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Author Topic: How long is too long?  (Read 7086 times)
Rachel Swirsky
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« on: October 09, 2008, 01:34:14 AM »

I'm very excited about the Giant stories, but in purchasing them, I've noticed that the category opens up whole new questions about length.

Currently, I'm capping normal PodCastle episodes at 10,000 words. My original concept was that Giants would be 10,000-15,000 words. "Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge" was smack dab in the middle of that range, at 13,500. The other Giant that I've requested is about the same length.

As I ponder other giants to purchase, I've noticed that some of the stories I'm strongly attracted to are over 15k. There's an award-winning steampunk adventure by one of the field's foremost writers which I'm interested in giving an offer on -- but it's 17,500. My favorite novella is another award-winner by an SF giant, this one a surrealist fantasy at approximately 20,000 words long.

We're definitely not in novel territory here -- the bottom level for which is 40,000 words, twice the longest piece I'm pondering. But it brings up the question -- how long is too long?

No guarantees that I'll abide by what gets hashed out in this thread, but I'd love to hear listener's opinions.
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CammoBlammo
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2008, 03:14:36 AM »

I like the idea of the giant series. Just like you said on the intro to Shijo Bridge, I saved it for an extended car journey.

As a listener I'm not worried about the word length---I'm more worried about the time it takes to listen. I like to listen to stories in one sitting, and here's how my life works in relation to Escape Artists stories:

Drive into work/supermarket: 5-10 mins --> Flash fiction preferred.
Drive into next town for shopping: 45 mins --> Regular length episode.
Drive to slightly further town for work meeting/ workout at the gym: 1 hour. --> One or two stories from the Escape Artists backlog. I can normally find a combination that will fit comfortably.
Off to see the parents: 10 hours --> Listen to any giant episodes I've been saving, get into the backlog or get something from podiobooks.

I'm sure everyone could give a similar list with numbers that don't help at all!

One suggestion: I would prefer it if you could leave the comments on the regular episodes to the regular episodes, and the comments from the giants to the giants. I like to listen to the comments in order, and if I have to save a story for a few weeks, that'll throw me out. Similarly, I don't want to hear the comments on a giant before I hear it!

Oh, and I'm loving all the flash we're getting at the moment. Please, don't stop!
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eytanz
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2008, 04:29:02 AM »

Like CammoBlammo, I enjoy listening to episodes in one sitting, so the length of an episode is an issue. But given that Giants don't occur too frequently - less frequently than, for me, the occasional two hour trip to London, or day off when I go on a hike - I think a 2-2:30 hour episode would be fine (which should be around 25,000 words or so, if my estimations are correct). Longer than that, I'd probably have to take a break which will detract from my listening experience.

A second issue is file size - I have a fast connection, but for people with a slow connection, too long an episode may be a pain to download. If you have a 2 hour giant, you may need to split it into two downloads.

I would agree with CammoBlammo also that giants shouldn't have feedback at the end of them - they'll be long anyway, and quite likely most people will listen to them out of sequence. To avoid falling so far behind on feedback it's hard to remember the stories (*cough*EP*cough*) you can just double up next time there's a short episode. I disagree with CammoBlammo about having to wait 3 months for feedback on the giants, however. I would just make sure that when you do give feedback for a giant, it's the last thing on the outro - put all the other content first, and then give a warning for people who haven't heard it yet.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2008, 04:30:39 AM by eytanz » Logged
deflective
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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2008, 04:35:29 AM »

are you open to serialization? if there's a natural break-point then publishing a story over two episodes could work.

escape artists has never done this before. maybe try a test balloon?
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eytanz
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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2008, 04:48:37 AM »

are you open to serialization? if there's a natural break-point then publishing a story over two episodes could work.

escape artists has never done this before. maybe try a test balloon?

I would be pretty much against splitting a story over two episodes in the sense of taking two weeks to publish it (as opposed to just splitting the file and releasing both parts at once). I like the variety, and how if we get one thing one week we'll get another next. Series like Union Dues are fine since they can be split up over large gaps, but I wouldn't like to see two parts of a story over two consecutive weeks.
 
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wintermute
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« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2008, 07:03:02 AM »

I think, if a story's good enough to buy, that ought to be more important than an arbitrary word count. I'd rather have an excellent story 20,000 words long than a mediocre one 12,000 words long. 40,000 would probably be pushing it, though.

I often break stories, as they sometimes don't fit neatly into my commute, so I'm not concerned about that. If it takes me a couple of days to listen, that's fine.
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2008, 10:47:32 AM »

I feel like you've pretty much earned our trust.  So if the story seems like it'd make a great podcast to you and it's that length, I'd be up for it. 

That said, I'm still waiting for a time where I can catch the first Giant all in one sitting (I might break and listen to it over a couple of commutes instead). 

I have a question: are you specifically only seeking out Giants, or can we suggest to authors we like that they submit a Giant to Podcastle?
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Rain
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« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2008, 12:08:47 AM »

I dont think length should matter at all, if the story is good and the editors have the time to produce it, it could be novel length for all i care. I listen to a lot of podcasts each day so stopping a story and starting again later or the next day or week doesnt bother me.

In general i dont think there is a need for the Podcastle Giants label, just put out stories you think are good no matter the length, but i seem to be in the minority in this case.
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Listener
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« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2008, 12:34:06 PM »

No serials. Please. Stand-alone stories in the same universe are okay, but no actual serials.

I would try to keep the length under two hours, and if an episode goes over 1h30, split it into two files and release them on the same day or on concurrent days (Tuesday & Wednesday).

As for word length... well, depending upon the TONE of the story, it can be read faster or slower. Shijo Bridge depended on a slower tone, but a long story with lots of action that's 15k might take only 1h10 to read if there's a lot of action and dialogue.

