Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Counting the Ways: Submission Process Notes

73º ~ ack, just saw a 100º forecast for Saturday, looks like our brief "cool spell" with highs in the upper-eighties and lower-nineties is on the wane, still, today's sky is clear and the breeze is not at all oppressive

I've got a new schedule at school this semester that allows me two hours at the desk of the Kangaroo before I have to head up to campus.  I think I'm going to like this.

This past weekend through today, I spent time drafting a guest post.  When the post goes live, I'll let you all know where to find it.  What I learned, again, is that with prose, I definitely need the guidance of a solid editor, and I'm thankful for the one I had this time around.  My prose tends to get all loosey-goosey with extra words and purple phrases, as I've just demonstrated.   I can still recall the notes in the margins of my college essays reminding me to "condense" and "tighten."  In poetry, I'm cool with that.  In prose, not so much. 

This morning was really just polishing, so I had time to turn to poetry submissions.  I got sidetracked on August 1 submissions because I was doing a draft a day.  One lesson that I think is important for beginning writers is this:  yes, you need to do the writing, but if you want your work to be read by more than a handful of people, you also have to do the work of publishing, which means researching markets, sending out packets, and managing data.

Here's my process:

I keep an ever evolving Excel spreadsheet.  It lists the title of the journal, whether they take simultaneous submissions, reading periods, number of poems per packet, and a list of acceptances and rejections that is dated so I can see my history with a journal in one glance.  This prevents me from submitting too often or too soon after an acceptance. 

I keep far too many file folders in a large file cabinet.  Each poem gets a file folder and that folder contains significant revisions and the "final" version I'm submitting.  Each journal gets a folder and that folder contains all of my submissions and correspondence with the journal.  Some of these folders are quite fat now, after a decade of submitting.

I do realize that there are now online services to help with all of this, especially Duotrope.  I like the idea of these services, but my system works for me.  While I do think services like Duotrope can help keep a writer organized, they cannot replace the years of research I've done with each of the journals in my stacks.  I've got lists of names of past poets published that I keep on notes in the journal folders.  I've got my own notes on editors or particular themes / styles that a certain journal might favor.

Now, when it comes time to submit, I print off my spreadsheet and check off the journals that have existing submissions.  Then, I go through and highlight each journal with an open reading period and check to be sure it's been 8 months to a year since I last submitted, unless the editor asked for more work (another item noted in the spreadsheet).

Next, I gather all the files for the individual poems that are available for submission.  This means checking if they are currently out at other journals (simultaneously submitted) and if so, to how many journals.  In the past, I used to send one batch of poems to 10 - 15 journals accepting simultaneous submission.  Now that I have a bit more success, I limit each batch to 5 - 7 journals.  I sort through the available poems and create submission packets of 3 - 5 poems.  These I arrange in a row on my desk, as it usually ends up being 3 - 5 groups. 

Then, I turn back to my spreadsheet and gather the folders for all of the journals that fit the criteria.  These I lay out over the groups of poems, matching each journal to the group I think will best "fit" the tastes of the journal. 

It looks like this.

Finally, I scoop them all up in a tower so that I can grab one group at a time to work on.  That looks like this.

I used to have marathon weekends where I'd tackle the whole tower in a day and a half.  That's exhausting and doesn't really work with a teaching schedule like mine.  Now, I can spend an hour or two here and there and whittle down the tower until it's gone.  Obviously, that's where I am in the process today as I get ready to head to campus. 

In the next few days, I'll work through the stack.  Right now I have 4 groups with 5 poems per group and 5 journals matched up with them.  If patterns from the past hold, I'll find several journals that have changed their reading periods or are running special themes or other such details to derail the submission.  Would I rather be writing poems?  Maybe, but then those poems would gather dust in a drawer rather than finding an audience.  It's all a matter of balance. 


Laura said...

I really admire your system, Sandy. I'm curious about your groups of 3-5 poems. Do you have ever have individual poems that end up in more than one submission group? I have thought about making files for each of my poems, but it just ends up being way too cumbersome, so I stick with my online/spreadsheet/electronic folders system.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Hi, Laura. When I make the groups I try to create mini-manuscripts. So the poems don't cross groups. However the next go-round of submissions the groups would change based on what poems are still available and if I've added any new poems to the process. All of this is predicated on making sure the journals take simultaneous subs.

I think my process could be done with spreadsheets and e-folders; however, I've always been more of a concrete person than an abstract one.

Hope that helps! Glad to talk more if you ant more clarification.

StephanieV said...

Wow. Tres impressive!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Stephanie. It could also be a manifestation of Type A traits run amok. :)