As over the years we’ve built up quite a drawer full of stories, we needed to have a system to keep track of what went where, when. Our tracker is a living document, updated whenever we’ve got something to update, and sometimes we play a bit with the format. As it’s something we both use, and we’ve got slightly different thinking patterns, above all our submissions tracker had to be simple and intuitive.
Here’s a model of our tracker; I’ve stripped out magazine and story titles, so nobody need feel embarrassed.
On the horizontal axis we’ve got our story titles plus their word count. We pretty much know our stories, so that’s all we need. Vertically, we’ve got the magazine titles with the genre and the word count requirements. Tip: if your spreadsheet program allows, you can link the story title to its submission page on the ‘net. Not shown, on the right hand side, there’s a column with a little bit more detail on the specific quirks they have (“They accept horror but prefer it with speculative element”). Tip: lock your column and row with the magazine and story titles, so when you scroll they stay visible.
Whenever we’ve got a new story, we look at which markets it’s suitable for. Those which aren’t, we give a grey square. Whenever we’ve got a new market, we look at which stories we can potentially submit to them. These choices aren’t only based on word count and genre; sometimes you just know that a market won’t like a story. In practice, you’ll end up throwing things against the wall to see what sticks, and editor feedback (or the lack of it) can make you fine tune it. Tip: Don’t self-reject too quickly. Also: stories can bust genres, like when an editor normally doesn’t take horror but you feel that based on previous feedback they might like your horror story which is actually more a philosophical exploration.
Whenever we submit a story, we make the square for the story title dark blue, as well as the corresponding square in the row for the magazine we submitted it to, where we also type the submission date. That story’s now off the market until we hear an outcome. A market may not be open yet, or a story has been submitted, but we already know where we want it next: in this case we make the story/market square light-blue. You’ll see one story in orange there – we got extensive feedback on it from an editor, and we’ve decided that we want to rewrite it. Tip: Keep a record of your feedback in a separate tab.
And finally, there’s the red squares for “alas!” We don’t let them demotivate us: looking at them may help us decide what a magazine editor likes, and revise our greys and whites. Whenever we colour a square red, we do tend to look at “where do we send this story next?” and “anything else we can send them?”
So, this is our tracker. It works for us (though, this example shows that we can be a bit more ‘on top’ of it). If you’re serious about submitting, we strongly advise you to use a submission tracker. Of course, make it your own. Make it work for you!