Writers resources: Managing Submissions

Last year, Debs and I had a bit of a shakeup here at Fiction Can Be Fun.  Fewer stories, more #SecondThoughts, and we’ve introduced a new series on resources for writers and another with guest posts investigating the intersections between writers and their daily lives.  In part, this has all been in keeping with the blog’s reason for being: from the beginning we’ve always wanted the blog to help writers, as much as it’s been about our own writing.  The other reason why we’ve been cutting back on the new stories, is that we’re trying to place more stories with magazines, most of which require that the story not have been published elsewhere, including on personal blogs.

As of today, I’m still only one story to the good, magazine wise, but I’m also aware of the number of people who have racked up a significant number of rejections before getting a story published – short story writers and novelists both.  So, I’ve got a little portfolio of stories that have each been rejected multiple times.  I still think they’re good, and friends have told me that they like them.  I just need to find the right home for them.  The thing is, there are lot of potential homes, and a lot of potential rejection letters.  How do you keep track of them all? 

I started off with an excel sheet, which sort of worked. Sort of. I made a couple of tweaks, but it was starting to get a bit messy and wasn’t really working the way I wanted it to. And quite bluntly, I didn’t have the time or energy to overhaul it. Then I started hearing about Submission Grinder, and later on Literarium and Duotrope; I’ve added links to all three on the Resources page. In some ways they are all much the same: an online tool for keeping track of your stories and rejections. Actually, all three are much more than that, although the focus and the mechanisms are a function of the founders’ ethos.

Submission Grinder is a spin-out from Diabolical Plots: they track 10,000+ markets (magazines, anthologies, etc), and more than 7000 users have wracked up over 330,000 submissions – some of these have even been accepted for publication. (One of the nice features is that every successful application is acknowledged and the author given a shout out). The presentation feels a bit old fashioned somehow, and that can be a bit off-putting, Having dabbled with The Grinder, I didn’t find it particularly intuitive, although I probably didn’t give it a fair try.

Literarium is similar to The Grinder, but I found it more useful in that it does what I expect in the way that I expect it to – I find it easier to understand. I’ve not delved far enough into the Submission Grinder to know if this is possible there, but Literarium will help generate an editable cover letter, based on key information about the specific story and anything that you’ve uploaded about yourself. It will also keep track of specific feedback, if you choose to add this. There are two health warnings, one useful right now, and one more of a long term thing. The other day I logged a piece which I had written for a specific market, and to begin with it wouldn’t let me register a submission. The problem, I think, was that the record for the market didn’t include the specific type of submission that I was talking about – this was actually a factual piece, an essay on a particular topic, that I’d written for a magazine that accepts both fiction and fact based submissions. I managed to get around the issue in the end, but worth noting. Longer term, the site explicitly states that whilst it is free to use at the moment, the developers are looking to make it a paid for service at some point. It’s not clear how far ahead that will be, nor what the tariff might be at that point.

Duotrope is already a paid for service, so I can’t tell you very much about it how it operates under the hood, so to speak, but it does also support artists and photographers as well as writers. It also seems to be a bit more connected across the industry, and offers a submission management process for publishers, similar to Moksha, Submittable, and the like. At £4.25/month or £42.50/year, the cost of the service seems reasonable, but when payments for stories can run from free copies of books/magazines to perhaps 10 cents/word, the cost could seem impossible to effectively ‘one story’. If you were selling a story a day, then it might be reasonable, but I suspect if I were selling stories at that rate then I might not be using this kind of service. Looking at the testimonials, I think that perhaps the tracker is a bonus, and what you are really paying for is some of the other features; that, and being a paid for service, the information is kept a little more up-to-date, and the statistics delved into a little more.

So there you go: three ways that you can keep track of your submissions, look for new markets, and hopefully get your stories published more easily than trying to keep track of a bunch of emails, scraps of paper, or an excel database.

But what’s your experience? Have you tried these sites before? Do you have a sure-fire method for keeping track of all those words?

© David Jesson, 2021

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