below.
One of our goals is to further the education of new writers of any age. With that in mind, these submission guidelines are both lengthy and extensive. They aim to explain what we’re looking for, what we’ll do with your story, and where you can find further information.
What We’re Looking For
As a young adult fiction podcast, we’re looking for stories that evoke a sense of wonder and have something unreal about them. We aim for a 12-17 age range: that means sophisticated, non-condescending stories with wide appeal, and without explicit sex, violence or pervasive obscene language. Think Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.
Stories are presented in audio format, which means our audience rarely skim past boring bits. We’re looking for fiction with strong pacing, well-defined characters, engaging dialogue, and clear action. We like a proper narrative structure and a unique prose style not laden with clichés and over-worn idioms. We like fiction that makes us think, but the main element should be thrilling entertainment and adventure.
We prefer high fantasy — elves, dragons, secondary worlds, and magic — to the more cerebral forms of fantasy you find in adult markets.
We like all forms of science fiction: far-future, near future, space opera, “hard” sci-fi — but it must be accessible to our target audience. This means a minimum of technical jargon.
We’re happy to read comedy, steampunk, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, superheroes and many other genres. All that matters is adherence to our core concept and that critical spark of wonder.
Check out our Staff Picks page for more examples of favorites.
Does My Story Have To Be About Young Adults?
Absolutely not! A good story appeals to all ages. We define YA as the absence of the adult elements described above, not as stories featuring children or young adult characters.
What About Sex?
Sex is a universal constant, regardless of age, gender, orientation or even species. How an author deals with that reality is up to them and the characters of their stories, not us. We won’t reject a story simply because it includes sexual content, but it’s not the sole thing we look for in stories, either. In other words, just because it’s happening doesn’t mean we want it to take center stage.
An example of a story that handles this extremely well is “A Song For The Season” by Eliza Hirsch.
What About Violence?
Sadly, violence too is a reality of the everyday lives of many young people. Like sex, we don’t require our stories to avoid the subject, but violent acts should never be the centrepiece of a tale.
A very well handled example is “Flowers For The Dead” (Parts 1 and 2) by Jamie Mason.
Fairy Tales? Wondertales? Huh?
We use the word “wondertales” as the generic description of speculative fiction stories based on classic and/or historical cultural narratives. Synomyms include fairy tales, folklore and mythology – all academic terms with their own meanings, origins, distinctions and historical connotations.
This is to help distinguish wondertales as a whole from the subset of stories based on Western European ancestry, which we assign the label “fairy tales”. Good examples include Hans Christian Andersen stories, or older Disney movies.
Fairy tales are popular as a genre of young adult fiction to the point where they cross the line into tropes. We receive a lot of them. Unless a story succinctly retells one of these narratives in a new and unique way, we generally decline. A good example of one we liked was “Piper” by Ian Rose – a flash piece retelling ‘The Pied Piper’ from one of the rat’s point of view.
Wondertales, on the the other hand, are under-represented in short fiction and we’d love to receive more of them. For an example of one we liked check out “The Dun Horse” by Edward Ahern – the retelling of a Pawnee legend.
We don’t accept media-based fiction (for example, stories set in the Harry Potter or Hunger Games universes) or any kind of fan fiction. Fan fiction is GREAT and we enthusiastically support people reading and writing it, we’re just not legally allowed to publish it. Many popular properties allow others to use their settings, characters and plot lines for fan use, but not for commercial sale to markets like us.
Anything In Particular You’re Looking For?
Our editor is always interested in receiving more short stories set in the worlds of existing novels. We refer to these as “off-cut” stories, and love to run them because our audience can immediately buy the author’s novel to enjoy more of the same. If you’re submitting an off-cut, please let us know so we can make sure your biography includes full purchase links to the related novels.
The same applies if you have a book coming out soon and want to publish a short story with us to coincide with its release. We’re always happy to delay our episode if the resulting timing is better for author promotion. And you can approach us about a sponsorship opportunity as well – just email our editor.
