Writers: How to Find and Track Submissions

I’ve been submitting to literary magazines for over thirty years, and in that time, I hope I’ve learned a thing or two about keeping track of my submissions and finding good opportunities for submitting. One thing, I’m continually thankful for is how much easier it has become to submit. When I started, it took subscribing to magazines like Poets & Writers and buying books like Poet’s Market or the Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses to even know where to send your work, then you had to mail everything with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Now, most of the work can be done online, and though it’s simpler, the number of writers submitting, especially when most everyone does simultaneous submissions has also made it more complicated.

I thought it was time to provide a round-up of some of the places you can find opportunities and track your submissions. Of course, some of the old stand-bys are still the best places to start. Poets & Writers maintains a list of magazine and book publishers, as does the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses [CLMP] whose Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses was my bible back in the early days. New Pages has stepped in with their guide to magazines, and New Pages, CLMP, and Poets & Writers all offer classifieds with calls for submission. One of the newest kids on the block offering a listing of magazines and publishers is Chill Subs. I won’t get into all of the Facebook groups or Twitter accounts that post calls for submissions, since you can search for some of those. Following any of these organizations on Twitter or Facebook will also show you their social media content, which often includes calls as well.

One of the main places writers have gone for finding places to submit, though, is Submittable, which has become the most ubiquitous electronic submission platform. Their Discover feature lets you see upcoming submission deadlines. Submittable’s days as a monopoly may be numbered, though. More magazines seem to be moving away from it, and gravitating to its major competitor Duosuma, the offspring of Duotrope, a service for researching magazines and tracking submissions. And as I wrote awhile back, there is now a new kid on the block for online submissions, [Oleada]

Let’s stop for a minute and review how magazines accept your submissions. Though many are using Submittable, some use Duosuma, some Oleada, and some use a submission database on their websites (provided by CLMP). You might even still find a few using Green Submissions, and quite a few still take submissions by email. There are even a few stallwarts who only take submissions by good old snail mail. This is why it’s getting more complicated (not less) to keep track of your submissions.

Both Submittable and Duotrope offer systems for tracking submisssions both on their site and using other means. This is fairly new for Submittable, though that is what Duotrope was doing long before they created a submissions platform for publishers. Poets & Writers, though you need to have an account and be logged in to access the My Submissions feature. That is true for any online submission tracker, of course, since they have to know who you are to keep track of where you submit. Other options include The Submission Grinder and Literarium, though I haven’t tried using either yet.

If you are only submitting your work through one service, such as Submittable, it’s fairly easy to keep track of what is out, what is accepted, and what is in. It gets a little more complicated to keep track of everything you’ve sent to one magazine over time, though, and it gets quite complicated to keep track of submissions through several different methods, as I described above. That’s why Duotrope and now Submittable allow you to record submissions by other means than their own service. To be honest, though, I haven’t tried them much. I did set up a Duotrope account once, and I’ve looked at Submittable’s and Poets & Writers’, but I’ve found it clunky to add all my titles in an online form (I’m a poet, so I have hundreds). Many writers I know keep spreadsheets or index cards with this information. I’ve used my own relational database for years. I recently moved it over to LibreOffice Base. It’s called SubTracker, and if anyone is interested, I’ve posted a blank copy here that anyone can use.

A database acts like a spreadsheet, but is more powerful; it is essentially several connected spreadsheets. In one, I list all the magazines and book publishers I have submitted to, and in antoher, I list all of my titles. A third database holds a record of every submission and the response I get. There are forms that make it easier to read the data and enter new information, and there are queries that show me what titles are in, out, accepted, etc. That’s what the submission trackers at Poets and Writers, Submittable, and Duotrope (and maybe eventually at Chill Subs) are supposed to do. I prefer to have my own setup on my own computer (with good backups!) than to host it all online, but there are advantages to using an online service, such as being able to access them from a mobile device or form remote locations.

However you choose to submit, I hope you will keep good records. As a magazine editor, I can confirm that nothing is more annoying than accepting a great poem only to find out that it had been accepted elsewhere and the writer didn’t bother to tell us. Keeping up with your submissions is your responsibility. It’s part of the work of finding opportunities to publish and getting your work out there. And it’s not so hard once you find a good way to manage submissions and get used to it.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

4 thoughts on “Writers: How to Find and Track Submissions

  1. Oh yeah. I use a spreadsheet (actually, I use the table feature in Notion) to keep track of my submissions, because it can get pretty confusing, even after five submissions. Like, have I already submitted this story? Or is it just sitting around in my Google Drive? Where did I send it to? When?

    Like you said, it’s the writer’s responsibility to not put magazines in bad spots. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    1. Thanks, Stuart. I hadn’t heard of Notion until now. I see that Tables are part of thier Databases feature, so you may be able to do something similar to what I do in LibreOffice Base. I see you can query the database, anyway. It looks more powerful than a simple spreadsheet. Could be interesting.

      1. It is! I used to be an Evernote guy, but this thing does everything for all my writing needs, even digital journalling, lol (no affiliation). But other than that, Google Docs and Sheets is great for me too.

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