Unfortunately there are a LOT of poetry contest scams.
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to figure out which ones are the scams.
Here’s an example of a common poetry scam:
Just because a contest is FREE to enter, does NOT mean it is not a scam … in fact some of the FREE to enter contests are the biggest scams going.
Here’s what happens, you go to the site and see all sorts of wonderful prizes and kudos about the contests … you enter your poem and within minutes, hours, days you get a notice saying that you are runner up or a winner or are on the short list and into the next round.
Then, no matter what category you fit into you will be presented with an order form for the Book Anthology in which YOUR poem will be featured.
The SCAM is … EVERYONE who enters is a “winner.” The Anthology is a high priced book that is filled with hundreds of bad poems (good, bad and ugly) all crammed together and printed on low quality tissue paper. Some of these contests have a word limit on the poems submitted, so they can cram more into the available space.
Bottom line: There are NO winners … only losers.
Here are signs of a Scam
Constant and never ending contests and deadlines, with large prizes. MOST legit poetry contests run one or a few contests a YEAR …. NOT one a week!
FREE to enter … but then you have to BUY something … a magazine, a book, a consultation, hire a poetry “agent.” Bottom line? MONEY is involved in order to win.
FEES: Now this is a hard one because there are legitimate contests with fees. But look for contests with low fees ($5) and low winnings $50 or less. Think of it this way if the scammer gets 100 entries at $5 each and payout out (which may or may not happen) is $50 … hmmmmm. Sheesh, I think I should get into THAT business, sounds like an easy way to make money.
NO WINNERS named or winning poems displayed. They may have a photo of a winner, their name … but no poem. It’s easy to grab a photo off of Facebook and make up a name. If you can’t find winner’s names PLUS their poems, you have no way of judging the quality of the contest.
No mention of Judges or a statement saying the judges are qualified, yadda, yadda. How do we know they are qualified if they are not named along with their credentials?
Look at the name of the organization running the contest. Ask yourself WHY? Why are they running the contest? Are they a legitimate organization (ie a university), is this a grant or a legacy prize (ie. Walt Whitman)? Is this a legitimate publisher, a publishers who pays their authors vs. the other way around? Read the About Us page. Look for evidence that the contest has been running for some time … a list of past winners.
Only SHORT poems are accepted, 150 words, 20 lines. This way they can cram more poems onto a page.
They advertise in magazines, publications and newspapers. Advertising is expensive … they have to be making a lot of money to afford to advertise. Niche magazines such as Writer’s Digest will advertise their own legitimate contests in their own magazines, seldom in any other publications!
Here’s a compiled list of known poetry scams:
Many of these “scammers” are walking the fine line between legal and not … between scam and vanity publishing. You might not be surprised to figure out that I consider poetry vanity publishing to be outright scams. If you want to publish your own poetry collections … try Kindle it is free. Now that Kindle includes Create Space … you can get a printed copy of your book for less than $5.00. The scammers will charge you hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the same thing!
Let’s look at a scam:
Looks OK, right? People have their poems on the site and you can vote. (These are the people who have NOT figured out it is a scam).
Go to the contests section–to the information and rules page.
Here’s what you NEED to look for:
“20,000 – 25,000 poems. Only 65% of these poems will advance to the semi-final round.”
“Sixty to seventy percent of all entries become semi-finalists”
“Each anthology contains between 300–350 poems”
“There is a contributor’s discount of $20.00 for pre-publication orders.” Note: I could not find the price of a book … most likely $50+
Now let’s look at the math for 25,000 entries.
If 65% of all entries become semi-finalists … that’s 16,250 poems that will be included in an anthology.
IF an anthology contains 350 poems … that’s 46 anthologies.(That’s IF you believe they will put your poem into a book whether you purchase it or not. How would you KNOW your poem is published UNLESS you purchase it?
Who are the judges? NOT listed.
List of past winners? NOT listed.
SCAM. SCAM. SCAM.
Love the following quote from writing.org
If you’ve been writing poetry for any length of time, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen an ad for a “National Library of Poetry” contest with “$48,000 in prizes.” Maybe you entered the contest and received a letter that began:
“It is my pleasure to inform you that after reading and discussing your poem, our Selection Committee has certified your poem as a semi-finalist in our Open Poetry Contest.Your poem will automatically be entered into the final competition held in Spring. As a semi-finalist, you have an excellent chance of winning one of 70 cash or gift prizes–you may even win the $1,000,000 Grand Prize…”
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Of course, there’s one catch: to enjoy a lasting memento of your poetic accomplishment, you’ll need to buy an anthology for $49.95. And if you want your biography included, it’ll cost you another twenty bucks.
There are lots of fabulous—legitimate—poetry contests available for entry. Just be careful, and read ALL the fine print. The minute they ask you to BUY something … start running.
Now that you know how to spot a potential scam …
here is how you could actually win some prizes and make some money with your poetry!
Make Money With Your Poetry, Part 2 Poetry Contests
I fell for the Library of Poetry scam about 25 years ago. I entered a poem and was excited to find out that even though I didn’t win, I would be published. Yes, I bought the book….a huge book with tons of poems. The daughter of a lady who worked with my Mother had also entered the contest; she too was told that although her poem did not win, she would be published. Now, this girl did not purchase the book. So, when I received my book, Mom borrowed it to take to work so her co-worker could proudly see her daughter’s poem in print….guess what, it was not in the book. Yep, you’re only published if you buy the book.
Thanks for telling us about your experience Sonya. It is such an AWFUL feeling to find you have have been scammed.
I fell for this once. I submitted a poem I was proud of. A week later I received a letter in the mail saying my poem was a semi finalist. And also started asking me to buy a book with my poem. I never did buy the book it was too much. but something happened. I submitted another poem which I thought was even better and it was for a woman I cared for. And I received another letter that the poem was again a semi finalist. I right then knew something was wrong, I wasn’t that good! so I submit another poem again but this time it isn’t a poem nor did it make sense. it was just me randomly completely punching every key on the keyboard. and that was also a finalist. thats when I realized it didn’t matter what I typed we all were finalist.