Earlier this month, a literary journal I followed on twitter was revealed to be a scam. This was devastating news for those who had been accepted (and rejected) by the ‘organisation’ but it was refreshing to see the online poetry community rally around each other and offer genuine support (such as allowing subs from people who had been ‘published’ by the magazine, or mass reporting the anthology to amazon).
Scams like this one unfortunately work because there is a shortage of opportunities compared to talented individuals – plenty of poets, fewer spots to showcase poetry. Artists must be vigilant, determined, and trust in their work and its value. Scrutinise every opportunity and think – is this legit? Is this safe? We assume the best in people, and in a creative community that can lead to wonderful things! But, it is also a weakness that can be exploited. Here are some tips I’ve gathered to protect you and your work. Let me know what is on your list to be mindful of!
Some red flags to watch out when submitting your work:
– Micro fees: e.g. submit for £1, they bargain on a lot of people thinking ‘I might as well’
– No free / discounted copies: this is more concerning if it is a digital format. It suggests that perhaps the audience and the contributors are one of the same
– Can’t find the staff these days: ‘a team of volunteers’ is a common phrase, but if you are struggling to find the name of the editor or figure head (or that name does not seem to match up with an actual human) it might be time to slow down, and ask around
– The wording: typos, insensitive or clumsy sentences are all signs it may be a quick fix. Literary mags and presses tend to be careful about these small details.
– Timings: did they accept your work without leaving much time to read and consider it? Or have they not even received the actual work yet?
– Poor Communications: Have you spotted any mixed messages, were you rejected and then accepted? Are they not quite responding to your question – it could be a mass email or template.
– Money: Publishers will never ask for money – They make money from selling your work, not from your pocket. They are investing in you, it’s not the other way round (that would be independent publishing, which you manage yourself)
How to protect yourself and peers:
– Take your time: Your work is important and deserves to be nurtured.
– Ask: The poetry community is an amazing tool. Not sure of a press or mag? Ask good ol’ twitter.
– At an individual level: Try not to defend others if you don’t know for absolute certain that they are legit. Leave space for magazines and presses to defend themselves.
– At an organisational level: Vet before promoting. A retweet from a trusted account suggests that they are safe and also furthers their reach.
– Check them out yourself: Look up their previous publications (you are probably doing this already to check your work is suitable). If you cant afford to make a purchase and they have shown interest in you, it may be worth asking for free access to view the quality of what they produce.
– And finally, avoid sending everything at once: It is hard to revoke access to your work when they have a full copy. If they are asking for a full manuscript, check out their reputation before sending.
Happy hunting for the perfect home for your poetry!