On Caferati's message board, and in our email, every now and then someone posts gleefully about having a poem accepted by poetry dot com (yes, deliberately not clickable), or about the contests that site runs.
And then one has to go about the sad task of letting the person know they've been conned. So, we thought, being a lazy sod, we might as well put all the gunk out here, thus saving ourself the trouble of having to search-&-cut-&-paste every time.
How does it work?
You send in an entry, and after a respectable interval, you get a lovely glossy mailer telling you that you are a semi-finalist. It will enclose an Artist's Proof of your poem for you to sign. The mailer will also tell you that you can buy a copy of the thick cloth-bound book that will contain the best entries in the contest.
It's a "benign scam," you see. The ILP (International Library of Poetry, aka Poetry.com) and others like it operate by preying on the desire so many of of us have: to see our verse in print. You DO get a book. A large coffe table book crammed with poems. For which you pay a whole lot of money. It's cheaper for you to do a vanity printing, with only your verse in it, and give them to your 50 closest friends.
How do we know it's a rip-off? We sent in a poem once* (we were so much younger then), and were flattered to find we were a "semi-finalist." We immediately checked out the bank balance and thought to ourself, hm, perhaps this is worth a shot. Lucky for us, we first asked a few friends and e-contacts more worldy-wise than us. And were gently told that we should, ahem, perhaps, er, reconsider.
Poetry.com (a.k.a. the International Library of Poetry, the National Library of Poetry, and many others), is a vanity anthology scheme that draws in poets through free contests, and then solicits them to purchase the anthology in which they will be published, plus a variety of other merchandise and services. The contests, in which all entrants are declared "semi-finalists", are bogus; and while the company portrays itself as a viable and even prestigious poetry market, the complete lack of editorial gatekeeping and the resulting poor quality of most of the poems means that publication in one of its anthologies is not a professional credit.
A number of organizations, including the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, are seeking writers who have complaints about Poetry.com. You can find links to all of them at StopILP.com, a website organized by poet Robert James Funches.
The anthology that I bought cost me $ 59.95. (excluding p+p). My estimate is ... that there are around 1,500 poems in there. Since you won't get published if you don't buy the book, all those 1,500 poets have bought the anthology. That would mean 1,500 x $ 59,95 = $ 89,925 for the poems. There are 325 biographies of poets in the back (I DID count them by hand), for which the poet had to pay $ 25 extra. That's 325 x $ 25 = $ 8,125.
Together for this anthology that would be $ 89,925 + $ 8,125 = $ 98,050.
I took the time to count the released anthologies that they have on the poetry.com website and in the year 2002, ... they released a total of 52 anthologies. In 1998, which was probably a very profitable year for them the number of released anthologies rocketed up to 78.
So if we take the average of that, 65, and use that as the amount of released anthologies per year, you can calculate the following: 65 x $ 98,050 = $ 6,373,250 income per year only for those anthologies. That is over SIX MILLION DOLLARS!
And then I didn't even count all the other shit that they are offering. The awards, which cost like $ 175 - $ 250 each and the plaques on which you can have your poem printed and the audio recordings you can get from your poem and the offers for the symposia that you can visit as an outstanding poet.
And in this matter I'm only talking about the poetry part that they have. Imagine what their turn over is if you take into consideration that they also do 'business' in for example photography! My dear fellow poets, this is BOOOOOOOOMING business.
* Can't link to it, because the site pushes you back to the home page when you enter the search results. If you really want to read it, you could search for our name, then pick the poem titled "Old Diary" from the search results.
Um. Correction. Still can't link to it, but we did a little R&D so we can now at least make the search a little easier. It was written somewhere in 2001, if we remember right, but the site apparently keeps the copyright updated! And the book in which we could order it, as well as the scheduled release date, keeps changing too, to just a few months after the time you make your search. The site notes, if you click through to the Order Book page, that "Actual title and cover photograph may differ."