Friday, April 17, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Lulu Acquires Poetry.com

Until very recently, www.Poetry.com was the Internet home of the infamous International Library of Poetry (ILP), the nation's premier (and I use that adjective with irony) vanity poetry anthologizer. But in early March, the Poetry.com domain was purchased by self-publishing service Lulu.

Why was the domain for sale? According to Wikipedia, "Publish Today and Noble House Books, the branches of Poetry.com that managed the publishing and printing of their books, have gone out of business." Wikipedia is never the most reliable resource, but Lulu appears to confirm this report on the new Lulu Poetry website: "Lulu.com, an award winning Internet company, recently purchased the URL 'www.poetry.com' from the previous failed business that owned it."

Here's PW's coverage of the purchase. And here's Lulu's rather arch press release.

I covered the vanity anthology scheme recently in a post on brand-new vanity anthologizer Eber & Wein, but briefly, here's how it works. The anthology company places ads in various high-visibility publications announcing a free poetry contest, with cash prizes for the finalists and guaranteed publication for finalists and semi-finalists. Everyone who submits is declared a semi-finalist, no matter the quality of their poem. The company then hits them up for money: $40 or $50 to buy the anthology, plus, often, substantial fees for "extras"--adding a biography to the anthology, having the poem mounted on a plaque, attending a big bash poetry convention...the list goes on. It's not exactly a scam, since if you buy something you do receive it--but the anthologies never see the inside of a bookstore (despite the companies' claims), and because there's no editorial gatekeeping, they are not regarded as a legitimate publishing credit.

So should we be rejoicing at the demise of a major deceptive scheme that for decades has been relieving inexperienced writers of their cash? Will Lulu use that bad old domain to turn over a new poetic leaf? Or will it be vanity anthology business as usual?

Lulu's press release claims that it is completely overhauling and rebuilding the domain. Granted, it's early days, but the new Lulu Poetry website doesn't so far show much sign of overhauling. It's got a new template, but otherwise is very similar to the old Poetry.com (courtesy of the Internet Archive), with many of the same categories (Greatest Love Poems, Need Help Rhyming?, Test Your Poetry IQ, etc.) and much of the same content. The 9/11 Poetry sections differ only in the number of posted poems. The Poetic Techniques section of the old website is identical to that of the new--including several articles by Len Roberts, who was Educational Director for the ILP, in charge of its fake poetry association/convention division, the International Society of Poets.

The free contest has changed, however. The annual prize amount has dropped from $10,000 to $5,000, and a daily prize of $25 has been added. And while much of the verbiage of the contest rules remains unchanged from the old website to the new, a community ratings element has been added to the judging, with (unnamed) judges selecting winners "from among the top 10% of poems with the highest daily, monthly and yearly ratings by the community."

Most significant, Lulu has removed the following language from the contest guidelines: "Additionally, various promotions are conducted from time to time." This innocuous-sounding sentence covered the ILP's shilling of anthologies and other products to contest "semifinalists." And compare the old Poetry.com FAQ, which includes an entire section on anthologies, to the new Lulu version, in which there's no mention of anthologies at all. A response from a Lulu staff member in the Lulu forums makes this explicit: "For the record, the 'crap poetry anthologies' have already ended and we have no interest in starting them again."

So it would appear that Lulu plans to discontinue the vanity anthology portion of the business (it does offer publishing services to poets--but it's a self-publishing service, after all, and there's no linkage to the contests). Nor could I find any evidence that Lulu plans to retain any of the ILP's associated vanity-style activities--the International Society of Poets convention website, for instance, now defaults to Lulu Poetry.

This is good news--although we shouldn't get too comfortable. Any gap that might be left by the demise of the ILP will easily be filled by any of the many other vanity anthologizers still in business--or by the new ones, such as Eber & Wein. There's also the question of whether Lulu can transcend the toxic associations of the notorious URL it has acquired. There's some bitter discussion of this in the Lulu forums, and Lulu is clearly aware of the problem--a followup article in PW quotes Lulu's PR Director, Gail Jordan, who notes that "people have been contacting Lulu with questions about its association with Poetry.com’s former incarnation and that the company is 'trying to be very transparent and be very up-front' about the difference." Given the shortness of the public attention span, my guess is that the bad memories will soon fade. But only time will tell.

