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Spotting scams

Last week I wrote about the fact that some important things had changed in the writing world.

Where in the past writers entered writing competitions and submitted their stories to literary magazines and the thought of paying for the opportunity to do that was unheard of.

 Any contest or magazine looking to milk fees from writers was very easily identified as a scammer. In the new world we live in, some legitimate literary magazines and contests charge writers a small fee to submit. So how do we now differentiate between legitimate contests and magazines, and crooks? I want to try and help you navigate these complicated waters.

The first signal you may see you are about to be cheated is the amount being charged. Most legitimate organisations charge at most $3 to submit. If the people are asking for $20, you must read the fine print carefully. Occasionally I’ve seen legit magazines charging a high fee, but the fee includes a subscription to their magazine. I’m not sure what I personally feel about that, it feels a bit manipulative. If I want a subscription I will buy a subscription. So in my world I would no longer submit to this market. But that is a personal decision that each writer must make for themselves.

A scam that is increasing is where a self-published author, who has created a “publishing company” to publishe her own books, will now run a writing contest. There will be a fee to enter and nominal prizes for the winners, judged by the author herself. Often these writing contests are held monthly or bi-monthly. But really, the entire exercise is to raise funds for the self-published writer to publish her books. This is probably a contest that you would want to avoid unless you want to support that author and her book.

Another easily identifiable scam is a submission call-out for stories or poems for an anthology. It seems legit until you submit. Very quickly you will receive an acceptance and you’ll be asked to pre-order copies of the anthology for your friends and family —of course they will all want to see your work in print, the

anthology publishers remind you. Though you’ve been told the books with your story or poem will be in all bookstores and on Amazon, that’s not exactly true. Yes, there will be a link on Amazon, but there will be no actual published paper books. They will be printed one at a time using print on demand (POD) technology as the “publisher” receives the money for the book by the pre-order arrangement. This is again a money making exercise for the person.

Sometimes folks calling themselves agents, and other sorts of vanity publishers run contests asking for book manuscripts. The “winners” will get a publishing deal or will get representation by the agent. Everyone wins. Just when they are about to go forward with the publication of the book or for the agent to take your book around to pitch to publishers, you must first have your book professionally edited by a certain editor that they have recommended. And this is how they get you. The editor charges a large fee, that you must pay. This is a scam and you should run.

One way to suss out scam contests is to check out who the judges are. Most legitimate contests will list the people who will choose the winners. Google them. Are they established writers or publishers? People who know good writing?

Often contests will list past winners. Check out those lists too. Google those writers. What has happened with them after winning this writing prize? Also, often the winning entries are published online. Read them. Are the stories or poems any good? Would you want your writing being put up next to writing of that sort of standard? The answers will lead you to the answers you need.

Writers, you are walking amongst sharks ready to take advantage of you. Be careful. Question everything — a generally good rule in life, too.

NOTE: Mahalapye Writers’ Club will meet Saturday 8th July 2pm at Mahalapye Brigades (opposite Tamocha Primary School). Bring a sample of your writing to share, no more than 500 words.

Its all I write



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