Keeping on Track

It’s great having a polished story or poem ready to be sent to a publisher or entered into a competition, but then comes the difficult part: waiting for a response. Often it takes months, sometimes it takes weeks, and a select bunch answer in a few days. This is unavoidable.

But here’s what separates a beginner from a seasoned pro: the former often sits and waits for a response, while the latter almost always uses the time to work on another piece. It’s desirable to build up a portfolio because many publishers, and almost all competitions, say you can’t send the same piece to two or more different places simultaneously.

Novel submissions are different in this respect. Most agents recognise that a book is an all-consuming work, and that it could be sent to a number of other places. It’s good practice to inform the other agents if one takes it on.

Whichever situation you’re in, it’s important to keep track of what you’ve submitted to where. It might be a simple as keeping a list if you’ve only a few pieces, but I have dozens in different places, so I use a spreadsheet to record the details:

Submissions tracker

I’ve edited out the names of the publishers and the links to their submission guidelines as I might want to resubmit in the future. The last column keeps track of how many pieces I’ve sent out during the year. My target is at least one piece per week on average; I have a poet friend whose target is an average of at least one piece per day. Otherwise, the tracker is self-explanatory.

 

It’s also important to keep track of what you’ve had published. These appear on another spreadsheet, and I keep the manuscripts in their own directory.

In many cases, the rights revert back to the author after a period of around six months to a year, so the same piece could potentially be sent to another publisher further down the line. If you’re unsure, ask the editor.

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Taking Care of Business Cards.

At the end of June, I ordered a set of 500 business cards. I realised I needed a quick way of letting people know how they could reach me if the situation arose. I could write down my details but it’s less memorable, and often less readable, than a proper card.

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The card in question

It contains my phone number, e-mail address, Web address, and Twitter handle; the former is censored in the photograph as it’s a personal number. I chose not to include a, “job title,” such as writer, poet, blogger, &c, as I didn’t want to make people feel as though they could only contact me in connection with these skills. Instead, the general sense of what I do is conveyed by the books in the background.

I bought the cards from Vistaprint, who threw in a metal holder free of charge, although there are more expensive services such as Moo.com. Just a couple of weeks later, I did indeed need one to tell a fellow blogger about this page. I currently earn very little money from writing, but I felt like a professional as I handed it over.