Keeping Track

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Do you ever have trouble keeping track of your submissions? Or wonder how to maintain an organized set of records? I've had problems, too. (Especially when I've had 30 plus submissions out at a time!)

Or are you a beginning writer wondering what records you should keep? To begin with you might not need all the following, but keeping accurate records now avoids a big job later.

Here are a few things I've learned over the years:

First, when I submit a piece I update my records before sealing the envelope or hitting send on the email. This way I don't forget to enter the information and am less likely to make mistakes. I also have four ways submission data is recorded:
• by manuscript
• current submissions
• financial, and
• by market.

Each story or article has its own record. I prefer to do it on individual 3x5 cards, but obviously it could be done in a spread sheet or database. The information I enter here is basic: date and where I've sent the piece, what the expected report time is, what response I received and when I received the response. Other useful information is noted on the card as well. See below.

Title of Story
Date Sent to: Reports: Received: Date:
1/5/04 ABC Magazine 4-6 weeks personal rejection 2/28/04
3/1/04 Magazine DEF 2 months standard rejection 5/15/04
5/20/04 G's Magazine 8-10 weeks -- --
9/2/04 inquiry letter sent re: status (SASP included) note: didn't receive - please resend 10/1/04
10/6/04 resent manuscript encouraging rejection 12/1/04
12/6/04 Magazine of HJ 12 weeks $125.00 3/13/05
SOLD all rights, will appear in the November '05 issue

With this system it takes seconds for me to see how many times a manuscript has been out and what type of response it has had. I staple the 3x5 card or cards to a manila folder which holds a copy of the story or article and any research information, correspondence, photo releases, etc. These manila folders are filed in a drawer in alphabetical order. If I need to write to the editor regarding the status of the manuscript, I add a paper clip to the folder tab so at a glance I can locate pieces in that stage.

I also have a computer record of all manuscripts currently "out." On the left are magazine/publisher names. Next I show what I've sent to each one. Besides a specific story title, the column could indicate a query letter about a proposed article, or a request for a sample copy, guidelines and theme list. The right columns are for "response time" and the expected response date based on when I sent the manuscript. It might also include a note that the manuscript is being "held for possible future use." I use a symbol to show I've sent an inquiry letter (>) regarding status of the manuscript.

I also use symbols to indicate type of markets, i.e. religious (+), and to differentiate between magazine (*) and book publishers. Recently I've added color coding. Magazines for teens are highlighted in one color, middle grade another, etc.

A blank in the "manuscript" column indicates this publisher is "available" for me to submit something else. Though I might also put a note in italics reminding me that this house or magazine only takes queries.

In the same file I keep a list of pieces not sent out. Some may just be waiting for a specific market to open. Others may be marked "revise." A word processor table is handy for keeping these records, though again it could be done in a database, spread sheet or on paper. Again, here's what I keep:
MARKET
MANUSCRIPT or CORRESPONDENCE
When the market REPORTS
EXPECTED RESPONSE DATE

For example:
H , Inc. Granny and the Pet Warfare 1 month 4/10/05

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Of course, financial records of submissions are necessary, too. How much postage did it cost me to send that manuscript? Did I enclose an SASE for their "reply only" or an SASE for return of the complete submission? Paper and envelope costs, phone calls, mileage to writers' meetings or speaking engagements, etc. are also recorded. I use a spreadsheet in Excel.

Besides the day to day account of money spent or money received, I also have a summary page broken down by month. I use a spreadsheet, which makes totals by month or by year very easy. But even if you record this information in a notebook, I suggest you total each month when it's over, so tax time will be easier.

Here are my headings: Date, Expense Item (what it was), Publisher/Magazine, Manuscript, Miles, Car Expense, Postage, Supplies, Bank Fees, Utilities, Trip Expenses, Other. I also will include how I paid, i.e. check number, cash, debit. Of course, I keep copies of receipts in a file labeled Writing Expenses and the year.

In addition, I keep a record of each magazine or publisher. I have two separate files: one for magazine submissions and one for book submissions. I note what I've sent and when. This makes it easy to see what type of submissions I have been mailing to a particular market and how often those mailings have gone out. It can eliminate my accidentally resending something to an editor. It also shows me if a market frequently doesn't respond. Here, I also note sales or other pertinent information, such as name changes or unsolicited manuscript moratoriums.

Magazines
P___ Magazine
Stick 'Em Up - 1/04 - sent inquiry letter re: status 5/04 - no response 8/04
R_______
Born in the Wrong Family - 2/03 - suspended publication
S___ L___ (formerly H_______)
sent for new sample copy and new guidelines - 11/04
Jesus Boy - 1/05
T_____ P_____
A Good Example Gone Bad - 4/03 - SOLD, will appear in sister publication F__W__
The Reluctant Helper - 11/03 - SOLD one-time rights 3/04
Space Case Luke - 8/04 - sent inquiry letter re: status 12/04
A Horse for Hallie - 3/05
U___________
sent for sample copy, guidelines and theme list/editorial calendar - 10/04

Whether you use my methods or some other, keeping accurate up-to-date records has a variety of benefits. It makes submitting easier; it's encouraging to see how many pieces are "out;" it helps you be aware of lagging responses; and, it's useful at tax time. But what I consider most important--an organized method induces me to get those submissions done and get back to writing.

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