As an elementary school teacher, Ruth Hasseler had more than one student who proudly lugged a book to her class, exclaiming they had been “published” by the International Library of Poetry.

Sounds very prestigious, doesn’t it?

But students who thought their poems had actually been vetted and selected for the honor of publication didn’t realize they were really buying into a money-making ploy that exploits the hopes (and vanity) of would-be poets.

The “publishers” at these companies “select” every poem that is submitted, then print a book filled with the entries of every person who is willing to buy it. They make their money selling those books to the poets featured inside, as well as their proud family members.

Hasseler got letters from the same company asking her, as a teacher, for more submissions from student poets.

“Like I would actually feed the beast: an anthology of bad kids’ poetry – or rather, kids’ bad poetry. Bad kids’ poetry would probably be rather interesting,” Hasseler said.

The same company that bilked wanna-be poets out of their money decades ago is still at it with the Web site It also runs a sister site shilling photography books for $90 apiece.

And there are plenty of other companies running what the Better Business Bureau calls “ploy services.”

There are the “modeling” and “talent agencies” that advertise casting calls and talent searches that, instead of making money representing young talent, earn it by charging their new “clients” hundreds and even thousands of dollars in advance fees for business cards, head shots, photo portfolios, lessons and personal website design.

Other companies target scholastic athletes and students by giving them phony awards or other “honors.” Parents are notified their child has been selected to represent his or her school (or sport, or instrument) at an awards convention, then are charged extremely high prices for the airfare it takes to get there, along with their hotel costs, meals and even admission to the awards ceremony.

And there’s always the good old “who’s who” directories that make money “recognizing” America’s “exceptional” students, business executives, teachers, philanthropists and underwater metal benders, then selling them the directories in which they’re so prestigiously featured.

The only criterion for “selection” with companies like these is whether you have a working credit card. To protect yourself, use Google, check and, never pay money for anything associated with an honor and don’t pay advance fees to any agent.

Oh, and stay humble.

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