“Will my masterpiece ever come to light?” — You may wonder.
Most poets are confident with their creative skills. They create with passion and excitement about the future. But they often forget about the other side of the coin: promoting.
If nobody knows your work exists, you can’t expect recognition or money. People won’t appreciate your talents unless you show them. Every poet faces two challenges when promoting:
- How do you sell something as subjective as poetry?
- Who can promote it for you?
Rarely would someone go into poetry for money. Neither do you want to sell yourself all the time, then have no time or the thing you love. That’s why publishers matter.
Some people do get into it for money though, and not precisely to create art: poetry scammers.
If you are an aspiring poet, this scam is one to watch out for.
The Art Of Poetry Fraud
You have written a poem and decided to give it a go at free poetry contests. Few days later you receive an email informing that your poem has been selected as a winner and will be used for inclusion into a future release of an anthology of poetry.
You may wonder: “There’re so many other effective ways to scam for profit. Why poetry?” Two particular reasons attract con men (aside from money):
- Emotion: Inspiration led poets to start their careers. But emotions can lead to irrational thinking (psychological tricks), such as trusting the wrong people. The desire for recognition and hope may blind you from the red flags of a poetry scam.
- Unique Proposition: Who will buy your poem? Some pieces cost $2 and others $200. How do you sell perceived value? Most agencies can’t do it like you’d sell an ebook or a course. Very few publishers create the right offer and target the right people, which you could confuse with fake companies. If a publisher reaches out, the poet often sees them as their only best chance to step up on their career.
The result? If you come in as a poetry agency, most will fall for it. Combined with the emotion-driven nature, it turns into a scammer magnet.
In poetry scams, victims work for free or pay upfront upon the promise of a bright future: recognition, sales, major brand publishing. What you hear differs a lot from what ends up happening: you lose money, time, and hope on a fraudulent agency.
walking with open eyes
into a spider’s web
of deceit and lies.
How Do Poetry Scams Work?
Unlike generic scams, poetry schemes can’t target random people. You can’t reach out to victims: they do. That’s why most scams are automated, starting with an eloquent call-to-action.
#1 The Hook
Scammers follow the bait-and-switch: anybody can get into easily, but they rarely get any results. You find an offer or a free-to-enter contest.
They approve you in no-time, giving the impression you’re a skilled poet, or the contest is easy to win. Scammers attract victims with $100K+ prizes, while ordinary agencies pay no more than $1,000 for beginner artists.
You can find these on the mainstream freelance platforms and social media ads.
#2 The Catch
A poetry scammer will likely have multiple agency-type scams working for him. Everything is automated, from the first reach out to the winner selection.
No matter what you write (even if you insult them), they approve your poem for publishing. Getting good news will excite naive poets, and it’s the best time to pull the advance fee scam.
If you want to include your work on their next anthology, you must pay a high cost and get the book. Despite the arguable book quality, it looks more like a sucker’s list.
If you ever get that book, you’ll find hundreds of poems from previous “winners” or victims who paid to put their name on it. Guess who buys the anthology? The same people who wrote it, no-one else.
In case you win the prize (everyone ranks for the semifinals), you pay upfront, like in lottery scams.
#3 The Rip-Off
- You paid for your poetry prize but got nothing.
- You paid to publish your work, but nobody is buying it.
- You bought the book, and still nothing.
- You spent hours working on that poem, and now the agent is mysteriously gone with no chance to reach back.
There’s no prize, no agencies, only empty promises. Worst of all, confidence tricks are your responsibility; nobody can undo it.
Warning Signs Of A Poetry Scam
You don’t need to reach such extremes to find out. These red flags will teach you to recognize legit opportunities from cash-grabs.
#1 Upfront Payment
Before delivering anything, scammers ask for money. For a publisher, you are the client, and client satisfaction is key. Why paying for a service you didn’t get?
Making money isn’t easy in poetry. Why give it to dishonest agents? If you have to pay, understand first what they will and won’t do for you.
When poets buy the anthology, they expect agents to do the promotion for them. But they do nothing other than selling you a costly book which you need to promote yourself.
#2 Easy Win
You applied to many contests, but this is the only one you won. However, you know nothing about the agency and find any past winner.
You may try applying again under a fake name with a mediocre poem. If they accept your work again, it’s an automated scam funnel, not a contest.
#3 Low Standards
Poems get accepted too easily and editors are not choosy about who gets published. You might give a test run to the company and write a really bad poem and see if gets accepted and/or published.
Sometimes you can “offerss” for further inclusions into “bonus publications” which all have one thing in common – further fees. Now you can decide for yourself if such companies do this to honor the work of the authors or for profit with no care about literature and its audience?
The inclusion of a poem has nothing to do with the writer’s talent. It is just a trick to pay an expensive price for a poorly published collection of “poems”.
#4 No Feedback
You find few or no reviews online. Apart from their promises, you can’t find anything that proves legitimacy. The website (if any) shows vague conditions and no rules.
Of course, the site never mentions the upfront payment you make for the prize. Compared to other contests you’ve tried, this looks too good to be true.
#5 Numbers Don’t Make Sense
How can they promise six, seven-figure prices and have no recognition? If they have no reputation, how can they promise to promote your work?
You can’t make big money without helping people, creating success stories, testimonials, and proof. They can’t promise you a million-dollar prize when they clearly don’t have a million-dollar business.
The Bottom Line
Selling poetry shouldn’t be hard. As long as you beware of the scam red flags, you eventually find a publisher that’s the right fit for you.
If you win a poetry contest, you should collect the prize and that’s it, not paying up front.
A publisher can help with marketing, so all your focus is on poetry, your passion. Just make sure they promote and not merely print books.
With all the tools available, brilliant poets should have no problem getting the recognition they deserve.