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.
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”.