From Category: Scam Busting
Absolute Write's Bewares and Background Check forum is invaluable for discussions of questionable agents and publishers.
This 2015 article from self-publishing expert David Gaughran's blog "Let's Get Digital" exposes the deceptive marketing practices of Author Solutions and its questionable partnerships with major publishing houses. Author Solutions is the umbrella company for several well-known self-publishing imprints such as iUniverse, Trafford, AuthorHouse, and Xlibris. According to allegations in a pending class-action suit: "Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so by selling books back to its Authors, not to a general readership, and by selling its Authors expensive publishing, editing, and marketing services that are effectively worthless."
Warning signs include agents who advertise too aggressively for new clients, or gather most of their fees from the writer rather than the publisher.
The Alliance of Independent Authors maintains this Watchdog service that rates dozens of self-publishing services based on price, distribution channels, book design quality, and ethics.
Have you had a poem published in an amateur or "vanity" poetry anthology, which you would like to find again? The Library of Congress website gives you tips and links to start tracking down your poem in various reference archives, as well as advice for avoiding contest scams.
Indies Unlimited is a platform to promote the work of self-published and small press authors and discuss best practices in the industry. This page summarizes the results of their 2015 PublishingFoul survey, which asked authors to share stories of being scammed by publishers. Follow them on Twitter @IndiesUnlimited and search the #PublishingFoul hashtag to keep up with and contribute to this conversation.
Kurt Heintz advises poets on the kinds of online contests worth entering.
By Jessica Westhead. Satirical chapbooks by one of Poetry.com's innumerable "semifinalists" memorialize her mostly fruitless efforts to contact the contest operators. Email Jessica to obtain a copy.
Satirist "Professor Roy" searches Poetry.com for the worst possible poems, and explains just why they're so bad. Visit his User Info page for warnings about poetry scams.
Writer Beware, a project of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, is a leading industry watchdog for literary scams. In this August 2019 blog post, Victoria Strauss calls out over 50 publishing and marketing companies (many of them affiliated with the same publishing group in the Philippines) that aggressively target writers with false promises and charge exorbitant fees.
Reedsy is an online author community that helps writers connect with editors, designers, reviewers, and marketing professionals. This article on the Reedsy blog provides a good overview of literary scams and how to avoid them. Topics include traditional versus vanity presses, warning signs of a scam contest, and finding a reputable agent.
A good place to check for complaints about contests and publishers.
"Flarf" is a collaborative poetic technique that creates nonsensical poems from the results of odd Google keyword searches, Internet chat-room lingo, and the "corrosive, cute, or cloying, awfulness" of the amateur poetry that is popular in online forums. Begun as a spoof of Poetry.com's low standards, the Flarf "movement" also satirizes how so-called "mainstream" poetry is actually produced by and for an irrelevant elite class, while the poetry that most people read is the (generally bad) amateur poetry circulated between individuals and posted on the Internet. For more on the latter point, see the related website http://mainstreampoetry.blogspot.com/.
Website dedicated to identifying scams.
Brave and as yet unsuccessful attempts to write a poem that The National Library of Poetry won't accept. From "Dawn of a New Eve": "Now he offers me dark fruit;/A piece of pie for my bloodroot./Thick serpent slithers through my verse;/Is what he seeks inside my purse?/'Oh Eve, I ssssavor what you wrote!'/Now he's coiled around my throat..."
Authors/scam hunters Victoria Strauss and A.C. Crispin give advice on avoiding scam contests, working with editors and agents, and understanding your legal rights. Writer Beware is a project of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Committee on Writing Scams.
Victoria Strauss's Writer Beware site is a comprehensive and up-to-date resource for investigating deceptive literary marketing schemes. This article teaches you to watch out for solicitations from con artists masquerading as well-known agencies or publishers. Common scams include false claims of affiliation with legitimate companies (even going so far as to copy their logo) and emails using the names of real literary agents (who did not actually write them).
Invaluable literary watchdog site Writer Beware lists the signs of a literary agency scam and the top 20 offenders.
Names publishers and organizations that writers have had disputes with.
The good news: You're a winner. The bad news: It's costing you fifty bucks...For a struggling poet, it can be painful to admit that a letter from a poetry contest or publisher is nothing more than a sales hustle. But what's worse: being honest with yourself or being the victim of a company that exploits the vanity of aspiring poets?