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Last fall there was an announcement in the Deseret News about a poetry contest. I entered a poem my daughter had written and received a letter that explained a little about the American Poetry Association in Santa Cruz, Calif.

I paid $40 for the book, intending to give it to my daughter for Christmas. It never arrived. Then I planned to give it to her for her birthday in April.I tried to call the company but its phone number had been disconnected. I would love to have the book, and soon. But if I can't get that I would at least like some of the money back. - D.S., Springville.

To enlighten our readers, here is some information about the company.

According to the letter, the poem would be printed in the "American Poetry Anthology," which was billed as "a striking collection of today's best poetry."

The company said it used the poems only once and the author maintained the copyright. The anthology is a labor of love, said the letter, and, like most poetry publications, it doesn't pay for itself.

To ensure that a poem was included in the anthology, the poet had to agree to buy at least one copy of the book at the cost of $40. The poet could buy additional copies for $32.95 each.

According to the letter, the book is "an oversized, hard-cover volume printed in traditional type on excellent paper. You'll be proud to display it on your desk, library shelf or coffee table with other treasured possessions. And, with your poetry in it, it makes a wonderful gift."

The company also offered a presentation copy with a simulated leather binding and a matching protective slipcase. Each presentation edition was sealed, numbered and signed by the publisher.

The price of a presentation copy was $55.

For an extra $50 the company would include in the book the poet's picture along with a small biography.

The letter ended with this passage. "Congratulations on your acceptance. To all `painters of the soul' the joy of creation is foremost. But I hope you will also enjoy the prestige, recognition and satisfaction of seeing your creative work in print in the "American Poetry Anthology."

What's wrong with this picture?

The company filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation) Feb. 22. If you want to go to the bother of sending a proof of claim form (available at local bankruptcy courts), send it to Bankruptcy Court, 280 S. 1st St., Room 3035, San Jose, CA 95113. The case number is 9150958.

The chance there will be money left over for an unsecured creditor like you is slim.

"American Poetry Anthology" looks all the world to us like a vanity publication that exists only because people are willing to pay to have their poems included in the book.

Poets aren't the only victims of vanity publications. In the past we ran across a California outfit that published a book of names of high school scholars. When parents of poor students who had been solicited by this company got in touch with us, we became suspicious. We tracked down the company only to find it was no longer in business.

Not all vanity publications end up in bankruptcy court. Some, like the "Who's Who" series, are ongoing and credible concerns.