Why Clarkesworld is no longer available on Magzter

For some time now, I have been trying to track down the source of pirated copies of Clarkesworld that would appear moments after subscriptions were filled. After some time, I was able to narrow the problem down to issues distributed through Magzter. On one occasion, I found a pirated copy after only two of their customers had downloaded that month’s issue. I emailed support and asked for assistance in identifying the source (providing the details I had discovered–times, customer numbers) and was ignored. (They don’t share subscriber information with publishers.) I emailed then again on two separate occasions–one directly to someone who had emailed me first–, but neither of those were responded to either.

Finally, at the end of May, I gave up on them. The best way to solve the problem was to cut them off. I logged into my account and discovered that there were no options to remove a publication or back issues from their site. I then emailed them the following:

Hi,
After failing to receive responses to multiple complaints about your platform being the source of pirated copies of our magazine, we have decided to terminate our relationship with Magzter and remove our publication from your site.
It appears as though you have made it difficult to do this, so please provide instructions by which we can do so, or remove them yourself and inform us when the process has been completed.
Thank you,
-Neil

THAT got their attention. Within three hours I had the following reply (which was also copied to several other people in the company):

Dear Neil,
Could you send us the URL.
We have all of the piracy issues fixed already and we don’t find any new magazines getting pirated.

Aside from the signature, that’s all there was to the reply.

As an aside, let me direct your attention to their publisher terms and conditions (www.magzter.com/publisher/terms), specifically this part of section 3.4.2:

Provided that in the event Magzter learns of any such piracy, Magzter shall inform the Publisher thereof and provide the Publisher with details thereof (to the extent such details are known to and available to Magzter).

The above email basically admits that they knew there were problems, were silently dealing with them in the background, and going by all  the emails I’ve received from them over the years, never telling publishers about it, despite the promise to do so.

My response:

You seem to think I was merely threatening to leave Magzter over this. You’ve already missed the opportunity to fix it. Please just answer my question and tell me how to withdraw our magazine and back issues from your site. That will solve my problem.

and theirs…

Dear Neil,
Sure, I shall assist on the removal process.
But I would request you to share us the link since our firewalls have been strengthened and there is no such issue as of now.
Since you have been our prestigious client we dont want to miss you.

This is interesting because it more or less says that their own poor security was to blame for at least some of the piracy. I can say it didn’t solve the problem as I had just finished filing the latest batch of DMCA complaints for copies I know came from their site.

We went back and forth with them one more time asking for links/files but not doing what I had asked them to. Frustrated, I told them they were only making the situation worse by dragging it out. They finally relented and said they’d end subscriptions. I had to remind them again that I had asked them to terminate all back issue sales as well. (It wasn’t part of the instructions to another employee that I was copied on.)

Twelve days later the subscriptions and back issues were still available for sale, so they got another email. They replied “This will be removed very soon and surely will update you on Monday EOD.”

Late Tuesday, it is still available for sale and there has been no update. I email them again and get an excuse that they had been on emergency leave. That explains the lack of email–at best, assuming I believe anything they say now–but not the lack of action by the other employees who had been told to carry out the action.

They finally remove the magazine the next day.

Three days later, I do another check of their site and find articles from some of our issues are available on their site for free. Another email. Another apology. Finally, we are free.

I know we’ll never eliminate piracy, but it was rampant while we were working with them. The number of DMCA complaints I’ve had to make this month–the first month away from them–is down 90%. That says something.

If you were one of the few people subscribing to Clarkesworld on Magzter, my apologies, but this had to be done. There are many other places you can subscribe that don’t cause problems for their publishers and I hope you’ll consider subscribing through one of them instead.

If you’re a publisher, I’m posting this in part for you too. Obviously they’ve had security problems and haven’t been communicating. You deserve to know.

2018 Hugo Award Finalists

The 2018 Hugo Award Finalists have been announced!

So very honored to be a finalist for Best Editor Short Form again this year. This is my sixth nomination in this category–no wins–and every time has been as much a thrill as the others. Always and amazing group of colleagues competing in this category.

Also very happy to see “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017) and “A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017) competing for the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and  Vina among the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer finalists. I included both of these stories in my latest Best Science Fiction of the Year anthology–and Vina as best new writer–so it’s nice to see others agreeing with me.

A big thank you to all the people who nominated this year. I appreciate your support and hope to see some of you at Worldcon this summer!

Clarkesworld Year Nine

The latest in our Clarkesworld anthology series will be published on April 1st. Clarkesworld Year Nine: Volume One, marks the first time one of our annuals has had to be split in two. Ebook editions are now available for preorder from Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo. At the moment, the trade paperback is available in preorder from Wyrm Publishing. Amazon will have it available starting on the 1st.

The second volume is already in production and I hope to have a release date for that soon. This set is long overdue, so you can expect the Year Ten anthologies to follow it fairly quickly.

Hard Sells

Over at Clarkesworld, our submission guidelines provide a list of stories that are very difficult for an author to sell us. The list has evolved over the years, but we haven’t had to add many in recent years. That said, we still receive a lot of submissions from authors that have either not read the guidelines or think their story will be the exception. (Stares directly at the authors submitting stories about zombies. You’re wrong.)

For years, we’ve received stories that have attempted to violate every one of those hard sell criteria. My own sons–under pseudonyms–have even written and submitted them. I can see how the combination might make for an interesting writing challenge, but I can’t imagine the finished product ever selling. I suspect the authors know this as well and are submitting them more out of the humor value than any hope of publication. Still, it seems I should be more up-front about that…

I just added it to the list.

Beyond Rejection Responses

Among other things, my previous post commented about the rude, obnoxious, or even threatening responses I sometimes receive after sending rejection letters. Privately, someone pointed out that there’s a second tier of authors that choose to share their cranky thoughts via blogs, forums, and conventions. It’s not all that surprising. I’ve been hearing them for years thanks to Google alerts, Twitter search, and word-of-mouth.

These typically aren’t in the same class of rude as someone who emails an editor directly, though sometimes it can be. Being frustrated about rejections is natural and definitely not restricted to new authors. It becomes problematic when it turns to anger and hate, makes up outrageous claims, or wishes harm to someone. My favorite of the lesser claims is that “they don’t actually read submissions.” [This is typically a criticism of fast-response markets. Newsflash: Longer-response markets spend the same amount of time on your story. For all that extra time, the story is just sitting there in their pile.] The worst I’ve seen? Some mean-spirited things said about my heart attack, not long after it happened.

I’m not saying you should censor yourself, but you should pay attention to what you say and how you say it. I recall listening to a podcast where an author railed on and on about how we were killing science fiction. He even cited a specific story to back up his claim. Despite this, he continued to send us his work on a regular basis. Was that podcast ever held against him? No, absolutely not. He even managed to get a few of our top tier rejection letters, which would never go to someone I didn’t want to work with. You’re allowed to be critical of a market for publishing something you didn’t like. Although dramatic, he reasonably defended his position and never once stooped to the childish “they rejected my stories, but published this crap” or name-calling that I’ve seen from others. I can respect that.

When I worked at a high school I had to regularly remind students that the Internet is forever and nothing there is truly private. Friend’s-locked posts, email, and private forums don’t provide nearly as much protection as some authors obviously think. Maybe they don’t even care.

Do I track this stuff? Only the worst offenders, which might amount to a few each year. None of them have ever submitted a story good enough for this to have held against them. Their small numbers are why they went largely forgotten in this weekend’s post.