spreadsheets for submissionsSpreadsheets for Submissions

by Ann Harth


Have you ever received a 'Dear Author' rejection and found yourself completely mystified? Who are these people? What did I send to them? When?

As most of us know, rejections are part of the game. If your work is rejected, you will need to send it out again … and again…. and maybe again. If you have more than one manuscript making the rounds, unless you have a slot in your forehead and digital memory card, it would be wise to keep clear records. 

The method I use has served me well for years. It's simple, but efficient. Since adopting this technique, the only reason a rejection has stumped me is good old human error. I've forgotten to enter the information. There are many programs that you can buy or download from the internet that will help you keep track of your wandering work, but you can do most of it with a simple spreadsheet. I use Microsoft Works, but any of the others will do. 

If you write in more than one genre, you may have to use a different spreadsheet for each. I have seven, but that could be a little excessive for most. To start, open a spreadsheet and name it: Picture books, middle grade, novels, articles etc.  You will be presented with a table.

Label your first column  'publishers'. This is where you will record the publishers you have approached.

 Across the top you can record your manuscripts.


When I send out my manuscript, I date and colour code the appropriate box. I use traffic light colours, as they were easy for me to remember at first. Yellow is for cautiously hopeful, red is for stop hoping; rejected and green is for those magnificent acceptances. I have recently added another colour: aqua. This is reserved for the editors who want to see more of my work.

When I hear back from a publisher, regardless of the reply, I always record the date. It's a good idea to do this as it will give you an idea of turn around time should you want to submit something else to that publisher.


Your submission records can be as simple or as complex as you like. I started with a simple system like this, but as time went on, I found I needed much more information and I wanted it all on one sheet. The beauty of a spreadsheet like this is that you can add as much information as you like in that tiny little box. It will disappear when you press enter and appear again at the top of your grid whenever you click on it. What if you didn't send a full manuscript? What if you only sent sample chapters or a query? You need to know what you sent and whether or not they asked you to send more.  Other comments that may be useful here are the names of editors who have invited you to send additional work or who gave you a warm glow as they rejected a specific piece.

Another add-on to this method is potential submissions. Often, I will submit more than one manuscript to the same publisher (although not at the same time). If this is the case, you already have the publisher's row. You can simply add a small x in the appropriate box. This will tell you that you may want to send Banshee Baseball to Gofer Publishers and Underwater at Midnight to Axe Sept Press next.


This is particularly helpful when you get a rejection. As you change the colour of your box from yellow to red, a tiny, hopeful x next door will catch your eye. "Ahh," you say, "All is not lost. I still haven't tried... "

Once you receive an acceptance for a specific manuscript. Gleefully colour your box green and start a new folder. Add it to your growing list in another folder labelled 'Accepted Work'. This is where you will keep all drafts, correspondence and copies of contracts. It's not a bad idea to print at least the contracts and the final drafts of your work and keep them in a hard file. 

Simple, isn't it? This system is basic but foolproof. Back up your spreadsheets and don't forget to fill in the gaps. Whatever happens, keep submitting. Eventually your yellows will all become green. 

Next week: Jack of all Trades -- Branching Out.

© copyright Ann Harth. Ann Harth is a freelance manuscript assessor, copyeditor, proofreader and ghostwriter as well as a published author. She writes in all genres of children's fiction from picture books to young adult novels as well as adult fiction and non-fiction. She has successfully completed several text-editing projects for university students and authors, and is the assistant fiction editor of www.moondance.com, a  literary on-line magazine. She is also on the creative writing staff of www.storydog.com, a website for children.

More information on the freelance services that Ann Harth offers can be found on her website at www.annharth.com.


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