The NYLitMag Who Stole Christmas
Christmas morning came for me! My wife and I were up like little kids, doing our present thing along with our curious dogs and lurking cats... when I checked my phone.
... ... ...
An email?... hmmm... what's this?
From the 'NY Literary Magazine'... oooh... that sounds cool... I've been nominated for their
'Best Story Contest'? Woah! Cool!
At this point, I called to my wife Steph - I was excited! The news was the cherry on top of my Christmas Sundae... Pleased as my cats purring in the sunshine, I let the feeling linger...
I'd deal with the nitty-gritty tomorrow.
... But then, eventually, tomorrow came. It got colder and snowier - and I started reading the email more thoroughly. And something... something about it told me Spam. This is Spam, Ryan. Ryan. Ryan?
Ah, come on little voice in my gut which is always right, surely I deserve this. I'm a writer - nobody ever takes notice of me. Can't just this once, the impossibly good new news be impossibly true?
Later that evening, I messaged a few people in the St Louis Writers Guild about it, to get their take on what they thought about it... and then i did a google search and started reading up.
So, um... remember that little voice in my gut which is always right? - Let's just say, its perfect track record remains perfect. It's a scam. A dirty dirty scam. - Feel free to read up more from other suspicious writers who also did their homework with a quick google search.
No doubt, we writers deserve a little ego-tickle for all our constant hard work and unmitigated worry - but not this way. Not from an unsolicited email from an unheard of magazine with suspicious credentials offering too many others all the same supposedly exclusive accolade. Nope. Nope nope triple Nope.
However, it got me thinking... ok, so if we can use those devious persona non gratas over at the
'NY Literary Magazine' as a template for a writer award hoax, then what does a real award notification look like?
George Sirois, sci-if author and President of the Missouri Writers Guild writes:
"Contests are definitely a double-edged sword. On one hand, we love the status that goes with being an award winner. We love adding that contest’s logo to our covers. And we love how they do their part to help our books stand out in a very crowded market. At the same time, authors should know better than to put their hard-earned – and hard-to-come-by – money toward every single contest they see, especially considering how they vary so much in entry fees (from nothing to $90-$100 per category). They can be fun when we’re not wagering our book’s annual income to see if we’ll at least make the semifinals, but it’s not a guarantee that getting a foil sticker from BooksSharonLikes.com will result in a sales boost. So please do your research. Maybe look up past winners to see how they are doing with their accolades. And remember, if it’s too good to be true, that’s because it is. Getting an email saying you were nominated for a contest you had no idea about and requesting that you send in money as either a reading fee or to secure your spot is about as much of a lock as the Publishers Clearing House."
Likewise, steam-punk author, current St Louis Writers Guild Historian and former President,
Brad R Cook writes:
"For writing contests it's best to check how long they've been around, and find out what you are really winning. I'm not opposed to reasonable entry fees, especially if the prize money is much more than the fee. A good way to tell legitimate contests is by the judge(s) and past-winners. Legitimate contests will be transparent about all aspects, from the submission rules, to the prizes, and judging. - feel free to site me as a guy who has worked on contests for years."
Moral of the story?
Do your homework. Ask questions. Pay attention - from little things like websites ending in '.org's, .edu's, and .gov's' to accumulating a gradual Who is Actually Who in our current literary world. Be wary of what I'm calling an essentially 'Paying for Prestige' scheme - IE - You Paying Us $ = Our hitherto unknown shiny award (picture)/service/promise. Not all that glitters is gold, you know. When writers, literary agents, and publishers keep saying our industry and art is constantly changing, we actually really truly... mean it! (crazy, huh?) It means you need to do your best to stay up to speed. Keep your eyes peeled! Stay involved with your writers guilds! Continue investigating new ways to share your writing!
Adapt. Invest. Grow.
- Ryan P Freeman
PS, while gathering images for this post, I tried to revisit the said pariah NY Literary Magazine's website... which is now Suspiciously/Conveniently "Temporarily Under Maintenance"
... More Dead-Pans...