Welcome to Writers Talkback. If you are a new user, your account will have to be approved manually to prevent spam. Please bear with us in the meantime

Scam? How should I report it?

edited February 2014 in Writing
Back in September I entered two poems (@£7 for both) for a competition called 'Culpepper's Remedy Mid-Year Poetry Competition' with a closing date of November. (There were other comps running at the same time, e.g. a pamphlet comp) The judge was a Brian Spenser/Spencer (I've now seen it written two ways). I thought I recognised his name... 'thought'. I also looked at the background of the competition which seemed to have been running for a few years.

The results should have been out just before Christmas - Dec 20th.

This is the email I got after the closing date for submission.
[Strange a)how it was from the 'poet' judge himself
and b) how his literary skills leave a lot to be desired]:

'Dear all,

Can I please confirm that if you receive this mail then your poems have been entered into our poetry competition. Aparently our automatic responding system did not respond to everyone who entered.

The entries are now closed and the shortlist will be published on our blog and sent to all entrents before the 20th December 2013. The winner will be anounced as soon after that as possible.

Good luck to everyone who entered and than you for suporting our competition.


I've checked and checked the blog where the results were supposedly to be posted, but there hasn't been a peep from it since November. I wrote a general email query to Culpepper's to which I had no response. Then I emailed Brian directly, using the Reply option to the email of his I just pasted. There has been no response at all.

I've Googled him, but there doesn't seem to be anyone of any note in the world of poetry by that name. I've just sent out a tweet in case anyone else is interested/concerned. Please RT!!

So, in conclusion, it seems that I have been scammed and robbed. I cannot let him get away with this. Does anyone know how/where I should report this?


  • Advertising Standards. It may even come under the remit of the IPM.
  • I'm outraged on your behalf, TN!
    There should be some sort of comeback for this type of scam.
    Maybe it's time for there to be an officially recognised body that genuine online competitions can join so that writers know they won't be defrauded?
    Something that Writers' News could flag up to the writing community, perhaps?
  • One I decided not to bother with was Fish poetry - £14 an entry!!
  • edited February 2014
    14 Euros, Lizy - so around eleven and a half quid - and the chance to win 1,000 euros... so whilst it looks pricy initially, the potential gain is huge compared to most poetry comps. :)
  • I have reported it to Advertising Standards, Carol. Thanks for the info.

    Quote Claudia:'Maybe it's time for there to be an officially recognised body that genuine online competitions can join so that writers know they won't be defrauded?
    Something that Writers' News could flag up to the writing community, perhaps?'

    Yes, I agree, Claudia.

    I'm not sure where I found this particular competition, possibly in the Writing Magazine Competition Special 2013. It was advertised about August time, I think. I no longer have my copy. Maybe Webbo knows whether it was in there.

    The online link to the comp is still there so I copied it and sent it with my complaint.
  • How did you pay, TN? If you used PayPal, there should be some protection for your transaction. If you sent a cheque, that might be a different story.

    I looked at the blog (assuming it's this one: http://culpeppersremedy.wordpress.com/) and I have to say it's the kind of competition I'd avoid. It doesn't make it clear who the judge is or what his credentials are, previous winners aren't published, and the whole thing looks like it's been put together with no money and minimal effort. It certainly doesn't look good when a writing competition promises to send the results to all its "entrents"!

    As you say, it seems to have been going a few years, so there's always a chance that something's happened to Brian and he's innocent of any wrongdoing but unable to respond to emails or update the site.

    Still, it's very frustrating. I hope you get it resolved quickly.
  • Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. And Grrrrrrrrrrr again.
  • Yes, it was Paypal, dan. I wonder how I go about sorting that out. I suppose I'll have to wait first to see what the Advertising Standards people say. Maybe you're right and Brian's not well...
  • Sounds like a really annoying experience. Hope you can get money back through Paypal.
  • Sorry Nell - not to pass the buck, it's not one we've listed. I looked them up myself this morning as it's a completely new one on me, and that name is quite memorable!

