The Publisher Checklist

One of my resolutions/goals this year is to submit more. I was fully prepared to submit some of my stories last year and had everything ready to go. I had several polished stories and a checklist of publishers for each. Hesitation and procrastination held me back. I should have been sending more out as soon as I got replies back, but I hummed and hawed over whether the stories were really good enough and whether they needed more work before sending on to the next. I had a good year in 2011, though. My success rate for submissions in terms of short stories/competitions was nearly 50%. I should have submitted more! I also got positive feedback from publishers on some of my children’s stories, which should have encouraged me. So this year I’m resolved to submit more–especially in terms of my children’s stories.

The Publisher Checklist

When submitting, it’s vital to keep track of what is being sent to whom. That’s why I keep a publisher checklist as a spreadsheet in Excel. I want to share that with you, in case anyone else finds it helpful. Of course, it can be applied just as readily to agents if you happen to be submitting to agents.

– Name of publisher (or agency). Those highlighted in red are those who are currently closed to submissions. It’s a good idea to check back every now and then, though, as sometimes they reopen for short periods of time. Those highlighted in yellow are those to whom I have submitted and am waiting to hear back from (I haven’t started submitting this particular story yet). Those highlighted in blue are the ones I have heard back from.

– Contact name. Most publishers request for you to address the submission ‘to the editor’ or something along those lines, but for those who have a specific contact name I add them to the list. This is especially important if you are submitting to agents, as agents would prefer you address them by name rather than ‘dear agent’.

– Contact details. This is where I list their postal address and/or e-mail (depending on how they prefer you to submit). I also list their phone number.

– Query done? A simple yes or no here. As you can see, I’ve only written our a query/cover letter for Scholastic for this story at the time of this post. I usually write a generic query/cover letter for each story that’s ready to submit, then I copy it into a new Word document and tailor it to suit each individual publisher, keeping their individual guidelines in mind.

– E-mail/Post? Some publishers prefer submission by post, others by e-mail. It’s important to note this down as it will determine how you format your query/cover letter. (For example: a postal letter requires contact details at the top of the letter, whereas an e-mail requires them at the bottom.)

– Simultaneous submission? Here I note if a publisher specifically states they are not open to simultaneous submission (they will not accept submissions that have also been subbed elsewhere–it has to be exclusive). I also mark the box red so I don’t accidentally send to them when I’ve subbed to other publishers.

– Reread submission guidelines? Here I paste a link directly to the submission guidelines. I won’t send out my query/cover letter until I’ve marked this box with a green YES.

– Stamped self-addressed envelope? For those who require postal submission, a SSAE is required if you wish to receive a reply and your manuscript back (in the case of a rejection). This gets a tick when done.

– Sent? Once the submission had been sent this box gets a tick (plus the publisher gets highlighted in yellow).

– Date sent. So I can keep track of how long it’s been out on submission.

Expected wait time. This is how long they estimate it will take for you to receive a reply. Once I’ve sent the submission, I make note of what date I should expect to hear back from them.

– Reply received? Once I receive a reply, I note the date and whether it was a rejection or not. For a rejection I highlight this box red. For requested edits it gets highlighted yellow. And if it gets accepted: green.

– I then have subheadings for stages of edits if they have been requested (eg: edits requested, date edits sent).

It’s important to regularly recheck details and update the list. Addresses and contacts can change. Some publishers are only open at certain times or close down submissions if they don’t have room for anything new.

How do you keep track of your submissions? Do you keep some kind of checklist?


55 thoughts on “The Publisher Checklist”

  1. Jo, thank you. I have started submitting work, and I am using also using excel. I was play with how to format the spreadsheet and what to include. I’ll be refining based on your post.

  2. This is a great reference tool. I’ve tried to do lists before but never as extensive. I particularly liked how you linked to sub guidelines and noted when you expect to hear back. Awesome tool – I hope to replicate. Thanks for sharing

  3. I generally do it in a daybook file. I used to use a real book, but these days I enter the date, the ms title, where it went and what (exactly) I sent (ie synopsis+3 or full ms). Then I log ack. rej or acc and such details as contracts. I use the same system for Affordable Manuscript Assessments clients. I log date, email address, client name, ms name, assessment sent + account, and then PAID. It works OK except when for some reason an assessment doesn’t get where I sent it. Usually I have proof of sending (“sent email”) but recently it was a very old posted one… that’s one reason AffAssMss no longer accepts hard copy.

    1. It makes it so much easier to keep track of everything when you have a system. That’s a good idea to include what was sent (ie synopsis, etc.). At the moment I’ve just got the file set up for PB submissions, so I always send full MS, but that’s a good point to keep in mind for when I start subbing my MG and YA work.

