Highlight: Tracking and Etiquette
by Crystal Miller
Staying on Track
Once you have discovered the right places to submit, you must focus some energy on organizing all of that information. Keeping track of when, where, and what you have submitted can quickly get out of hand if you do not have a system in place. If you are computer savvy, (good for you!) an Excel spreadsheet can be your best friend. Excel does, however, require a certain amount of knowhow when setting up a new spreadsheet. For example, you can calculate an expected response date for your submissions by creating a formula that gives you the date that falls six months following your submission (or however long the expected response time may be for that journal). If you know how to create a spreadsheet, insert formulas and successfully format a customized template, that is great – but unfortunately not everyone is so technically inclined. If you fall toward the less inclined end of the spectrum (like I did), do not fret. You can take a class to learn Excel, ask a friend or check out the links posted below. In fact, if you open Excel on your computer, in the upper right hand corner of your screen there is a blue circle with a white question mark in it – clicking on it will take you to Microsoft’s help site where you can watch a number of tutorials. When I started using Excel, my spreadsheets were pretty primitive with Magazine titles, story titles and dates submitted. Over time, I became a little more comfortable with the program and added fees, re-submission schedules and rejections/acceptances. You may also utilize the icons that ascend, descend and/or alphabetize the columns. You’ll get the hang of it if you are willing to stick with it and have the desire to dedicate the time, and on the upside – once your formatting is finished you will have a customized tracking form that you can easily duplicate and/or expand to fit your growing needs.
However if, despite the customization and ease of access on your computer, you find all of that entirely too daunting there are other avenues to explore. Many sites have been established to help writers track submissions and stay organized.
Luminary Writer’s Database – www.writersdb.com – you can track submissions, find markets and chart your writing. Each aforementioned feature is thoroughly explained and optional so you can pick-and-choose features.
Excel – http://spreadsheets.about.com/od/excel101/a/Excel_beg_guide.htm (you can learn, I promise) – This article on About.com, titled “How to Use Excel – Excel Tutorials for Beginners,” is a straight forward, no frills approach to learning Excel.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBT_sBzFcOA – “Computer Help: How to Use Excel” is an easy visual tool for learning Excel basics.
Duotrope – $5/month https://duotrope.com/index.aspx – Duotrope exists to help writers help themselves. This site offers a submissions tracker, data reports, a literary search engine and best of all they offer a “calendar of upcoming themes” to get you on an inspirational cycle.
Writer’s Market – $5.99/month http://www.writersmarket.com/ – Writer’s Market offers subscribers extensive listings that include publishers, agents, magazines and contests along with organizational tools like personalized folders, electronic records and reference articles. One other thing that Writer’s Market does is show you a side-by-side comparison of how their listings differ from their competitors’.
Other Things to Consider
While staying on top of things and being organized is crucial to your personal success and sanity, there are a few other things that should be taken into consideration – like etiquette.
- Do not submit more than once during a writing period unless the guidelines clearly state that that sort of thing is acceptable. (If nothing is said, it is not acceptable)
- Wait at least six months between accepted submissions. It is important to stay on everyone’s good side and to show courtesy and consideration. Do not be an eager beaver and flood their inbox.
- Address cover letters accordingly – it only takes a couple of minutes to look up who will be reading your piece. A little personalization can go a long way. Think of it as a résumé cover letter – it is very similar.
The writing world can be a fickle mistress. Always do your homework, proceed with caution and cling to your optimism. You will get rejection letters. They are part of the process. Keep them. File them away (or jam them onto a large nail above your desk for motivation like a very young Stephen King) and press on. Every successful writer has been rejected more times than they would like to think about. You will be rejected, too. Hang in there and above all, write on!