How Not To Promote a Writing Contest: The NY Literary Magazine


You have been nominated for the “Best Story Award”.

That’s the message some writers found in their inboxes on Christmas Day, from a publication called The NY Literary Magazine:

Could there be a better Christmas gift? Recognition by a “distinguished print and digital magazine”! The chance to “add to your bio and credentials that you are a Best Story Award 2017 Nominee”! An award recognized by the New York Times and Writer’s Digest!

Well…not exactly.

Anyone who clicked the email link discovered that this isn’t so much a nomination as a solicitation (for a monthly writing contest; winners get a “distinguished award seal”), and not so much an unexpected holiday gift as a rather deceptive buying opportunity (the entry fee is $19.95, discounted to $14.95 for, you know, Christmas). As for those impressive-seeming pull quotes,

Typing the first line of that quote + “NY Times” into Google reveals, yes, a real NY Times article – one that was published in 1992, in reference to the National Book Award & Pulitzer Prize. IT’S A TWENTY-FUCKING-FIVE YEAR OLD ARTICLE YOU GUYS.

— Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) December 25, 2017

In fact:

So, to recap: of the six pull quotes featured prominently at the top of the site, NOT A SINGLE ONE refers to the actual NY Literary Magazine Best Story Award.

— Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) December 25, 2017

Just a teeny bit misleading, wouldn’t you say?

Above, I say “some writers”. It’s actually “a crapload of writers”. NYLM seems to have engaged in a truly massive spam campaign to promote this contest.

So, I’ve just been sent an email telling me I’ve been “nominated” for a “best story award,” though the email doesn’t list a specific thing I’ve written and it’s not clear if this is for a novel or a short story. It also asks you to “submit your entry” by clicking a link.

— Foz Meadows (@fozmeadows) December 25, 2017

I also got one of those emails from @NYLiteraryMag saying I’ve been nominated for an award but asking me to submit my story (plus reading fee) for an “award” that isn’t worth the paper its printed on. @victoriastrauss #writerbeware #scam

— Percival Constantine (@perconstantine) December 25, 2017

Almost everyone in my writers’ group got this email today, and almost everyone deleted the email.

— Sandra Owens (@SandyOwens1) December 25, 2017

Raising hand for roll call. I eyeballed the thing and promptly went to Absolute Write to see if there was a thread. There was. 🙂

— Jules Jones (@bookfetishist) December 26, 2017

Just got this email over on my website from the NY Literary Magazine. Never heard of them. Will email you the addy and info.

— Kim Baccellia (@ixtumea) December 26, 2017

Absolute Write members got hit up, too.

So what is NYLM? Basically, an obscure literary magazine with a very high opinion of itself (check out how often it uses “distinguished” as a descriptor). It’s the brainchild of Camille Kleinman, girl genius (just read her bio). It runs free contests and doesn’t appear to charge reading fees for submissions–but it does have several money streams. There’s the monthly Best Story Award that’s the subject of this post. There are anthologies, which no doubt are heavily marketed to contributors. And there’s an “Editorial Book Review Service For Authors“, which sells for $99. (Supposedly conducted by “experienced, professional Editors”, the reviews are touted for their brevity–just two or three sentences long. Authors may want to save their money–the NYLM reviews I was able to find online are not only generic, many of them sound suspiciously similar.)

NYLM has gotten wind of the not-exactly-enthusiastic response to its spam campaign. I got an email this morning from “Amanda” (no last name or title, but NYLM’s masthead lists an Amanda Graham as Editor) lamenting “a torrent of angry, hateful messages which shocked us and which we feel are unjust”. Because, you see, it was all a terrible mistake:

We outsourced our marketing to an Asian service to help us spread the word about our Best Story Award contest. That is why authors received the marketing email from (which is not our main website) on Christmas night, and at such an unexpected time in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately, it appears they chose the wrong terminology when inviting authors to our contest. We’re very sorry that being told they were nominated for the Best Story Award offended, insulted, angered, or disappointed so many authors.

We have fired this agency and will monitor each marketing action any one of our team members does extremely closely from now on.

I’ll leave it to you to judge how plausible this is.

Amanda also admitted something that I’m sure won’t surprise anyone: the goal of the Best Story Award is “to finally become profitable and support our magazine.” I’m not a fan of contests, even where they’re reputable; but profitmaking contests are nearly always a waste of money. For why, and how to steer clear, see my 2015 post: Awards Profiteers: How Writers Can Recognize and Avoid Them.

UPDATE: Digging themselves deeper into an already pretty big hole, the folks at NY Literary Magazine are now attempting to excuse their blunder with a non-apology apology. Those shifty Asians are again invoked. Click the link below.

