What was the first clue?

Dear Miss Snark,

Somewhere along the line I took some random piece of advice that I should enter literary contests. So I did. Eventually I got a lovely letter in the mail, one that was NOT a rejection letter, and even though something indescribable nagged at me, I jumped for joy because this was NOT a rejection letter.

I sent off my order form and payment for the book. I filled in my bio information.

Months later, I started listening to the nagging voice.

I looked up this organization on the intermittent net. I didn't find anything bad, exactly, but I sure didn't find anything good. With some digging, I found other previous "winners" and poems that were "accepted" for "publication" and my gut sank to my toes as I read the work of my fellow "Poets." Oh dear. Not good.

The anthology, a lovely hardcover limited edition book, is set for publication in January 2007. I'm beginning to think it might come out bound in Genuine Corinthian Leather.

So, Miss Snark, you won't need to hit me with the clue gun because I've already done it for you. My question to you is...Have I made a huge mistake, or is this repairable?(1)

Now that it's going to be published, I can't send it to any literary magazines (legit ones), can I?(2)

Or is it possible to contact these very nice people and request to take back my poem and possibly get my 50 bucks back? (3)

I'm going through the process of querying agents- real actual legitimate agents- to represent a novel I wrote and I am afraid of including this organization in a list of publishing credits. I think it will make me look like an amateur. A nitwit, you know? (4)


No one will go looking for this stuff IF you don't tell them it's out there. I only google the things you tell me about in a query letter (the publisher of your "630,000 word memoir that was well-receieved" for example).

I'm not hunting around for your past mistakes. I figure you have about half as many nitwitteries to your credit as I do.

Suck it up.
Move on.
Hang out with your fellow word wranglers here.


nice anonymous said...

"I sent off my order form and payment for the book."

There you go: A rule of thumb for poets. If your poem is accepted by a legitimate literary journal or poetry anthology, they will send you at least one free copy, sometimes more, once it is published. You won't have to pay them. Not a cent. They pay you. Sometimes that's all they can pay you with -- free copies.

Signed, a poet who has too many free copies of literary journals cluttering her bookshelves

Stargazer said...

Hi, I started entering short story and poetry competitions two years ago after constant rejections for my novels were getting me down.

I was thrilled when my poem was described as 'one of the best entries'. It was going to be published. Yippee!

Alarm bells rang at the mention of payment for the book. Still, I liked the proposed book cover and went ahead and ordered it for the equivalent of $15 or so. The winning entry wasn't bad but the others were dire. The editors messed up my punctuation but, on the plus side, it looks great printed.

Since then, I've won two major competitions and recently had a short story published by a well known publisher. Also, included in Evil Editor's 'Novel Deviations'. So, keep writing and entering and don't beat yourself up over minor blips.

Kristin B said...

Sounds like poetry.com, although I'm sure a whole bunch of copycats have sprung up since my last wrangling with them. I did the same thing you did, except cutting the check...I was in high school, so I didn't really have the $50 to fork over, and neither did my parents. But I kept sending them poems, because I liked getting the acceptance letters.

Eventually, I realized there was something wrong with a company that accepted every...single...poem...I sent. So I sent them one about my stinky feet.


Yeah, that was the last poem I sent them.

Dave said...

In my career as a research scientist, I wrote an excellent internal review of "heterogeneous catalysis." One of my team members, got it accepted for a book. That's a big publication for any engineer. It's like a short story in an anthology for the non-technical out there.

Now here's the catch, my coworker agreed to get the 11 other chapters reviewed and critiqued for the editor of the book. We slaved away for six months getting three reviewers for each chapter, shepherding the reviews and responses, assembling the images and copyright permissions, etc... Literary works get copyedited, scientific works get edited for content, logic and methodology. Lots of hard work involved.

The bad news was that they mispelled my name on the index page and I had to buy my only copy of the book.