A final note: though this doesn't seem to have been officially announced, Whois records indicate that Lulu has also taken ownership of several other domains associated with the ILP: www.Poets.com (the ILP's social networking website, which remains unchanged); www.Picture.com, a.k.a. the International Library of Photography (the ILP's vanity photography counterpart, whose website is still active but which is currently closed to contest entries and claims to be "revamping the contest in an attempt to improve the entire system"); and www.ArtsandKids.com (the ILP's vanity arts contest for kids, which targets educators and is still soliciting entries).

33 comments:

The Word Seeker said...

Back when I was 16 I was told I was the winner of $10,000 and that my poem was going to be published and read at a convention by Montel Williams. As it turn out it was a fake and never went back to poetry.com I got the book of my poem that was published and I hate it. I hope Lulu changes things around.

Anonymous said...

Why not do a Travis Tea on them? Submit a poem similar to the bad rhyming of a Duran Duran song and see if they "buy" it!

Just the other day,
I was going on my way,
I looked back to the shore,
Life wasn't there no more.

If they buy it, then we know it's a scam.

Erin Cabatingan said...

Back in high school, I took a creative writing class and one of the requirements was that we had to send something to a publisher, or attempt to be published each semester. Poetry.com was one of the ones we could send to--I think it was fairly new at the time and out teacher didn't know much about it.

I think about half our class sent in a poem--it was probably the easiest way to try and get published--and I think we all got letters back saying we were semi-finalists. Yay!

Thankfully, with so many of us "winning" we figured out what it was and no one purchased the book. I always wondered though, if they actually put my poem in the book, or if they only put your poem in if you actually bought it.

And I did, out of curiosity, write a really bad poem and send it in, and guess what--again, I was a semi-finalist!

I know, I'm just such an amazing poet, to have almost won so many times.

playingwithchildren.blogspot.com

Mary B said...

I'm afraid that all this means is that ILP became too well known as a scam and will spring up again somewhere else under a new name.

Talia said...

I think Mary B's got it.

Paul Maurice Martin said...

Award Winning Haiku

So many poets
Write poems about poems
What a bore that is.

Winner of the 2009 Paul Maurice Martin “Haikus About Boring Poetry Award” – as printed in the Anthology of Boring American Poetry That Won Questionable Awards, Deluxe Edition

Frank Baron said...

One down - a few dozen/hundred to go.

Maybe, just maybe, a new version won't rise from the ashes. Maybe, just maybe, the general public's improving Google-Fu is beginning to have an effect on scam-meisters.

If so, you and Ann can take a bow for helping make that happen. Good on ya'.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why they went out of business--they've been using the same formula for dozens of years. I also hope Lulu doesn't dilute their own credibility out of greed.

We're hoping you do right by the industry, Lulu!

(Hi aka, nice to see you.)

GoodWord

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

They went out of business because the person that purchased the company was not very bright and put two people in charge that were not fit to be short order cooks in a restaurant. They could barely read and write.

Yolanda said...

I have not been to the ILP site for a long time and was surprised to be directed to a different site when searching for my poems. A friend of mine has been telling me for years that it was a scam after I purchased an anthology where my poem was published. I've always wondered if there were real winners; after reading TheWordSeeker's lament about being faked of his $10,000 winning, I'm glad I stopped patronizing ILP's services, though I continued to send in my entries. No winnings for me except for "The Editor's Choice" citation for every poem I sent in and published. ILP probably published every entry, good or bad. Will someone tell me if there were really poets'conventions held in Washington D.C...or were those conventions also fake?

ehcmier said...

ALERT! A friend of mine hasn't received any money from sales of his books at Lulu. Attempts to contact them have not been answered.
Google: lulu complaints

This is happening to many people. I smell a class action lawsuit. I purchased one of my friend's books, and thankfully I received it, but all my friend received was a notice of the sale. He's owed $25 US for my purchase alone.

Anonymous said...

