Amazing Stories rejection emails and why I report on the SF/F genre
Note: This report is available free to the public. If you like my original reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.  

I love science fiction and fantasy. I love reading and writing SF/F stories. I love meeting genre people. I love hearing them talk about their dreams and ideas. 

I also love good journalism, having worked in the media industry for many years. I'm a member of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Society of Professional Journalists. Some people find that mix amusing but it's simply who I am.

One of my frustrations when I first began writing fiction was not knowing what was going on in the genre. I'd submit a story to a magazine then hear, months later, that the magazine was closing. Or I'd submit to a publisher only to learn the publisher had a two-year backlog of submissions.

This information was known to genre insiders, who talked about it among themselves. At conventions and on private forums you'd hear the inside scoop on markets and editors and so much more. But for a beginning author this information was so scattered or hard to find as to be unknowable.

I've now been in the SF/F genre long enough that I hear a good bit of news. So this year I decided to combine my love of the SF/F genre with my love of journalism. I'd pass along useful information to my fellow authors. But I'd also ensure the information was accurate, using the skills I'd learned in my journalism career.

So was born my weekly Genre Gossip column. 

In my last column I wrote a very small report on authors not receiving email rejections from Amazing Stories. For the report I verified that a number of authors didn't receive rejection emails from the magazine, only learning of their rejection when they logged into the magazine's submission management system. This seemed like news of interest to my fellow authors but also not a major issue. The report wasn't even that column's main item, which instead focused on if noblebright fantasy was excluding some people and stories. 

In response Amazing Stories' Steve Davidson wrote a comment on File 770 accusing me of extorting people because my column is only available to my Patreon backers. To Steve's credit he later apologized for this statement. He posted a statement on Amazing Stories with the apology but also said their system was sending our rejections and that the failed "receipt of rejections are a result of the user’s email server." You can read his full statement here

Steve added that any authors having issues should contact their magazine and, to help with this, they'd be creating a "contact button" on their submission page.

Again, I appreciate Steve's apology. I also understand his frustration on this issue. It seems reasonable to ask authors to contact the magazine directly if they have issues.

But it can also be hard for authors to do this. Some authors may not want to bother the publisher, or be afraid to upset the publisher or editor considering their story for publication. Some authors may be intimidated by the power differential between themselves and the publisher or editor.

For example, an author who submitted to Amazing Stories emailed me this message:

Once I saw people reporting that they weren't receiving rejection notices, I tried to log in to check my submission status. Unfortunately, I apparently forgot my password (they have very strict password requirements that meant I had a password for this site that I don't use anywhere else). Double unfortunately, their email problem apparently extends to the "forgot my password" function. I've attempted it several times, but never received the email necessary to reset my password. In short: I apparently can't receive email updates on submission changes, I can't access my account, and I can't reset the password to regain access to the account. I use a generic Gmail account. No domain tomfoolery or anything. I've checked all my filters, spam folder, deleted emails, etc, and the only email I've ever received from them was the original "Verify your account" email needed to submit in the first place. It seems the only option is reach out personally, but the aggressive, defensive responses from both the editor and the webmaster--both to your column and to writers on Facebook who mentioned problems--make it pretty clear that a polite query likely wouldn't be well-received ... I marked my submission as a dead letter on the Submission Grinder (which I almost NEVER have to do) and put Amazing on my "Ignore Market" list.

This author asked to remain anonymous but said I could share this.

After talking with authors like the person above and seeing comments from many other writers who said they didn't receive rejections, I decided to do more digging into the Amazing Stories submission system. I set up two test accounts of my own in their system, one using a Yahoo account and the other a Gmail account. I didn't receive either of the initial email verifications for these accounts or the multiple password resets I requested. These emails didn’t even arrive in my spam folders.

I also examined the email header and code from one of the Amazing Stories rejections which an author did receive and forwarded to me. This rejection email was sent through the Amazing Stories submission system using a Gmail account as the send-from address with a separate reply-to address using the domain. (Note: I won’t publish these email addresses to respect the privacy of the people working on Amazing Stories.) 

The author quoted above used Gmail, as did some of the other authors who said they didn't receive their rejection emails. One of the test accounts I set up was also a Gmail account. Google should not block emails sent between valid Gmail accounts, so the failure of these emails to arrive into other Gmail accounts strongly suggests something was wrong with how the Amazing Stories system was set up or sending out emails. 

After doing these tests I spoke with Steve Davidson about all this. His complete response is quoted below. Steve said he'd pass along the information about the email verification and password resets to his webmaster to be investigated and, if needed, fixed. 

A few hours after Steve said his webmaster would look into the issue, I again tested the password resets. They now worked and I received the emails in my Yahoo and Gmail test accounts. Another author also confirmed they now worked where they hadn't before.

To summarize, shortly before I raised this issue with Steve the emails wouldn't arrive from their system. After Steve said he'd let his webmaster know about the issue, the emailed worked. This alone strongly suggests there was an issue with Amazing Stories' system.

I hope this means the issue the Amazing Stories submission system is fixed. I personally want to see Amazing Stories succeed with their relaunch and believe most people in the genre feel the same. And there's no shame with admitting a new submission system had some issues. Galaxy’s Edge recently had a major submission glitch with a number of subs being lost. They posted a message explaining the issue and even authors whose submissions were lost appeared to be cool with everything.

I will continue to report on genre issues of interest to my fellow authors. If I'm wrong about something, I'll both admit it and write a correction. But with regard to my reporting on this issue I stand by my original report.

Complete statement from Steve Davidson

I only have three real responses to this: 
1.  I 'm forwarding what you just sent me to our webmaster. If there is a problem on our end, it will be investigated and fixed. 
2.  Status can always be checked by logging into an account and I'm a little baffled over authors having an issue over this since they don't seem to object doing the same thing with other submission sites. 
3.  I also have to wonder why you seem to have become the central repository for complaints when, as stated earlier, all of us here at Amazing are accessible.  I attribute at least some of the volume to your original piece of gossip, when you also did not make the effort to get in touch with us directly.  
We continue to be accessible;  we are not engaged in a deliberate attempt to keep authors from learning the status of their submissions, we are constantly monitoring the websites, but we can not help anyone with their issues if they choose not to get in touch with us directly regarding them. 
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