This is one of those “I’m sorry you were offended for no reason” apologies. It doesn’t change a thing. If anything, I feel much worse.

— Briana Morgan (@brimorganbooks) December 26, 2017

UPDATE 12/27/17: NY Literary Magazine has sent out another mass email, a cri de coeur of tragically injured innocence that again attempts to shift the blame (oh, those dastardly Asians), decries the evils of cyberbullying by mean folks like me, and proves once again that they just don’t get it. They claim to be closing down for good. If you want to read the whole screed, here it is; if not, here’s a taste.

We are completely devastated and shattered from the extent of hate mail, comments, messages, tweets, lies and false accusations that were posted online which have totally blackened our name and destroyed our magazine – all based on a single email with one wrongly-worded sentence.

It’s shocking how many people have posted blatant lies which weren’t based on any facts and how many more people have shared, retweeted, and quoted those lies without ever checking to see if it’s true or at least visiting our website….

This has been a heartbreaking Christmas.

We hope those people who spread the lies and worked so hard to destroy honest people’s lives are now satisfied.
We have closed our contest. Refunded everyone who entered.
There will be no more free-to-enter contests. No more free-to-read anthologies.
No more articles. No more anything.

We had the heartbreaking task of firing our team of loyal, hard-working employees. 10 people are now jobless after Christmas.

If there were 10 paid jobs at NYLM, I’ll eat my hat.

As of this writing, NYLM’s website is still online, but NYLM’s founder, Camille Kleinman, has shuttered her website (it’s “Under Maintenance”) and removed all mention of NYLM from her LinkedIn profile.


  1. Victoria ~ on the second update, I think you meant 12/27, not 12/17, yeah?

    You should totally blame that typo on "the Asians"!

  2. My author website received the second letter, not the first. I just rolled my eyes and deleted it. They didn't even bother to check that I write nasty old genre, not precious literary fiction.

    In 2008, I received a scam letter that told me I'd been nominated for the Pulitizer. All I had to do was send 1800 Euro dollars to finish the registration process to Nigeria.

    I got a good laugh out of that one, too.

  3. I would be interested to know where they got their mailing list. Is a reputable business renting it out to them? Or did they skim the email addresses? So many people received this!

  4. The red flag to delete is seen in the second sentence: "My name is Jennifer, I’m from the NY Literary Magazine."

    That comma. Really?

  5. So I guess the 10K word apology / explanation / blame game / we're closing down / get a life authors / it's the Asian's fault, email didn't help matters? 🙂

  6. I wasn't nominated. Damn! Is it something I said? 😉

    I used to get this kind of message in my in box when I had a Hotmail account. There was something called the International Library of Poetry or some such name. They would send you their spam, inviting you to enter their competition, with a $20,000 prize. Of course, you would then get an email saying you hadn't won, but they liked your poem so much they wanted to publish it anyway. And guess what, they would give you a discounted copy! I know this because one of our students was sucked in. I told her that if they were serious, they should be offering to pay HER, not the other way around. This particular young lady decided that, what the heck, she was going to get something out of it anyway and called the local papers to say she had won an award in an international poetry competition… I had to take off my hat to her!

    But there are others like this one in Australia, where I live, and the school would get letters from them, saying it was a competition for kids – with, yes, a charge for having your story or poem in print. If you wanted your bio in the anthology, they charged more. And I, as librarian, was asked to explain the truth to the kids.

  7. Is it weird that I’m glad I got the email? I may not have won an award, but at least I’m on a list of authors who are considered worth scamming. 🙂

  8. I received that email. Didn't give it any thought. Now I'm annoyed at them for blaming it on the inhabitants of an entire continent, though.

  9. You confirmed exactly what I was thinking when I got this email. Sounded way too good and equally questionable to be true.

  10. I got the same email, telling me my "book" was nominated. That was the first red flag. Um, which one? I've published fourteen novels and one non-fiction. Am I supposed to guess?

    Thanks for creating this site, Victria. ALL new authors should have this site bookmarked and consult it often. Be vigilant. If it sounds to good to be true, in this industry, it most definitely is. Beware the stranger bearing false tidings.

  11. Yep, I got one of these, and immediately thought, "spam." My main thought was "None of my friends would be stupid enough to submit a NOVEL for a contest that says it accepts short stories and poetry."

    Most people who know me know I have neither the gift for nor interest in writing either poetry or short stories.

    Thanks for confirming my original thought. I hadn't had time to do any research, since I've been busy painting our bedroom over the holidays.

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