Recently a writer asked me how I keep track of my submissions, this is something I hadn’t thought about often, but something I do day after day.
There are as many ways to track your submissions, as there are writers, for simplicity we’ll look at three of the most common systems I have found while talking to writers. Some writers use their computers, others use index cards, notebooks, and some write the information on the files they keep for each project. Others use all of the above.
Whatever system you choose, make it work for you. When I first began, I was terrible about writing down where I sent my work. I thought I could keep it straight in my head. In the beginning, I tried every way but what worked best for me. I am a detail-oriented person, I like to have information available wherever I am, and I like it to be portable. I like to use file folders; I have a file for the project and a file for the publication. When I finish a project and choose a market I write that market on the front of the project file with the date submitted and the editor. I also place a copy of the manuscript and cover letter in that file. For the Publication file I place the writer’s guidelines and a copy of the cover letter in the file, and write the title of the project and date submitted to the publication on this file too. This system makes it easy to see what I have submitted, whether I look at the publication or project file. This system works well in the office or home but is not very potable. For portability, I use a notebook and index cards.
Organizing A Submission Notebook
I know many writers who use this inexpensive and portable way to track their submissions. The most common set up I have seen is the seven-column format. For example, your columns may look like this:
[Title][Magazine Publisher/Editor][Word Count][Date sent][Date Returned][Published][Pay Date/Amount]
As you send out each project fill in the appropriate columns, and as you hear from the publications fill in your open columns.
Using Index Cards
Index cards are as simple to use as the notebook. One advantage to index cards over the notebook is your ability to reorganize them. If you were to look in my box of index cards, you would see five categories:
1. Project (Index card used)
2. Publication (Index card used)
3. Outstanding Submissions
4. Ready To Submit
I use two index cards similar to the way I use file folders. On one index card, I write the project name with word count, publication name, editor and date sent. On the second card, I write the publication name, contact information, and the title of the project and date sent. I keep the publication cards in alphabetical order at the back of the box. Then I have a section for Outstanding Submissions also in alphabetical order; as I receive responses I either move the cards to the Published category or to the Ready To Be Sent category. For a simpler approach to this system freelance writer Carol Sjostrom Miller does this, “When I finish a piece, I write the title on an index card. On the back of the card, I list possible markets for the piece. Then when I’m ready to submit, I write the magazine I submitted to and the date on the front of the card. If I get a rejection, I just cross off the market and put the next one beneath it, and keep going until it gets accepted…I just file the cards alphabetically by title.”
Using Your Computer
If you do the majority of your writing at the computer this may be the best and easiest way to track submissions. Using a database program like Access or your word processor with a table inserted allows room for more information and cross-referencing.
A database program like Access allows you to add columns that your notebook doesn’t have the room for such as the address of the publication and the time you spend on the project. You also have the ability to cross-reference your work. For example, you have the publication entered into the system you can cross reference the manuscript to the publisher to eliminate entering your information twice.
There is no one right way to track your submissions, be as detailed as you want. The key is to find the system that best suits your needs.