Category Menu

Organized Writer, Part 2: Records

Once your work space is set up, organize your records— research notes, submission tracking, finances, and communications. My methods are tailored for magazine submissions, but they will work for book submissions, too.

Subject Matter/Content Records

If you write in more than one genre, make files for each genre in the beginning. As your collection grows, you will need to make sub-categories. For example, master category might be Nonfiction with subcategories Devotionals, Articles, or Book Ideas. This works whether your filing is paper or electronic. Like subscriber Paula Geister, I am cutting down on paper files by converting to electronic documents. I store Word and Excel documents on OneDrive. So far, I’m using the free version. At some point, I might have to go to the paid plan. Right now, I’m getting organized to scan some paper documents so that they can be stored electronically.

Submission Tracking Records

This is possibly the most critical organizing task for a writer, especially if you send simultaneous submissions. It’s also necessary for managing reprints. I use a card file system I borrowed from Dianne E. Butts. She has published an e-book describing the submission tracking system I use. Click the title to check it out on Amazon (affiliate link):  How to Get Published by Magazines & Book Publishers: Find Markets, Submit Your Manuscripts, and More (Getting Published). I’m currently copying my card file data to an Excel file using this template.

Financial Records

Hopefully, you will get paid for your work. While you’re trying to get published, you should keep records of writing-related expenses. A simple list on a legal pad will do to start. However, as your career progresses, you will need more sophisticated records. I have created a couple of Excel files for simple income-expense tracking methods. Download a cash-in cash-out writer cash log here. Or, if you prefer something simpler, try this one which lists expenses and income in the same table.

Disclaimer: I am not a CPA and have never wanted to be one. Consult with a tax expert about what expenses can be deducted on your income taxes. Whether or not you use a CPA , you will be responsible for keeping records.


File letters or book proposals by publisher’s name because editor names may change over time. I keep all email correspondence on the computer, only printing something off if it is of vital importance. Be diligent in backing up your computer’s content. Use external drives or online backup—or both. Subscriber Diana Derringer recently mentioned how she might have lost everything if she had not had external backup.  See my 2010 post, Lessons from a Computer Crash.

Organizing e-mail correspondence can get complicated if you use the same e-mail address for personal and business e-mails. I prefer separating personal from business by using separate addresses. Internet service providers usually offer multiple e-mail accounts, so you could create a new one for your writing. I use a Gmail account myself because you can set it up in Outlook or other e-mail clients without paying a fee. If your computer crashes, your emails are backed up in the online account.

Readers, if you have other records-preservation methods,  please comment on this post and tell us about it. If you receive this post by email, please click on the title of the post to go to my site. Scroll down to Leave a Reply and comment there.

Image source:


6 Responses to Organized Writer, Part 2: Records

  1. W Terry Whalin May 13, 2017 at 8:59 am #


    Thank you for this article about organization and keeping good records. It is a key part of the writing life from my years in this business. If you don’t have the records of your submissions for example, then you can’t follow-up (critical) when you get no response from a submission. Without the response, you never know if your material actually reached the agent or editor–even if it is a simple “got it.”


  2. Laurean Brooks May 14, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    Emily,this post is much needed. Organization is a gift, or maybe it’s a gene one is either born with or without.

    Me? I struggle with it. I’ve heard it said that an artistic temperament and organizational ability are oxymorons.

    There’s more than a grain of truth in it. Can I get a witness or (gulp!) a confession?

  3. Dianne E. Butts May 14, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    Hey Emily. Thanks for mentioning my card system and ebook. (I actually learned the card system from someone. I’d credit them if I could remember who! Perhaps Sally Stuart. Or Marlene Bagnull. It was one my many mentors.) I find it still works, even after nearly three decades. I hope the ebook is of great value to many writers.

    Thanks for continuing to offer help through your blog.

  4. Emily Akin May 14, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    Right, Terry. It’s impossible to keep up with all the details unless you have some kind of system.

  5. Emily Akin May 14, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

    Sounds like your struggle is REAL. Some people do have a gift, but it’s a skill that can be learned, I think. It’s easier to use somebody else’s system than to develop your own. That’s why I like Diane Butts’ book so much.

  6. Emily Akin May 14, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

    I keep trying to transfer all the info on my cards to a spreadsheet, but I think the card system is easier to manage. I’m finding fewer and fewer writers who want to write articles. Most of them are into fiction and wanting to write a book. But, I’m hearing the publishers are buying less fiction.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes