Emotional blackmail? Young Writers competition where you've got a good chance of winning, and forking out £16

19 September 2011

Screen shot 2011-09-19 at 11.06.06 Everyone likes to win a competition, right? It makes us feel worthwhile, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It’s even better if you’re a parent and your child wins a competition because you can then bask in their glory without having actually done anything.

Compare that to the feeling you might have when you find out that your kid has won a competition, but that so has loads of their mates at school, and that all winners are going to feel emotionally pressured to pay £15.99 plus postage.

That’s the feeling that has been felt by loads of parents over the past few years, after learning that their younglings are talented little writers. In 2009, website www.youngwriters.co.uk were reported to have ran a competition where 10-year-old humans were asked to write “an imaginative mini saga - a story using 50 words or less” and submit it to the site via their school. The winner gets their work published in an actual book as well as a certificate that acts as proof of their literary greatness. Smart!

But guess what – LOADS of kids appear to have won, and the ‘winning’ entries were all compiled into a book, which as we hinted at, cost £14.99 plus £2.50 postage (it’s now £15.99 in 2011) Leaving the parents of the ‘winning’ kids in a bit of an emotional bind. Also, the book itself is only being sold to parents of the ‘winners’ and will not be available in bookshops or libraries.

Screen shot 2011-09-19 at 10.59.15

Sure, it’ll be thrilling to see the 50 words that your child has penned, but as for the rest of it? How much of THAT will you actually read and cherish? Exactly. When the parent of one of the ‘winning’ little scribes contacted the Young Writers website, she was told that between 60% and 80% of the entries are published. Which makes it seem like less of a competition and more of a money-making exercise for the ne’er-do-wells who run the ‘competition’. Something which they're keen to deny.

It seems as though, two years on, that Young Writers are still at it – a recent Mumsnet thread is devoted to the whole thing. Someone nearby just shouted the word ‘Scum!’ at the top of their voices. Or it might have been “Scam!” What are YOUR thoughts dear readers?

