Is This Practice Unreal or Unfit? It’s Both

Unreal and Unfit magazines use Thinkerbeat Reader to “chart… the authors that we thought did really well with a story submission.” But these are not stories they bought – six days ago they tweeted out a link to the list of stories they rejected. The page had names, titles, and a rating between one and five stars. One problem: none of the authors had given them permission to do so.

As we read the stories we rank them. For 1 star, not shown on the list, please try again. For 5 stars, we buy them, also not shown on the list. For 2 to 4 stars, we think you deserve recognition and have created this list to say thank you.

Benjamin Kinney called out the practice in “Writer Warning: Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat Reader”.

If you’re an author out there submitting short stories, you should be aware of the things that the magazine Unfit and Unreal (via their portal Thinkerbeat Reader) are doing without your permission.

Here’s a screenshot from the page where they publish the authors, titles, and ratings for some stories they’ve rejected….

…I’ve edited the screenshot to only reveal the information of authors who’ve given me consent to share. I’m not providing links because there are dozens more authors on that page, who presumably never wanted this information publicized. Nothing in the website’s guidelines warns an author that their story may be publicly named & rated. In fact, their privacy policy states that they will not share your information with anyone.

(Yes, public. This page is visible to everyone, not only Thinkerbeat readers.)

…Maybe some authors are willing to have their rejections named & rated. I certainly wouldn’t be, but that’s your choice to make. But it’s DEFINITELY not okay to share information about individual submissions without asking permission. None of the authors in my screenshot were aware of this until I told them.…

After some subtweeting (see here for an example), Jason Sanford broke the news on Twitter. His thread about Kinney’s post has received numerous responses from editors and writers. Starts here.

Stephen Granade writes: “I was one of the authors on the list, and chose to out myself, as the editor hadn’t asked permission” – see his tweet here.

Interestingly enough, the magazines claim they won’t use your data in any way — see screencap of their policy in this tweet by Erin M. Hartshorn.

To add to this lack of professionalism, when Benjamin Kinney asked about this practice, the editor of the magazines replied simply, “Grow up.”

Victoria Strauss has added a warning to her followers about not submitting to those sites:

Alasdair Stuart, as usual, has cogent thoughts on the matter. Thread starts here.

[Thanks to Stephen Granade for the story.]

20 thoughts on “Is This Practice Unreal or Unfit? It’s Both

  1. Probably the same jackass that decided “grow up” was an appropriate response. Just a guess.

  2. Thanks for spreading the word about these publications’ awful behavior! But your post converts my name from Kinney to McKinney half the time 😉

    Also, I don’t think it matters much – this is an elaboration, not a correction – but the subtweets and Jason Sanford’s naming both preceded my post. And David Steffen of Diabolical Plots also did some critical legwork/investigating before me.

  3. I’ve never heard of them before and can’t find them on ralan.com. Unfit seems to have quite a few recognizable author names. I got a bad link for Unreal.

  4. It has to be a PR stunt. And it worked. According to the Thinker whatever site, visits to the site went from 110 on the 26th to 2408 on the 27th.

  5. @Andrew: Thanks. I’ve now found the Locus year in review article. It seems that submissions for Unreal and Unfit are “pay to play” ($9 a year after the 1st 3 months).

  6. @Jeff: Ah – I should have remembered it was the most recent Locus! I’ve been catching up on some 2019 issues I previously hadn’t read, and lost track, I guess.

  7. On top of all this, they seem to be posting real names and not pen names. In at least one case.

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  9. Well of all the ways we’ve seen publishers behaving badly, this one is at least…different? I just don’t get what they are aiming to do other than upset people?

  10. I am vehemently opposed to what they did (bulk-publish specific ratings, for specific stories, attributed to specific authors; even indiviual posting of that data I consider to be horrible).

    For me, the big question is how I think about publishing aggregations of these statistics. I think I would find it interesting. Not sure I’d find it useful. And I am on the fence as to if it is OK, since every author who submitted but wasn’t accepted would potentially go “was my story a one-star?”.

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