WritersWeekly.com Warnings Report

Date Filed: 06/06/2001
Company: Poetry.com

UPDATE - 07/03/02:

Well, after reading all these stories I'm glad I stayed with my hunch that this was a money making org and not about publishing poetry. I was suspicious that my very first poem entered, one of the first I'd written (cause it had to be short) had won a published spot so EASILY. I searched for the book and saw this HUGE bound book, with hundreds of poems.... At $85.00 bucks a person, that gave me more warnings... I even found a song my Mother wrote before she died... I was shocked at that, more so when it let me open it and claim it as mine, just by saying that I was the rightful author (I figured through inheritance I was the rightful OWNER....

The deal for the tapes came next, I thought, well, more $$ attached... If this is as good as they say, they should be paying me... ... I'd wait and see....

Finally, the news came about the banquet and the awards I'd win... A $600.00 banquet, sounded even more like a scheme... Most I'd attended were no more than $100-$200 perhaps this was all "top-notch." Well, needless to say, despite the fact I'd gone as far as considering going to this event.... I dug for more on poetry.com and found this sight.... I was relieved to expose the truth before I paid the price...

Still, this is an underhanded way of taking people's money... Preying on their hopes and dreams... Don't worry..."GOD'S GONNA GETCHA" for that....

Thanks for the final INSIGHT... whomever set up this Sight..

Paul

UPDATE - 01/30/02:

WRITERSWEEKLY.COM COMMENT: We stopped posting complaints about Poetry.com long ago because we couldn't keep up with them (so many!). However, this heart-breaking story is one you have to read.

WRITERSWEEKLY READER EVA MEJIA WROTE:
I wrote, 'Saga Of Americans,' a poem about the September 11, 2001 attack on New York. I wrote it for the loved ones everyone lost that day. I e-mailed President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush with a copy of my poem. I wanted them to have as a keepsake for memories of what happened on that day, one we will always remember.

My brother told me to enter it in a contest, because he thought it was very good. A lot of people said it was. So I searched the engines for a place to enter it. I just typed in: poetry.com, you know if you're looking for movies you'd type in: movies.com.

Walla! It was there, poetry.com contest entries click here.... I did and entered my poem. A few days went by. Then I received via-mail that it has earned me recognition. It is to be entered into their hard-bound yearly copy of: 'Under A Quick Silver Moon.' But I can see my poem in it for only $50.00.

I didn't have the money, but was so happy, I cried! I couldn't believe it. I thought about the September 11, 2001 and all those loved ones the world lost, then I thought of their families. God must have put grace into the way I re-arranged the rhyming paragraphs, I thought. Because you were only allowed to enter only so many lines. I had to change my poem around a bit.

More days passed on and with them another letter from Poetry.com. This one stated that I had to initial my poem for permission to put into a CD and Cassette in The Sound of Poetry, in the Spoken Word edition. But of course, I needed to send in more money if I wanted to see it in print. They even went as far as to use how glad the family and friends would be. I couldn't believe it! It was really happening to me! I was so happy!

Finally after all the years of writing behind me, somehow a miracle had come true. I never sent any money. I thought if my poem had earned me all that, I wouldn't have to send a dime. It would just be in print, right? Then it came, the e-mail. I was e-mailed not only a generous way of an invitation to their 2002 March Symposium, in Orlando, Florida but to present my poem, 'Saga Of Americans,' and to receive The International Merit Award and Medallion. I screamed and cried! I couldn't believe it. I waited for my husband to get home. I told him and he was so proud and happy for me that he promised to take me to receive my awards in person, and take the children to Disney World. It was great. It was all working out, this year's vacation to be there! When I searched more via the Internet on the merit and medallion, I almost fainted, they were legit. Then, when I clicked on 'symposiums', of course Poetry.Com came up. That is when I found out how expensive it would be to just enter the symposium for a family of four, myself included.

I would cost more than $2,500.00 to enter! Then we had to take care of our own hotel at $100.00 per day, for three days, and that was because I was supposed to say I am with the IPS.

I called them on the phone that was advertised on the Internet for them. Spoke to an assistant of Dr. Len Roberts, Educational Director (the person who sent me the invite via-e-mail.)

I explained to this assistant that I regretted to inform him I was not going to be able to attend because of the unexpected expense just to enter the symposium. I asked if they could just mail my awards, of course with all due fragility. He declined and said I was not going to receive any awards. Then I asked what they were going to do with my awards. Again he said I was not going to receive anything. I asked if we took our children on the grounds if I couldn't just peek and pick-up my awards, that he wouldn't have to mail them. He said, "No!"

