When writing and submitting short fiction, you should have a list of the markets where you plan to send your stories.
But that list is only half the battle. You should also track where you have sent your stories. Tracking submissions is important to avoid three common errors that might hurt your chances at future publications:
- Multiple Submissions: Sending more than one story at a time to the same place. This is generally not allowed unless a magazine states it’s acceptable.
- Simultaneous Submissions: Sending the same story to more than one market at once. Some markets allow you to do this, but you should only simultaneously submit if all the markets you send a story to allow you to do so.
- Re-Submitting: Sending a story to the same magazine more than once. You should only send a story again if the magazine explicitly asks for a re-write. Even if you have drastically revised the story, it is still still a resubmission.
How to Track Submissions
To track your submissions, create a spreadsheet with the following columns:
- Name of the story
- Date submitted
When Submitting a Story
When you submit a story, enter the appropriate information into the spread sheet, with each submission as a row.
For Notes, I usually enter relevant information, such their average response times and anything I learn—a change in editors, closing to submissions, etc. As well, some markets say “We reply withing 30-60 days. If you have not heard from us in 90 days, send a query.” Noting the appropriate delay for sending a query is important.
For Response, enter the date when you should follow up with query if you have not heard anything. If the submission guidelines say 3 to 4 months, use four months. If they say “We reply withing 30-60 days. If you have not heard from us in 90 days, send a query.” use 90 days.
Finally, set the background of the row to yellow, so at a glance you can see what submissions you currently have out to market.
As Time Passes
If you have not heard anything and 80%-90% of the response time has passed, change the background of the row to orange. This way, you can see that you soon may have a sale or be looking for a new market.
After Expected Response Date
When the date when you expected a reply comes and goes with no news, change the background of the row to red and consider sending a query.
Unless the magazine states the time that should elapse before sending a query, let another week or two pass before sending one. Keep the query brief and polite—”I am querying about my story ‘Vanity’ that I submitted on February 30 of this year.”—and add the date you sent the query to the Notes column.
When you receive your reply from the magazine, note their decision in the Response column.
If they rejected your story, clear the background color from that row. Add any comments the editors may have made about the story. You may find a pattern if the same market has similar comments about your work (too long, want something character-driven), or several markets say similar things about one story (cliché).
If they purchased it, change the background to green and add any comments.
Rejections or acceptances are not the only two outcomes. Sometimes a story is lost and the magazine asks you to re-submit it, but will give it priority. Sometimes markets go out of business. Or they request a re-write. When something unexpected happens, mark the row as pale blue and add notes.
When sending in a story again—as a re-write or the original submission was lost—treat those second submissions as new submissions. Enter the date the second submission was made, date you can expect to here from them, etc.
All of this may seem like a lot of work, but remaining organized is vital to a writer. Multiple submissions or submitting a story to the same market more than once may get you noticed as unprofessional.