I would try to keep it no more than 20k words. Most people have to split giants up over several days, and may take breaks so they can listen to other podcasts that are more timely (such as a fantasy football podcast, which is stale a day or two after it's released).

Here's another idea: when reading the story after purchase, figure out logical break points and release the story in several files. That way, you can feel like you've accomplished something by finishing a 35-minute chunk instead of looking at your progress bar and realizing there's another hour left. It can be a little daunting.
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Loz
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« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2008, 01:41:48 PM »

The problem is that whenever you set yourself a limit, you'll always find great stuff that exceeds it, move the bar to 17,500 and soon you'll find a great story that is 20,000 words...
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Ocicat
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« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2008, 05:07:28 PM »

The outside limit on total podcast length, as far as I'm concerned, is two hours.  Escape Pod sometimes goes a little over an hour (which I think is the limit Steve is trying for).  So if it doesn't go over an hour, I hardly think it deserves the title "giant".  And if my expectations are set to "giant", I'd be prepared for a two hour listen.

More than that just gets too unwieldy for a single listen. 

Of course, I think it terms of time, not wordcount. You can translate, I'm sure.
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JoeFitz
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« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2008, 07:28:27 PM »

At first blush, I agree that story quality and not length should be the deciding factor. On second thought, I agree that 2 hours is about as long as I would be prepared to listen. I'd probably skip Giants that were longer.
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Sandikal
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« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2008, 03:44:53 PM »

I'm going to be the voice here that says that the giants don't really appeal to me.  I prefer podcasts of about 1/2 hour.  That's about all I really have time to listen to in one shot.  If I commuted more than 7 miles and didn't have my 13 year old in the car insisting on listening to music, I would probably like 1-2 hour podcasts.

I'm just weird.
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davedoty
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« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2008, 05:09:43 AM »

I like the idea that if something is significantly over an hour (say, 80 minutes as an absolute upper limit), it be broken into parts released at the same time.  Since I have an un-fancy mp3 player, I can't switch over to something else, then go back to a bookmark.  I'd have to remember where I was, and fast-forward through the track to that point.  I'd rather listen for an hour, then switch over to music or another podcast or whatever, then go back and listen to the second file.

I chose 80 minutes because that's the typical Skeptic's Guide length, and I pretty much feel like I'm ready for it to be over once I get to the finish line.  I wouldn't want it to keep going, even though I love the podcast.

As long as there's some help given for those who can't sit through it at a go, I don't think length matters.  (Although I think it's good to mention up front for those who don't have the time or energy.  I like the idea of them being tagged.)

If it reaches truly novel length, maybe Escape Artists should think about simply launching a line of audio novels.
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deflective
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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2008, 04:09:50 PM »

is cost an issue here? something twice as long would cost twice as much to buy, is that prohibitive? hosting fees are probably larger than purchase fees but the hosting would cost more too.

if splitting longer stories over two weeks lets you buy better fiction then that's what i want to happen.
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Anarkey
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2008, 04:37:44 PM »

At first blush, I agree that story quality and not length should be the deciding factor. On second thought, I agree that 2 hours is about as long as I would be prepared to listen. I'd probably skip Giants that were longer.

I guess in a thread where you're trying to get a feel for the weight of opinion, me tooism isn't as bad as in other threads.  I agree with JoeFitz.  While in theory the whole "if it's good buy it and to hell with the length" sounds good, logistically I think that's a problem.  I also think 1h30mins is kind of a sweet spot and I would shoot for that, putting 2hrs as an upper limit.  Additionally, I'm not crazy about getting a story over two weeks, and not really all that crazy about getting a story over two files.

I agree with whomever suggested upthread  that giant feedback be limited to giants and separate from regular episode feedback, if included at all.  Like a lot of others, I save giants for a good listening opportunity and don't want it spoiled by feedback in later episodes which I may listen to first.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2008, 07:46:58 PM »

Well, we do already have established policies for a lot of this stuff...

1) No serialization, ever. It's one of the very, very few point blank dictums I was given by Steve.

2) No novels, but I think that's easy enough.

3) We play a flat fee, not per word, so there's no expense issue.

4) We didn't intend to include feedback on giants... the fact that there was some on the last one was an accident of miscommunication. I'll talk to Ann about how to deal with the feedback *for* the giants; we hadn't even thought of that! Thanks.

5) So, I'm hearing 1:30 as a sweet spot (which is more or less what I was aiming for, so yay for synchronicity), with 2 hours as an upper limit, possibly with some kind of chapter markers? I don't know how the technical stuff works, but I will poke my audio editor.

6) I think my favorite novella is probably *just* out of range, alas. ;-)

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Heradel
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« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2008, 08:47:31 PM »

5) So, I'm hearing 1:30 as a sweet spot (which is more or less what I was aiming for, so yay for synchronicity), with 2 hours as an upper limit, possibly with some kind of chapter markers? I don't know how the technical stuff works, but I will poke my audio editor.

It would need to be an .m4b file (as opposed to the .mp3's currently used), which I don't believe all portable audio players would support. Most would though. The editing software would also need to support chapters.
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davedoty
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« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2008, 04:44:46 AM »

I know my player can't play m4bs (or m4anythings), so that would be an automatic dealbreaker for me, even though I'd love to have chapters and bookmarks.

Of course, as long as an mp3 is available, I would have no objection to an m4b also being released to be of more use to those who can use them.

If it's too long for me, I'll either make an effort to find a way to listen to it, or if it's not keeping my attention enough for the effort, skip that story.  That's not the end of the world, either. Smiley
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eytanz
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« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2008, 05:11:52 AM »

6) I think my favorite novella is probably *just* out of range, alas. ;-)

Rachel - if you end up not purchasing it, and it is (or will be) published elsewhere, could you direct us to it?
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