- The sponsor or publisher asks for money. If a contest requires a reading fee, consider (a) whether the sponsor is a for-profit or nonprofit organization, and (b) whether you feel its activities other than the contest are worth supporting. It does cost money to run a contest, and entry fees can help a nonprofit literary arts organization or publication underwrite those and other promotional costs. A commercial sponsor of a contest, however, should only earn a profit by selling the winning book.
- There is no payment in either cash or publication copies. Many legitimate publications can't afford to pay their contributors, but at the very least they should give you a free copy of the finished product.
- The publisher lists only a P.O. box address and does not list a phone number or email address.
- The offer is a form letter that looks unprofessional. Using handwriting-style typefaces and fake Post-it notes is a popular tactic with direct-mail solicitation from a charity, but you shouldn't find these on an acceptance letter from a publisher.
- Find out which competitions you are eligible for and their deadlines through resources such as Poets & Writers Magazine, which also hosts a writing contests database, the annual Poet's Market guide (Writer's Digest Books), and the listings at New Pages.
- Read the contest guidelines very carefeully and follow them to the letter.
- Always keep a copy of your writing. If you have mailed your submission, do not expect to receive your entry back unless the guidelines explicitly state entries will be returned, and you include a SASE of an appropriate size with enough postage.
The Academy of American Poets does not offer scholarships or grants of any kind. To learn more about grants for poets, visit the Foundation Center.
Detailed guidelines and entry forms for our awards are available on each award page, a list of which is here. If you have read the guidelines and still have a question, feel free to email: [email protected].
A book that is published in a standard edition contains forty-eight or more pages of text. Anything shorter is ineligible for the Academy's Poets Prizes.
We accept online submissions for most of our prizes. Visit our American Poets Prizes page to learn more.