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IF CREATORS WANTED: sub-Q Magazine seeks authors, developers

Howdy, everyone! sub-Q is a new F/SF/horror market for interactive fiction. Submissions open to the public June 1, and the first issue launches. August 4. sub-Q pays 9 cents per word for combined prose and interactivity (6 cents per word to the author and 3 cents per word to the developer. If the same person performs both roles, the same person receives the combined rate.)

We're interested in short-form original work and reprints, as well as serialized novella-length works.

We're also gathering a team of Twine developers to adapt the prose of other authors into interactive fiction. These works will include both public domain short stories (e.g. "The Tell-Tale Heart") as well as new, interactivity-ready stories by today's stars of F/SF and horror.

sub-Q itself is also interactive, providing unique opportunities and incentives for readers to reward the creators of work they love.

If you're looking for a market for your work, an earning opportunity for your Twine skills, or a chance to collaborate with pro authors, please email your CV and links to sample works/portfolio to tory at sub-q dot com, subject header "TWINE DEV SUBMISSION".

Later this week, this thread will host more info and a sneak preview of the submissions call. I'm the EIC (publications | art portfolio | IF portfolio), and the team is growing. Any questions you have, I'd be delighted to answer.


  • Thanks for letting us know here on the forums, AYL! :-)
  • Super welcome, Sharpe. Thank you for helping make the forums a great place to be.
  • I registered just for that. Looking forward to more info, thanks a lot for sharing.
  • Thank you, Okojo. That means a lot.
  • Any news of the sneak preview?
  • Sneak peak! Sneak peak! Sneak peak!
  • Shot you an e-mail yesterday about Twine Dev Submissions, but realized that submissions open to the public June 1. Should I wait until then to resend? Sorry about this.
  • I believe the time is right for that peek that is sneak.

    Also note that some of the guidelines fly in the face of traditional IF (especially a preference for 1st and 3rd person POV.) I understand if this is distasteful to some. My goal is never to disrespect classic IF, only to build bridges to new readers.

    Guidelines are subject to change. Please review them at the official sub-Q website before submitting.



    Our rates for text-based interactive fiction are based on <strong>prose word count</strong>. If the same person is responsible for both prose and interactivity, that person receives both rates.

    We require that single text-based works be under 5000 words.
    We prefer that single text-based works be under 3500 words.
    We are also interested in serialized novella-length works.
    • Original: $0.06 USD/word for prose; $0.03 USD/word for interactivity ($0.09 USD/word for both)
    • Reprints: $0.03 USD/word for prose; $0.015 USD/word for interactivity (0.045 USD/word)

    An original 1000 word interactive story would command $90.
    A reprinted 1000 word interactive story would command $45.


    Our rates for illustrated fiction are based on <strong>panel count</strong>. We pay a certain rate for the panels themselves, and a quarter again as much for the interactivity of those panels. (An animated panel is considered one panel. If you have questions, please query.)

    We require that sequential art be under 50 panels.
    We prefer that sequential art be under 25 panels.
    • Original: $8.00 USD/panel for art; $2.00 USD/panel for interactivity
    • Reprint: $4.00 USD/panel for art; $1.00 USD/panel for interactivity

    An original 25-panel interactive webtoon would command $250.
    A reprinted 25-panel interactive webtoon would command $125.


    The person submitting the story warrants the right to include any contributors' work in the story, and to accept payment on their behalf.

    Additional payment for external media (e.g. illustration, audio, or special software features) is negotiable on request. If your story contains external media, please include a description of it in your submission, and your requested rate for it.


    For original IF, <em>sub-Q</em> acquires first worldwide publication rights, exclusive for one year, non-exclusive thereafter. For reprints, <em>sub-Q</em> acquires non-exclusive publication rights for one year.

    Sample contracts are available on request.

    Simultaneous/Multiple Submissions

    No, please do not submit a work to us and to another market at the same time.
    Yes, you may send us multiple works to consider at the same time (limit three awaiting response at once.)

    Response Times

    Our goal is to respond to all submissions in fewer than 90 days. Please wait until 90 days have passed to query.

    • Stories that can be told only on a device (using choice, audio, and/or animation)
    • Fiction, poetry, and webtoons/sequential art welcome
    • Twine, TADS, Inform7, custom HTML5 welcome
    • Limit 3500 words or five minutes of first playthrough
    • Serialized novellas
    • F/SF and horror
    • 90% pleasure, 10% heartbreak
    • Showing the reader things they've never seen before
    • Cross-browser QA-testing appreciated
    • Mobile compatibility appreciated*
    • Smart and fun
    • Affirming the human race deserves to live

    • Fan fiction
    • Erotica
    • Torture
    • Gore
    • Revenge fantasy
    • Violence as plot device
    • Abuse as plot device
    • Death as plot device
    • Excessive sex, violence, or profanity

    Hard Sells
    • Second person POV
    • Clicking/interacting without meaningful consequence
    • Main character always dies


    For short, single-installment works, submit at least the completed prose and a proposal for the interactivity. Completed interactivity is preferred but not required. If the work is accepted, we'll discuss your needs and go from there.