  4. This is excellent. I’ve set up a spreadsheet in excel for my agent search, but it isn’t this detailed. I really appreciate the extra things you have added and will amend my spreadsheet accordingly.

    Thank you!

    1. I found it really helps to have all the different sub-headings to keep track of everything. I hope you find it helpful,too, when you add them in. I’m glad to have helped!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! It works well for me, so I’m happy to share. I’m only submitting to publishers at the moment. In Australia most publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. As agents who rep picture books are very very rare here, I felt it made more sense for me to submit directly to publishers. If I decide to submit in the U.S. I will query agents there.

    1. It’s certainly helped me to have everything in one place an easy to access at the click of a button. I hope you find it just as helpful.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve kept a submission tracker that was slightly different, but I like the information you included in yours, especially the links to writer’s guidelines. I’ve been printing them up, this will be so much easier to keep track of.

    I’m going to incorporate this into what I’ve been doing and hopefully be able to keep better records of my submissions. Like you, I need to send out more and stop ho-humming around about it.

    Thanks so much!

    1. It’s definitely made it easy to keep track of everything since I set it up, and having the links to the guidelines means I can access them with just a click. I’ve found it’s better than printing them up or saving in a Word document, too, since guidelines can change.

      I hope it helps you with you submission process. Good luck! It’s so easy to hold back and procrastinate, isn’t it? Confidence and determination! That’s going to be my motto this year.

  6. This is a great spreadsheet! I have something similar for agents, but one thing I like about yours is that it also serves as a checklist. I’m now inspired to create my own checklist.

    I use QueryTracker which is an online tracking method, but I like having your own desktop version too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad I could inspire you, Julie. I’ve found it’s really helped with the submission process being able to check things off. I’ve never tried QueryTracker.

  7. I didn’t submit much last year simply because I didn’t think it was good enough. This year I have a ton of stuff and I’m going to take the leap and start sending it out. My record keeping isn’t the best so thanks for this post.

    1. I had that problem, too. I didn’t end up submitting much because I was worried it wasn’t good enough. I’ve got a few polished pieces ready to go, though, so I’m taking the leap, too. I hope this checklist is helpful to you as you submit. Good luck with your submissions!

    1. I’m not so organised in other aspects of my life lol. But this spreadsheet has really helped me stay on top of things when it comes to submissions. Thank you!

    1. I agree, it can be totally overwhelming, I don’t know how I would manage to keep track of everything without my spreadsheet system. I’m happy to share it!

  8. Whew! This post got a few replies! I got out of breath just scrolling down to leave my comment.
    I’ve a very similar spreadsheet for agents, only mine’s a table in Word instead of Excel. Excel would make things more flexible (unlimited span of cells), but I like that Word limits the options – keeps me from more insanity.
    Might need to put together one for short stories – although with only two I’m trying to submit, they’re fairly easy to keep track of at the moment. If I do put one together, I’m definitely coming back for some of your story-sub headings, to see what I might need!

    1. I know! I’ve had such an overwhelming response! I found Excel worked best for me as it was easy to set out and easy to look at. Funnily enough, I use a different system for my short stories, which isn’t nearly as easy to keep track of (I was actually surprised by an acceptance on one of my stories last year because I’d forgotten I’d submitted it). I should set up another spreadsheet file similar to this one for my short stories. Thanks for the prompt!

  9. I added the new categories, and I’ve been finding it very helpful (I’ve also added a numerical column so that I can enter info then order the agents from 1 to whatever, in the order I want to submit.) However, I missed putting a number on one, and I seem to have thrown the whole thing out of whack! The headings are now down at the bottom with the un-numbered one. (It has just occurred to me that perhaps if I number the headings row as 1 and the other row as something, I might get things back in shape. I’m just not excelling at Excel at the moment — but it’s a fabulous idea! ;)

    1. Oh dear, I hope you can figure out how to fix it. I wish I could help you, but I only know the basics of Excel myself.

  10. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue solved soon. Thanks

    1. Hi. Thanks for the heads up. I checked my blog on Internet Explorer and it appeared just fine. Could it be a problem on your end? I appreciate you commenting to let me know about it.

    1. Thanks Enzo. I don’t currently have it available for distribution, unfortunately, but that’s a great idea and something I can look into providing in the future.

  11. Glad it could be of help. Once you get your head around doing it as a spreadsheet, it makes things so much easier to keep track of, so it’s well worth doing (at least, it has been for me). I’m working on a template to share (I just need to time to do it at the moment).

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