No doubt you’ve seen me post copious amounts of stats and analysis on this blog relating to my submissions, rejections, and acceptances. I’m able to do that because I keep track of every single submission I send and its outcome (plus a bunch of other details). You don’t have to be a stat wonk like me, but you should keep track of all your submissions. Here’s why.
- Avoid dumb submission mistakes. Once you get into triple digits with submissions that comprise dozens of stories, it can be pretty easy to forget where you sent each one. So one of the things I do before I send out a story, especially one that’s racked up a fair number of rejections, is to check my database. That way I can make sure I’m not sending it to a publisher that’s already rejected it. Full disclosure: I’ve actually made this mistake a few times. Wanna know why? I didn’t check my fucking database before I hit send. (Let’s call that a cautionary tale.)
- Submission analysis & targeting. Look, you don’t have to get all crazy with the data like I do, but having some data at hand can be useful to determine how your submissions are doing overall. You can look for trends and anomalies that might help you dial in your submission targeting. Are you only getting standard form rejections from that one magazine and then going on to sell those stories elsewhere? Yeah? Then maybe that market isn’t a good fit for your work. Are your horror stories landing at a market but they’re consistently rejecting your fantasy stories? Okay, then stop sending them fantasy stories. A submission database that keeps track of not just when and where, but also genre, length, and other details may slightly increase the likelihood of an acceptance.
- Big-picture progress. One of my favorite things about a robust database is it really lets me see how I’m doing month to month and year to year. I can see if my acceptance numbers (and rate) are improving, if I’m getting more higher-tier and personal rejections than standard rejections, and all sorts of other info that can be quite encouraging. Having a database can help you take a big-picture view of your work rather than the isolated snapshots that come with each rejection. That’s always a confidence booster for me.
I’ve told you why you should keep a submission database; now let me tell you how. My preferred method is to let someone else do the bulk of the work, which is why I track all my submissions through Duotrope. They keep that database for me, and I can filter by market, by story, by rejection (and type of rejection), and so on. I can also download all this data with the click of a button if I want to manipulate it further. Yes, Duotrope is five bucks a month, but if you submit as often as I do, I think that’s a bargain. The Submission Grinder (which is free) has similar functionality, but since I don’t use that service I can’t give you the exact details.
What if you don’t want to use Duotrope or the Submission Grinder to track your submissions? No problem. It’s super easy to set up an Excel spreadsheet that’ll do the trick. If you’re Excel savvy, you can even get a lot of the same functionality you get at Duotrope with a little work. What should your submission database track? Here are the basics you should include: story title, genre, length, market, date sent, date received, and response. That might look like this.
This is a cobbled-together snapshot of some of my own submissions as an example of how you might track your own (No, I don’t generally rock a 50% acceptance rate; I just grabbed a bunch of old submissions for variety). Pretty simple, right? I can sort and parse this data in a number of ways to get all analytical if I want or just to make sure I don’t send a story to a market that’s already rejected it. If you want a more functionality, consider keeping tracking things like the days between submissions and responses and if the submission is a reprint or a sim-sub. That’s all great data. Whatever your database looks like the real key is to be consistent and diligent with keeping track of your submissions. Record every submissions and every response right away (if possible). Yeah, I know recording rejections kind of sucks, but trust me, it’ll serve you in the long run.
How do you keep track of your submissions? Tell me about it in the comments.