New Year’s Resolution for Writers: Keep Better Track of Submissions

Often writers make a New Year’s resolution to submit more of their work to magazines. The goal to have 100 rejections in a year (i.e. to submit to more than one hundred places) is a good one, since it emphasizes putting and keeping your work in play more than judging yourself by how many acceptances this garners. Submitting to magazines can be a long game. As overwhelmed with submissions as most magazines are, any submission you send is more likely to come back than it is to be accepted. Simultaneous submissions have become the rule, and we all struggle with the sheer numbers of poems, stories, essays, etc. that are in the slush pile. From the writer’s side, it is important to remember that the competition is fierce, editing is subjective, and you can’t take a returned manuscript personally. I never say “rejected,” since I know it just wasn’t at the right place at the right time, and there are so many variables that are beyond the control of the writer.

Because of the number of submissions that you are likely sending out, though, an equally important New Year’s resolution is to keep better track of the submissions you’ve sent and the responses you’ve received. This will make your life easier when you don’t send the same thing or the same kind of thing to the same magazine twice and when you are able to track which magazines have given you a more personal response. Those really do mean something! And it will help avoid the bane of all magazine editors’ existence: the note from an accepted author that their work has already been accepted elsewhere — nothing makes us more upset, though if your response to our acceptance is at least immediate we are more likely to understand. Messages do cross in the mail. We require you to withdraw your submission as soon as it is accepted elsewhere, so keeping track of everywhere you’ve sent it is vital.

Fortunately, there are now many ways to track your submissions, which means it is also inexcusable not to keep good records. Submittable has a feature for logging submissions, even if they aren’t submitted on its platform, so you can keep track of everything in one place. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for how user-friendly it is. Duotrope is another service where you can track submissions, and if you pay for the service, you can see stats on magazines based on other writers’ submissions that are tracked on the site. The Submission Grinder is another online submission tracking service, though it is free, and you can also track submissions at ChillSubs, though it seems as if it might be limited to only tracking submissions to magazines they list. Poets & Writers also has their own online submission tracker, which is free once you set up an account on their site.

All of these online submission trackers can be convenient. I would pick one that works well for you and that you will remember to use, and stick with that for all of your submissions. However, all of these services store your data on their servers or in the cloud, so you may want something that you can access offline or that you can keep on your own device and back up regularly. I hate to depend on someone else to store my data, and I have a long history of submissions that predates any of these services by decades (entering that by hand would be cumbersome, and import options don’t seem to be available). I’m also a poet, so I send four, five, or even more individual titles to a magazine at a time, so I want an easy way to track multiple titles submitted to one place, which is why I developed SubTracker, a database for Libre Office/Open Office. I was also able to import my previous submission data from spreadsheets that I exported from my previous, homegrown solution. Something similar could be done in Microsoft Access, but that isn’t available on a Mac, which I use. SubTracker is free to use, so download a copy if you’d like to try it out. It does require Libre Office or Open Office to use, since it is not a standalone program, but is a template for a database.

Some people use spreadsheets or even index cards to keep track of submissions, but I’ve found that a system like that quickly becomes too complicated and hard to keep up with. A database is the better way to go, whether you use one of the many online resources or set one up on your own computer. A database gives you more ways to view your data. In SubTracker, you can get a list of all submissions that are still out, or all titles that currently aren’t submitted. Whichever database you choose, make getting a better handle on your submission tracking a priority for 2023, and every magazine editor you submit to will thank you!

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.

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