I, too, had a couple of poems published in the ILPs supposed legitimate anthology. This world is overrun with scum that have no conscience, and all of their integrity (I am being sarcastic)is in their pockets and "black" souls. In case they don't realize, God is omnipresent; He is everywhere at once and sees all that is occurring. He will exact his justice upon them in His own perfect time. May this bit of wisdom be seen and adhered to by you, the ILP fakers, and anyone else, for that matter, who feel the need to take unfair advantage.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out what is really going on with the site. When I went to poetry.com I tried to find all my poems that were written, but I am having a hard time . If lulu bought the company then they should have records of every poet and poem that was written. How do I find my poems. How to we know that you wont do the same thing as poetry.com and cheat people out of what is rightfully theirs

mscoraboo said...

In 2008 I started writing poetry and I have posted 25 poem trying to win a contest and not one said that I have won.
I did not know poetry.com did not exsist until today (10/12/09) when I try to go to there site I found out that its now called LuLu poetry. I reg.and login with them to see if my poems would come up and it told me that I have none posted, I do not know what happen to all that I've posted.So now I'm woundering did they run or steal everyone creative work? I notice on there site that there is no where say CONTACT US!

clmoore said...

I also published a poem thru poetry .com and have one of the anthologies....how so disenhearted I feel now...thinking I actually was a great writer....I also had been given awards and yet you sat they are fake? My bubble just burst....I really thought I was an exceptional writer and now I wonder....clmoore@yahoo.com

Eel Wind said...

But previously, I did won a bronze medal once. And I did received it at the end.

Anonymous said...

I've posted several so called Award Winning Poems at Poetry.com for years. And, I did ask myself..."If I'm so good, and, receiving awards, where is my money?" It never made sense to me that we write the Award Winning Poems, and, have to turn around to BUY it. What's wrong with this picture? F-R-A-U-D is what I always assumed. But, with stars like Henderson, Tony Orlando headlining events, I'd sit back a second or two, and, STILL come to the same conclusion. F-R-A-U-D!

Sadly, I believe Lulu is operating fraudulently too. I've tried to gain access to MY WORK..MY POEMS, and, am NEVER ABLE TO RETRIEVE ANY OF THEM.

I want my poems. I don't want the thieves stealing my thoughts anymore. I don't want them making one cent on my work.

How do we get our poetry from Lulu?
Do we have to retain an attorney to gain access? Does anyone know? I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Also, Lulu MAKES US THINK we can OBTAIN OUR POEMS..BUT..I'VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO SEE ANYTHING.

I HAVE A FEELING IT'S THE SAME PEOPLE OPERATING A SIMILAR SCAM.

Glacierman said...

Hasn't anyone ever printed out copies of their own poems BEFORE submission????? Sheesh.

Some years ago, my wife and I conducted our own experiment with poetry.com. We both submitted poems and both were declared great stuff and were to be published in a new anthology they were planning. Yay! *wink*

Yup...buy a copy...pay extra for a bio (vanity runs amok)...etc, etc.

Sooooo....my wife bought a copy of the book. I did not.

Her poem was published. Mine was not.

Point made: poetry.com was a scam.

Glad they are gone.

Anonymous said...

one who wants to get my poetry back from Lulu...I have copies of the poems but want my poetry that they got from ILP away from Lulu...I wonder what they are doing with it...I believe my poetry was very good irregardless of any poetry scam...Since it is my work, I am entitled to know about my poetry.... Lulu should not keep us in the dark...Maybe I will see a lawyer....I never gave Lulu permission to acquire my poetry......By their keeping us in the dark I suspect they may be selling my work....planning to consult with my lawyer

Anonymous said...

A little necrocommenting here, for anyone who happens to wander by and read some of the previous comments.

No, Lulu is not stealing your poetry.

I'm not associated with Lulu in any way, but I can still say that for certain, for a simple reason: People only steal things there are a market for, and there is no market whatsoever for random amateur poetry. "ILP" found the only market there was: the people who wrote it, and their families and friends. That's why you had to buy it to get published: nobody else would. Did you buy any of their other volumes besides the one your poem was in?

In short, the only person Lulu could sell your poems to would be you, the way "ILP" did. There's very little paying market for poetry of any type, and none whatsoever for the short (so they could stuff more in a book), amateur (because pros would see through the scam) poetry that "ILP" solicited.

