History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Submissions Tetris Part 2: Planning

Last week, I talked about using submissions trackers to keep track of the various submissions I have out at any given time. Today, I’m talking about planning for submissions.

When I’ve got a new piece to put into circulation, I generally have a loosely planned out list of markets I want to submit it to. These are generally the pro-paying markets of the appropriate genre. I don’t necessarily strategize too much on the initial handful of submissions, because for most of my stories, I’d be thrilled to see them published in any of the top markets for their genre. This also means that if I’m cranking out stories quickly, I can have stories at several of these markets at the same time. It also means, however, that sometimes I’ve got stories at all of the potential top markets for a new story, and that’s where the planning comes into play.

In my Giant Spreadsheet of Doom, I have one page devoted to the current years’ submissions, with columns for the story title, the market it’s currently at, the date I submitted, the response date, the result, and notes. (The above graphic shows this, with the titles and markets darkened out.) I use highlighting to show which stories I’m waiting for a response on. I have other colors of highlighting for stories that need to be submitted and stories that have been accepted.

In the notes column, you might note that some of the stories have a “next:” followed by some markets. These are a handful of markets that the story in question hasn’t been to yet … but that a different story is currently submitted to. When a market rejects a story, I can check its name against my list of “next” markets, and possibly have a story ready to go to that market.

Below the currently in circulation stories, I keep a short list of markets with upcoming or current submissions windows where I might want to send a story. Some of these are limited windows, some are themed anthology calls, and some are places that might be a perfect fit for a story I’ve written. I use a form of shorthand for what story lengths they want and what pay rates they offer, and then I sometimes note what stories I might send to them or what sort of stories they want. Then, as my stories come back to me, I can check them against this list and find them a potential home. This also is a place for me to keep markets that I might want to write something for, based on the themes and my interests. I’ve had good luck with placing stories in themed anthologies, so I keep an eye on those in particular, as I enjoy writing to prompts.

Every once in a while, I write a story that doesn’t really fit into the usual submissions pattern for some reason. It might be a niche genre with not a lot of markets looking for that type of story. For example, I’ve written a mystery story that has no speculative fiction elements. So it’s not a good fit for the spec fic markets, which means I’m looking at a whole different set of markets than the ones I’m accustomed to. For tricky stories like this one, I often have the plan for submissions laid out farther than just the next couple of markets, since there may only be a dozen markets or so that the story could potentially go to.

My goal is always to keep stories circulating to markets for as long as there are viable markets to send them to. My secondary goal is to get paid as much as possible for those stories, which means sending the to pro markets first, semi-pro markets next, and token pay markets last. I sometimes make decisions to pursue markets in a slightly different way, especially for flash fiction, where some token paying markets effectively wind up paying pro rates for flash. There’s also an element of my personal perceptions of market desirability. Sometimes, a semi-pro sale to a great market is better than a pro sale … though that is uncommon!

Next week, I’ll be talking about another sort of tricky stories–reprints–and the ways I submit those and make plans for them.

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