Author Toolbox Blog Hop: Duotrope and the resume of failures

I regularly review my resume about once a month, not because I’m always actively looking for a job, but because it’s generally a good idea to keep it updated. My job responsibilities might have changed, or I might have some professional achievement that I want to put on there. And every time I do this review and update, I also think about the things that I want to put on there.

I want to have more publications to list, I want to add more soft and hard skills related to writing, I want more relevant experience to show how my professional life has developed and changed. And when I think about the things I want on my resume, I think about the work that I need to put in behind the scenes to get there.

Alongside the resume I regularly update, I have another document that gets a similar treatment that’s almost like my resume’s shadow. It’s my resume of failures, and it’s a concept I came across a few years ago from scientist Melanie Stefan, Ph.D1. The title is pretty self-explanatory: This is a document of my rejections, not just from literary magazines, but from other things like colleges, fellowships, and other things I’ve applied for and didn’t get. There’s the saying—”You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”—and this document shows me all of the shots I did take.

In general, it’s a good idea to keep track of submissions and the final decisions, if only for purely practical reasons. You want to make sure you’re not submitting multiple times to journals that don’t take multiple submissions, or making sure you’re not breaking guidelines around simultaneous submissions. For data and tracking like that, I rely on Duotrope2. Duotrope is a database of projects, publications, and even literary agents for writers and artists to submit work to. The site has a number of tools to track your writing and can also calculate stats like acceptance rate and turnaround time. A $5 monthly fee lets you create an account and access all of the resources available. To me, it’s worth it just to be able to keep track of submissions, though the calculations are also extremely useful.

However, although Duotrope is a powerful tool to help me keep track of my submissions, I still have this resume of failures. Because like my normal resume, I feel galvanized to try and add to it. It motivates me to take more shots, because even if I fail, those attempts still have a place to go. I turn a failure into a success, and that helps me continue writing and submitting.

What about you? Would you consider building a resume of failures? What helps you stay motivated in pursuing writing?

This post was written as part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop organized by the human dynamo, Raimey Gallant. Every month, authors at all stages of their career blog about specific resources/learning opportunities for fellow writers. To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, click here.

Header image from Pixabay.


[1] A CV of failures, Melanie Stefan, Ph.D.,

[2] — from the site: “Duotrope is an established, award-winning resource for writers and artists. We help you save time finding publishers or agents for your work, so you can focus on creating. “

Published by Caroliena Cabada

Caroliena Cabada is a writer currently based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing, Fiction, from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her writing has been published in online and print journals and anthologies, and has been selected for Best Small Fictions 2021.

20 thoughts on “Author Toolbox Blog Hop: Duotrope and the resume of failures

  1. Rather than a list of failures, I keep a list of writing goals. Macro and micro—it’s a great feeling when I can cross them off. Seeing that completed list is great motivation to keep going.

    1. Checking something off a list is such a satisfying feeling. I try and do the same, but admittedly I tend to focus more on the micro rather than the macro, since, for me, I know that the macro will take much longer to accomplish. Thanks for commenting!

  2. What an interesting concept. I’m surprised I’ve never heard of it before and delighted you’ve introduced me to it. Duotrope and I have an on-again-off-again relationship. It’s a decent database, for sure. I’m sure I’ll sign up for a membership again. Great post!

    1. Thanks! The resume of failures felt like a lightning bolt moment for me. I read about it and immediately latched onto it. And yeah Duotrope! I always open the weekly digests in my email, and that’s where I’ve actually found a bunch of the places I’ve submitted to this past year.

  3. I haven’t heard of Duotrope before, I’ll have to check it out. Back in college, when I first began submitting short stories and such for publication, my classmates would joke about collecting rejection letters as trophies. I’ve also written about this theory before on my blog. 🙂 I think taking time to reflect on the work you’re putting into it can be rewarding in and of itself. At least personally, it helps me feel a step closer when it seems like nothing is moving forward. Like you said, if you don’t try, you can’t possibly hope to hit the mark.

    1. Let me know what you think of Duotrope! And I totally get the urge to save rejections as trophies. I’ll have to check out your blog post about it! Thanks for commenting!

  4. This is awesome. I hadn’t thought about creating a resume of failures, but I think it’s a brilliant idea! And I’ve never heard of Duotrope, but it sounds really interesting–I may have to check it out! Thank you so much! 😀

    1. Glad you found this helpful! Let me know what you think of creating a resume of failures, and your thoughts on Duotrope. Always curious to see how others respond to these ideas. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  5. I used to list the agents I wanted to submit to and dates in excel. It does help to track failures. What a great question you posed and I love the new resource you mention 🙂

    1. Duotrope did actually launch an agent portion of the database this past year! I haven’t checked it out yet (not in a position to pitch agents yet), but I feel like it’s growing every day! Thanks for commenting!

  6. While I agree with keeping track of submissions and the results, I’m not sure I could do a resume of failures. I have a tendency to dwell on perceived failures enough as it is. Do you find you’ve had any negative impact from yours?

    1. Super interesting question. I don’t think it has for me, though honestly I just recently started up my resume of failures again. I made it a few years ago, but I hadn’t submitted anywhere/applied for anything since making it, so put it aside. Now that I’m trying to submit pieces again on a regular basis, it almost doesn’t register as a failure or a rejection, per se, just as another line I can add to this document that I want to be adding to anyway, if that makes sense. Maybe my mindset will change as time goes on, but for now I’m thinking more about how much I want to add to this document rather than the fact that these are all rejections.

    2. Though I totally get the tendency to dwell on perceived failures. I had a rough time after I got my first decision from an MFA program and it was a flat out rejection. I’m curious how you keep yourself from dwelling too much on it? I feel like I never have a go-to remedy to help me out of that mindset, it just kinda…fades a little over time.

    1. Thanks for commenting! It’s great that you keep track of the submissions and expected response dates! Expected turnaround time is always a good thing to take note of.

  7. I’m in my first internship currently and myself with fellow interns had a meeting about resumes, and we were actually recommended to continually update it too. But something new I learned was the resume of failures. I’ve kept a list of internships I applied to and never heard back from, which made me value my current internship all the more. Thanks for that recommendation to have a legitimate resume of failures!!

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