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  What a Write Off
by Kerry Ridgway

In the world of literature, where winning is the ultimate reward, it would appear strange to try and lose in a literary competition. But perhaps when you look at some of the writer’s scams proliferating from basic creative desires, being rejected is probably the best thing.

Failure is just what UK poet and columnist, David Taub, aimed for, in response to the International Library of Poetry’s literary scams. Prompted by many of his contemporaries’ suspiciously flattering congratulatory letters, he entered a series of bad poems in the global competition to see what would happen.
To his amazement, his series of verbally jarred, barely unutterable, poetic duds such as “Flubblebop” got him into the semi-finals, and an acceptance letter crediting him on his fine standard of creative prowess. Ironically, while other writers remain stumped by inconsistent musings and esoteric utterances, Taub, is yet to be rejected by the organisers.

Supposedly inducted into the world of artistic acclaim, writers across the globe receive phony congratulatory letters telling them how great they are and that they’re a semi-finalist in a prestigious competition. In response, some people buy their own anthologies and useless silver ornaments embossed with their artistry, for competitions with no literary credit. Or they spend money on coveted prizes, which they later discover, are not worth desiring at all.

One North American, contender, Theresa Coleman, received the absolute works when she entered the International Library of Poetry Competition. In an interview with Wind Publications, Theresa explains how she was told in one of their overly complimentary letters, that she had received a nomination for Poet of the Year 2000, and was invited to the Tenth Anniversary International Society of Poets Convention and Symposium. Once there, she would read her poem in their competition for poet of the year, $5,000, and a book contract.

After paying $595 to appear at the convention, she found prominent editors and publishers to be conspicuously absent, and when organisers had only an hour to decide winners from over 200 entries, she finally realized they were predetermined.

Selling a few anthologies and hosting phony dinners may seem a miniscule rip off, but as outlined on the Wind Publications website, The Greater Maryland Better Business Bureau estimates that the ILP has 500,000 customers each year and if only half purchase a single $50 anthology, the International Library would make $12.5 million.

Perhaps from an uninformed perspective of what scammers do, it is easy to blame writers for being gullible. But when you look at the structure of scams it is little wonder people are taken in.

As described on Science Fiction America there are also the "contest mills, which make money with expensive entry fees. While they advertise enormous prizes—like $15,000 for the winner, they also come with high entry fees at around $25 or $30. But if you read the fine print, you'll discover that the contest owner reserves the right to award prizes on a pro rata basis.

While there are winners who do receive cash prizes, the money is dependent on how many people enter the competition with the judges or owners of these establishments getting a fixed cut, so they make money regardless.

But while some scammers baffle artists with financial jargon, The International Library of Poetry plays on basic human psychology.

To make themselves appear legitimate, The International Library of Poetry, Poetry Now, the International Society of Poets or whoever they call themselves, is a registered member of the Maryland Better Business Bureau and advertises with prominent but unsuspecting writers magazines. Even actress, Bo Derek, has graced one of their annual conventions.

They play on vanity and flattery with superlatives, lucrative prizes, huge anthologies and mass exposure.

They play on impulsiveness, with contenders being able to enter several pieces at once, at the click of a button, all for no cost.

They are also audacious. Despite warnings everywhere, from blurbs on electronic literary publications, to conspicuous articles listed in search engines on which competitions to avoid, they are still advertising for entrants.

In the pursuit of professional writing careers, writers are constantly thrust into exploitative situations, often unaware of what is to happening to them.

I know because it happened to me. Introduced to an editor for a national magazine through a friend, I wrote some articles for her as a favour. The favour was two articles, one at standard pay, another, a1000 word article, which I could only receive $100 for due to budget constraints.

After doing all the work, my apparent job connections disappeared and I did not receive a by-line for one article. I blamed myself until I noticed the unnamed piece had exactly the same sentence structure and ideas as the original and only a few words had been changed.

I made a promise never to write for a friend of a friend again.

While we have all been victims of con artists rather than artists, some have gained artistic notoriety by deriding creative hoaxes.

Extremely comical, is the “Wergle Flomp” Poetry competition, inspired by Taub’s alter ego and illiterate genius of “Wergle Flomp.” As an outlandish tribute to mocking scammers, contestants have to enter the worst example of a poem ever sent to a dodgy literary organisation. The best entries receive large cash prizes and literary acknowledgement. For details, go to:

David Taub’s full article, “Help, Desperate for a Rejection Slip,” can be
viewed online at:

If you get a case of writers block, may be it’s saving you from contributing to some of the worst cons for writers. If you run out of ideas, head to the web and check out the scams, there is a wealth of material to keep you writing non stop.

For more tales from writers who have been burned by this company (and others just like them) visit:


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