Be wary of kids' writing competitions!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    A young friend of mine entered a writing competition over the Christmas holidays. She sent it in via email in mid-January. The competition was run by a mob who had run other competitions in the past, often via school. They send competition details to the school and kids are encouraged to write something and submit it.

    That's all OK.

    My concern began when my young friend (she's 12) received an email addressed to her (not to her parents). The email congratulated her on her wonderful entry, and then told her they wanted to publish it in an upcoming book. the catch - she has to pre-order a book in order for them to publish her work. No order, they don't publish. Unless she wins the competition, they said failure to order won't affect the competition outcome. But I personally am not so sure. it would be very embarrassing for them to publish their book and have a winner who refuses publication permission because of this shonky practice.

    They market this at the child, so the kid will pressure the parents into buying a book. The book prices are massively over-inflated (I know publishing costs) and I calculated that they are making at the very least, A$250,000 a book. Four times a year. And probably up to four times that.

    I'm really angry about this - it's pure exploitation of children, and using schools to sell it to begin with. The schools act in good faith because to begin with, this looks legit. They get sent a package about a writing competition and pass it on to the kids. Some teachers actually set it as an exercise. They send the forms home for parents to fill in, and this application form includes personal contact details. Parents fill in forms form school because they trust the school. But in this case, it's not for the school and these shonks then, BEFORE the competition is judged, contact EVERY entrant personally AT HOME and offer the same publication deal. IF you buy the expensive book package. I'm talking really expensive. They even say, "Buy a copy for grandma, she will love to see your name and photo published in a book! You could be a published author, while you're still in school!!"

    I want to warn you because this company, who have been doing this for 14 years now, are now targetting the US.

    This has been set up legally, I suspect. But it is highly immoral and coercive.

    So if you get any writing competition paperwork from your child's school, Google the company name online with the word "scam" next to it, then see what you get.

    A lot of competitions are really good. But it's bad ones like this, that really are covers for vanity publishing marketing, that put a bad taste in my mouth.

  2. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I remember entering a poetry contest like that when I was about the same age. Got a letter just like that, too. It's not new here, either, just finding new venues to get to kids.
  3. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    yeah, they happen here too. Reminds me of the "who's who in high school" book. You can be in this book of kids who are 'somebody' and have 'accomplished things' and it is supposed to be a big honor except that if you don't pay for the privilege by buying their superexpensive book with your picture and blurb about you then you don't get into the book. They sent these to all of the kids in our high school for years. When I was in high school one of the counsellors told ALL the parents that it would be super hard to get into even our state university here in town if you were not in the book. You barely need a passing grade on the ACT to get into this school. Then one of the student aides in the counselor's office found the letter and check that she was sent with the amt of $$ she got for every student that signed up from the list of names and home addresses that she gave the company. Same aide took LOTS of pics of her stash of booze in her office, and of her drinking beer with students in that office.

    She did get fired finally. The aide has worked extra hours at her weekend job to buy the book and was furious to find that it was all a scam.
  4. Mamaof5

    Mamaof5 Guest

    There are adult geared scams like this as's rather sickening to prey on people, let alone children like this. is another one that is like this, buy the book we just published you poetry in or pay for your plane ticket and dinner you won the first prize award from us. Be a speaker at a special dinner just for the first prize winner but you have to pay for the ticket to the dinner to hold your spot...

    *shakes head and fist*

    There's a decent blog from a publishing agent that zeros in on the scams Writer Beware does some lists of what to watch out for and what is legit. I'm sorry your friend has to go through this, the publishing world is full of trolling sharks (don't get me started on Publish America either) circling the tiny pool of water. It's not easy getting published but it's not impossible either. I hope she has better luck and the competition is at least the legit part.
  5. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    I've never heard of the writing competitions but I've heard of similar schemes. When my kids were in high school we got notices in the mail about some kind of books that would be a directory of "outstanding students". They say that your child has been nominated (inferring that someone at their school recommended them) and they send you a form to fill out about their interests and activities. Then you have to send it back ... with a hefty fee ... which will also entitle you to a copy of the book!

    Now my two are both good smart kids but neither one exactly over-exerted themselves in high school and both of them would tell you that their favorite teacher was the one who presided over the in-school suspension classroom! So I kind of doubt that anyone at the high school would have nominated either of them as "outstanding students", but we did get a good laugh out of it!
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    This scam thing came around over my neck of the woods too. I cant remember the exact one but it was some thing where you wrote or drew or some such thing and it was in a book but in order to get the book and see it, you had to pay this gigantic sum of money. The book was never in any library I passed.

    We did all get a good giggle though when both Jamie and then Cory received nominations to run in the Miss Teen NC pageant if we only sent in X amount of money and sold X amount of tickets! Oh...and bought a book! I really should have kept those letters.
  7. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    When Jess was in 4th grade the PTA got a bunch of these things and decided to do their own version as a fundraiser. Instead of buying a book with all the kids' work or whatever, your child drew a picture - the recommendation was that they draw a picture of themselves but some did other things - and then you got to pick what you wanted to buy with the picture htey drew on it. The cheapest item was a ceramic tile 4" by 4", unglazed, for $12. When you got it you realized that the picture was going to rub off if you didn't find some way to get it glazed. Our local community art studio was kind enough to fire them with glaze for $2. You could buy a glazed tile for $18 from the company. These were both advertized as trivets but the backs were very rough, some were even sharp enough to cut fingers, and they didn't even bother to glue felt on them. We let Jess get a cd holder for $16 because she really watned it. They tried to get you to buy cards (8 for $20, blank inside, $24 for various occasions) and other things so the kids could "share" their artwork with grandparents and friends.

    While this technically wasn't exactly a scam, the parents and kids sure felt like it was one. Esp as they were supposed to be able to order a book with a picture of each child's artwork and only about 1/3 of the art was in it. The company didn't tell anyone, even in the fine print, that if no items were purchased then the pics wouldn't be in the book - which was sold as a "class memory" that would be "great" for the kids and for their teachers. LOTS of kids couldn't buy anything but contributed $2-$3 to get the book for the teacher ($around 50 per copy) and then found that their art wasn't in it!

    I hate scams in general, but scams that take advantage of kids really make me angry.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    My young friend - she has already been published, when she was 6. She had an article she wrote for a Sydney newspaper competition published because it made the finals. She was the youngest finalist, up against 12 year olds.

    My problem with this one - the competition doesn't mention the book at all. Plus the book, when they do mention it, is high-pressure sold to the kids. Then it is badly overpriced.

    Once ANY publication says "you can be in it, if you pay money," then immediately it loses integrity. It becomes worthless, because being in the book is no longer about merit.

    About - I found a website a few years ago which was a compilation of really bad poems that had been sent to in an attempt to find out how bad it had to be for them to eventually reject an entry. They had gone beyond making up poems by mixing random words together, and moved on to mixing random letters together. They were STILL getting letters from saying, "We love your poem, we want to publish it in our book..."

  9. ML

    ML Guest

    Thank you for the heads up!