Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Keeping Track of Submissions

Kathryn Page Camp

It won’t surprise anyone who knows me to hear that I’m a very organized person. Unfortunately, I’m also a forgetful one. So when I started submitting articles to magazines, I developed a submission chart to keep track of them. You can see a copy of the chart at the head of this post. You have my permission to copy it for your own use and to distribute it to your friends for their personal use.
As you can see, the six columns show the submission date, the article title, the publication, the address, the result, and any additional  notes. ATS1 and WC1 are codes I wrote inside the return envelope in case the response didn’t identity the publisher. This was a suggestion from someone who had received several form rejections and couldn’t figure out who had sent them. I don’t always remember to use a code, but so far I haven’t received any anonymous responses.
When I submit books, I create a separate chart for each one. I modify the form by putting the working title of the book at the top and leaving out the Article column. Everything else remains the same. You can also do this for articles and short stories that you submit multiple times, perhaps as reprints.
If you intend to submit reprints—or even if you don’t—you should also keep track of the rights you have sold so that you don’t try to sell rights you don’t currently have. I didn’t realize this immediately, so once I had created a rights chart I needed to locate and fill in the past information from other records. Fortunately, I was able to find everything.  
As you can see, the columns show the manuscript title, the copyright owner, when sold and to whom, which rights were sold and which were retained, and when the rights reverted (if ever). If you sell first rights, for example, that publication has the bought the right to publish the item first. If you resell it in the meantime and the second publisher wins the race, you have violated your contract and may find yourself blackballed. As with the submission chart, you may copy the rights chart for personal use and distribute it to friends for their personal use but may not sell it or distribute it commercially.
You shouldn’t sell all rights to an article, short story, or poem without an adequate payoff, and some people refuse to do it even then. I have never sold all rights on an already completed work. The few times I have sold them, I received an assignment to write something new and was well compensated for it. For books, traditional publishers expect a temporary assignment of all rights by contract, but don’t sign away the copyright and make sure you have a reversion clause that gives you the rights back when the publisher stops printing physical copies and/or e-sales drop below a set threshold.
If you want to stay out of trouble with publishers, you must know when and where you submitted and what rights you sold. Develop your own charts, use mine, create an electronic report, or do whatever works for you.
But make sure you keep track of your submissions.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at

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