Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Mobile Author, Part Six: Submitting

So far in this series about going mobile, we've seen how to set up your mobile office so you have everything you need wherever you are, how to use your mobile devices to organize your projects, plan them, and write them. But once you've written your work, it's time to submit. So, today I'm going to discuss how you can use your tablets and phones to track your submissions.

There are online submission trackers, such as The Writer's Database and Duotrope. They work well, but they are set up using somebody else's system. You are a mobile author. You are free. You can do what you want, where you want. So why would you want to use somebody else's system when you can create a system that works the way you like, and keep it in your pocket, purse, or backpack?

I'm going to suggest three options for doing it your way. You might have something else that works for you. Whichever approach you choose, the important thing is that you have it with you wherever you decide to work today.


The word spreadsheet causes fear and trepidation among my fellow office workers everywhere. But a spreadsheet does not have to be feared. Turns out, spreadsheets are actually a pretty good way to keep track of stuff. I use one to track my own submissions.

My submissions spreadsheet for each project is pretty simple. I have columns for the agent's name, the agency, the agency's website, contact info (the address or email address I used to submit), the date I submitted, the date I heard back, the date I (fingers crossed!) sent the partial or full, the date I heard back again, and a column for notes or comments. That's it. As I submit, I enter all of that info in the next available row.

Several rows below the submission records, I have a list of agents I might submit to in the future, with all of the info but the submission and reply dates. When it's time from the next round of submissions, if I don't already have somebody in mind, I draw from that list. If you like to sort your spreadsheet by different columns, you might prefer to keep your list of potential submissions on a separate page.

This is easy to do from your mobile office. You can use either a Google Spreadsheet or use the spreadsheet function of your mobile office suite. Google Spreadsheet was made even more viable on April 30 with the release of the Google Sheets app, which eliminates the requirement to be online. I highly recommend Google Docs for this task, but either option works.

Bulletin Board

Spreadsheets work great for tracking submissions, but they are not exactly a delight to use. You might prefer a more visual approach. For that, I recommend Trello, which I've mentioned before. Trello gives you a visual bulletin board where you can easily see the state of your submissions.

Dragging an agent record from "To Submit" to "Submitted" in Trello

I haven't used Trello to track submissions, but if I did, it would be pretty simple. I'd create a card for each agent I wanted to submit to. I'd sort the cards in stacks called something like To Submit, Submitted, Rejected, Requests, and Accepted. I could track multiple projects on one board by color-coding each story. That approach would give me a quick view of what's going on with my submissions. It might be a little harder to see whether I'd already submitted to a particular agent than a spreadsheet would, so I'd have to pay attention to that.

The card approach has advantages over the spreadsheet besides being visual. You could put all kinds of info on the cards, like snippets from websites or interviews you want to use to personalize your queries, or copies of the responses you receive. Bulletin boards are very free-form, so you can pretty much do whatever works for you.


If spreadsheet is a scary word, database might trigger a full-on panic attack. But it doesn't have to. A database is a good way to organize stuff, and once you set it up, can work very well. A database record is really just an index card or Rolodex card with the info you need to keep track of, except that your pile of cards is sortable by any piece of info.

The difficult part is setting up the database, but it's not that hard. If you are an uber-organizer, you might not find a better approach.

Android users who are into this kind of fancy-pants thing might try the free Memento Database app to set up a database. iPad users apparently don't have access to Memento, but they have other options. I didn't notice any obvious free choices in the App Store, but there are plenty of database apps.

Next Step

So far, this series has shown how to set up and organize your mobile office, and how to manage your writing project from the planning stages through submission. Next week, we will discuss some apps that will help you manage your writing life.

The Mobile Author, Part Seven: Managing Your Writing Life

1 comment:

Bruce Luck said...

I agree, fear not the spreadsheet. I use Excel a lot for organizing various things.