When you’ve been a writer for more than 30 years, odds are you’ve fallen for a scam or two. Make mine three and a half. The first was years ago in my drinking days, when my early career dreams were to be Charles Bukowski.
Based solely on my experience watching “Barfly,” I figured the key to a poet’s success was to get drunk in seedy places until you were discovered. So I tried it. And it worked!
One day out of nowhere, I got a letter in the mail that said so-and-so-random company wanted to make me a published poet. All I had to do is send them $50 and, oh yeah, a poem. I did.
To be fair, I guess it wasn’t really a scam. I did receive a colossal hardcover book packed with about 8,000 poems from other unknown poets. The typeface was the size of a gnat.
I had to scour onion-skin-thin pages with a magnifying glass to find my name. But indeed, there I was – a published poet!
The next scam was a sham. On a college campus, no less. I wrote a weekly column for the Brooklyn College “Excelsior,” but my column had gotten bumped one week for that irritating stuff called breaking news.
At least that was what I was told. When I flipped through the paper, I was shocked to see my column still there –but with “Jerry’s” face and byline.
It had not been an accident. Jerry had seen the printout of my column lying around the office, knew it wasn’t running that week, and submitted it as his own. Word. For. Word.
For the record, Jerry was some dude in his mid-40s who hung around the college newspaper office for unknown reasons. Not unlike a stray dog at the beach, we all thought he was somehow connected to somebody. So no one really questioned it.
After the plagiarism incident, it was questioned…all the way to college authorities. Ends up he wasn’t even a student there. Just some dude in his mid-40s who hung around the college newspaper office for unknown reasons. He was banned from campus forever.
I recall him following me home on the subway, tears streaming down his face as he hung limply onto the overhead strap and begged me to drop my complaint against him. That image of him ingrained in my brain remains nearly as disturbing as the plagiarism.
Scam number three was again a publishing company. Since I was already a published poet, they couldn’t pull that one on my again. But they did get me to agree to run a second-edition of two of my previously published books.
They said they would handle all the marketing –which I believe is code for shut down the company and steal all the royalties.
Thankfully, the only money I paid out to them was to purchase author copies of my own books. Anyone want a second-edition copy of “Rats Incredible”?
The final half-scam is an email still sitting in my inbox. The subject line screams: “Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max want stories from Authors like YOU!” Wow. From a published poet who writes about rats? I’m intrigued!
Ends up all you have to do to apply is watch some video and then share your original idea for a film and television series. They’ll do the rest –which I believe is code for shut down the company and steal your original idea.
Yeah, I’m on to this one. I’ll file it right beside those other emails that promise I can make a living writing from home in my pajamas. I’ve been doing that since 2009, even without paying someone a bunch of money to find out how.
We published poets aren’t a bunch of dummies, after all. And we even have a $50 colossal book of poems to prove it.