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Updated on August 4, 2011


"OH, THAT SOUNDS SO NEGATIVE!" I can hear you shout.

Yes, I know.


No....honestly, I have your best interests at heart.

Listen to me! There are SO MANY people out there who want to TAKE ADVANTAGE of your desire to be a writer...along with your desire to win contests and MONEY!

Preditors. Sneaky, under-handed, finding-a-way-to-beat-the-system preditors. They abound on the Internet. And they love to target money hungry eager-to-be-discovered writers, like YOURSELF!

Listen to this story. I entered the Poetry for Millions contest, currently running online. They offer a $1000 FIRST PRIZE...NO ENTRY great is that, I thought. Nothing to lose. Okay! I'll enter!

So I shoot off one of my poems to them. A few weeks later, I receive a letter in the mailbox. I see the return address.


I get all excited inside.


If I had stopped allowing my emotions to take over for a moment, I would have realized the envelope looked like the result of a mass mailing.

NEVER MIND LOGIC! I am only thinking thoughts about WINNING, $1000, and WOW!

I tear open the envelope. There's my name...what's it saying? Out of thousands of entries MY poem has been selected....semi- finalists...chance for grand prize....

Now my emotions are sky-rocketing.

NO WAY! I'm thinking. My poem wasn't THAT good...WAS it?

Maybe it was better than I thought. THEY'RE EVEN GOING TO PUBLISH IT!

This is SO EXCITING! I race in to my husband, shouting the news.

"Are you sure it's legit?" he asks, always the pessimist.


After the initial excitement passes, I read through the rest of the letter. I am informed that they want to publish my poem in their beautifully bound book...which is being sold for a mere $50...I am under NO obligation to purchase the book, of course...and NOT purchasing the book will NOT deter the judges in any way when judging my poem for the contest...oh...and if I would like my 100 word biography included in their beautifully bound book, it will cost me an additional $25.....

Suddenly, I feel deflated. Duped. Dumb. I am yet another aspiring writer who is here to be taken advantage of. Of course they assume EVERYONE will want to purchase a beautifully bound collection of poetry that THEIR POEM is featured in...along with a personal biography, as though they are a real honest-to-goodness writer...

These people aren't doing anything illegal...and they probably make lots and lots of money...enough to give away some cash prizes. So it's a win/win situation, right? Wrong. Because I now feel like an absolute idiot!

I have entered many writing writing contests...Science fiction, poetry, flash fiction...entering contests can start to consume you. You want to MUST win...originally, it starts out as a fun idea...maybe make a little extra cash....hoping you can win so it will look good on your "writing resume" and give your ego a shot of adrenaline. Then it becomes a maddening obsession. You endlessly try to track down "Writing Contests" in your Google search.

I'm not telling you to stop writing...or even to stop entering contests. Just do NOT allow your ego to get tied up in it....don't allow it to "take over" - thus preventing and distracting you from working on more "real life" goals, such as sending a manuscript into a magazine or publisher...finding an agent, etc...

Granted, it's easy to allow yourself to become distracted from these goals, since they are scary and involve possible rejection. Writing contests are a good way to "procrastinate" real life scariness...and just sort of hide out in the world of magical contests. Don't let that happen! It's a road to nowhere.

If you are going to enter an online contest, you should first of all, make sure it's legitimate. Writer's Digest is one such legitimate contest that - if you win - will truly look impressive on a writing resume. Suzie's Writing Not so impressive! Also, of course Hub-pages offers legitimate writing contests, as well.

Be aware, though, that many writing contests are just glorified popularity contests. The person with the most online friends will win...even if their writing stinks.

Other sites are unscrupulous...charging entry fees for contests (NEVER pay an entry fee...unless the contest is sponsored by a well known reputable company such as Writer's Digest)...these unscrupulous people never really award any prizes...there again,hoping to take advantage of aspiring writers and people who are eager to win money.

Check out the site Preditors and Editors, if a contest sounds suspicious.