I’ve Got A Great Holiday Story, When Should I Submit It?
Holiday-themed stories (regardless of which holiday) are ideally submitted 4-5 months prior to the holiday in question. A short note in the submission cover letter helps too. Cast of Wonders runs themed episodes every year for Halloween, the Winter Holidays, and Banned Book Week (usually in September).
What We’re NOT Looking For
We’re a YA podcast. If you wouldn’t give your story to a teenager to read — or worse, the activity in question is unlawful — it doesn’t belong in our slush pile. Consider instead our recommended list of adult fiction Markets and their submission guidelines. Stories which talk about or address these issues are fine, but graphical descriptions are not. We absolutely, positively do not want to receive:
- Graphical depictions of sexual assault
- Non-consensual sexual activity (including necrophilia)
- Non-consensual drug use
- Graphical or explicit descriptions of animal abuse
- The gratuitous brutalization of women, transpersons, nonbinary people, people of color, and people with disabilities
- ANY sexual depictions of children or animals whatsoever
The following subjects will be difficult to pass our slush readers but have appeared in stories in the past. Be prepared to address why these topics appear in your story and what purpose they serve. Our editor may challenge you to change them. Pervasive use is more likely to lead to rejection.
- Drug use, especially if not critical to the story
- Gratuitous profanity
- Body shaming
- Broad baseless assumptions (‘all gamers are overweight’ — ‘all athletic girls are gay’ — ‘boys don’t feel emotions’)
We are not interested in acquiring fiction that denigrates any culture or perpetuates stereotypes: all stories should be well-researched, respectful, and conscientious.
We are particularly interested in considering stories from younger writers. If you are under 18, please let us know your age when you submit your work and be aware that your parent or legal guardian will be required to sign your contract on your behalf. If your submission is part of a school project, please let us know that as well and we’ll work with you to provide any documentation required by your teachers.
Our episodes are in English, but we accept and encourage translated stories from across the globe. Translation of non-English works of fiction is a growing aspect of short fiction markets, and we want to help bring those works to audio fiction audiences.
Cast of Wonders welcomes and encourages submissions from writers of all backgrounds, and would like to see more submissions from people of backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented or excluded from traditional publishing. Some examples include people of color, LGBTQ or non-binary gender people, persons with disabilities, members of religious minorities, and people from outside the United States and Western Europe.
We’re committed to helping new authors of any age, especially those from historically underrepresented backgrounds, gain professional experience. If you identify as part of these or other underrepresented groups, we welcome and encourage you to indicate so when you send us your story. To the best of our ability and available time, we’ll try and provide more detailed feedback on your story.
Don’t self-reject. If in doubt, submit. Every submission is another step in the learning process. We take pride in giving the most constructive and helpful rejections our time allows.
Cast of Wonders is the broadest reaching Escape Artists podcast in terms of genre, but the tightest in terms of story requirement. As a result, we may occasionally refer a story from our slush pile to the editors of Pseudopod, Podcastle or Escapepod for consideration. All four shows operate on the same pay scale.
If we want to refer your story to another editor for consideration, we will contact you first and get your permission. If you are unwilling to have your story referred (like, for example, you have other work under consideration with them), you can make a note of this in your cover letter or let us know when we contact you.
Also, if you have been encouraged to submit to us from another source, please let us know so we can thank them!
We run both reprints and original stories, and have no strong preference between the two. We always fully attribute the original publication of a story in our episodes, and are happy to consider stories previously released on Patreon or under crowd-funding arrangements as reprints.
We also don’t mind if your reprint has previously been published in audio form. We’re confident our range of diverse and talented narrators will bring something new to your story’s production with us.
Cast of Wonders is open to submissions for stories of up to 6,000 words. We will reject unread any submissions exceeding the 6,000 word cap if you haven’t previously contacted us for permission.
