Indicators of Fake Writing Contests


Social media is a powerful tool. It can be a boon to those with something to advertise, which can prove beneficial to savy Indies who use that route to market their books. It can also be a way for predators to hoodwink authors into really bad deals. While there are no end to the “classes,” “publishers,” and “author services” that will pop up in your feeds because of targeted marketing, you will also see a number of “writing contests” promising you the world as long as you submit right away (like, before you have time to research the contest and learn more.)

Many of the contests that I see listed as “sponsored posts” on Facebook (advertisements) are total shams. Take from me, a guy who’s been suckered by a couple of them when I went through a “let’s enter a bunch of contests” phase, a bunch of them have some pretty bad crap in the Terms of Service/small print. For example, one such contest reserved the electronic print rights of ALL submissions for YEARS. Before you enter any contest, make sure you look under the hood and do your due diligence on the program itself.

Here are some signs that the contest you are thinking about entering bears further investigation:

  1. Its name is very close to a more well-known contest
  2. You have to purchase additional author packages (or it is strongly suggested) for services of any kind or copies of your own work (like anthologies)
  3. Contest’s page is listed in Google as a possible scam, or has negative marks in Predators and Editors/Writer’s Beware ( or Winning Writers (
  4. Low standards (everyone gets in) and/or the contest is popularity based (measured by the amount of clicks/traffic a story produces)
  5. Contest is free but writers must pay high prices to purchase personal copies
  6. Unusually high promised prize money
  7. Contest hosts are unusually slow to respond or don’t respond at all to questions
  8. It is hard to find info on past winners
  9. Contest judges have fishy or no qualifications
  10. Winners or “qualified entrants” are promised entry into a an anthology (and the word limit is very low)
  11. The “prize” is something that will actually cost money or is intangible (like agency representation from a company with no real credentials)
  12. Top prizes are only awarded if you pay to attend a conference or convention to receive it
  13. Published bio or extra info in an anthology alongside your work costs additional monies
  14. You feel a contest representative is trying to coerce you for any reason
  15. They try and sell you a “publishing package” or state that such a package is worth $XYZ in prize money
  16. You give up any kind rights for submitting (not necessarily for publishing, which is a later step)
  17. You have to subscribe to anything to enter/a subscription is included in the entry cost
  18. The contest is sponsored by a publisher that turns up scam warnings with a quick web search
  19. The publisher heaps unnecessary praise on your submission
  20. The contest was advertised in a venue unrelated to publishing (Facebook, newspaper, popup ad, etc.)


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