Truth be told, the answer to that question is none.
When I was first published I had zero spreadsheets. No submission tracker or pitch tracker.
I didn’t even know how much I liked spreadsheets yet.
These days my love affair with spreadsheets is in full flight (I had one for my son’s first foods for crying out loud). And my time working at Penguin Random House taught me how to really use a spreadsheet (and make dashboards) for which I’ll be eternally grateful.
So while it may not be necessary to have a spreadsheet to get published, they are incredibly useful to your efficiency and record keeping.
If you intend to make a career or even a long term habit out of writing, I suggest you consider a spreadsheet of your own.
And without further ado, here are my top three spreadsheets for writers.
Short story submission tracker
My Short Story Submission Tracker is my oldest writerly spreadsheet. It has gone through countless iterations over the years and has finally reached a truly functional level.
The thing about spreadsheets and other organisational tools is that different things work for different people. If it doesn’t work for you, you won’t use it. Now I know what works for me, I’ve created a tracker that I actual enjoy using. Here’s the break down of each tab.
The submissions tab is made up of ten columns. If you want to keep it real simple, these are the essential columns:
- Submission Date, and
- Response Date
Now that I’m submitting more regularly I have added two new columns that are also useful:
- Method, and
- Response Term
The Method column tells me how I submitted the story (e.g. Submittable or email) and is handy when checking the status of a story or following up once the response term has elapsed.
A lot of markets will tell you in their guidelines how long it takes them to respond, or after which time you can safely submit elsewhere. I call this the Response Term. Including a column for this allows you to easily check if the term has elapsed and whether you should follow-up or submit elsewhere.
Accepted and Rejected
The next two tabs mirror the Submissions tabs and do what they say on the tin.
The Accepted tab is where I move all lines from the Submissions tab once they have been accepted for publication or placed in a competition. It has two additional columns
- Pay, and
- Reversion Date
The Pay column is pretty obvious but the Reversion Date column is the date the rights purchased by the publisher revert back to me.
At that time I am free to submit the story again to a reprint market.
The Rejected tab, is less exciting and sadly and lot bigger but that just means your doing the work.
A recent addition to this tab is the ‘notes’ column in which I keep track of the type of rejection I receive.
The difference between a form rejection and feedback with an invitation to submit again is huge.
I used to be disheartened either way, but keeping track of those markets which are genuinely enthused by your work gives you a good indication of where to submit your next story.
I have two other tabs in my Short Story Submission Tracker.
The Story Status tab is simply categorised lists of my short stories, so I know which are finished, previously published, and need work.
The Previous Markets tab is a simplified break down of the markets each story has been previously submitted to so I don’t double up. I also list markets here that seem a good fit for a piece. I line them up so when a story is rejected I can send it somewhere else straight away.
This is the newest of my top three spreadsheets and will probably go through many more iterations before I’m truly happy with it. It’s also the simplest spreadsheet with only one tab based on the submissions tab of my Short Story Submission Tracker.
It’s simple but effective with the following columns:
- Contact Name
- Email Address
- Date Sent
- Follow-up Sent
- Response Date
With this information at my fingertips I know who I’ve pitched what (avoiding embarrassing double ups), when I should follow-up and when to pitch it somewhere else (after two ignored follow-ups or a rejection).
Ideas for different publications
This is my bible. I’d tried for years to keep a list of potential markets and it all seemed too hard, too unwieldy. I couldn’t create enough columns to capture the nuance of each submission guideline so it was inevitably abandoned.
If I’m honest I don’t know what’s different about about it this time, except it uses tabs and is based on Lindy Alexander’s, which she shares in her online course, The Fundamentals of Freelance Writing.
It is basically a list of every publication, website, etc. that you can pitch or submit your work to.
I started it while doing Lindy’s course last year, with a single tab for Websites, Magazines and Newspapers.
Because my writing and goals are varied, I have now added the following tabs:
- Literary Journals,
- Speculative Fiction Markets,
- Children’s Magazines,
- Trade Publishers,
- Mass Market Publishers and
- Education Publishers
Each tab has differing levels of detail from one column with the name of the publisher/publication to a ten column tab with details on word count, pay rate and ranked by my submission preference.
I’m adding to it all the time and referring back constantly.
My advice with this one is to just start. Don’t worry if it looks a mess or has info gaps. Just start.
While these are my top 3 spreadsheets for fiction and freelance writers I plan on using a few others this year as well. So here are a couple of bonus spreadsheets ideas for you:
- Income tracker (from Lindy Alexander’s Write Earn Thrive course)
- LOI tracker (for enquiries sent to potential freelance clients)
- Goals + Targets (a dashboard collating stats from all these other spreadsheets so I can keep track of my progress this year)
[Related Post: Goal Setting for Writers]
Maybe it looks like procrastination but I’m declaring 2023 my year of organisation. Let’s do this!