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Successful Record Keeping For Writers’ Submissions

Keeping track of submissions to literary agents and editors can be confusing, especially if you’re submitting your creative writing on a regular basis. At Writer’s Relief, we know how difficult it can be to stay on top of the submission process. An integral part of our service includes keeping careful track of our clients’ submissions.

If you want to learn how to organize and track your own submissions, follow these simple steps to error-free record keeping, and you’ll never need to guess again.

The Cover Letter

Believe it or not, one of the keys to successful record keeping is a properly prepared cover letter. In the body of the cover letter, it is most important to include the title(s) of the work you are sending for consideration. Be sure the letter also includes your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. This is the first step to organizing your work. And the key to successfully keeping track of your own work? Make a copy of each and every cover letter.

Invest in a portable file box and a small set of hanging files. Label each one as follows: Open Cover Letters, Closed Cover Letters, and Accepted Work. Keep your cover letters in alphabetical order by journal name. (You can also set up an additional file for journal research information you may have printed from the Internet or have received in the mail.)

When you receive responses from the journals, staple each response to the matching cover letter and move it from Open Cover Letters to either the Closed Cover Letters file or the Accepted Work file. Be sure to keep the letters in alphabetical order by journal name. You’ll never be confused again as to what magazine saw which work.

Submit to Review Board

The Spreadsheet

Another key to successful record keeping is making a spreadsheet that contains this information: the journal name, date sent, work sent, date returned, and editor comments. You can do this in your computer using an Excel spreadsheet program. For those who are more computer-challenged, you can enter the information in a table format. Enter the journal names alphabetically. (Use your help menu for instructions on setting up either of these documents.)

Once you have entered this information, be sure to save and back up your computer files, and print a hard copy of your submission list for quick reference. (For more help, see our article on Computer File Management.)

Now you can easily refer to your list and know at a glance which journals have seen your work when making submissions. Remember that the vast majority of responses you receive are preprinted. The most important responses to note are those which contain handwritten comments from the editors. Include these important comments in your spreadsheet.

You should contact those editors IMMEDIATELY with more work if they’ve asked to see more, and if they are suggesting revisions that you feel comfortable making, it is imperative you contact the editor right away. This is a wonderful way to develop a relationship with an editor, and very often moves your work toward publication.

Using your spreadsheet information also lets you know at a glance if it’s okay to send a journal more work. Literary magazines only want to review one submission at a time. Don’t send more work until they’ve responded to your earlier submission (or after one year if you don’t hear anything before that time).

Use these basic steps to successfully keep accurate records of your submissions. You’ll avoid embarrassing errors and, best of all, you’ll have more time to write. And if you find yourself struggling with the details of submitting your writing, give Writer’s Relief a call. We have been helping writers manage the submission process since 1994, and we’d love to help you too! 

REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT OUR LIST OF WRITING CONTESTS and ANTHOLOGIES! You won’t find a better list anywhere (AND IT’S FREE!) of upcoming anthologies, special-themed journals, and writing contests

One Response to Successful Record Keeping For Writers’ Submissions

  1. This is my method of choice for tracking mailings, but the author must concede that the largest challenge is the increasing percentage of agents and editors who prefer email queries. Trying to reduce paper waste is a noble effort, but open emails seem to build up and get lost without printing and following the advice in this article. Bummer for the environment, I guess. Just use recycled paper for such in-house efforts.

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