[Jan 2012 Edit: This post refers to Poetry.com pre-2009 when it was owned by New Catalyst Fund. The site has since been sold and I’ve been told is heading in a new direction under new owners and management.]
The most successful scams are the ones that appeal to your emotions. They assure you that you can be better off than you currently are. Success, fame and fortune is just a click away. Odds are you will be clicking away some of your money while receiving nothing in return. Poetry.com is no different.
The Scam Behind Poetry.com
Poetry.com allows you to submit your own poetic material for consideration in their international poetry competition. In order to enter the contest, you have to also include your name and address. Within days of submitting your poem, you will receive a letter in the mail praising you and your poetic ability.
Now to an unpublished author or someone looking to get started in this line of work, receiving a response is quite an accomplishment in itself, but to receive a response not only praising you for your work but naming you one of the best authors to ever submit a poem is extremely flattering. The letter will also inform you that you have been chosen by a select panel of judges to be published in the next volume of poems put out by Poetry.com.
This is where the upsell begins as it all goes downhill. In order for your work to be published, you have to purchase the book. This isn’t stated, but it is indeed true. Naturally, if you’re an aspiring writer, you’ll want to purchase a copy of your first published work. Hell, you might end up buying a copy for your parents, significant other, friends, etc. The only thing is, the book costs anywhere between $50 and $75 or more if you want your poem on a single page. After some time you will be given the option to buy a CD that includes your poem in a reading and you’ll even be invited to a convention where you’ll be awarded with some cheesy trophy or plaque. Again, this is all at your expense.
This probably doesn’t sound all that bad right? Wrong. It’s terrible. Poetry.com only sells these books to the people who submit the poems for their inclusion. The books aren’t sold anywhere else in the world. Anyone could write anything at all and Poetry.com will hail them as the next Shakespeare. Previously, 20/20 did a news report where they had a class full of second graders write poems for the site. Every single poem was accepted by their judges.
Poetry.com is making between 50-60 of these books per year with about 6,000 poems in each. Given that the book costs about $75, they are making over $22,000,000 per year on book sales alone! They give away one annual prize of $10,000 per year or about 0.0004% of their annual book sales. These guys are disgustingly cruel.
Fun with Poetry.com
Just to prove my point, I submitted this lovely piece entitled ‘Bird.’ It is a Steve original and I fully expect to win the $10,000 contest prize.
A bird sits on a windowsill.
Howl goes the wolf.
The bird flies away.
A pie replaces the bird.
The wolf steals the pie.
Pie wolf and bird meet in the woods.
Pie is had. All is good. The world is happy.
Immediately upon submitting my poem I was hit with an upsell. I could have my lovely poem engraved on a beautiful plaque for just $39 plus shipping! What a steal. I didn’t want to jump the gun and get this bad boy engraved right off the bat. I want to wait until it wins the $10,000 prize.
Since I chose not to purchase the plaque, the only other available option was to view “Special Offers” that were personally chosen for me. Of course, this was all garbage as they were trying to collect my personal information to sell to companies. Continuing past the special offers leads you back to the main page. There is no substance behind Poetry.com. The site exists to gather as much of your personal information as possible in order to try and sell you garbage.
I’m anxiously awaiting my acceptance letter. I’ll be sure to post it as soon as I receive it.