New Software Helps Writers Track Submissions (and Track $$$)
By Sarah Blake
Recently I worked on an indiegogo campaign to fund a year-long beta test. We were looking for 100 writers to test a website that my husband and I designed. The site is called Submittrs. It’s a submission tracker, but I like to think of it more as a piece tracker because it pays attention to submission data on a piece by piece level. You can go to your submission page and update submissions, but you can also go to your pieces page, click on any title, and see the submission history of that piece.
Additionally, Submittrs helps plan future submissions with its Submittees page. This page provides an overview of your relationships with magazines. Based on your submission data, the site creates lists of who has accepted your work in the past, who invited you to submit more work, and any notes you made about previous submissions. You can also create a list of where you’d like to submit next. My favorite part is that when you click on any Submittee, you see your submission history with them and their average response time.
The Ledger page organizes the finances of your submission history. It takes any information you put in about reading fees and publication awards and creates two columns—“Money I’ve earned” and “Money I’ve spent.” It creates a quick overview of the money involved in your writing life. We’re hoping this helps people create goals (perhaps you want to be spending $3 per month on your writing, making a submission with an associated fee) and helps people set limits (maybe you don’t want to spend over $300 in a year you’re sending to book contests).
While it’s only been a short period of promotions and tweets and emails, I’ve already learned a lot about how people feel about spending money on their writing life. Or I haven’t learned a lot. I’ve learned one thing, one feeling, and there’s a lot of it. People don’t want to spend money on their writing lives. I know it sounds obvious, but it surprised me.
I’ve been trying to think through this sentiment, and I’ve realized a few things.
1. It’s not until very recently that there have even been for-pay products designed specifically for writers, and even now I can only name a few. Duotrope, Scrivener, and Submittrs. (At first I thought Word was on the list, but then I thought about all the features I have to turn off for it to work for me, and I took it off.) I think it’s because we’re a small group of people, or what’s perceived to be a small group, and that means companies aren’t making products for us.
2. As much as it’s new territory of companies, it’s really new territory for us. We’re accustomed to things being labors of love. Our writing, our magazines, our readings. We spend our time every which way to benefit ourselves and the writing we want to celebrate.
3. And we do spend our money. We sometimes feel overwhelmed with the ways we spend our money. We want to buy more books than we could possibly afford. We want to travel to give readings. We want to subscribe to magazines so they don’t disappear. We want to support what we can. We want to spend money on our writing community, not on our writing lives.
But here’s how I’m thinking about Submittrs. It’s like a specialized kitchen tool that benefits the time you spend cooking. Cooking isn’t your job, but you like it, and you spend a lot of your time doing it. And at some point you come to understand that you’re willing to spend a little bit of money on improving your time spent cooking. For example, I just bought a pan with a nice lid so I could stop using an old cookie sheet as a lid when I’m pan-frying chicken. It was worth it.
I remember the first time I knew we had to create Submittrs was in 2012 when Matt Bell generously shared his spreadsheet template and I was hearing excitement about it all over the place. I had a spreadsheet going, but it hadn’t hit me until that moment just how many of us there were using accounting software to keep track of submissions. Sometimes I tell a person about Submittrs and they tell me their spreadsheet hasn’t ever failed them, and I think, that’s a pretty low bar to set for something that’s such a large part of our professional lives as writers. Submittrs will not only not fail, but it should also be immensely helpful.
I hope you’ll check it out, but I really hope you’ll consider what characterizes the time you spend on your writing life, and then think about how it might get better.
Sarah Blake is the author of Mr. West, an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West, forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press in Spring 2015. Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, The Threepenny Review, and many other journals. She was awarded an NEA fellowship for poetry in 2013. She’s Assistant Editor at Saturnalia Books and co-founder of Submittrs.