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Top Ten Scams

    Aspiring writers are hard workers. Our main goals vary from a desire to gain notoriety through publication to build a resume, or simply to explore ourselves. Whatever the drive behind it, entering contests for writers is often a popular avenue. However, contests for writers are not always on the up and up. In this Edition of Moondance, learn the Top Ten Things to Know About Contest Scams for Writers.

  1. The best and easiest way to differentiate a true and respectable contest from a scam is to note the direction of money flow. Contest scams don't pay you for the right to publish your work, you pay them.  Respected professionals in the literary field understand that writers are to be paid for the work they do. The common goal of all contest scams is not to promote or highlight featured talent, but to gain as much profit as possible from unsuspecting aspiring writers who are willing to pay to see their work in print. If you've entered a contest and are being asked for money, chances are that contest is not legitimate, and you are being robbed not only of your work and money, but your integrity as well.

  2. Most poetry contest scams can be identified by their offers to sell you your own work in the form of anthologies, certificates, plaques and/or audio cassettes with recordings of your poem set against background music. Winners are asked to pay miscellaneous fees for awards, certificates, books containing their work and other "benefits" of having their work "selected" as a semifinalist or finalist.   Contest scams typically want "winners" to pay $45-$50 for an anthology book (generally of poor quality,; printed on copy machine paper), $20-$25 for your biography, typesetting is another $25, $25 more for certificate of achievement, and $33 to have your work recorded on audio cassette, for an estimated total of $158.00 per entrant per contest. Of course, these are just estimates based on an average. Actual costs vary.

  3. Relatively few libraries or bookstores carry the anthologies mentioned in these contests that claim they are "highly acclaimed" or "widely read." Generally speaking, the only people who purchase or peruse these anthologies are the authors who are in them and perhaps a few of their friends and family members. An average anthology publishes between five and ten poems per page and is, on average, a couple hundred pages in length.

  4. More than ninety percent of poems entered into any fraudulent contest are accepted as finalists or semifinalists, as long as the author is willing to pay for their "awards," certificates, and rights. Most contest scams don't actually have any judges or judging system. Even intentionally poor submissions are accepted because there are no judges or editors, only billing technicians.

  5. The most recognized poetry contest scam is the International Library of Poetry, operating on the Internet as poetry.com and poets.com. Affiliations include National Library of Poetry, International Society of Poets, International Poetry Hall of Fame, and Watermark Press.

  6. Listing semifinalist or finalist status in these kinds of contests on a resume or query to professional publishers can hinder a writer more than help them.  Placement within a contest exposed or presumed as being a scam does not credit a writer with any kind of ability or talent. On the contrary, it can make them look naive and amateurish.

  7. Not all contest scams are related to poetry and anthologies. The most popular ways to scam writers out of money are 1. Services to writers -- from editing, through organizations, to agenting 2. Education for writers -including correspondence schools 3. Publication - including contests and "prizes."  One literary agency advertises a contest where the prize is agent representation. This representation is offered to everyone who enters, but it comes with a hefty editing fee attached. Another agency uses an alias for their contests, wherein entrants are told their work is "superb" and "referred" to the agency. Of course, the agency charges an upfront fee. There are also contests running where the prize is a book contract for which the winner has to pay publication and printing costs.

  8. The Writer's Center provides an online "test kit" for scams. If you suspect that you are being scammed, this quiz could help you find out if you're right. To take the quiz, visit
    http://www.writer.org/scamkit.htm#kit In addition, The Writer's Center also provides resources for fighting scams, found at
    http://www.writer.org/scamkit.htm

  9. Not all contests are scams. Some contests can prove beneficial in promoting aspiring writers. For more information on which contests are scams and which are legitimate, visit Poetry Contest Scams and Rip Offs at
    http://wind.wind.org/ripoffs.htm

  10. You may find that you have a safer journey with better luck by submitting your poetry and short stories to literary magazines for legitimate publication instead of entering your work to "win" contests. For more information on how to get started submitting your work to literary magazines, visit
    http://wind.wind.org/submitting.htm

Author Bio: Wendi L. Cali has had a fascination for and a dedication to the written word since early childhood. Currently, Wendi holds the titles of Content Director for Cenicola-Helvin Enterprises, the Editor In Chief of a web community called RITRO.com (based on Real Insight Through Raw Opinion), and will now be representing aspiring writers as the editor of Rising Stars. Wendi's writing projects range from picture books to historical fiction to freelance and inspirational articles.

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