I asked him if anything he just told me sounded right to him. He said they had been doing this for twelve years! I told him I was going to take it the BBB. Then I mentioned how sadly a position I was put under by them, how Poetry.Com had made me a mock before my family and friends, my husband and children. Not that they are laughing or did. But the shame I felt. I told him I would have to explain to my hometown newspaper editor and many other friends, and I also had to let the President and The First Lady know about the let down of, 'Saga Of Americans.'

He said, "Well, I'm hanging up now."

If you do have a class-action please include me on your list. In the meantime, people let the others know, pass the word around. Include it on your web-page, anywhere! Let the people know!!

Thank you, for this site.

UPDATE - 09/05/01:

Shirley Billingsley wrote:

I have been completely happy with their service. Not one time have I had to "buy" anything. I have been published in numerous books, and on tape. This year I won $100.00 from them for a simple little project that took less than two minutes to complete. I have no complaints about Poetry.com.

UPDATE - 08/29/01:

Name Withheld on Request:

I teach seventh grade English, and I encourage my students to participate in legitimate writing contests. Over the past three years I have had students that tell me they were SOOOOOO excited that they had already won a poetry contest on an Internet site! I am sure you know, it is always poetry.com. Some proudly bring in the purchased book, and with pride, show me requests they received to participate in bigger and bigger (read $ and $) "opportunities." Have you ever tried to tell a child that the site is trying to sell them something? I am sure their parents are afraid to tell them, too, as they also fear the demoralized child will never submit writing again...

Terry Gibson wrote:

After completing some work during a university creative writing class, I decided to submit some poetry on line. I sent in "Paranoia" because it was my best and very quickly received a letter in the mail.

It was also from Howard Ely and stated that my poem beat out thousands and thousands of people and would be published in "Nature's Echoes", which was, supposedly, released in January 2001. Needless to say, I was excited about it - in fact, I cried. I sure feel silly now though. To finish, I was also going to scrape up the money but decided I'd buy later.

I find this rip-off from Poetry.com extremely disgusting. It quashes the spirit of so many writers -- making us lose valuable dollars and the courage to reveal our love of language elsewhere.

Melanie Stratton wrote:

It was a few years ago, before they were really on the Internet. I had written a poem to my Grandmother, and heard of this contest, so I entered. They sent me a very nice letter saying that I had won and that my poem would be featured in an upcoming anthology. I knew that it was a scam when they told me it would cost me money to publish MY poem, but I wanted my grandmother to see it in print and dedicated to her (before she died). FOUR years, and $85 later, I FINALLY got the book. My grandmother had since died. Paging through the shoddy, flimsy book full of horrible - and I mean B*A*D poetry, I realized that my poem wasn't even in it. Part of me was angry that I was taken. Part of me was glad that my work would never be associated with such an underhanded, cruel operation.

Igwoods wrote:

I was published several times by this company but I could never afford to buy the products (Thank God!). But I wanted to let everyone know that not only was I asked to pay for all of this, but they (Poety.com) wanted me to pay them to take classes in Poetry to advance my writing. I also was sent a letter telling me I had won an award and to claim it I would have to travel to Washington D.C. footing the bill for my accommodations and my guests along with paying to attend the symposium at which my award would be given. Now I tell you, sometimes being a poor person pays off. I saved a lot of money and disappointment.

I've forwarded copies to Angela of all the letters and offers and I hope they will help before someone else has their dreams crushed by Poetry.com's dose of false praise. I now don't know whether I'm a worthy poet or someone who for several months just thought I was. Thanks Angela for bringing the truth to me before it went to far.

Teri wrote:

I entered the competition advertised on the poetry.com website and then received a letter explaining how my poem would be published. I kept the letter which had the poem copyrighted in my name and then visited my poem on the website. However I refused to buy the anthology. When I didn't buy anything my name and poem disappeared off of the website and I couldn't find the anthology. I sent many complaints but never got any answer.

Sapphire Hodges wrote:

I cannot tell you how excited I was to get a notice that poetry.com would publish my poem, the first I've ever published. They had all kinds of little notes on the side of the acceptance letter saying things like "nice prose!!" And they kept saying how they were soo picky and this was a big honour, because my poem was sooo beautiful and they were going to put it in a big beautiful book, (something about nature, I can't remember the name...) Sure it was disappointing when the book featuring my poem cost so much, but the real kicker came later when my brother, (probably out of jealousy, and don't tell him I said that) entered one of his poems. It was a jumble of nursery rhymes and about the stupidest poem ever written, but he also got an acceptance note, in the SAME book as my beautiful poem, with the SAME little "nice prose" notes and the whole 'this is such an honour cause we are sooooo picky' junk. Ouch!!!