    For long, serialized works, submit a synopsis plus interactivity proposal in a single document. Feel free to describe the interactivity in whatever way makes sense for you.

    For all documents, please follow standard manuscript format in a *.doc, *.odt, or *.rtf file, Times New Roman preferred, Courier acceptable, links and special formatting OK.
    • Make single compressed file (e.g. *.zip) of all materials. For a completed interactive work, those materials should include:
      • Compiled story (as it would appear in browser, typically an HTML file)
      • Source/workspace file(s) (for examining code and overall word count)
      • All needed external files (e.g. audio, images) at the correct relative path needed for the compiled story to find them.
    • Remove all author labels from compiled work (for our anonymous submissions process)
    • Include cover letter with
      • Name, postal address
      • Title, genre, and approximate word count and/or playthrough time
      • Description of any external media (e.g. illustration, audio)
      • Brief bio with publishing/interactivity credits, if any
    • Ready? Submit via Submittable.

    * It is not necessary that your work be feature-perfect on mobile devices. What we ask is that the work be tested on mobile and 1) any missing features be handled conditionally (e.g. if on mobile, don't attempt to play two simultaneous audio tracks) and/or 2) the user be warned of any changes in mobile experience. We are happy to work with you to achieve your goals.
  • @Norbez - No worries! You're not too early. It's good to have your general information, and you'll get a reply from us soon.
  • Phew! Thank you!
  • I have a Twine game I previously made, HCF, that takes some "yes"s on the list, but also has death as a plot device, in a way. Would that work as a reprint?
  • edited May 2015

    1. Should the cover letter be a document in standard manuscript format?

    2. What does "as a plot device" specifically mean in this case? Does "death as a plot device" rule out murder mysteries and slice-of-life stories involving funerals, or just stories that use "whack-a-character-to-prove-things-are-serious"?

    3. What is your stance on stories stored on
  • Anyone know how to test a twine story on a mobile? Without publishing it?

    Would you have a problem with some of the works of HPL and CAS? They have things like wizards that got surgically dismembered - and the pieces keep coming after the person who murdered them and people who wake up to realize that they are undead.

    If the play through time is short enough would you consider a story longer than 5000 words - maybe with a payment cap? (i.e. a fat story with lots of interactive branching rather than a long/skinny one that forces you into a fairly linear plot). 5k seems pretty short for a decent interactive tale.

    If I take a prose story I wrote and published on my web site 15 odd years ago and turned it into something interactive would that be a new story or a reprint?

    Are you going to feature a 'best of the web' set of links to stories published elsewhere?
  • @mykael - Maybe publish it privately on, and open in on your phone's web browser? Or copy the Twine index.html into your phone (in a folder/zip file)?
  • edited June 2015
    Is it ok to submit a Twine with absolutely no coding work done? If we submit a text without interactivity (but with the detailed proposal), do we have to wait for the interactivity to be completed or will we be paid upfront?

    Also, I second Mykael regarding the 5k limit, it seems damn low to me to accomplish a meaningful interactivity. The payment cap might be a good solution.

    Is there a deadline for this first batch of submissions?
  • Thank you for your interest! Hope I can field all these questions here:


    - Let the cover letter be a typical, brief submission cover letter. It's a field in the Submittable form, so no formatting is really available anyway.

    - It's the latter I'd like to avoid, e.g. "dead wife = hero motivation." I'll think of how to be more specific in the sub guidelines. Definitely pro-murder mystery!

    - Alas is public (correct me if I'm wrong), so technically stories posted there would be treated as reprints, same way that stories previously posted on a personal blog--even if not heavily visited--qualify as reprints. This is an unfortunate side-effect of forcing literary rules on the interactive world.


    - Dropbox is one way to privately publish. Or Google Drive.

    - Oddly, I don't have a problem with fascinating dismemberment. Horror is great, so long as it's empathetic horror, if that makes sense.

    - I'm afraid budget dictates sub-Q has to focus on short works for now. True, this is restrictive. However it's important authors be paid a certain rate per word--no matter what--so that sub-Q can possibly become an SFWA-qualifying in the future. I've seen some truly great short works!

    - That would be treated as a reprint adaptation--reprint rate for prose, original rate for interactivity.

    - Probably not. There are many excellent linkroll resources. There would have to be some way we were doing extra good by providing one.


    - Prose + detailed interactivity proposals are acceptable, although they are tougher sells than complete work. Payment is due upon acceptance of the completed work--including interactivity. Thus if the author disapproves of how adaptation is going, the author may back out at any time without payment or penalty.

    - Yes, 5K is tough, but it's important to us, for reasons detailed above.

    - No deadline. Need is ongoing.

    Pardon my brevity, and hope this helps! I look forward to seeing what you do.
  • edited June 2015
    Fair enough. Next question then becomes how do you count the number of prose words in a work authored in Twine?

    The Twine 1.4 document statistics give you a total word count - but this includes all the programming statements for the interactivity - links, conditional displays, hidden variable tracking, macros etc... There can also be prose hidden in script variables.