    AFAIK Paypal only open disputes within a certain timeframe (90 days?), so that might be a dead end too.
  • Looking at Paypal now - looks like it's 45 days, and only for physical goods (i.e. no protection if it's payment for services)
  • Ah, thanks for checking, Webbo. I think I have an idea where I found it then - either Prize Magic or The Poetry Kit. WM and those are the three main resources I use for comps.
  • Yep, that's the one. I've contacted them in case they wish to investigate.

    I hope I haven't disturbed a hornets' nest!
  • Oh dear. I've just had an email:

    'The nice people at Poetry Kit have been in touch to let me know that some of those who entered last year's competition did not receive the results. My appologies for this and also for resending if you have already had these.'

    Then there's a list (although not sure that they are 'Art' poem results).

    'Thanks also for the many good wishes. Brian is doing very well and should be up and about within the next few weeks. The next edition of the magazine is due in March, but due to Brian's enforced "holiday", it will not be ready until late in April. Our appologies in advance for this.'

    Signed by someone who is not Brian (who can't spell)

    Now I shall have to work out how to withdraw my complaint from the ASA...

  • Just e-mail them and explain you've received an e-mail, so for the moment wish to withdraw your complaint.
  • Hello Tiny Nell,

    Don't worry too much about it - from his speellling erooors I doubt he was strictly above board.

    In my previous carnation as a jewellery maker I was ripped off quite elegantly by someone who said they represented a charity. He said I could send my stall fee as a friend (on PayPal) so they wouldn't incur costs. Yes. I was fleeced. The chair person got in contact several months after and clarified all this and said I could get a refund by sending my details, (I didn't - I'm too soft), but there will always be Karma, I'm sure.

    Unless you've won, s*d 'em.

    Libby x

  • Hello jm, by the way!

    I've subsequently had another email from people (who can spell) at The Poetry Kit:

    'I have managed to contact the organisers of the competition and they have promised to resend the result in case anyone else has missed them. Brian has been very ill since Christmas so things slipped a bit for them.'

    Now I feel sorry for Brian.


    I have also contacted the ASA to withdraw my complaint.

    Thanks, everyone, for your support and advice.

    I wasn't even on the shortlist. Bah!
  • Nevertheless, the errors imply that the competition was less than professional - and they should have put up a message on their site stating Brian's ill-health and apologising for any delays.
  • Yes, Mrs Bear. My response exactly!
  • Oh, poor Brian, and sad you didn't win, Nell.

    Go in for big well-known competitions. Your writing is in a bigger league.
  • Commiserations, TN.

    I think quite a lot of these smaller competitions are often run by just one person. There's always a risk that some other aspect of life will get in the way and mean they're forced to neglect the contest for a while.

    It happened to a friend of mine who runs a literary webzine - halfway through the first competition he ran, he had some major problems with his landlord and had to find somewhere else to live. For several weeks he was trying to keep things ticking over by using the free WiFi in his local McDonalds, on his mobile phone. As a result, he wasn't able to do half the promotion he'd planned and the contest attracted only a handful of entries - nowhere near enough to cover the prize fund. Fortunately, the fund had been underwritten by his writers' group, otherwise he'd have ended up seriously out of pocket. Still, I don't think he has any plans to run another one - it's a lot to take on if you're going to do it properly.
  • That's so right Danfango.

    The competition our club ran recently, we sorted a system of back-up so that one of us could deal with messages if the other person was unable to for any reason.
  • Liz said: Go in for big well-known competitions.

    danfango said: I think quite a lot of these smaller competitions are often run by just one person.

    Yes, you're both right. I think I was seduced by the fact it was advertised in a reputable place and I happened to have two poems already written that fitted the brief. I always use the same three sources for finding out about comps:
    our own WM :x , The Poetry Kit and Prize Magic - and it was in The Poetry Kit.

    Carol, how did I guess that your club would have had it covered?!

    *thinks Carol is very efficient*

    Liz said: Your writing is in a bigger league

    Aww, bless ya!

  • Carol thinks of everything! ;)
  • I'm one of those irritating people that always look for the things that can go wrong. But even I can't avoid it happening at times... :-\"
  • I'm one of those irritating people who suspect the worst!

