Tag Archives: money

Wednesday Writers: Tom Dullemond Returns

As promised, here is the second piece from Tom Dullemond that I wanted to run. All the nice things I said about him here are still true, unless in the time since his last post he has descended into a pit of drug and booze filled depravity from which he hurls abuse at the rest of us. Unlikely, but rejection can do funny things to us all, and no one knows rejection like a writer. Fortunately, Tom has seen fit to share with us some tips for dealing with its ever present spectre – enjoy!

Living with Rejection

(A 10-step guide to coping with the everyday reality of rejection letters)


Tom Dullemond

Rejections come in many forms, and it is interesting to note that the grander the magazine or publisher, the nastier and more impersonal the rejection letter or email. To soften the incessant rain of misery that all writers must at one stage or another deal with on their journey to becoming professional writers, I have drawn upon my own vast experience in this field to provide a quick reference guide to dealing with rejection.

  1. Cultivate your own sense of self-worth

This is an important skill to help you survive the initial shock of receiving a reply email without an attachment, or a SASE without the additional bulge properly associated with an acceptance contract. As you rip open the letter and unfold the tiny slip of paper within, or double-click the ‘New Mail’ notification, you need to hang on to the simple truth that you are a damn good writer. Learn to grow your nails – every extra millimetre helps as you desperately cling to this idea.

  1. Bemoan your misfortune

Remember, it’s not your fault the story was rejected, it’s the magazine’s. Some sub-editor clearly flicked through your story or article in a bad mood. The mantra, If only the idiot had handed it to the editor, everything would be fine now, may be useful at this time.

This acceptance of your misfortune will help you reconcile the rejection note with the fact that you were simply hard done by. You’re just going to attach your submission to another email and send it to another magazine. After all, it’s perfect. You’ll send it right after you read through it again to see why they might have rejected it.

  1. Maintain a professional attitude

Your cover letter should include something to remind the editor that you’re impatient with the rejections you’ve received in the past. Perhaps include something passive-aggressive like ‘I have been collecting rejection slips professionally for about a year now.’

  1. Learn to detach yourself from the natural flow of time

Three months may be a long time in politics, but for a writer, three months is nothing: it’s a perfectly acceptable period of time to wait for a magazine or publisher to get around to looking at your work. It’s possible to wait four months for a magazine to tell you that they like your story, but want you to clear up the ending a little and resubmit it, only to receive a final rejection 2 months later because it is in first person.

Time is completely irrelevant in this industry. Do not fall into the common misconception that, just because it is taking a long time to get a response, the recipient of your submission is considering it for publication. As the days tick over past the ‘expected response time’ and your palms grow sweaty with anticipation, as images of words in ink on paper begin to haunt your dreams, just remember that the delay is most likely due to an accident in the editor’s office, and that your submission may just be filed in the ‘personal’ or ‘insurance claims’ folder on the editor’s computer, because you didn’t follow the submission guidelines.

Detach yourself from the natural flow of time by ensuring you have a handful of stories out to magazines at any one time (preferably different stories). This means that even if you haven’t done anything for a week, someone, somewhere, is being forced to look at your writing.

An unfortunate side-effect of properly mastering this step is that your life will seem a lot shorter, but then no one said writing was easy.

  1. Discover the joys of indignation

So you’ve finally received a personalised rejection letter? Apart from this positive indication that a human being actually laid eyes on your words, you should be prepared to vent your frustrations at the incompetence of the editor who rejected your submission. ‘Not enough dialog’ a cheery checkbox might exclaim, or ‘flat characters’, or even ‘tired plot’.

What the editor has missed, of course, is that you were highlighting the protagonist’s alienation from society through his lack of vocalisation; that the blandness of the main characters is entirely due to their empty childhoods (it’s in the second paragraph, how could they have missed it?); and that the predictable nature of the plot is an ironic commentary on the trivialisation of modern relationships. Duh.

  1. Abandon your friends and family

You friends and family are great. Really, they are. Wonderful, supportive people. Their availability to read your material is a bonus, especially since no magazine seems to be accepting your stories. Your family will tell you how good/bad/exciting/interesting/confused your stories are. When they tell you how good they are, you feel great. When they diverge from your perception of the story, however, you revert to indignation (see step 5) although usually it is wisest to internalise these emotions so as not to jeopardise your inheritance/marriage/friendship.

This repression of emotion is unhealthy, however. It is far more beneficial simply to end the editorial relationship you’ve cultivated with your acquaintances. Do it now! It is easier to accept rejections from faceless (and ignorant) editors.

  1. Remember that you are only being rejected because you’re not famous

It’s a well-known fact that as a writer gains fame, their writing becomes lousy. This is obvious every time you pick up an edition of the magazine you’ve been trying to submit to and you see a famous name on the by-line of a story. After you’ve read the story, sneering all the way, you throw the magazine aside in disgust, because the famous writer’s story was crap. Your last seven have been much better, and not a single one of them was accepted.

Obviously this famous writer’s name is what’s selling her stories, not her inherent ability to write. If only you were famous you’d be published too. Although this logic is so circular you could use it as a spare tyre for your car, you must never forget to ignore the inherent problems of your assertions if you wish to combat the gloom of rejection.

  1. Destroy your rejection letters

Although some rejection letters are helpful, by virtue of positive comments on your writing, the majority of them are either critiques or form letters and these are of no relevance to your work of art. The only solution is to destroy them the moment you have finished reading them. Simple filing them in the trash or archive of your email is insufficient. You will need to print them out in order to tear them up.

Remember: if you destroy a rejection letter, then it never existed and you were never rejected.

NB: Do not forget to delete the email afterwards to avoid recurring trauma.