I'll never do that again. I WANTED to kick my coworker's butt halfway around the world, but common sense prevailed and I didn't...

live and learn and go on...

Don said...

I kind of wonder whether getting suckered in scam poetry contests isn't a basic rite of passage for most aspiring writers. I, at least, realized it was a scam once I got the winning entry letter and offer to buy the book.

I'll admit to doing it, but I don't think that it will ever make my publication credits (unless I'm putting together a bibliography in my old age and want to be painfully comprehensive and include even high school literary journal and newspaper stuff.

Heidi the Hick said...

It's kind of hard when you're starting off cold and learning how this business works. Unfortunately there are some hard and costly lessons to be learned.

I really liked Kristn B's story (above) about the stinky feet poem. Yeah...

Lesson learned: a legit publisher/ agent/ contest does not ask for money. An entry fee for a contest is one thing but payment for the book itselt will be ringing the alarm bells.

Zany Mom said...

These scams are not only out there for writers, either.

A few times a year I get a letter claiming that I'm Dog's gift to my profession. All I have to do is fill out this form, send in some money, and they'll send me the book with my accolades in it.

I file it in the circular file.

Anonymous said...

I know a fellow who writes deeply terrible poetry and sends it to one such scam operation, just to see if there is any point at which they start rejecting work.

He says they do eventually start to become suspicious, if it's obvious you're not being serious. They don't want their other "poets" realising that someone is taking the piss out of the anthology.

Anonymous said...

If it's Poetry.Com, it's a scam. You can find mention of it on sites like Writer Beware, etc. A lot of people have been suckered by it over the years(they've changed their name several times), and it's just one more way of screwing over writers who are clueless (whether because they're desperate and willing to pay to see themselves in print, or new to the field and still not sure what they should be looking for, or lazy and won't do their research).

RNRR said...

Further to Stinky Feet and the Deeply Bad Poetry Challenger, years ago I answered an ad for submissions in the back of Rolling Stone, sending five poems under one name and five under a pseudonym. The only poem of the ten not accepted included -- A CURSE WORD! I smelled a rat: censorship does not trump poetry! (I did not send the requested cash.)

Dave Kuzminski said...

Don't feel bad. I just learned from a writer that P&E was selected as the site of the month by a self-publishing firm. They're not going to be happy with tomorrow's daily update when it goes online with their firm listed. I guess I can kiss goodbye that site of the month mention.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Dear Miss Snark,

When I was 21, a poem I submitted to a magazine was accepted for publication. During the conversation the editor and I had on the phone, the editor said, "There will be a fee of $30.00."

"What? I have to pay $30.00?" I said. I felt sick with the thought that I had fallen for a vanity press trap.

The editor laughed. "No," she said, "We'll pay you $30.00."

Been There, Done That said...

If you're the writer of this letter and you happen to read this comment: yes, there IS hope.

If this is the organization that I think it is (Poetry dot com or any variation thereof), write them a letter (or an email if you don't want to spring for the price of the stamp). Explain that you would like to withdraw your submission from the anthology, and you would like them to refund you the amount you paid for the volume. Also explain that you would like to have your poem removed from their website if they archive submissions there--this will keep it from being searchable by your name on the site. They should respond to that fairly promptly, and you probably won't have much difficulty getting a refund from them. I didn't, even though the anthology had already been printed.

Kanani said...

Oh, I love Poet's House. Now Stanley Kunitz was a poet to love.

It's almost impossible to get paid for a poem. Even a good one! But don't lose heart, keep going and do it beause you love it. And don't forget, to send things out as much as you can. Eventually, some journal or magazine will say YES.

Anonymous said...

Well, you may be able to submit it for publication to a small press literary magazine that accepts reprints (several do). When they see where it was originally published, it may prejudice them against the poem, or they may read it for its own merits. Expect to be paid at least one free copy of the publication if you are published. Poetry generally does not pay, but at least you should not have to pay. The most I ever made for a single poem was $25. Most small mags pay in copies.