International Masters of Photography — Scam?

So there’s an email going around…

You are therefore pre-selected to submit work for inclusion in International Masters of Photography (Vol 1), a juried annual art photography publication presenting noteworthy photographers from all over the world.

Please note that this is not a free inclusion.

And people are asking "Is this a scam or is it for real?"

Well… It’s probably "real"… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a scam. It all depends on what your definition of "scam" is.

The publisher is some outfit calling itself "World Wide Art Books" with a web site at

If you’re worried that they’re going to take your money and run without printing a book with your photo in it I don’t think you have much to be concerned about. Even though they’re collecting photos for Volume 2 while Volume 1 has yet to published (they’re saying November of 2012) it probably isn’t a scam in that sense. On the other hand, if you are suspecting they aren’t nearly as prestigious as they imply… and that being "honored" with a request to submit your photos and then paying to have them published isn’t much of a privilege… That may fit your conception of "scam" much more closely!

This is really no different than the Montclair “Who’s Who in Photography” emails that were going around a few years ago (and any other "who’s who" book in which you pretty much have to agree to pay for a copy to be included in it).

The fact that you have to pay to be included is prima facie evidence that they can’t make enough money from sales of the book to cover the cost of printing. That should tell you everything you need to know about how much of an honor your inclusion in the publication really is. Or, more to the point, isn’t.

On the other hand: Keeping in mind that you’ll be competing with people who were dumb enough to fall for this schtick, if your work is any good at all it may really stand out! If the $880.00(!) price of admission is cheap enough for you to gamble on this possibility, go for it!

Seriously though – be careful out there, kids. It’s a big world full of people trying to separate you from your heard-earned money without caring what, if anything, you get in return. Being aware of this type of technique will make you less vulnerable to scams in general, even if you never get this particular email.

Note: Can it be a "scam" if there’s nothing illegal involved?

The answer is Yes, in my opinion. And in the opinion of the Federal Trade Commission. Here’s a good example of a legal scam:

It’s the “free” home alarm system. Often targeted at the elderly and particularly in neighborhoods where there’s been a break-in, however minor, recently. The target (customer) is first regaled with horror stories from newspapers (all true) of break-ins and “home invasions”. Then they’re offered an alarm system for free, including installation. What’s not free, of course, is the mandatory monthly monitoring fee, which is usually much higher than the going rate. And the term of the agreement is likely to be longer than usual. Often with a heavy penalty for early termination. There may also be a hefty fee for removal of the alarm system upon discontinuing service (part of the reason the system and installation were free in the first place is because the alarm company retains ownership of the hardware). But that’s all in the fine print and if the customer is frightened enough they won’t notice it.

All perfectly legal, but only the most pedantic would not call it a scam. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission explicitly uses the word "scam" to describe the above scenario.
The vanity publisher scams fall into the same category.

Also, the 1st Circuit court has found that the word "scam" does not necessarily imply anything illegal:
From McCabe vs Rattiner: “Beginning with the statement itself, we observe that the word “scam” does not have a precise meaning. As the district judge said in his bench ruling, “it means different things to different people … and there is not a single usage in common phraseology.” While some connotations of the word may encompass criminal behavior, others do not.

Addendum, February 2014:

They’re still spamming away…

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