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BBB Tip of the Week

Sun., Sept. 30, 2012

 “Dear Holly,” the email began. “Congratulations! Over the past 12 months we have been reviewing the poetic accomplishments of people whose poetry has recently been discovered in major poetry archives, poetry websites and in print editions released by various publishers in America and around the world…”

 What the writers of the email don’t know is that I haven’t published any poetry for several years now, having concentrated on other types of writing instead. While it’s flattering to be told that I’ve been specially selected, I disagree with the statement that the “International Who’s Who in Poetry 2012” will be among the “finest quality poetry books ever produced.”

 This solicitation was accompanied by a request for an order of one or more copies of the directory and for a “nominal typesetting fee” to include my biographical information.


• While the email did mention a pre-assigned Library of Congress catalog card number, this number does not convey an endorsement by the Library of Congress. It merely indicates that the publisher has applied to the Library of Congress to catalog the book in its system.

• There is no guarantee the directory will be widely distributed, or that it is based on merit. You can always check professional and business directories with trade associations for opinions.

• Ask the publisher who subscribes to its publication and the number of volumes published in past years. If the subscribers to the directory are mainly limited to those whose names appear in it, you can probably infer that it is, in fact, a “vanity” publication for the self-aggrandizement of those listed.

• Beware if the solicitor asks you to pay for your listing, even as a donation. There’s nothing wrong with buying a copy of the book, but money should not be a condition of inclusion.

• Ask to see a past volume of the book. Good directories have a track record and back copies to examine. One characteristic of fly-by-night publishers is that the volume they want you to list in is always their “first.”

• Ask the company how it got your name. Legitimate directories find subjects from contacts rather than lists. Vanity presses just rent mailing lists or acquire club rosters to develop rosters that are nearly worthless in professional circles.

More info or to report scams: Visit the BBB website at Call (509) 455-4200 or (800) 356-1007. Or sign up to receive our Scam Alerts at

Holly Doering, BBB editor


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