  1. Your writing is for the elite

It is completely understandable that popular magazines, the ones you want to be published in so badly, are produced for the masses. Your intellectually challenging short story (really a subtle examination of religion’s relevance to today’s society) is all too easily misread, leading to rejection. What you wouldn’t give for an intelligent editor, one who reads your piece with the concentration and devotion which it requires!

If the masses were more intelligent, you would be published by now.

  1. Ensure you always complete every project to which you commit

Tom Dullemond stumbled out of university with a double degree in Medieval/Renaissance studies and Software Engineering. One of these degrees got him a job and he has been writing and working in IT ever since. Tom was a co-editor of The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy and has sold short fiction to a handful of anthologies, including Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper. He writes a regular flash fiction column for The Helix science magazine, and is working on Literarium (www.literarium.net), an online service to help with the project management side of writing. His first middle-grade book, ‘The Machine Who Was Also a Boy’, has just been published through e-Mergent Publications (http://emergent-publishing.com/bookstore/the-machine-who-was-also-a-boy/ ).


Wednesday Writers: Tom Dullemond

Writer, editor, app developer and drinker of fine alcohol, Tom Dullemond is one of those guys who you meet online and assume that they can’t be as awesome in person as they are behind a computer – but when you meet them they prove that hypothesis wrong. Not only is Tom producing some fine work of his own, he also puts in a whole lot of time helping equip other writers, both through his website and through personal support and encouragement. In fact, Tom is so willing to help he gave me a choice of two great pieces – the only problem being I couldn’t pick which one was better, so I plan on running them both!

To start with, something I am sure any writer will find of great interest – a piece about money. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for another great article, but in the meantime – enjoy!

Submitting for fun and profit

In a recent post to his blog, Alan Baxter mentioned reading outside of your comfort zone, and recommended grabbing something outside the genres you’re normally working in, both to expose yourself to different writing styles and to learn a little bit about what makes other genres tick.

It’s great advice, and you’re not going to go wrong reading more broadly.

I’m going to propose something similar relating to making some money for your writing.

What? Money?

I’m going to suggest that you write outside your comfort zone and submit to literary competitions, for fun and profit.

For genre writers, this can provide either an opportunity to write something completely out of character (I write predominantly speculative fiction, but have had some success with literary fiction), or the chance to write a more literary spec fic piece, or even to stick with what you know best and attempt to win an award or competition wholly with a genre piece.

Turning our creative energies into something so different may seem counterintuitive, but let’s attempt to convince you with what I shall refer to as Cold Hard Mathematics (also money).

Serious Spec Fic Magazines

Clarke’s World Magazine helpfully provides submission statistics, and I’ve grabbed a post from January 2012 to give you some numbers.

They received, in one month, 684 submissions, which is apparently close to their average of 600-800 month. According to the article, 6% receive ‘near miss’ rejections, and 1% receive acceptances. So we’re looking at 7 accepted stories out of almost 700 submissions, with a ‘short list’ of 48 stories. As of writing, Clarke’s World prefers stories of 4,000 words, paying exceptional rates of $0.10 USD per word. So we’re looking at $400 a sale. Now, normally I wouldn’t expect more than say $80-$100 for a story sale, but since I’m trying to make a point, and Clarke’s World gives such helpful statistics, let’s run with $400 as a serious magazine sale. (In reality that’s crazy money for a magazine sale, if you ever get something like this, cherish it with all your writery heart)

Literary Competitions

Now let’s compare two literary competitions that I have personal experience with.

The Voiceless Writing Prize was awarded in 2012, with a prize pool of over $20,000 AUD. I was shortlisted (see the ‘near miss’ rejection) with another 33 writers. The total number of submissions was ‘over 350’. Already we’re looking at a 10% ‘almost won’ hit rate. Note that out of those 34 short lists a further 10 ‘basic’ prizes were awarded. We’re looking at a 3% success rate for $500, and the honour of putting ‘award winning writer’ on your resumé.

One of those accepted stories was slated to earn $15,000 and another (popularly voted on) earned $5,000. (For your interest, the $15,000 prize was actually jointly awarded to two stories in the end.)

Not bad for only competing with 350 other submissions.

My second example is from a late-2011 competition to promote Adult Learning for the National Year of Reading. This competition offered 12 prizes of $3,000 each. I actually won one of these, out of a field of 280 entrants. That’s a 5% acceptance rate at $3,000 per sale.

Convinced yet?

Note also that both these competitions were free to enter. There are many other literary competitions that have an entry fee, but I suspect the added barrier of entry might reduce the total number of submissions sufficiently to push the percentage acceptance rate even higher.

And you might be pleased to hear, o speculative fiction writers, that none other than the fabulous Tansy Rayner Roberts won one of those $3,000 prizes too, for a Science Fiction story. So you don’t even have to step outside your comfort zone if you don’t want to.


My recommendation, then, is to dedicate a little bit of your market research time to sourcing literary competitions and submitting to them. Not only are your odds of success much higher than the top genre magazines, you might actually make some decent money, flex your writing muscles, and possibly add the phrase ‘award winning’ to your future cover letters.

Tom Dullemond stumbled out of university with a double degree in Medieval/Renaissance studies and Software Engineering. One of these degrees got him a job and he has been writing and working in IT ever since. Tom was a co-editor of The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy and has sold short fiction to a handful of anthologies, including Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper. He writes a regular flash fiction column for The Helix science magazine, and is working on Literarium (www.literarium.net), an online service to help with the project management side of writing. His first middle-grade book, ‘The Machine Who Was Also a Boy’, has just been published through e-Mergent Publications (http://emergent-publishing.com/bookstore/the-machine-who-was-also-a-boy/ ).