Paying to enter a poetry competition? A lottery… with rhyming couplets…

Going through some poetry sites that have recently been brought to my attention. I noticed an appalling beast: poetry competitions that require an “entry fee”.

No doubt other people have differing opinions, but here’s mine: competitions that require an “entry fee” are not dissimilar to lotteries.  If enough poets enter, the organizer gets a nice wad of cash.  He then pays one lucky guy the $100 (or whatever) prize, and pockets the rest.  If not enough poems are submitted to make the scam pay, he simply returns the poems (maybe with a percentage of the entry fee for “administrative costs”) – or, even better, he enters a poem with a fake name and awards himself the prize.

"Starving poet and publisher", stolen from

“Starving poet and publisher” by Thomas Rowlandson, stolen from

Call me a cynic if you like – but I tell it the way I see it.  When I was a youngster I used to write short stories.  I was going to enter some competitions, but a couple of older writers (my “mentors” I guess) warned me off.  Later, when I got into photography, I was told the same thing.  Do NOT enter competitions that require an “entry fee”.  Legit competitions don’t require a fee to enter.  And if you google “poetry competition” you will find many such competitions (you’ll also find plenty that do require an “entry fee” but that shows how widespread the scam has become).

Also, if a competition wants you to assign copyright to them – that’s a scam.  A genuine competition will want “first use” rights, and probably a right to use the poem solely for use in promotion for their competitions… but the copyright should remain with you.  Same thing with “selling” your poems: you’re not selling the poem itself, you’rte selling the right to print the poem in their magazine/book/whatever.  But at the end of the day, your poem and its copyright should remain as yours.

I know many poets want really bad to be published.  I understand that completely.  I even know poets who have gone down the dark, dank, slippery route to self-publishing.  Very expensive.  And (if you’re lucky) you end up with a stack of books you need to sell, with no distribution networks.  Basically unsellable.

Please believe me: if someone wants you to pay them, they are not legit.  Stick with the standard free-to-enter competitions.  Don’t help the dodgy sods make money – there are already enough mugs out there ready and willing to pay the “fees”.


free web stat

6 Responses to Paying to enter a poetry competition? A lottery… with rhyming couplets…

  1. Phoenix Risen says:

    Totally agree with that! Everyone wants to make money off the artist, leaving us here empty handed. Same thing happened throughout my many years as a “professional musician” everyone made money but us.

  2. kertsen says:

    Are you suggesting some are mean enough to take advantage of the noble art of poetry composition? I’ve heard of religious greed robbing the pious, but this takes the biscuit . Is there no limit to man’s depravity? You could look at it as punishment for human conceit .

    • Martin X says:

      All I can say is: if you want to enter a competition, check the T&Cs first. If the competition organizers want to be able to use your work for reasons of promoting the competitions, I don’t have a problem if it’s a one-use thing. But never ever give them the right to use it unreasonably. A one-use license may be reasonable, as it helps keeps the competitions going. But don’t GIVE them your work as a gift. Your poem might end up in a compendium or something, sold to countless readers, and you won’t be paid a penny.

      Look out for genuine comps that do not want the copyrights for more than a one-use license. Any more, don’t enter. I think many competitions are a scam: poet pays entry fee, gives up copyright – the organizer’s wife wins that competition, and all those who gave money and copyright seeking that dream of fame end up ripped off.

  3. Martin X says:

    kersten: you may not have a great reputation to defend at the moment… but when you get your book published in 18 months time, you don’t want some dodgy chancers reprinting your work for free. (Yes, you will have a book published n 18 months’ time. I’m the all-seeing oracle, hence I see all!)

  4. Martin X says:

    You may have “no great reputation to defend” but I’m sure youhave money to defend – and the less money you have, the more you need to defend it!

    If you want to get rich quick, by a lottery ticket. Or bet on a horse, I think horses are nice (I like dogs too, before all the dog-fighting aficionados log in to give me a hard time…). OR you could enter the I HATE HATE!!! writing competition. Prose or poetry, fact or fiction, original work or plagiarism – I don’t care. Send your work plus entry fee (only £10!!!) and YOU MAY WIN top prize of £1,000!) I promise, SOMEONE WILL WIN…

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