Writers, how do you keep track of your submissions?
In the 1990s, I used an Excel spreadsheet, but I never really grasped the functionality of the program. I constantly revised it, but it wouldn’t restructure itself the way I thought it should. It was tedious and unwieldy, altogether too much effort.
When I got serious about submitting my writing again after resigning from teaching, I started recording my submissions the low-tech way, in a steno notebook.
Around the same time I discovered Querytracker, which I use specifically for manuscripts that I submit to agents. (I’m still looking for a literary agent to represent me. Anybody out there interested?) Querytracker maintains a database of literary agencies and publishing houses and links to their websites so you can check out their submission guidelines and what they are looking for. At first I used the free option, and I liked it, but that only works well if you have a single project that you’re sending out. As soon as I had multiple projects, I invested in the subscription option. It’s well worth the $25 a year to keep track of all the places you’ve sent each manuscript and document when and how you sent it and what their response was.
I have lots of smaller projects that I submit to publications: articles and short stories and poems. I enter a lot of contests, and I submit to literary journals. All those I write down in my notebook. Some pages of my notebook are for miscellaneous submissions. I include the date of the submission, exactly which pieces I sent, the name of the publication, the name of the contest, when the deadline for submissions is, and when I can expect a response.
I go through these periodically and make sure that I’ve gotten a response for them. Usually, when I get an email about a piece, I’ll record the decision, and if it’s a rejection, I look over the piece again, see if there’s anything about it that I want to improve, and send it out to a different publication.
Poems are tricky. I usually send them out in bunches, and each publication has different guidelines and different fees. (Most contests have a fee; many literary journals also have a fee for non-contest submissions. This is customary, because they operate on a shoestring budget. Sometimes they’ll give you a subscription as well.) So sometimes I send one poem, sometimes three, or five, or ten, depending on the guidelines. Most publications will not accept poems that have been published before, even if it’s only on my own blog. So I’m constantly checking—have I sent this one (or this group of poems) to this magazine already, did I send it in a different grouping, did I post this one on my blog, etc.
For my larger projects (my poetry chapbook, for example) I have separate pages, so I can see at a glance all the contests I’ve already entered it in.
A lot of the contests and publications I submit to prefer to receive submissions through Submittable. I love that, because Submittable shows me everything I’ve submitted through their database, and what its current status is. Most of the time, the contest or publication will respond through email and also through Submittable, so if I miss the email (you know how emails accidentally get deleted or languish in your spam folder) I’ll eventually see the response in Submittable.
My system is not perfect. Sometimes I can’t locate what I’ve sent to a particular journal in the past, as happened just this past weekend.
Now it’s your turn. How do you keep track of your submissions? What features have you invented that work especially well for you? What tweaks would you recommend for me? Please share your experience and ideas in the comments below.