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During the last two years there has been a gathering weight of complaints against the various anthologisers, culminating in my exposť of The International Library of Poetry in The Observer and Sunday Telegraph, and on BBC1's Bookworm on November 3rd 1996.
"If your work is accepted for inclusion in an anthology by one of the major publishers, you will usually receive payment and a free copy of that anthology
If you are accepted by one of the Small Presses (who cannot afford a payment), you will still usually receive a free copy of the anthology.
There is nothing wrong with selling anthologies as long as those who are in that business do not try to give the impression that they accept work 'on merit'. Or that it is anything more than vanity publishing (the writer is, after all, paying the price of the anthology to see his work in print). Or that their anthologies are read by any, other than the smallest of readerships.
Too often claims made by some businesses in an attempt to persuade clients into buying copies of anthologies are not genuine. In those cases it simply becomes - a dishonest attempt to hoodwink gullible members of the public."
Many companies who make a business of selling anthologies will tell you - or at least give you the impression - that your work has been accepted 'on merit' (whatever its poetic quality) and, more misleading, that it was chosen 'in competition with other entries'. many will go to great lengths to tell you how fine the anthology is in which your poem is to appear and how widely it will be distributed, while impressing upon you that you can buy it at the stated price only as a pre-publication offer.
You must remember that the majority of these anthologies are read by very few people other than those who appear in them and their families, and are seldom stocked by bookshops or libraries.
I have also received complaints from both parents and teachers that some of the anthologisers have been "targeting school children." The best example is a school in Nottinghamshire, where over fifty children submitted poems and every one had a poem accepted. Obviously once a child has had a poem accepted for inclusion in an anthology it is very hard for a parent to refuse to buy a copy - a lucrative business indeed!
Hence this circular letter has been distributed to every educational establishment throughout the UK.
If you are one of those who are content to pay the price of an anthology to see a poem in print(for this is what it anmounts to - paying to see yourself published,, which is one of the oldest forms of vanity publishing) then by all means buy a copy. Though many people write that they have been disappointed both by the aesthetic quality of these anthologies and by the quality of the work appearing in them.
© Johnathon Clifford 1997