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!