What a humiliating rip-off! Who do they think they are?!

Doug Thiele wrote:

I'm a pro lyricist and a published poet. My lyrics have been recorded by major artists, and my latest chapbook of poetry was published by a small publishing house in Chicago.

I'm writing because I was president of a non-profit songwriter organization in Hollywood which, among other things, tried to protect songwriters from scams. The situation with many of the poetry organizations you've described is common in all fields of writing...songwriting, poetry, short story and novel writing, etc.. These organizations play on some writers' unrealistic expectations and suspicions about the business. Their job is to separate writers from their money. We call the song scammers "song sharks." Maybe these poetry orgs. should be called "Poem sharks."

I've seen and dealt with lots of these scams, and your subscribers should be aware of a couple of things. First, anyone who wants money from you for publishing or reading services is trying to rip you off. No legitimate publisher will take money from you up front. Second, what these people are doing is legal. That's right, legal. They're not promising to deliver something they don't. Cavaet emptor.

What you can do, folks, is to support the legitimate poetry magazines and publishers. Yes, it's really hard to get published there, but that's the point. You might want to find poetry outlets that are there for the love of the written word. I'm a peer award winner at PrairiePoetry.com, and can recommend them to you. The fact that Writers Weekly is trying to help speaks well for them as well.

Don't be discouraged...keep on getting your poetry out there. But as they say, "Trust in Allah but tie up your camel. Good luck.

UPDATE - 08/21/01:

Bidhan Acharya wrote:

The poetry.com sent me a letter dated July 31 and signed by Howard Ely, the Managing Editor. They informed me that one of my poems (The Clouds) was selected for publising and recording in CD. Indeed, I had sent this via email... after looking at a tantalizing ad.. The letter is alluring, but they have also asked me to submit $59.00 (indeed $79.00... but with $20.00 discounts). I am in Nepal and $59.00 is almost my 20 day's salary. I can not afford. Instead I know that publishing organisations do pay the royalty. This one is asking me to pay..... owh.... is it the way the publishers treat with poets...? Thank's god... my friend Danielle made me aware of such..... cheatings...

UPDATE - 08/11/01:

Name Withheld by Request:

I submitted a poem to their site, was excited at being told it was going to be published in a book. Then, had to pay for a copy of the book for myself. Then was sent a copy of my poem on a plaque that I was also billed for that item. Then I was told I could PAY to go to a writers conferance where I may win an award for my poem. Also was told they\'d like to use my book in another publication and could PAY them to include it. In short, I was foolish, hopeful and ripped off. THEN, I decided to forget that site existed and pretend I wasn't so stupid.

UPDATE - 08/08/01:

Rick Graves wrote in:

My name is Rick, I started writing poetry to help me deal with the pain of my multihandicapped daughter, A friend told me to send some of them to poetry.com, I sent them one and they wanted to publish it, I was so excited that i sent another,the same responce so I sent the third one to them. I received letters telling me how good they were, When all was said and done, I had sent 3 poems and they were to publish them in 3 books, I sent my 50 dollars to get us a copy. Our book never came.we have contacted them after 8 months of waiting,they told us that they had a publisist oversight and none of my work was published, We have not recived our book, our money,our the recognition that they promised. I will never send then another thing I do. Thanks for your time

JD Brown wrote in:

Back about 4 years ago, before email and web sites became really popular, my wife saw this huge ad in the papers to enter this poetry competition. I reluctantly did and was told that I had won. However, I need to pay X amount in order to see my poem in print in the upcoming issue.

We thought about it and smelt a fish. We decided that we don\'t need to see it so badly. It doesn't take a brain scientist to figure out that for a book that thick and to collect $30 or whatever it was for each poetry published, these people are really selling back to you, books that you helped published - and making a fortune for the swindlers.

Think of all those people who've been had and those who will be because this company is still doing it after all these years.

All we can hope for is that this company gets what it deserves.

UPDATE - 07/27/01:

Kim Hartley wrote in:

As editor of a weekly newspaper I receive regular faxes from a variety of "poetry contests" some have been from Poetry.com but there are several others as well. I never publish these "calls for poems" because the risk of fraud is so high. Often these companies will use a literary sounding name as the contact person, vaguely familiar sounding. Beware the contests listed in local papers, there are a lot of scams around.


Summary: We have received dozens of complaints about this firm. They make it look like a big honor to "win"...and then you have to pay for the book your poem appears in. Then they send additional offers to try to get you to buy other things with your poem on it. One of our readers sent in a fake poem of jibberish to them and was accepted.

