Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Keeping Tabs on Submissions

The publishing industry moves at its own pace, and waiting with baited breath for anything in the this business is a sure path to insanity. Therefore many writers espouse the method of "submit it and forget it." I myself try to hold to this adage, although as date milestones creep closer it's hard to limit myself to checking my gmail account only a few times a day, as opposed to several times an hour...

The trick with "submit it and forget it," though, is that you really can't forget it completely. It's an unfortunate truth that many agents and a number of publishers just don't get back to you. Ever. So it's up to you to decide how long is long enough, and find a method for keeping track of your submissions.

I put all of my submissions on a spreadsheet, with submission date and publisher's website, among other things. My general wait time is 2 months, unless the publisher specifies a different time period. Some will say "If you haven't had a response in X weeks, please send an email to..." but those markets are becoming fewer and fewer. Many don't address the issue at all in their submission guidelines. So if I haven't had a response on a story in two months, I'll send a brief follow-up email. I've mentioned this before in my Tuesday Tip on Rejections. At that time I hadn't yet had a market not get back to me, but that's changed and I wanted to share the experience.

On July 3rd I submitted a short story to a particular market, one I hadn't done business with yet and had not heard anything about one way or the other. I never got a "we received your submission" reply, which is never a good sign. But I gave it the standard two months, and then sent my polite inquiry on 08/30/09. I resolved to wait two weeks. On 09/15/09 I sent a second inquiry. Still nothing.

What to do? The lack of any reply at all might indicate that, for some reason, my emails were not getting through. However, that's no reason to leave one of my stories hanging in limbo where it's not earning me any money.

In the end, I sent the following email on 10/01/09:

"I am writing in regards to my short story submission, “TITLE,” which was sent on 07/03/09. I have had no response from you confirming receipt of the story despite two attempts. I can only assume you are uninterested, and therefore I am revoking the submission. If this is not the case, please contact me."

Then I found a new market for the story and sent it out.

There is another short story that was submitted to an anthology with a deadline of 07/15/09. This one is a little trickier, as I have worked with this editor and publisher before, and the last time I never heard back until I got the acceptance email. I've sent inquiry emails twice to this editor, with no reply as yet. Since I have a couple other email contacts with that publisher, if I don't hear back by the end of the second two weeks I'll start checking in with my other contacts. Still very polite, I'm only looking for a brief update. If the anthology has been delayed or something that's fine, I just need to know.

I had another editor at a different publisher get back to me saying that my story was being considered and they'd know for sure in November. That's perfect, exactly what I needed to know, and best of all, she sent me the information before I had to ask for it. Yeay!

I will be coming up on a similar situation at the end of the month, when all of my agent queries will need to be reviewed. The majority of my current agent queries were sent on 09/01/09 or thereabouts, so the electronic-submissions-only-that-only-respond-if-interested ones will be getting moved over to the rejected side of that spreadsheet and new queries will get sent out.

The important part is, find a way of keeping track that works for you. Use a spreadsheet or Outlook reminders or notes on your calendar or whatever so you can "forget it" with the confidence of knowing that, when the date milestone of your choosing comes about, you will have the system in place to remind you and provide you with the information you need to keep your work out there working for you.

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