Submission: Getting Things Out and Keeping Track

Saturday, January 16, 2016
In my last post, I asked what writing hang ups you need to overcome in 2016. Elizabeth e-mailed to say that she needs to work on submissions, both keeping track of them and coercing herself into sending things out. The publishers she’s worked with use Submittable and Between these two programs, she has troubles keeping track of what is out and where it is. Then she realizes she hasn’t sent anything out in weeks.

I understand what she means about various submission platforms. I’m not 100% certain this is an actual term but it’s what I call them. One publisher I’m trying to crack uses Submittable. Another requires me to submit through a form on their web site then tracks things through Author Portal. Two others want e-mail submissions.

I could check the various platforms and search my e-mail to see what is where but I’m too lazy. I want a one stop solution, thank you very much, so I keep track of my manuscripts on Excel. I simply created a form with columns for the manuscript, the publisher or agency and the date.

When I want to know where a manuscript is, I check the last dated entry under that title. I can see who has it, when I sent it and when I expect to hear back. I can also do a search to find out which manuscripts a particular agent or editor has seen.

There might be a way to get Excel to send me an alert when I need to check on a submission, but I don’t want more e-mail. Anything electronic is easy to ignore.

Instead, I note the expected reply date on my calendar. No, not on my phone. I have a paper calendar that hangs on my office door. When the reply date arrives, I send my manuscript to the next agent listed in my Excel file.

Does this keep me from writing without sending anything out? No. That comes with goal setting.

As a new writer, my goal was to submit or query on 2 pieces per month. I did this and started making sales. To make writing a career, I needed to mind the bottom line and shifted to a dollar goal. I don’t remember what my first dollar goal was – it might have been $500 in submissions/month. I do know that I’ve raised my goal at least twice and each time the amount I subsequently earn also goes up.

Yes, there are various platforms, like Duotrope, that claims to make submitting easier and more trackable but I haven’t looked into them. Personally, I prefer my fiddly little Excel file. You could also use a Word table or even an index card file. What you need to do is find the solution that will work for you, and then set the goals that will get you going.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on March 21, 2016.


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