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.
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.