When you’re submitting writing, especially when you’re a poet so you’ve got a lot of titles to keep track of, you need an organizing system. It ensures that you keep sending out all the poems that you’d like to have published, you know what is sent where and how long it’s been there, and you have all of your publication credits in one place. While there’s certainly no one right way to set up this system, I find that it’s easier for me to modify someone else’s system than make one up from scratch — at least if I have no idea where to start. So, here’s my submission tracking system. Feel free to use or modify it to suit you.
Create a Submission Tracker file in Excel. My file has three worksheets: 1) Poem Index, 2) Published Poems, and 3) Need Editing.
The Poem Index includes the following columns:
- Location – The folder where the poem is located on my computer (may be organized by year or other system)
- Title - alphabetized list of submission-worthy poems
- Length of poem - Even though many publications do not list a line limit, journals have a tendency to publish short poems, medium, or long ones so having the ability to do a data sort by length is helpful.
- Type/Form – This categorization may include narrative, lyrical, prose, haiku, sonnet, etc.
- Subject/Theme - This makes it easier to remember what each poem is about and to find poems if a market is doing a death issue or looking for poems about bats.
- Tone – The subject of the poem doesn’t dictate its tone. A poem about death could be funny, frantic, somber, etc. When your favorite journal is publishing a humor issue, having the Tone column will help you find your best work.
- Former title - Sometimes after I’ve changed a title, it keeps sticking in my head the other way. I can use the Find function to search for the title I remember.
I use a color highlighting system for the Poem Index so I can easily see what the current status of a poem is.
- Green if a poem is ready to go out but isn’t currently submitted anywhere
- Red for no simultaneous submissions (so I don’t send a poem to two places if it’s not allowed–or if they’re really freaky about SS)
- Bold face if a poem is out to one market
- Orange for out to two markets,
- Purple if a poem is out to three+ markets (this is rarely, but sometimes used).
- Blue (my favorite color) for published (in the instance a market takes previously published work)
The Published worksheet includes the following fields:
- Market – Name of market in which the poem was published
- Details – volume # and other details from publication
- Link – If the poem was published online, this gives me the location.
The Need Editing worksheet is for poems I’ve stopped submitting but I don’t want to give up on. Having a list of these gives me a place to move a poem and its details if I decide to stop submitting it and start working on it again. The Need Editing list makes a good starting place for a revising day.
I used to also track the market submissions for each poem, but doing this in Excel was a messy process because what I really needed was a database. Fortunately, Luminary Writer’s Database has created a free online tracker that allows users to see what poems are out to which markets, how long they’ve been out, and what their current status is (pending, rejected, accepted, and withdrawn).
Add all the titles you’ve got in your Submission Tracker. The reason you want your own Excel file and not just to use Luminary is that you can add all the details/fields to choose which poems you’ll submit.
You’ll also add markets to the tracker though you may not want to fill out all of the available fields in the market tracker. I add the title, website url, and any notes of my own (like what type of poems they’re publishing, if I have dealt with them before, etc). When I’m ready to submit, I always go to the market’s website and reread their current submission guidelines so it didn’t serve me to add those details on Luminary.
Between your Submission Tracker in Excel and the Luminary Writer’s Database, your poems will be so organized that when you find places to submit, you’ll be able to choose the best poems for that market and know exactly where your poems are: waiting to be submitted, pending, or published.
Your next job is to find some markets for your poems. Stay tuned for the next installment in my Submission series and I’ll help you do that.