Writer Warning: Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat Reader

Last Updated March 12, 2020

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 Feb 27 of the “honorable mentions” page where they publish the authors, titles, and ratings for some stories they’ve rejected.

Screenshot from Thinkerbeat Reader

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 members.)

I tried yesterday to tell the editor that authors would see this practice as upsetting & predatory, so that he could quietly fix it. Unfortunately, he instead responded with a masterclass in professionalism.

Email containing only the words "Grow up."

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.

If you’re considering submitting here, also keep in mind the Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat practice of requiring a subscription to submit – a subscription which costs money after the first three months.1

Thanks to David Steffen of the Submission Grinder for doing the initial legwork of spotting the problem.

Updates and Developments

Edit 2/27: Please don’t try to track down the full list of names-and-ratings. It contains about 75 rows, and every one of them contains information that the submitter didn’t plan to tell the whole internet. Let’s respect their privacy. If you want to know whether your story is listed, let me know and I’ll check my screenshot.

Paypal transfer, totaling $0.00 after feesEdits 2/28: Changes to the main post: Clarified that the ranking page is public. Clarified that they are violating their website privacy policy. Revised info on their payment scheme.

Rest assured that Writer Beware has been notified and is investigating.

Update 3/01: The editor sent me a Paypal transfer that totaled $0.00 after fees. Perhaps this is a petty way of reminding me that I didn’t pay? Or an attempt to verify my email address? Who knows? There’s no note with the transfer. I have refunded it, to make clear that I have no financial relationship of any kind with him.

Update 3/04: According to reports, they have removed story titles and ratings from the Honorable Mention page, changed the landing page to make clear that subscriptions will be required after 3 months (rather than hiding it in the website terms), and updated their privacy policy. However, their new privacy policy leaves much to be desired – it only says “will not sell your contact info.” This does not prevent them from giving your contact info, nor does it forbid the story title/ranking info from the original Honorable Mention page.

Update 3/12: The Science Fiction Writers of America have posted an official warning statement about Thinkerbeat and its magazines. Note that Daniel Scott White (the publisher of Thinkerbeat) also runs the online review magazine Phantaxis, according to Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. Finally, Daniel Scott White continues to act like a jerk when people ask him to remove their stories.

Update 3/22: It looks like Thinkerbeat is now calling their rejections a “Thinkerbeat Award.” Not that they like your story enough to buy it, but they still want you to give them some free advertising by putting the image on their website. (A very Writers-Of-The-Future-like practice. Good to know that markets with a predatory approach to their writers are learning from each other. Sigh.)

Update 10/1/2020: Be aware that the magazine Longshot Island and associated Longshot Press are by the same publisher.

  1. Supposedly they provide free subscriptions to authors who subscribe to their mailing list. Nevertheless, their website terms still say payment is required after 3 months. So it’s not clear whether Thinkerbeat is “mandatory mailing list” or “pay to submit,” but their official policy is clearly the latter, especially since their 3/04 update.

26 thoughts on “Writer Warning: Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat Reader

  1. Sam Stormcrow Hayes

    Thank you for the information. I just submitted to these guys. By chance, could you let me know if my name was on their list? Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Carsten Schmitt

    Hey, I also submitted and so far my story has neither been accepted nor rejected, thus it’s not on the list.
    I, too, find it problematic that this was done retroactively without asking for consent from writers. What really pissed me off, though, and I wasn’t aware before you mentioned this, is that the rejection list/ranking is even available to non-subscribers outside Thinkerbeat.
    As for the subscription model. Even I was not aware that this has been dropped for submitting authors. I find the information policy regarding fees very confusing, as it is spread across several different pages and FAQs.
    You know, I honestly don’t believe the editor intentionally means any harm by this, even re: the subscription model because you get 3 free months and the prices aren’t very high.
    BUT, I wish it were much more transparent. The way that it’s now, it all feels dodgy and not very professional.

    Reply
    1. bckinney Post author

      I have to say, I started in the camp of “don’t believe the editor intentionally means any harm by this,” but if that were true, you’d expect him to respond differently to someone pointing out the harm…

      Reply
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  4. Brian Scoville

    I have 2 rejected stories, I don’t know if they are viewable by others. Thinkerbeat is a nonsensical social media mess. Anybody know if there is a way to remove my stories?

    Reply
  5. Brian Scoville

    I just asked them to delete my stories, and got a troll-esque response. He called me “Mr. Angry Pants”

    Reply
    1. bckinney Post author

      Ugh, classic. Mind if I spread the word that he’s still being a jerk? If you’re comfortable sharing some of the email text/screenshot, even better.

      Reply
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  7. Guest

    Hey, are there any updates regarding their professionalism? I’m thinking about submitting, but I don’t want to get screwed.

    Reply
    1. bckinney Post author

      All the news/updates I have are posted here; nothing recent. But it’s going to be the same publisher, so it’s up to you whether you’d ever be willing to work with a person who thinks acting like this is okay.

      Reply
      1. Guest

        Yeah, I was hoping they came to their senses, but apparently not. I’ll have to skip this publication then. Thanks for the article though!

        Reply
  8. Mike Reeves-McMillan

    I just got an email from them soliciting submissions. That tingled my spidey sense (since I’ve never heard of them before and certainly had not signed up for any emails), and I checked the Grinder, which has the URL of this blog post. Glad I checked.

    I will be unsubscribing and reporting them for spam.

    Reply

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