    Are you sure Brian was really ill, if he exists at all?

    This from a woman who has just sent off a story to Scribble magazine, AND subscribed for a year!
  • Yes, I do now believe Brian to be a real person, though I can't really find anything to prove that he's a noteworthy poet.

    I've heard of Scribble, Lizy. I think you'll be alright there.

    I'm almost ready to submit to the Buxton Poetry Festival. I've sent to them before, so I think it's a safe bet... isn't it?

    Any advances?
  • Buxton is very good. Good luck, TN.
  • No relation of Baggy's Brian is he, TN?

    I got ripped off a few years back,entering a comp advertised in WM. (not the Competition Special) It was a private address; never had any feed back, follow up etc. I suppose I should have reported it, but put it down to experience.
  • sm said: No relation of Baggy's Brian is he, TN?

    I have my suspicions...
  • He could be snail in disguise - wasn't the snail on the Magic Roundabout called Brian? [-X
  • Hello, it's me again.

    I wrote some advice about SHOW DON'T TELL.

    Thank you all for sounding so genuine and friendly, I'd like to introduce myself here, if I may . . . I'm still a very much unpublished person, that's all you need to know about me, except that I'm male, and just over 40 !!!

    Before I tried novels, I got into my head alot of original funny light-weight poetry. I wish I hadn't bothered . . .

    In fact, if you think getting a book published if difficult, then poetry is just about impossible.

    TINY NELL - you sound a true professional poet, so I'd only advise to deal with the very best . . .

    Yet, from what I have learnt - there is NO professional outlet of poetry in the WORLD. But that was in the middle 1990's. NO agent or reputable publisher will except poetry. You only need to read - ARTISTS AND WRITERS YEARBOOK to discover that.

    Most poetry places advertisied in writing organisations are scammers. People who sell a monthly magazine at £7 a go. You can send in your poetry - but YOU pay that £7. They will NEVER pay you an advance.

    I was told back in the 1990's, that they are professionals - from people who got paid £40 per poem - but those people NEVER told me who they used.

    GOOD LUCK TINY NELL . . . I'd still advise you use your poetry idea to turn it into fiction, or even publish your poem in a novel, which is set around it !

    Wasn't that the idea of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO ?

    And didn't that book get a top literary prize, just because of the poetry ?

  • edited August 2014
    I disagree on this one, Machinehurt, in respect to the notion there are no publishers or legitimate competions for poetry. That isn't true, and I speak as a published poet. There's an anthology on my bookshelf with my work in it, from about 13 years ago, which came off the back of a competition I entered free of charge. Same poem was published in a literary journal, which is unfortunately now defunct. Had a few published in other journals, which were regular submissions, no fee, and had free copies as payment.

    And I also happen to know a former poet laureate, who has an agent, who would obviously disagree that no agents will touch poetry. As for poetry publishers themselves, they do exist. Try looking up Bloodaxe.

    But yes you have to be careful of scammers. Although most writing competitions (for short stories, too) come with an entry fee. Sometimes it's hard to know what's legitimate if it appears to be on the surface.
  • I'm published in 60 book anthologies by big, well known publishers. I get paid between £30 and £60 a poem, unless it's the US when it's $100 - $150.

    If you are a good poet then you will get published - and a poet getting published has researched and found their own outlets - why would they give you that hard-won information?

    I've never gone in for a competition, but know many people who have. And who have won.

    What on earth do you mean, no reputable publisher will accept poetry? How do you think poetry books come about?

    Artists' and Writers' Yearbook contains many 'reputable' publishers.

    It's true that agents usually do not accept poets - because they don't earn enough to make it worthwhile - but you don't need an agent to be a poet.

    And I have also been accepted by a 'reputable' poetry publisher and had my own book published.

  • Lizy - I've subscribed to Scribble in the past and had stories published in there. I didn't get paid anything but they were my first publications and gave me the confidence to sub elsewhere. I've now re-published those stories on Alfie Dog and I'm putting a couple in my Short Story Collection (out soon I hope).
    You have nothing to fear. All the best.
Sign In or Register to comment.