Every writer has a way of tracking their submissions. If they don’t, they run the chance of embarrassment; sending a story to the publication twice, sending the same story to more than one publication when simultaneous submissions are not allowed.
In the past, I know there have been software programs for tracking submissions. Places like www.duotrope.com track submissions to a particular publisher, though it’s not yet easy to use and many market listings still don’t show the average number of days to an acceptance or a rejection.
For tracking where I send my own submissions I use a double card system. My publisher markets go on a 3X5 index card, where I write the name of the publisher, editor, address, types of subs/genres, pay and whether they take email submission/replies or not. On each card, I’ll write the story name and date: The Trials of Lemons 7/08. I never get as specific as putting the actual day.
Each story and poem is on a smaller index card. I started color coding them: blue=dark fantasy/horror, yellow=SF, green=fantasy, pink=erotica/mainstream, white=poems (except the spec poems are now on green). On these cards I’ll write where I sent them to. So for “The Trials of Lemons” (a poem), I’ll write: Chizine 7/08. When the story/poem is returned I mark the month: 9/08. If it’s an acceptance I put a “P” and circle it, meaning published. Actual date of publication isn’t put on the cards but on my vitae.
Ungainly? Perhaps. I could put this all on an Excel sheet, and once did try a computer generated card system, but I’m a fairly visual person and I find that I need to have the cards in my hand when I’m matching markets and submissions. Once I’ve matched things and submitted, I put my “sent” cards at the back of the box, with a paperclip separating sent and unsent material. I have a box for markets, one for fiction and one for poetry.
In recent years, I find I’m not using the market cards as much. Now that there are good and reliable sites like Duotrope and www.ralan.com, which keep information very up to date, I tend to always go to Ralan’s to check what the status of the publisher is. They sometimes close to submissions and may not always mark it on their own website (annoying) but it will be on Ralan’s, so in fact, his site is more up to date than the publisher website. If a market is a one-off anthology I don’t make a market card. If I’m also trying them for the first time, I wait. But now there are markets where I don’t bother making a card right away and then I run into trouble if I don’t read the story card close enough. This happened last week when I had already sent a story to a publisher and then sent a second a week later. I realized it right away and sent a withdrawal notice.
Some day there may be a computer program that’s visual enough for me, but for now I shuffle cards and can see at a glance where I’ve sent a story or poem and how long it’s been with a publisher. I can also count in a moment, how many submissions I have out but I’m not that anal. Really.