I’m not going to lie to you: I love writing, but I don’t like the practical side of publishing. You know: sending your work to magazines, keeping track of submissions, and editing cover letters. It’s time-consuming to navigate the submission process, and I’m a dreamy Pisces who just wants to escape into my fantasy writing world and cuddle with poetry, books, and chamomile tea. Ask me to write a poem, write an article, perform a poem, or write a novel, and I’ll gladly spend many hours doing that for fun. But when it comes to dealing with the real world of publishing, I’ve learned that tracking submissions is a process that requires patience, diligence, and perseverance.
Poets track submissions for many reasons: It’s standard etiquette, and you also need a system to track when you’ve submitted, where, and who you should query after your work has been accepted. So, if you’re looking for ways to keep your publishing process organized and neat, read on for the techniques and strategies to make your life easier and more practical—even if you don’t enjoy being practical.
Submittable has revolutionized the publishing process. Almost every literary magazine or journal is using Submittable because it streamlines the process of sending and receiving submissions both for the poet and for the editor. It took many years, but eventually, even the editors who were resistant to using Submittable accepted it as the best way to track submissions. Submittable is also one of the reasons that many literary magazines ask you to pay a three-dollar fee to submit: They have to pay Submittable in return for their service.
To use Submittable, create a free account, and under “Submissions,” you’ll see all the active, accepted, declined, and withdrawn submissions. You can also collaborate with others on submissions, and you can save drafts of submissions. But the best new feature that makes Submittable the ideal place to track your submissions is their “Universal Submission Tracker.” You can create a log of every journal you submit to in one place rather than having a separate Excel spreadsheet for those submissions that weren’t posted through Submittable. This is exactly what writers were asking for, and it’s finally here.
Duotrope is a great resource for poets. It’s a paid service for creatives that want to take their submission tracking to the next level. Their web site offers premium resources for poets, writers, and artists: “We help you save time finding publishers or agents for your work, so you can focus on creating. Our market listings are up to date and full of information you won’t find elsewhere. We also offer submission trackers, custom searches, deadline calendars, statistical reports, and extensive interviews.”
In the poet section, you’ll find all the resources you need to publish your work: Instead of searching on various websites and books, you can find listings and market resources all in one place, and that does save you time. Of course, their service isn’t free, but if you can afford it then it does make tracking your submissions easier.
Microsoft Excel is not my favorite way to track submissions, but it’s efficient. Unless you’re George RR Martin and you use DOS to write, owning a word processing program is like buying a guitar if you’re a musician: It’s an investment you have to make as a writer. And if you’re like me and don’t like using Excel to track your finances as many practical people do, just download a preset spreadsheet, and you won’t waste any time trying to learn how to use Excel. With a template, you can alter it to your specific needs. For example, my spreadsheet has five different title cells: the name of the magazine, the name of the poem, how I sent it (by email or Submittable), their response, and whether this was a contest or prize.
As soon as I submit, I make it a ritual to jot down my submission in Excel right afterward, so I don’t forget to follow-up later. In all honesty, the submission process is like going to the gym: time-consuming and tedious, but the results are worth it: You get published. That is of course, right after you’ve received some rejection. The more you submit, the more chances you have of being published, so getting used to tracking your submissions is a necessary practice if you want to have a career in writing.
If you don’t like submitting, maybe you can give yourself a reward for your efforts: something to make the process more enjoyable. But in the end, hard work pays off, and soon, you will enjoy the pleasure of seeing your name and beautiful poetry in print or online.