The infamous “they” say there is a sucker born every minute. What they don’t say is that every 30 seconds a scammer is born.
As a writer, the majority of scams I face are writing and poetry scams that come in the form of publishing contests.
Right now, the biggest poetry scam going can be found at Poetry.com — a fraudulent publishing company that turns 100% of the submissions into ‘semi-finalists’. Poetry.com’s poetry scam has been around since 1996 and is frighteningly still going strong. As if to add salt to the wound, the state they are based in lets them do it, despite receiving tons of complaints.
Every person who is unknowingly and unwittingly drawn into this particular poetry scam is sent a flattering letter, saying that they are a great poet and that the ‘panel of judges’ or ‘sectional committee’ strongly believes the submission is worth publishing. Then the letter asks for a $50.00 payment, or more, if the poet wishes to have a page all to him or herself.
The next catch in the poetry scam is that Poetry.com only publishes the poems written by the contestants who pay the fee – 60 books a year, with 6,000 poems per book, at $50.00 a poem, gives Poetry.com’s poetry scam over 18 million dollars a year! That’s a whole lot of scammed dough!!
Another catch: the books are sold only to the poetry scam victims!
So how does one know if a contest is actually a poetry scam? As a general rule, be cautious of contests where your work will be published online only (unless it’s a well-known website), or only in an anthology that “winners” have to pay for. A ‘semi-finalist’ letter is exciting to receive, but read it word for word, and even between the lines. A contest is a poetry scam if you must buy one or more copies of the book in which you will be published. The contest company makes their money through the purchase of such anthologies.
Also be wary of contests put on by people or companies who will profit from your work, like book doctors, and literary agencies where the prize is representation by an agent, but comes with “editing fees.”
Contests where the prize amount is determined by the number of submissions (a pro rata basis) exist only to make money for the people putting on the contest.
Here is quick poetry scam cheat sheet:
Watch out for:
*Having to pay an additional fee for publication, editing, representation or publicity.
*Contests that run weekly or monthly, where the “prize” is simply being published on an obscure, shady, or sketchy website.
*Having to buy the anthology in which your work will be published.
*Contests where everyone “wins” (no matter how crappy the work), or no one wins.
Poetry scams and writing scams are everywhere! So do your research, and be sure to read all the fine print.