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    • profile image

      Crystal Ross 2 years ago

      Thanks for this information. It is true that I can procrastinate and become obsessed with anything that will take me away from writing.

    • profile image

      Duncan R.M.Decapolis 2 years ago

      Years ago I submitted a poem/song to Or library of congress, poetry nation? One of those, been around for years. Of course they responded with somewhat personal appearing letter, exclaiming my "Squatter Echo"( song about varied causes of homelessness I wrote in '88) was "wonderful prose", but they had the anthology deal, and offers etc. So I didn't buy in, but did continue writing to this day. I've amassed a jumble of handwritten song/poems etc. Being a lousy typer, I got the Dragon/Nuance software so can dictate verbally to computer. I've done a little with it, and still typing out on computer with flash drive, but I can't seem to break old school way of just handwriting, esp. In creative moment. Note: If any readers of this blog are Christian themed writers as I've become, stemming from my experiences with alcoholism, drug addiction(heroin), (19 yrs clean and sober now, thank God) as of topics of insanity, and finally recovery. There's a self publishing company, Salem broadcasting/, you keep 100% royalties of books sold, they help market incl. Online, and to major bookselling stores(Barnes and Noble etc. cost Is between 12-1500 to start, and they have higher tiers with more services offered. Thought I'd share, I'm like to do, they sent me information. If only I could get out of my dogmatic slumbers, coupled with day to day survival/preservation, to get all my writing in a concise submittable form.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 4 years ago from Georgia

      While there are many, many unscrupulous writing contest scams there are many legitimate ones that even ask for a fee. Those run by Romance Writers of America and their local chapters quickly come to mind. Then, of course, Writer's Digest as you mention. You must do your homework. One red flag for me is the mention of going into their anthology for a fee. So it all comes down to doing your homework, as it does with most things.

      This is an excellent reminder to always be alert for, as you say, predators vs editors. Voted up and sharing.

    • profile image

      Aspiring Everything 5 years ago

      While I agree with some of your points, not all online writing contests are a waste of time. One of the most recent ones I entered was the Valhalla Press Ragnarok contest. I didn't win the $500 or the E-reader, but the judges at the site provided very detailed comments of my submission (very helpful).


    • profile image

      pjr378 5 years ago

      I've entered a few writing contests sponsored by journals. Some IMO are better than others. Your odds of winning a prize are almost nothing and they're made low by things completely outside the quality of your work. At lot of it depends on what the judges tend to like and what they've chosen in past years.

      If someone asked me for advice, I would recommend entering contests where there's a list of finalists or semi-finalists released by the publisher. If you are placed on this kind of list, it can assure you that your work is making the cut and your message is reaching others clearly. I reached a finalists' list early in my career and it gave me a lot of reassurance.

      Contests where you receive critique are also very valuable. Also read the contest guidelines for chances of your work being published in the journal. Sometimes entries are also considered for publication, even if they are not candidates for winning the prize.

    • nadalee profile image

      nadalee 6 years ago from USA

      BJ Muntain...that was all really enlightening to read....I understand exactly what you're saying about the literary magazines...and yes, I DID enter the Writers of the Future was my first attempt at Sci-fi though, and I don't think it was very good...giant ants were invading earth in a spaceship...sounds more like comedy..ha! Thanks for all the insight and advice!

    • profile image

      BJ Muntain 6 years ago

      When I first started getting serious about writing, I was under the impression you had to get published in so-called literary magazines, and the best way to break into those markets was through contests. (It was the early 90s, pre-internet, and my only contact with the publishing world was through the local literary organization.)

      After spending a fair chunk of change on these contests - all held by small literary magazines - I realized a few things. The 'entry fee' - which always 'included a subscription to the magazine' - was simply a way to get people to subscribe. And if you weren't a literary writer at heart (I preferred genre, myself) you'd never win. So I was buying all these subscriptions to magazines I didn't enjoy reading.

