Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Any Publication a Good Publication?

Back when I was nineteen or twenty-ish, I discovered a little site called Poetry.com. I submitted a poem from my personal collection as a contest entry and was delighted to receive a letter saying they wanted to publish my poem in a hardcover anthology. Holy cow! Someone liked my writing enough to put it in a book! Of course, there was no pay (to me). Rather, I had to pay to purchase said hardcover anthology if I wanted a copy. Well, of course I had to do that, right? I even bought a copy for my parents.

A few months after I received my oh-so-wonderful anthology, I received a follow-up letter saying they enjoyed my poem soooooooooo much that they'd love for me to submit another for their Best Poets of [whatever year it happened to be]. Oh my gosh! Not only did they like my poetry, they reaaaaallllyyyy liked my poetry! (Spell checker is going to have a field day with this post).

I was ultimately contacted by an International Library of Poetry, and asked to submit a poem for publication in an anthology that would be published in the U.S., as well as the U.K. Ultimately, I sent off my check for another anthology...and never received it. When I attempted to contact them in writing, I never heard back. When I called the listed phone number, no one ever answered and there was no answering machine. My check had been promptly cashed, but I never got a book, nor did I ever receive contact from them again.

This led me to finally really think about what was going on. Were these genuine publishing credits or had I been a fool and gotten sucked into a money-making scheme?

At that time, I couldn't find anything about this being a scam. There just wasn't anything showing up. Obviously, I quit submitting poems and didn't tangle with them anymore. I decided I'd been duped and that it was a lesson learned.

Fast forward to a couple years ago. Someone on an online forum I belonged to kept posting about selling all these articles and making good money. She was doing so on a site called Helium.com. I checked it out, it sounded good, and I didn't find anything negative about them, so I signed up. I've made several hundred dollars on there via Marketplace articles, and it was nice. However, I can't find those articles I sold anywhere other than on Helium, which seems odd, because there was always a different publication name for the article I sold. So I can say I sold these articles, but since I have no proof of them showing up on another publication, I can only cite them as being sold to Helium.com. At least, this is the way it seems to me, and it's something I've been trying to figure out. I can say that, for me, it was a valid way to bring in extra money, as the money was paid out to my Paypal account each time I requested it.

There are many other websites that you can make money writing for, such as Associated Content, several different how-to sites, etc. The question is, how do you find out whether one of these sites is legitimate? Yes, you can research, but I have found people on both sides for every single site I've investigated.

The big question that comes into play, though (and thus the reason for it being the title), is whether any publication is a good and valid reference? If your name is on a website or in an anthology that has an ISBN number, does it count? Do you put it in a resume or query letter? Or will these publications make you look bad, so they should be left out, even if you aren't published anywhere else? At what point is a publication more hurtful than helpful? Anybody have opinions on these questions, these sites or any related sites? Experience? Recommendations?

For more information, these are a couple sites I came across that discussed Poetry.com, ILP and Helium (there are now tons more if you simply Google them):

Getting the Scoop on Poetry Contest Scams by Linda Alice Dewey
The Literature Network of Forums
Workathomenoscams.com (a blog--read the comments for many varying opinions)

Happy (and Safe) Writing!

14 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you had this experience with poetry.com. I'm just learning about all the different scams out there, and it's frustrating, to say the least.

    I wonder too about the issue of what publications are considered "good" publications. I know there can be sites and publications that are good for your writing resume even if you don't get paid, but there are so many it's hard to know which ones sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing these experiences and the links, I'm definitely going to check them out.

    Hope you have a great week, Shannon! :)

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  2. Know what? I did the samer thing with my poems. Got the same deal you did.

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  3. I ran across the same thing with poetry.com.

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  4. I went through that years ago it;s disheartening, I had my poems self published three years ago and another book will hopefully be out by the beginning of next year.
    Good luck with your writing.
    Yvonne.

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  5. You raise some really good points here. I think experience helps, but only if you learn from it:)

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  6. Part of that comes back to the whole thing of any time you are being asked to pay money out, don't do it. In that sense, any publication that's asking you for money, is bad.

    Your question also comes back to perspective. For instance, from the traditional view, nothing published counts unless it's published traditionally. Meaning, at least, an actual physical magazine or newspaper of some type.

    The farther you break away from that view, the more fluid things get. In the end, I think it really comes down to having as much visibility as possible. Anything that helps you become more visible to more people is good.

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  7. Man, what a hard lesson to learn. I know that when someone enjoys our work it's such a happy moment, and how emotionally hard it had to be to learn it was a scam. Sorry.

    Your question is a very good one. I hope you can find the answer.

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  8. Good question...hmmm...Some say any press is good press, so is the same true for publication? Great post. I wish I knew more about those content sites. They seem like a great way to make some cash, but who owns the rights and credits?

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  9. Julie, yeah that's the tricky part, isn't it? I have no idea what an agent or editor might look at, for instance, and scoff at.

    Shelly, ugh, it seems a lot of people have been taken in, and some of the things I read said that reports to the BBB haven't done any good. They aren't doing anything illegal.

    Rebecca, it's sad that they continue to take advantage of hopeful writers.

    Yvonne, thank you for the positive news! Good luck with your next release.

    Mark, very true. The Poetry.com experience is the one that taught me you should never have to pay for your work to get published (unless self-pubbing, of course).

    Andrew, good points. It has been stressed an awful lot lately that you need to get your name out there. Each place that offers some sort of positive exposure can then be seen as beneficial. It all depends on how you look at it. Plus, for many who self-pub, there are initial costs, so that rule can't really be true anymore, though it is for contests and vanity publications.

    Rachel, thank you. Yes, it's easy to get caught up in the pleasure of someone saying they enjoy your work. The issue now being that I have a hard time believing it when anyone says it.

    J.A., I'm curious about the same thing (the rights). I forget how it is put, but on Helium the author retains partial rights, but not exclusive? They say you can submit your articles elsewhere, but you apparently can't remove them from their site. I tried to delete an article I wasn't overly fond of, and there is no way to do it. I like your comparison to any press being good press; it puts it in a different perspective. Then again, negative press is good, too, right, but a bad story wouldn't be?

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  10. I'm sorry to read about your experiences with poetry.com and Helium. Personally, I've never submitted to a site or anthology where I've had to pay, or tried to earn money through a content site such as Helium. I had looked into it in the past but the sites I found didn't seem to be offering much money. The fact that you earned several hundred dollars is good, though - it proves writers can earn money that way!

    I have to agree with Leon, never submit to anyone who expects you to pay. If anything, they should be paying you.

    As for Helium, even if you can't find the articles anywhere else, you were paid for them, so you should definitely put them on your resume.

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  11. I don't have any experience or recommendations in this arena, Shannon, but this is definitely an interesting post. An eye-opener. I'm interested to see what kind of comments and/or suggestions this brings on.

    I'm very sorry, however, to hear this happened to you. It never ceases to amaze me how many predators are out there just to scam you and take your money.

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  12. Ellie, thank you for your feedback on the question. That makes sense.

    Alyssia, I'll never understand why someone would prefer to make their money by cheating someone else, but it's probably a good thing I can't understand it.

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  13. Actually, there are a lot of self-publishing options out there that are completely free. This is not to say that you don't have to pay for copies of your book, but, other than that, you can choose to have no cost involved. They do, of course, offer plenty of options that require you to pay, but you don't -have- to choose them. That's an important thing.

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  14. Very important, Andrew. Good information to have.

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