Lulu is not selling your poetry because there is nobody who wants to buy it, any more than you want to buy my poetry. Unless you're Maya Angelou, about the only way to make a buck off of poetry is to work for a greeting card company.

Also, some people seem to be very unclear on the concept of an electronic file. If your poetry is not on the current website, it means that it has been deleted, not "stolen". You don't need to "get it back" because it doesn't exist anymore.

Anniha said...

t want to know how to remove all my work from this website! I dont remebr my profile information crap and there seems to be no way to CONTACT these people???I was a smuck I sent these people my stuff for 15years or so.I did buy a couple of the anthologies but that was all the money i put into it. I jsut want to know what I can get outta this to be honest..it was a sham I feel that I should be compensated for htis company exploiting my writtings under false pretenses.

Jacquelyn N'Jai said...

I have tried for 5-6 years to get information on Poetry.com. I had no luck. To see the level of work done on this Blog is fantastic.
Here is some more information.
Jeffrey B. Franz, was secretary and President of Poetry.com. Get this, there is an entire family of thugs who robbed us. The most noteworthy is Keith S. Franz, ESQ. This attorney helped them constantly avoid liability by constantly changing the business name. I am currently reporting him to the Maryland Bar Association.
There is an Azrael and Genn Franz as well. Anyone who wants to join me in my lawsuit is welcome.
Last but not least, I suspect LULU.com is run by the same people under another name.
Thank You So Much! May God Bless You.

Cordelia said...

I too was ripped off with my poetry I sent into Poetry.com and I've felt un-easy with the site for the past five years to hear about what has been done to so many of us. I too feel that there should be some kind of Class Action Law Suit filed against these people. I don't believe it should be just done away with and pushed on a back burner and forgotten. Some people like me put our heart into what we wrote, and everything that was written was not trash or junk! Some poetry belonging to others I read were beautiful poems written by beautiful people with a great mind, and visonary scrutiny. If we don't fight for anything else, lets fight for the real artist who sent in real work, trying as hard as they could to be a real honest winner. On the other hand the most serious thing about this entire scam is this... No matter what Man thought about your poetry, You don't know who heart you touched. God excepted your work as a gift, as long as you sent it as a gift. He'll still reward you for a good work done. Be proud of youself! And for those of you who never made a copy of your work, God has as a copy and he knows every line you wrote. BE ENCOURAGED you did a great job! Learn from this what not to do the next time. But don't stop writing! just do your research before you submit. Smile!

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about a poem I posted on the old poetry.com site years ago and thought about printing out a copy. But, as i found out, like so many others...nothing exists anymore and it's another site. And like many others, I tried accessing the old account with the instructions and also, like so many others, received an error message about not having enough information. I've looked and looked and ended up here. I read a comment someone posted about didn't anyone print out a copy of their stuff. Well, I did have copies, but lost everything in a fire several years ago. I had forgotten about having one of my favorite poems online. Well, it's just so disheartening to know I'll never read that poem again. It was one of my favorites, that's why I posted it. I also was told it was good enough for a book, but I didn't have the money at the time so I didn't buy it. From what I've read if I'd of had the money I probably wouldn't have received it anyway. Oh well...maybe the poem will come to me in a dream and I'll remember it word for word. I've always thought of having "sole" ownership of that poem...now I wonder.

Anonymous said...

I've done the same thing as many of you, but as soon as I got those letters telling me to buy my own work I figured it had to be a scam of some sort so I never did. However, if you had an account with the old site (poetry.com) you should still be able to access it on lulu if you remember the username and password. I was able to recover all my poems that way, completely erase the account and close it. Granted who knows if they keep a copy of my work, but at least it's not accessible anymore.

Anonymous said...

