Every writer I know has her or his own method for tracking submissions, except for those who don’t. Since I’ve always admired Wallace Stevens as much for his actuarial skills as for his poetry, I’m one of those who does keep track. My check book is always balanced, too.
Many writers use spread sheets and I’ve heard tell of special software designed specifically for the task of submission tracking. I’ve invented my own method that integrates the creative writing half of my brain with the accounting half. So it’s a bit less accounting than the aforementioned methods, but also a bit more entertaining.
I color-code the file name of each piece of writing I have stored on my hard-drive according to it’s current status. Plain black means it needs more work before I send it out. Red means I feel the piece is ready to spread its wings and fly, but either I haven’t nudged it from the nest yet or else it’s come back home to live for a while after the moving out thing didn’t work so well. Blue is for work I’ve sent out but for which I haven’t yet heard anything. Green means a piece has been accepted.
I also keep a note on the bottom of each piece, informing me of where I’ve sent it and when, etc., information I duplicate in one large word document I have oh so creatively named “Submissions List.” The information in “Submissions List” is colored coded as well. Here black means rejection, red means waiting to hear, and green is accepted. Purple, a color I’ve used exactly once so far, means my piece was rejected but somehow the editor made me feel so good about it.
I have one paragraph for each submission. I always include what I sent, where I sent it and when, what they say their reporting time is, and how much they pay. When I hear back I add in the date I heard & what the status is. In addition I sometimes include insights into my mood at the time of submission and rejection. For some reason I’ve found no need for extra notes to myself upon acceptance. Not so with rejections.
I was scrolling back through the entire list earlier today and found some notes I’d forgotten about. I suppose they probably run the typical gamut for a writer’s reactions. Here are some samples:
I have plenty of “will assume it’s rejected if I haven’t heard by now.”
“11/20 sent poem to ‘Poetry of the Sacred’ contest. 02/01 – Didn’t win shit.”
“Rejected in the mailroom, judging by the speed.”
I have a few “rejected, though with a nice note.”
At one point in my list I have 15 rejections in a row with no comment, followed by a sixteenth with the word “sigh” at the end & a seventeenth with the words “boo hoo.”
“5/24 sent three poems to XX…All rejected 07/25/05. Without returning manuscripts, even though I sent adequate postage. So I had false hope when I realized the envelope contained only one page, thinking it was an acceptance. Blppppthhhh!”
“07/27… sent three poems to …XX via snail mail. … Rejected 02/21. They waited long enough that postage rates went up, so they had to add 2 cents to my SASE. Ha! My little unplanned raspberry back at them.”
“09/16… sent essay to XX via snail mail. …Returned 12/05 with illegible handwriting that I assume was a rejection since it included the first page (only?) of my manuscript and no contract. They used the rest of my postage to send me adverts for their mag. Instead of my manuscript.” (Extra note for other writers – I will identify this magazine. It was GreenPrints. Now you know, if you send them something, only include enough return postage for one page.)
11/16…sent essay to XX … So now it’s double submitted, as I still haven’t heard from YY. Whoa, I’m getting daring. Rejected 01/05 with a very nice note saying she was making a point of sending me a personal note to say she found my piece exceptionally well done, but thematically it didn’t fit. I take what consolation I can get.”
“01/22… sent three poems to XX via snail mail…I will have a heart attack if they accept one of my poems. 02/09/06 – no need for the defibrillator.”
“02/06 sent four poems to XX, anthology of poems about motherhood. …made first cut!!! ‘Will likely hear from them again in the fall.’ 09/15..Didn’t make final cut. Too bad their book will be such poor quality.”
“07/11…sent story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Mag. Pro market. Snail mail. Rejected 01/16…but it was a “nice” rejection w/handwritten extra note.” (Note: I included the name of this mag as well because I’m still impressed that an editor at such a large publication would take the time to handwrite a nice little extra page.)
“07/25…entered piece in XX writing contest…11/01 Put a big L on my forehead.”
“04/09 sent poetry book manuscript to XX contest ..Because it was a more interesting way of disposing of $25 than flushing it down the toilet.”
Since I’m nothing but professional and courteous in my communication with editors, I find keeping this list on my computer is a good way to vent my feelings. Also, I like to remember whether a particular publication is a market I want to try again or not. Maybe my little system is submission and attitude tracking.