In the past couple of weeks I've had news of a few successes. I've had a poem short-listed in a competition (the final winner is yet to be decided) and a short story short-listed in another. A poem has been commended in the Thynks competition and another has been long-listed in a fourth competition. Okay, none of them are actually in the prizes (yet), but it's still something to be pleased about, isn't it? The fact is, the organisers of the latter competition offered me an extra opportunity, and it's given me a dilemma.
Initially, the competition only offered publication to the winning and short-listed poets, but, as the standard was 'so high', the organisers now plan to publish a print anthology including the long-listed poems. So far, so good. They went on to ask how many copies of the anthology at £8.50 I might want, so they could judge how many to have printed. Publication of my poem was not dependent on me buying the anthology, and in no way is the competition organiser a vanity publisher, but the offer still made me feel uneasy.
If I agreed to buy a copy of the anthology (at £8.50 for 40 poems I would hesitate), I would feel as if I'd paid to have my poem published, and if I didn't buy a copy, I'd feel I'd cheated the organisers and all the other poets who had. If they publish my poem it will be ineligible for most other competitions and practically impossible to get published elsewhere. On the other hand, I might be turning down the only offer I'll get for it.
In the end, the decision boiled down to how desperate was I to get published, and whether or not I thought the poem had value. I declined the offer, but I'm still not sure I did the right thing. However, as one of the organisers said in their email after I'd let them know, it will give another poet a chance to take part.