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Submission Tracking Methods

inventory writingFreelance writers need to track their submissions to print and online publications. I’ve always used a card file, because I could keep it handy on my desk, and the box was not subject to computer crashes or lightning strikes. Thinking I should probably be tracking on the computer instead, I have checked into various ways of tracking submissions electronically. Here’s what I’ve found and what I think about each option.

Microsoft Excel File (Spreadsheet)

I set up a table in landscape view with header row containing these labels: Article/Story, Publication, Contact, Word Limit, Pays, Date Sent, Response In (time period stated in guidelines), Number of Pages, Postage (if any), Reply Expected, Responded on (date), Accepted (date), Amount Paid, Date Paid, and Notes. Once my file was set up, I just entered the data for each submission when I sent it out. When I got a reply, I’d update the listing. This works pretty well for tracking your income for the year as well as keeping up with your submissions, but you have to know how to use the spreadsheet software.

On the “pro” side, this is highly customizable. I can add columns any time I want, and it’s easy to sort by title or by date. If I’m selling reprints, I can sort by title and see at a glance how many times a piece has been submitted and to what markets. It’s easy to backup just by sending the file to my webmail and storing in the archive folder. The single “con” for this method is that I have to remember to back it up regularly.

My Excel file is available to download as PDF or Excel file on Google Docs at this link.

Writer’s Market Online Submission Tracker

The online version of Writer’s Market published by Writers’ Digest contains a section entitled My Markets. See the Learn More section on Writer’s Market site. You must have a membership to use this feature ($6.99 a month or less with annual membership). I just joined a month ago, and I have scoped out this tracking method. Here’s what the file structure of My Markets looks like:


You must be online to use this feature, but note that there is a view/export function if you want to export your information to back it up on your computer. I’m skeptical of using this method to track my subsmissions because I may decide it’s not worth the cost of membership. Plus, I don’t want to have to go online every time I want to check submission details. It may work perfectly well for those who maintain the membership anyway..

Free Submission Tracking Software

A while back, I downloaded Sonar to see if it would work any better than my home-made Excel file. The headings in the database are less detailed than in my Excel file. Header row contains: Title, Latest News, Sold, Published, Income, Words, and a large empty cell for whatever other notes you’d want to make. It might work well for you if you aren’t handy with a spreadsheet. There’s plenty of room in the Notes section to add any details that aren’t included in the default categories. It’s free, so you may want to check it out. I did not adopt this method because you’ll have to be able to find that software and download it every time you get a new computer. If you’re depending on this software and suddenly there’s no version compatible with your computer, you’ll have to find another method in a hurry.

File Box Wins

I’m sticking with my file box. I use the method developed by Dianne E. Butts.She has published an e-book that includes the details on how her filing system works. You can buy it for $3.95 on Amazon here (not affiliate link).

Eventually I would like to duplicate everything my file box entered in my Excel file. That way, if the box is destroyed, my backup of the Excel file will be in my computer and on my external backup.

Readers, if you know of another method, please share it by commenting on this post. If you have a method you like, and you’d like to tell us about it in a guest post, contact me at akinemily(at)

Other options:


6 Responses to Submission Tracking Methods

  1. Charles February 25, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Have you looked at the Writer’s Database? http://www.writersDB.comIt’s a web-based submission tracking program with a ton of features, but unlike the Writer’s Market version, it’s free, so there’s so danger of losing access to your data due to a lapsed subscription.

  2. Emily M. Akin, writer-editor February 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    Thanks, Charles. I’ve checked it out briefly and will examine it in more detail soon.

  3. Ramona Heikel January 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Emily, I just wanted to thank you for the submission tracker and your suggestions–most appreciated!

  4. Emily Akin January 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    Glad you find it helpful, Ramona. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Tracy Crump January 27, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    I’m probably more primitive than you. I tried the card file but didn’t keep it up. For years, I’ve used a notebook where I jot down the article I submitted and the market and date. If it’s rejected, I line through it. If it’s accepted, I use red ink to write the date payment is expected and check it off when received. As I said, it’s primitive, but it works for me.

  6. Emily Akin January 27, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Whatever works, Tracy! I had a list similar to yours for the first year or so. It got too messy. Then, Dianne shared her method on her blog, and I decided to use it.

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