      I also later learned that, even if I had won a contest, it wouldn't help me in the real world. These tiny magazines with their quarterly contests were unheard of by most in the publishing business.

      If you enjoy the writing and want to support these small literary magazines, go ahead and enter them. If you're looking for something to put on your query letters or 'writer's resume', don't bother.

      And while Writer's Digest is legit (these others are, too) and more prestigious, there are so many entries, the chances of winning are very low. I'd consider time (and money) better spent submitting to real markets. Writer's Digest makes a load of money on these contests, and very few contestants make any.

      If you write science fiction or fantasy, the Writers of the Future contest is worth entering. You have just as much chance of winning as you would with Writer's Digest, better prizes, more prestige in those genres -- and no entrance fee.

      Just my opinion, based on my experiences. By the way, I've never won WotF, but it's one of the few contests I'd submit to again.

    • profile image

      Poetic Fool 6 years ago

      Nadalee, this is very good and timely advice especially as such scams proliferate on the web. However, there are a number of legitimate contests held every year by reputable organizations. These can be found in publications like Poets & Writers and other literary magazines. Still, we should keep are heads about us as you suggest. Thanks for sharing.

    • michelemacwrites profile image

      Michele McCallister 6 years ago from USA

      Really informative hub!! As many others have stated, I too was almost duped by such a poetry website. So sad that these seemingly legitimate associations/clubs, try to capitalize off others talents. I guess we simply have to remain alert at all times for such schemes and do a thorough research when entering competitions. Keep hubbing, Nadalee !!

    • msdee115 profile image

      msdee115 6 years ago from Stone Mountain, GA


    • nadalee profile image

      nadalee 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks...I will check out that Glimmer's nice to know there are legitimate contests going on.

    • msdee115 profile image

      msdee115 6 years ago from Stone Mountain, GA

      Great hub - love it!!!There are many opportunities to compete. Sometimes you start small like I did but I won ... real money!!!

      If you write short stories got to They are reputable and offer monthly competitions (there is a fee) and also standard submissions for their publication.

      You write well! Thanks for sharing!!

    • nadalee profile image

      nadalee 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks for all the comments...I really appreciate it, being new and all! This seems like a great site...maybe I will check out the Poets and Writers Magazine!

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

      Same thing happened to my son...I hated to burst his bubble, so I didn't (he was still in grade school)...I think his poem was really the end, he bragged about it for a while...and I think it boosted his ego enough to keep on writing...for some it can be devastating to find out it is a money making gimmick.

      This was a good hub and I rated it up.

    • miss_jkim profile image

      miss_jkim 6 years ago

      First of all, I LOVE your picture with the gummy bears. Just adorable!!

      Second, I guess we all have to get bit once to realize that there are people out there that prey upon those who have a true and honest desire to write. I too fell for the scam. Fortunately, I fell about as far as you did and didn't waste anything but my time and effort. Writer's Digest does have legit contests, and I have entered a few of them myself. Another thing to remember is that writing is subjective, what one person likes, someone else doesn’t, and that includes professional writers as judges. Another good source for legitimate writing contests is Poets & Writers magazine. They publish a listing of contests, contest due dates, and many grant opportunities in their magazine. The key to winning is PERSERVERIENCE. Also, reading the winning stories. This will give writers a clearer understanding of what judges are looking for.

      Great hub, voted up!

    • CM Sullivan profile image

      CM Sullivan 6 years ago from California

      It seems greed is everywhere,and writers are always being taken advantage of...thanks for the hub.

    • Laura Ginn profile image

      Laura Ginn 6 years ago from UK

      I totally hear where you're coming from. I entered a similar poetry competition about ten years ago for They did exactly the same thing, mailed me telling me I was a semi finalist and would I travel to the US for an awards ceremony. I'm sure everything they wrote about happened, but in order just to turn up it would have cost at least £1000, and I had to buy the book to see my poem in it - oh and they owned the rights to it. I've been much more careful about where I place my work or enter it into competitions since then.