13 warning signs of a bad poetry contest

Are you or your children interested in entering poetry contests? It’s easy to fall prey to a slick scam, so hang onto your doubloons and watch for these warning signs.

13 warning signs of a bad poetry contest, writeshop13 Warning Signs of a Bad Poetry Contest

The main goal of a bad poetry contest appears to be extracting money from poets rather than honoring excellence. Bad contests typically show several of these warning signs. When in doubt, check with your local poetry society.

  1. Unusually large number and size of cash awards (e.g., $58,000/year)
  2. Contest sponsor tries hard to sell you products that incorporate your work, like vanity anthologies (example)
  3. Contest is free to enter, but ‘winners’ have to pay a high price for own copy of book
  4. Contest turns up on “Scam Warning” pages when you search for it with Google
  5. Hard to contact sponsor with questions – responses are slow or evasive
  6. Low standards – not choosy about who gets published
  7. Name is close to that of a prestigious contest but for a small difference
  8. Prize is not money or publication, but ‘agency representation’ or something you must pay for
  9. Hard to find the work of past winners to judge their quality for yourself
  10. Small prize relative to reading fee (e.g., $5 fee for a $50 top prize)
  11. Advertised in mass market magazines (Parade) and newspapers (Sunday comics) unrelated to poetry
  12. You win a prize – but have to pay to attend a convention to receive it
  13. Only short poems (30 lines or less) are accepted – the better to pack them into an anthology
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