I was recently encouraged to promote this "Affordable Insurance Options Essay Contest" to my readers. The website name was already setting off alarm bells in my head, but I decided to check out the rules out of curiosity.
At first glance, it may attract some writers: there's no entry fee, and the site offers cash prizes of $50, $100 and $200. However, if you read ALL the submission guidelines, it becomes clear that even if your entry about the importance of insurance coverage doesn't win, the site can use it without paying you:
All entries become the property of Affordable Insurance Options Online and we reserve the right to publish and/or distribute them as we see fit.
And you're also putting yourself on their mailing list:
Submitting an entry will also allow every applicant access to the AIOO Insurance and Investing online newsletter, which contains valuable information and tips on how to save money on insurance premiums, ensure adequate coverage, make sound investments and help your portfolio grow, and much more.
So I am going to post about their contest...as a warning to writers everywhere to ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT. Yes, there's a small chance that you may win one of the cash prizes. But if you don't, you've just handed over your writing to someone else for free. Even if your essay IS chosen as a winner, the company has to be able to reach you within 5 days, or you lose the prize (but they can still use your writing):
Accurate contact information is required for all prize winners to be notified. If we are unable to contact any applicant within 5 days of the review process being completed, their entry will be voided and a different entry will be chosen.
It may seem obvious that serious writers should stay away from this contest, but I've already seen it recommended on at least one writing-related site.