You May Already Be a Winner

There is nothing wrong with entering poetry contests. It is one way of taking part in the larger world of poetry. It also gives you the motivation to write well and to keep writing. If you win a legitimate contest, it is a great honor. Unfortunately, many contests are not legitimate.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. There is no quick or easy route to get rich as a poet. Even making a living as a poet is a difficult task. The masses do not buy books of poetry. Exceptions to this rule are rare, and generally involve someone who is famous for something other than poetry. Keep this in mind at all times, because there are people out there looking to take advantage of you.

Poetry contests are one of the methods that unscrupulous people use to take advantage of poets. They offer a substantial prize, $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, $100,000 to the winners of their poetry contests. All you have to do is submit your poems – along with a fee. Even if they don’t ask for an upfront fee, they still have ways of making you pay. In fact, if someone is offering you $100,000 for a contest you pay nothing to enter, you’d better be extra careful about entering.

Be prepared to become a finalist. An unscrupulous contest promoter’s goal will be to get you to attend a convention at which the winner will be named. The convention will probably be at some pretty locale that is easy to get to, such as Las Vegas or Miami. The fee for the convention won’t be too unreasonable, because they want you to come, but make no mistake; you are paying for a trip along with many, many other people they named as finalists. It may be a nice vacation, but you didn’t get there on talent. I don’t mean to say that you aren’t talented, just that talent is irrelevant to the contest promoters.

As a finalist, they will also publish you. Your poem will appear in a nice thick book along with a bunch of other poems. The book will be attractive, possibly leather-bound, but the poems will just be a collection of whoever sent something in. The book will cost you at least twenty dollars, maybe more. They’ll be counting on you to buy several so that your family and friends can see your “accomplishment”. They’ll probably also offer to sell you a nice plaque, perhaps one with your poem engraved on it. Whatever the case, they’ll keep trying to find a way to get your money.

There is nothing wrong with entering contests, but it pays to do a little research before you enter. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t enter contests if the sponsors seem unwilling to share the details of how the contest works. Look for contests that are sponsored by schools, newspapers, magazines, major corporations, and reputable publishers. Understand that any fee you pay to enter is going to be used to fund the prizes. If the fee seems excessive, don’t enter. Five dollars is one thing, but as the price grows so do the chances that you are getting ripped off. It is better to make a five-dollar mistake than a hundred-dollar mistake.

Never pay an additional fee once you have entered a contest. Don’t pay to have the poem published. Don’t pay for a plaque. Don’t pay for a trip. If you are the one paying them, then you are not a winner.

Sorry for this fairly cynical post, but people need to be warned.

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