14 comments

  • Dick
    These scams are fairly common these days. Friends of ours with a kid at nursery were told that their child had written his first ever poem, and it was published in a book along with other kids' poems from their nursery, along with a drawing of a car done by the kid and a photo of their kid. A bargain at £24.99. And not bad, since he is only two and has a vocabulary of about 40 words, and cannot manage a straight line yet (drawing, not coke or anything like that).
  • Blimey C.
    Are they also selling the Bitterwallet Magazine Covers Competition book?
  • wombat6025
    My youngest was entered in a poetry competition in junior school and sure enough she was highly placed and her poem was be published in a book - which of course we had to buy. At first I thought it had been a reputable competition, but I then realised the book wasn't published and available to buy outside of the competition... Hard to tell whether the school was complicit in this or simply as gullible as I was.
  • Dai
    This scam has been floating around the world of music for a while too... you get invitied to pay £200 for a slot on a "showcase" day in front of "industry specialists" (the promoter's mates in cheap suits). Or for a track on a compilation album that sells 14 copies, one for each track. Of course screwing gullible musicians is almost reasonable, compared to working with children at infant schools.
  • screddajames
    We had this at our kids' junior school last year - what really annoyed us (and several other parents) was that the school had shared our name and address with Young Writers without, as far as I can recall, our permission. We made our feelings known to the school and they aren't participating this year. I expect that the school get a small kickback from sales of the books but it's still a pretty shabby way to raise money.
  • Rina
    I just received a 'young writers' certificate for my daughter with an invitation to spend £17.99 (inc p&p) on a book containing her 'work'. My niece in a different area of Britain received such a certificate only last week and was over the moon. I was suspicious at the time since from looking at the 'Young Writers' website, I concluded that the booksales are probably their only motivation. Moreover, the only people buying the book are parents so they'd need as many 'successful applicants' as possible. I am going to raise this at the next PTA forum since I think it'd be more beneficial for the school to conduct their own competition. The teachers would be a better judge of how much effort a particular child has put in. My other grip is that the book's subject matter is not particularly readable-lots of what amounts to one paragraph of a pirate story. My daughter was set this as homework and like many typical preteen girls, not particularly inspired by the topic, but no matter since 50 words meant light homework for her group! I'm very tired of schools emotionally blackmailing parents-record a whole school CD and everyone will buy one for £9. A concert at O2 -tickets £20 each and so on.
  • Rina
    I just received a 'young writers' certificate for my daughter with an invitation to spend £17.99 (inc p&p) on a book containing her 'work'. My niece in a different area of Britain received such a certificate only last week and was over the moon. I was suspicious at the time since from looking at the 'Young Writers' website, I concluded that the booksales are probably their only motivation. Moreover, the only people buying the book are parents so they'd need as many 'successful applicants' as possible. I am going to raise this at the next PTA forum since I think it'd be more beneficial for the school to conduct their own competition. The teachers would be a better judge of how much effort a particular child has put in. My other grip is that the book's subject matter is not particularly readable-lots of what amounts to one paragraph of a pirate story. My daughter was set this as homework and like many typical preteen girls, not particularly inspired by the topic, but no matter since 50 words meant light homework for her group! I'm very tired of schools emotionally blackmailing parents-record a whole school CD and everyone will buy one for £9. A concert at O2 -tickets £20 each. And the 'everyone's a winner' approach does not motivate children older than 5. The many certificates are no longer proudly presented to parents. They are simply pulled out of the bag, all tatty with 'everyone got one anyway'!
  • Rina
    oops! No idea why that posted before I'd finished! Sorry! Was too busy moaning to notice.
  • midori
    Yes, I got a letter today as well from youngwriters. Firstly I thought I was too skeptical, but after few clicks, found out this is a scam. i can not tell my daughter who is so pleased. she will find out on monday most of her friends were chosen as well, but probably too inocent to believe there are adults who try to make money in this awful way! I am very angry, and tempted not to buy a book as a protest...
  • JT
    Midori Why on earth would you buy it? Possibly in a response to previous criticisms from years ago (I did my googling) there will be a free copy sent to the school so you can see it there. You can sign the form for 'permission to publish' but not purchase. If everyone did that they would be inundated - HA, make them work. However, YOU MUST send permission to publish otherwise it won't get in the book. I received one of these a few days ago (as did everyone in the class, that I have asked). The class were selected as a group. There will only be one competition winner in the end from the whole country. The letter is v misleading and implies that your child has won something. The letter states ' X's poem has been chosen for publication in ....' (it neglects to mention that everyone else's has too) ..We have notified X's school of their success and to mark X's achievement we've enlcosed certificate of merit etc'. This implies that it is X's success, in fact it is the school's entry as a whole that has succeded. Quite clever. But actually what has the school even 'succeeded' at? Just getting in a compilation of poems, which is one of several (who knows how many this is not given) regional publications. Only out of all these publications will one overall school winner be selected, together with 6 other smaller prizes. To be fair to Young Writers one poem in each book will also get a £10 book token. Terrible emotional blackmail and pressure selling -'X's achievement' (shared by many many others so not much of an achievement) - buy now and get 3 for the price of 2. Respond by xx date etc. Worst of all was the initial delight and sense of pride replaced by a feeling of being conned. Having read more about these vanity publishing schemes and about the dubious history of the owner(s) I would not buy the book on principle - whatever the price.
  • becky
    My daughter also got a letter saying she had won the competition, we were all so pleased and excited, and she did write a very good story, however when we heard how many other children were also ''winners'' we were very annoyed at being misled. A few months later, my other daughter was also chosen for a different book, release date 2 months later. We were so lucky we couldn't justify paying the nearly £20 for the first book before we realised it was a scam. I feel so let down by this, and the school really should have let us know the situation before entering the competition. On the letter I notice it says all entries have a realistic chance of being published. Once again I repeat I am so glad that I didn't buy a book, or even 6 with the offer!!!! Remember you can still get it published by filling in the form if you wish, just don't buy the book!!!! You can borrow the book from the library for free!!!!
  • ellie
    one sunny day two girls called Anna and Cassie.they were best friends and lived together in a little cottege.The next day they went to the swimming baths.When they got changed they went on the slide first.When they went on the slide it took them to a magic land full of really nice animals living there.They wanted to find out what was at the end of this magic land.later on they found the end of the magic land and found lots of chocolate that never ended.They eat and eat that they could eat no longer.They could see the magic land still went on but there was really deep water.They kept walking until it was the end of the magic land and there was lots of toys for them to play with.When they got all the toys they got taken back to the swimming baths.they both really loved it there.And when they got home they told there mam all about the magic land.Her mam didn't believe them but it did really happen.
  • Courtney
    I had a certificate as well but my old high school (Great Yarmouth High School.) Won't give me it and my parents paid for it.
  • Lily
    I myself have received an award through this company, and it is only through a fair amount of research that I discovered that I really hadn't won but more almost lost out hard-earned money from my parents. It disgusts me that anyone would be so cruel and heartless to fake a real sense of achievement for young children in order to make money. I have warned my friends against even looking at this repulsive company, and hopefully the more people are aware of this the less money they will make, and maybe we can drive them off for good.

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