History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Submissions Tetris Part 1

Tetris-shaped blocks arranged as a lampIf you follow my monthly recap posts, you may have noticed that I frequently have a lot of stories in circulation at any given time. Currently, that number is close to 60, though it varies slightly from day to day. As someone who writes a lot of poetry, flash, and short stories, and who wants to see those things published, that means a lot of submissions (and a lot of rejection, which is a story for another day).

The tricky part is what some of my fellow authors refer to as Submissions Tetris–the process of fitting the right stories to the right markets and keeping as many stories as possible in circulation to high paying markets. Because I am juggling so many written things, Submissions Tetris for me can be extra challenging. So this is the first post in a series that talks about how I manage my submissions, using dedicated submissions tracking websites and (unsurprisingly, if you’ve read my Giant Spreadsheet of Doom posts [1, 2, and 3]) an elaborate spreadsheet.

Today, I’m talking about the submissions tracking websites I use: Duotrope and The Submissions Grinder. Both of these websites serve a similar function: they track a bunch of markets, including submissions periods and what those markets are looking for, and they allow you to log your submissions to those markets to help generate data on things like response times, percentage of stories accepted/rejected, etc. The primary difference between them is that Duotrope is a subscription site and the Submissions Grinder is free. However, the Submissions Grinder is also run by a single person, which means their updates are often a bit slower than those on Duotrope.

I use both sites for tracking my submissions, though I primarily run my searches using Duotrope. When I have a story that needs to be submitted somewhere (either because I’ve just finished it or because it’s come back from a market with a rejection), I plug the parameters of that story (genre, length, and whether I’m selling it as a reprint) into Duotrope’s search function and look at the potential markets where that story hasn’t already been.

It’s never as easy as just picking the top market on this list (I sort by pay rate) and off the story goes. Some of my stories aren’t suited to whatever the top market is, even if they are the right genre and length. So I have to pick through the list and decide which one will be the best fit for that particular story. The situation is further complicated when I have multiple stories to submit–whether that’s because I let a few come back to me before sending them back out, or I’ve finished new pieces, or something has come out of its exclusivity period and can be submitted to markets as a reprint now. Sometimes what looks like the best option for a story won’t be, because I’ve got another story that’s a little trickier to submit that should go to that market instead. There are also some stories that are just plain hard sells, and the number of markets those can be submitted to winds up being a smaller pool, which means that I have to have a good plan for those stories.

Next Monday, I’ll talk about how I track my planning for submissions, which includes watching for limited submission windows, keeping track of upcoming submission windows (regardless of their length), and planning a submission order for tricky stories. And yes, the next post will involve a new page from the Giant Spreadsheet of Doom!


About The Author


Leave a Reply