Please note we have a strong preference for stories between 3000 and 4500 words in length: they best fit our target episode length of 30 minutes. Please do not submit single chapters of novel-length works; they rarely hold up as properly self-contained short stories.
Your story is mostly likely to run in its own episode, but may be serialized over multiple episodes or combined with other stories in a single episode, such as our Little Wonders themed flash fiction collections.
Our Submittable portal has options for Flash Fiction (under 1500 words) and Short Fiction (1500 to 6000 words).
Cast of Wonders uses a blind review process. This means all author information (including your name) MUST be removed from the manuscript text body, headers, and file name. It should be saved and uploaded in any standard word processing file type, such as Word, Google Docs or .RTF. PDFs are not accepted.
We have prepared a sample manuscript to show you exactly what we’re looking for. The sample is derived (with thanks) from the Shunn standard manuscript format and has undergone the ‘blinding’ process we require. It also contains some comments specific to submitting manuscripts to audio venues such as ours.
We have no preference between American or British English, as long as you’re consistent.
Inappropriately formatted manuscripts, including those submitted containing identifying author information, will be rejected unread.
Our Submittable portal will request the story’s title, first publication (if any), and word count. There’s also a field for you to enter any of the items we’ve asked you to note in these submission guidelines. Please do NOT supply a full covering letter or summary of the story, either on the submission form or the manuscript. The text box on the submission form is minimal to help prevent this.
Once you’ve sent us your story, you will receive an automated confirmation via email. Please query if you haven’t received this confirmation within 24 hours.
We aim to respond to all submissions within 8 weeks. After three months, if you haven’t received a response, feel free to query by email.
Multiple and Simultaneous Submissions
We do not accept multiple submissions from an author at the same time. If you submit multiple stories at once (and yes, we do check) we will reject all of them unread. You may only send us a single story at a time, regardless of length.
We don’t mind if you submit your story to us and other venues at the same time, as long as you withdraw the work if it’s accepted elsewhere (and congratulations!)
Payment and Rights
We pay $.06/word for original fiction of any length (yes, including flash!). Cast of Wonders intends to qualify as a SFWA Short Fiction market retroactively from January 1, 2016. We are currently in our one year probationary period, and will be making our membership application in early 2017.
For reprints, we offer a $100 flat rate for Short Fiction, and a $20 flat rate for Flash Fiction.
We ask for 4 months exclusivity for text and audio for original stories, and 4 months audio exclusivity for reprints. We happily accept stories that have been podcast previously; this means we ask you don’t re-sell the story to another audio market for 4 months after publication with Cast of Wonders.
Cast of Wonders buys nonexclusive audio and print rights to distribute the audio file under a Creative Commons license. Specifically, we use the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. As we say every week in our outro, this means the entire world has permission to distribute the audio files 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 that exceed 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. Authors retain their copyright and all rights to any other use of the story.
You can find samples of our contracts at the links below. Note these are for informational purposes only, and upon acceptance all the relevant information will be completed:
- Original Fiction Contract (Short Story and Flash)
- Reprint Short Story Contract
- Reprint Flash Fiction Contract
If you have concerns about these rights, please let us know. We are happy to discuss tailoring the contract if you have particular requirements (such as estates).
Any personal information we collect (name, address, email, social media links, secret identity, etc.) is held in strict confidence and not shared with anyone unless we are compelled by law or in the event threats are made against our staff.
If a third party contacts us expressing interest in an author’s work, we will contact the author for permission before sharing any contact details.
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 submission form is accurate and truthful; and
- You accept sole responsibility for any false statements or encumbrances upon rights not disclosed to us.
- If you are under the age of 18, your parent or guardian will sign your contract and accept your payment on your behalf.
How To Submit
Once you’ve read all the above, click the link below!
Email the editor, Marguerite Kenner. You can expect a response within a few days, but feel free to query if you’ve received no response in over a week.
Thank you for reading all the way through to the end, and we look forward to receiving your stories!