Be Prepared to Submit!

Sounds, uh, colorful, doesn’t it? I also toyed with the idea of naming this post “Spread em!” but I figured Amy Nichols and S.C. Green would probably hunt me down with those mutant wolveloceraptors they’ve been breeding in the secret subbasement of the Hotel San Carlos.  (Pro tip: Don’t go down there.)

What this post is really about, though, is researching markets and using Excel to track your story submissions. Yes I know that’s MUCH less exciting, but it is very useful. You can organize your spreadsheets any way you want, here’s how I do mine:

FOR SHORT STORIES

So you wrote a story. Now you gotta send it somewhere, right? Better dig up some market listings. As I only write SFFH, I like Ralan for listings, as they are organized by pay rate. When I have a story ready to market, I always pop over there— are there any new anthologies that my story might be a fit for? Is one of my target markets currently closed to submissions? Is someone doing a theme issue? Once I’ve sussed out at least three or four places that look like a good fit for my story, I pop open my Excel spreadsheet, aptly named SUB TRACKER, and click on the first tab, which is my short fiction tracker. My columns are labeled thusly:

STORY TITLE/SUB DATE/SENT TO/SEND NEXT TO

I try to always have at least 3 more markets lined up, so if/when the story comes winging back my way, I can send it back out into the world that same day. Why?

Catching your story on the rebound is key to avoid emotional wallowing. And of course as I am prepping my cover letter I pop over to the next market’s website to make sure nothing has changed since the last time I checked out their submissions page. Market needs change every day, it’s best to make sure you are armed with the most current information possible.

NOVELS

The second tab on my spreadsheet is for agents. Agent Query is a great place to glean info— so is the back page of your favorite paperback, where the writer you adore likely graciously thanked her beloved agent. I open up a Word doc and make a list of prospective agents, and then go look at all their websites and figure out if they would be a good fit for me. Then I open up the next tab in my spreadsheet and fill in the following info.

AGENT/SUBMISSION REQUESTS/IN AAR?/CONTACT INFO/AVERAGE RESPONSE TIMES/ALSO REPS/REJECTED OR REQUESTED?/REASON FOR REJECTION?/OTHER TIPS

Agent (name) sub req (what they want) contact info (where to send it) and so on are pretty self-explanatory. This weekend I decided to add in the “Average Response Times” category, and it saved my butt— although we writers spend a lot of time bellyaching about waiting on agents, I found that most of the agents I’m eyeballing turn around queries in a month or less. That meant that my current plan of querying on the novel I am not quite finished revising was pretty effin’ dumb. Some of these guys request on the same day! What if that actually happened— I’d be screwed! So, it was a good thing to research.

“Other Tips” is where I put my stalking info— tidbits I’ve gleaned through blog posts, twitter, and online interviews of any pickiness, pet peeve, or preference that I might use to advantage in crafting my personalized query letter to a particular prospective agent.

So, if you’re getting ready to submit, make sure you are prepared! Track where your story/novel goes, make sure you’re up to date on the demands of the market, and enable yourself to bounce that story right back out into the big bad world when it comes back to you.

Scar *always* reads his MSs out loud. (I wish he'd read mine out loud.)

Oh and one last thing, ALWAYS print out your story AND cover letter and read it over OUT LOUD before you send anywhere. I don’t care if it’s an e-sub. Print out and read your work and you WILL catch embarrassing mistakes, I promise. I almost mailed a story to “BA” instead of “VA” last week. Ugh. No Birginia, there is no Santa Claus. So be prepared.

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