ANONYMOUS
LIKE THE REST OF THE POETS ON HERE I SUBMITTED TO LULU, AND FOR THE RECORD, ALTHOUGH WE ARE ALL AMATEUR POETS THE WORK SUBMITTED BY MANY WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR WORLDWIDE PUBLICATION. ONE I WROTE FOR AN ANIMAL CHARITY SOLD OVER 75000 FRAMED COPIES IN 18 MONTHS AND TO MY KNOWLEDGE IS STILL SELLING COPIES, I DIDN'T ASK FOR OR WANT A PENNY FOR MY POEM. TO HELP RE-HOME UNWANTED ANIMALS MY ONLY MOTIVE, I'M TOLD IT SOLD BECAUSE IT MADE PEOPLE CRY, I CAN UNDERSTAND THAT BECAUSE I CRY EVERY TIME I READ IT,
I'M SURE THERE ARE MANY OUT THERE WHO HAVE HAD THAT SAME EXPERIENCE WHEN YOU'VE HAD TO STOP AND GO BACK ANOTHER DAY TO FINISH A SAD POEM. BUT WHAT HAS NOT BEEN MENTIONED IS THE TIME, THE EFFORT, AND IN MANY CASES THE RESEARCH THAT GOES INTO A POEM, OR ESPECIALLY A BOOK. FIRSTLY IT'S THE IDEA, THEN THE VERY ROUGH OUTLINE, THE CHANGING OF WORDS FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING, AND EVEN WHEN IT'S DONE WE MIGHT STILL NOT BE HAPPY WITH ONE OR TWO WORDS, BUT WHEN IT'S TO OUR LIKING AND FINALLY FINISHED WE CAN BE PROUD TO SHOW IT
AND RIGHTLY SO, BECAUSE IT'S OUR WORK, OUR DREAM, OUR CREATION, OUR TIME SPENT, TO HOPEFULLY BRING A BIT OF JOY TO OTHER PEOPLES LIVES.
I SUPPOSE IT WOULD BE NICE TO BE A PUBLISHED POET, BUT I DON'T THINK MOST OF US DO IT FOR THE MONEY, IF THAT WERE THE CASE THERE WOULD BE NO POETRY WRITTEN, THERE WOULD BE NO CREATIVE PEOPLE, NO IDEAS AND NO
DREAMS, NO GOALS TO ACHIEVE, I WAS LUCKY BECAUSE I PUT MINE ON MY BLOG WITH A LINK TO LULU POETRY, SO THEY ARE STILL ON MY BLOG AND COPYRIGHT IS MINE ALONE, IT MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA IF YOU ALL DID THAT, IT WOULD SAVE YOUR WORK, AND WOULD BE GOOD EVIDENCE IN ANY COURT CASE WHEN SCAMERS TRY TO NICK ANYTHING YOU'VE WRITTEN, GOOD LUCK AND DON'T LET ANYONE STEEL YOUR DREAMS.

M.E. said...


I submitted a poem to them and they said I would retain the copyright. I sat down one day and googled the first line of my poem and --LO and BEHOLD--there it was --changed, rearranged and digitized in Google Books as far back as 1920! I was born in the 70's. I wrote the poem in 1989 but submitted in probaby 1999 or 2000
. So, somehow, they made money on my poem. I would love a law suit!

Anonymous said...

M.E. I got some interesting information in 2010 2011 regarding poetry.com. An attorney gave it to me. If you are serious about a suit then let me know. They change their titles or names a lot, but I got the owner's names.

Peace
Jackie

Kristin said...

Poetry.com is under new management now, and has become a scam-free, productive environment for any poet who wants to share their work. Rather than trying to trick you into spending money, the site is free and actually sends free pins to congratulate poets for their activity on the site! Give them a chance again. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

Bull Kristin..What about the royalities it owes us already?

Oliver Delgaram-Nejad said...

I've had stuff published by small presses before, and none of their design and formatting choices looked great. I used lulu to self-publish a collection of all of my favorite ones from other sets. Preferred having control over the design and typesetting etc. Hemmingway self-published too, I think now we're entering the digital renaissance we'll see attitudes change on the vanity front. Non-vanity books are chosen by editors, who are as subjective a method of selection as any other.

pinkcotton67 said...

Please I am trying to get in touch with the person who originally posted this article. I have had tons of poetry disappear from online. I submitted mainly to poetry.com for the last 15 years off and on. First poem I believe was sent in via us mail. I am trying to find all my work and it seems to have just vanished off the internet. Victoria Strauss can you be of any help in where I could find the poems I have put on the internet over the years.