Archive of Articles about Writing

Avoiding Poetry Contest Scams

There are many legitimate poetry contests in the world. Unfortunately, there are probably more scams out there than there are legitimate contests. Poetry contests scams prey on people who want to see their names in print. There are so many people in the world who write poetry, and who want to see their poems published.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be published and recognized, but unfortunately the market for poetry is not very big. For every successful book of poetry, there are hundreds of successful novels. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find legitimate poetry publishers and contests, but it makes the task much harder.

Legitimate poetry contests are generally sponsored by newspapers, magazines and accredited schools (such as universities). They offer small prizes and frequently the opportunity to read your poetry at local gatherings or workshops. In a legitimate poetry contest, you will never be charged to be published, and generally you will receive at least one free copy of whatever the publication is that you appear in.

Here are some indicators that a contest is a scam:

Everyone’s a Winner!

Poetry contest scams often have a large number of “winners”. This is because they make money by publishing books of poetry that are bought almost exclusively by the “winners”. In other words, they publish you because they expect you to buy copies of the book. These books generally have thousands of poems in them so that they can charge as many people as possible. Besides the book, they may offer to put your poetry on a plaque, an audio CD or even a web site for a fee.

Big Prizes

Contests with unusually large prizes are very suspicious. If you can win a thousand dollars or more, chances are that you’ll be paying more money than you’ll be getting, often through…

Reading / Entry Fees

Many contests make money by charging you to enter or charging to “read” your poems. These are contests you should be very wary about entering. Contests that charge a fee are either funding the prizes with the fee (not great, but not terrible) or funding the prizes and pocketing the difference (worse). Legitimate poetry contests generally have small prizes and no fees. If you are going to enter a contest with a fee, understand what you are doing — paying to compete with other poets.

Travel Opportunities

While it is a great honor to be asked to read your poetry in front of a gathering of other poets, be careful if a contest selects you as a “winner” and then tries to sell you a trip to a poet’s or writer’s workshop/symposium. If it is going to cost you several hundred dollars to go, and they’re the ones you’re giving the money to, then you’re probably being scammed.

Classes

One of the classic scams is that you will be selected for special poetry writing classes. These scams tell you that your poem is very good, but that you could benefit from one of their teachers. There is nothing wrong with taking poetry classes, but it is wrong to disguise advertisements for classes as a legitimate poetry contest.

Avoiding The Scams

  1. Always research whatever organization is conducting a contest or offering to publish your poems.
  2. Think carefully and investigate before you agree to pay a fee to enter a contest or to have your poems published.
  3. Never agree to pay to have your winning poem published.
  4. Avoid contests that sound too good to be true.
  5. Get involved in the poetry community. The more you are involved in and understand the world of poetry, the less likely you’ll be taken in by the cons.