We received so many complaints about Poetry.com that we forwarded info. directly to the Maryland State Attorney General. They wrote right back to us and asked all individuals who have complaints about this firm to contact them directly here:

Tara B. Letwinsky
Mediation Supervisor, Consumer Protection Division
Office of the Maryland Attorney General
200 St. Paul Place, 16th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone (410) 576-6304
Fax (410) 576-7040
tletwinsky@oag.state.md.us

Also, Joy Bryant is collecting names of those who have complaints against poetry.com for a possible class-action lawsuit against that firm. She has retained an attorney and they are currently building a list of poets who have complaints. Please contact Joy ASAP via email at: jebryant@earthlink.net

Response WritersWeekly received to its inquires into the matter:

No response to our inquiries.

Excerpts of correspondence submitted by writer(s) filing report:

C. Lloyd:

You mentioned in today's article (March 28/01) that some 
poetry places are scams.  A friend of mine was invited to
enter one of his poems {to Poetry.com}.  You can imagine 
his feelings when he discovered that he was limited to 
33 characters per line and only 20 lines.

Instead of writing them a poem, he explained (in the
space provided for the poem) that he wasn't going to
bother wasting the time or the effort to enter a poem
if they weren't going to at least let him have a decent
line length.
The response? They told him that his poem had been accepted for publication.

Danielle:

Angela.... I had just read your email on various
complaints/scams, clicked on one of the links and found
this huge list of complaints about the Poetry.com
people. The information sounded oh so familiar! I went
to the Poetry.com website just now to find out if my
poem that I posted was there. EEEEEK!!!! I found
another one of my poems listed, with the wrong
title.....and.... its listed for print in the same
book. I NEVER Authorized that one to be printed!!!!! I
never even had received a letter telling me that they
approved it. I never sent them any money, because after
the first letter I figured out that they were after
money. I still thought it would be cool to have the
book in print. When I received the 2nd letter telling
me that I could participate in their Poetry Laurete
program for only $149. bucks I was really thinking that
this was a money maker for someone. HA! Obviously not
me! Yesterday when I received yet another letter
telling me that they wanted my permission to put my
poem on audio/cd and if I would pay them $30 bucks they
could mount my poem on a plaque I thought this is
rediculous. NOW... my big problem is.... How the heck
do I get my poems off their website? How do I retract
my permission to print one poem, and nail their asses
for taking my other one? Okay yeah, I feel slightly
stupid here, but good grief.....if someone as
intelligent as me can fall for this crap, what happens
to the little guy who doesn't know any better? On one
of the links that I followed from your complaint
section of your newsletter mentioned a class action
suit agaisnt ISP/Poetry.com. I did email the gal
telling her that I would sign the petition. Doesn't
this stuff just blow your mind? There has got to be a
way to stop these freaks from preying on innocent
people.


Anna Marie:

Hello Angela; I just want to add my two cents to others
who have complained about www.poetry.com Yes, it
appeared to me too, to be a website generating a lot of
exposure for the individual poet, and for me (at
first), it was. Then a year or so went by (in which I
received tons of junk mail and money requests from
them, which I ignored), and they began publishing poems
on my page, written by someone who happened to have the
same name as me (almost). I emailed them, snail mailed
them, called them (forget it, no one answers!), and
snail mailed them a second time, requesting they remove
those poems from my page. No such luck. I will wager
that the one who really wrote them is even more sore
than I am! And has just as much luck getting through to
them. Please warn your newsletter subscribers that this
is a lifetime "hook" and they will have absolutely no
access as regards communication with this Mr. Howard
Ely, or his staff at poetry.com I have sent no more
poems in (for nearly a year now), and when folks ask me
where they should send theirs, I tell them:
www.poetry.con Keep up the great work on this warning
web page of yours, Angela, and thanks for letting us
spout. 

Jason:

I have entered seven poems on there site.I
was sure to win. But no I didn't. I checked
the previous winner he only had one poem
entered that was worst than mine. Well
anyway, they sent me back letters saying I
was invited to Washington DC, and were
charging over 500 dollars. I was excited, but
I had no money. I thought I would be sure to
win one of the  monthly contests so I could
go. It never happend. So I was reading your
site on this fraud, and when I tried to
remove my poems they wanted me to call a long
distance number. Like thats going to happen.
I chang the first poem I entered to just
abunch of q's and 1's. Then I tried to enter
a  short poem called fakers about how they
are frauds and it wouldn't go through. So I
am going to send a letter to them saying I
want my money  for that book I ordered that
hasn't even came for like two months already.
Now if we get a chance to act on this I want
more than my 50 dollars back. I  will be
writting again to them if the first letter
didn't help, and this time it will be from a
lawyer.


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