    In addition, when I'm adding interactivity I'll often duplicate chunks of prose and maybe change a word or two in the duplicate. Consider:
    <<if fire_red is true>>The fire burns with a solid, red light.
    <<else>>The fire burns with a flickering green light.<<endif>>

    The fire burns with a <<if fire_red is true>>solid, red<<else>>flickering, green<<endif>> light.

    The fire burns with a <<$fire_light>> light.

    For my money I prefer the first as the source is easier to read and maintain - but the prose count should probably be closer to the second one - 10 words, not 16. Twine will report 22 for the first one and 16 for the second. For the 3rd one, the value of the fire_light variable would have been set elsewhere.

    For my money, I'd simply go with an agreed percentage of the count twine returns (because it's simple and quick) - but this might cause you an issue with your guaranteed rate per word.

    Hmmm. Found this on the SFWA site What is a Word. Are you using rules similar to those? You might still need some clarification for interactive as we have widely varying page lengths (from 3 lines to 100+) and sometimes the page length and contents depend on how you got there. Do you count interactive choice prompts or just the prose words above them?
    You rush down the corridor, but there's no sign of the robed 
    figure you were chasing.  A ladder leads further down and 
    there's a door in front of you.
    -Climb Down the ladder-
    -Open the Door-
    -Give up the chase and go back-

    Could be anything from 25 words to 70 words using the SFWA method (10 words - 60 characters per line).

    This is online interactive, not magazine print, so, really, why does column space matter? Most of this stuff can't be printed on paper - it just wouldn't work.
  • Great and interesting questions, mykael!

    - I didn't realize Twine's word count included scripting text. I've been using that word count, and so far it's been fine. In the interest of simplicity, for now, I think the Twine story statistics word count is good enough.

    - To get really nitty-gritty, word count in sub-Q is defined as each word per unique sentence. In that case, each of your example sentences would deserve to be counted.

    - There are bound to be occasional questions about what constitutes a word (e.g. an entire passage filled with repetitions of a single word, used for stylistic effect.) These questions will be resolved in good faith.

    - I hadn't seen that SFWA article or its ideas before! Very interesting. But I'm used to good old word-process word counts. These do vary (Word vs. Google Document, for instance), but they give a good ballpark. You're very right that sub-Q doesn't have to worry about column space.

    Hope this helps and makes sense.
  • Can the story include children or pets (or both) to help the player develop a sense of danger and fear, or all the characters have to be adults?
  • Putting children and pets in scary situations is OK, although endangerment or abuse of children and pets will be a hard sell. So "Jurassic Park", yes; anything darker, no.
  • So, if it is possible for the pet or child to die because the player intentionally chose to be careless, it is a hard sell?

    I do not think anyone can write a story that is both scary and has no consequences if the player chooses to ignore the rules, unless they write it as a linear story, as opposed to a branched one.

    Also, are you looking to publish these games in more than one language? I could translate mine and then submit both versions.
  • Yes, a dead pet or child is a hard sell. For sub-Q, I invite you to explore other ways of frightening the reader.

    Multi-lingual stories are interesting, however I would have to investigate purchasing first world rights in more than one language (effectively it's buying the story twice, I believe.) One multi-lingual story would be very interesting as well.
  • edited June 2015
    I see. A last question: What exactly are you buying? Publishing rights, or full ownership rights over the game? Who is the copyright owner of the games you buy?
  • I suggest not to sell to this magazine, if they can't answer such a simple question such as copyright ownership, which seems suspicious to me.
  • Rafe wrote: »
    I suggest not to sell to this magazine, if they can't answer such a simple question such as copyright ownership, which seems suspicious to me.

    It seems maybe some patience would be called for here. @AteYourLembas has delayed sometimes in responding to others, but eventually does so. Your question is valid and important and I am sure they will have a clear answer. In the meantime... let's wait for a response.

  • @Rafe
    Thanks for looking out for other forum members... but this is a legitimate offer they have on the table. They're decent people. Take it from another Angelino... not EVERYONE in Los Angeles is a scammer!

  • Rafe wrote: »
    I suggest not to sell to this magazine, if they can't answer such a simple question such as copyright ownership, which seems suspicious to me.

    I agree with Sage, it's good that you are looking out for other forum members - never enough of that in the world today, but in this instance I think the late response to your question is legitimate. The question of copyright should be covered by the following clause they posted back in May -

    "For original IF, <em>sub-Q</em> acquires first worldwide publication rights, exclusive for one year, non-exclusive thereafter. For reprints, <em>sub-Q</em> acquires non-exclusive publication rights for one year.

    Sample contracts are available on request."

    Hope that put's our mind at rest, it's always best to er on the side of caution when uncertain.

  • Hi all! Pardon my time AFK. Yes, for original fiction, sub-Q acquires first worldwide English language serial rights, exclusive for one year, non-exclusive thereafter, as defined here:

    Sample contract is available if desired.

    Hope this helps. I look forward to seeing what you do.
  • That brings yet another question to my mind. How are you going to handle IF made by children? Are you going to talk with their parents?

    A sample contract is good. I would give us time to read it before selling.
  • edited June 2015
    That seems like an odd question unless you yourself are under 18.

    In any case, these contracts are just stock used by magazines worldwide. They don't do anything nasty.

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