Submitting your stories and poems for publication can be a complicated process. Every editor has different tastes and needs; every journal has slightly different submission guidelines and reading periods; and then there’s that whole I-could-revise-this-thing-until-the-end-of-time-but-I-REALLY-need-to-send-it-out consideration for every single piece you’ve ever written.
Publication success comes down to two things: 1) creating work that’s worthy of being shared, and 2) persistence (because most authors will receive rejection letters for even their best material).
If it’s a numbers game, you’ve got to be good at keeping track of all the data that’ll increase your odds, right? That’s why it’s important to maintain thorough records of your submission history, notes about different editors and journals, and a complete list of your stories or poems that are ready for publication (at least in your own estimation). Thankfully, there are some great cheap or free tools out there to help you do exactly that.
How to keep track of your submissions
1. Use Submittable — If you’ve ever completed an online submission, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ve already used this tool (it used to be called “Submishmash”).
Many editors require writers to submit online through Submittable, and that’s actually a good thing — because it’s free! And Submittable also gives you access to a simple dashboard where you can link to all your previous submissions, view your cover letters, notes from editors, and see the status of your submissions (“received,” “in process,” “accepted,” “rejected,” etc.)
One thing to remember: keep your Submittable bio up-to-date with your latest publication history, any awards/prizes/contests you’ve won, etc. This is going to be the default text populating the cover letter section whenever you visit Submittable from the “guidelines” page of a journal/magazine. You can change that text, of course, but it’ll save you a step if you keep the info current.
2. Use Duotrope — Duotrope USED TO BE free, but they shifted to a subscription model earlier this year. If it’s any indication of how valuable a tool I’ve found it to be, though, I haven’t had any gripes about paying the monthly fee to use Duotrope.
Basically, Duotrope is an all-in-one submissions management system. There’s a submissions tracker to view the status of your work that’s under consideration, an inventory component that lets you list all your completed works in one place, weekly announcements about opening or closing reading periods and prize deadlines, and detailed stats about each market’s acceptance/rejection rates, average time for response, and much more.
3. Use a spreadsheet — Duotrope and Submittable are great, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. But it’s also important to own this information too, just in case. If you don’t have Excel or some other spreadsheet software, check out Google Drive. You can create, edit, and save spreadsheets (and many other document types) in the cloud — and for free. Here is where I recommend you keep your own submission records, as well as any notes about editors’ literary preferences, contact info, etc.
You might also consider uploading the latest versions of all your stories and poems to Google Drive too (in a private folder), just in case your computer or hard drive crashes on you.
Well, those are the 3 tools I use most often when I submit work for publication. I’d love to hear what’s been useful for you too. Let me know in the comments section below.
[“Accepted” stamp from Shutterstock.]
About Chris Robley
Chris Robley has written 457 posts in this blog.
Chris Robley splits his time between the Portlands Oregon and Maine. Generally, he plays music on the West Coast and writes poems on the East — though sometimes that gets mixed up. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, Pacifica Literary Review, Arsenic Lobster, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard’s Contest for Emerging Poets.