Thursday, November 30, 2006

Organization

I recently spent almost two weeks trying to figure out the best way to get organized. As I'm sure many of you know it doesn't take much for old ways of organization to become outdated. In this case, the level of work that I'm doing has changed so much that my previous methods just weren't enough. In addition to keeping track of submissions, payments, and contracts, I need to be able to keep track of daily phone calls and the status of each of my authors—including publicity, work in progress, submissions, and of course contracts and payments. So coming up with a system that I could rely on and that would really work for me took a little bit of time. I thought about a database, white boards, desk calendars of all shapes and sizes, and reviving my old Filofax. In the end, though (and really, this took more time than it should have), what I reverted to was plain old pen and paper. I now have an alphabetical binder with a page for each author. That way when we're on the phone, discussing
what's next or where we are at, I can quickly look to that page and refer to previous conversations and a list I have of the status of almost everything on behalf of this author. I can also look to that page to refer to previous conversations with the editor, the head of contracts, or even the publicist. But of course one book isn't enough. I have another notebook dedicated to things like phone calls and emails. This tells me the status of phone calls I've made and shows me who isn't calling me back and who I need to call back. When something is complete I simply cross it off. That way I can refer back to previous dates to see who I left a message for and whether or not that editor, author, or contract person returned my call. I can easily see how long it's been and when I should harass her again.

In addition to these two systems I also have a database for contracts and payments and another for submissions I'm making. And of course I have a log of submissions I'm receiving. And don't get me started on my calendar. It can take me an hour just to figure out who I need to be calling that day and for what reason.

I've often wondered how people who are disorganized manage in this business. How do they stay on top of all that needs to be stayed on top of, or do they? And what do authors do? How many of you looking for an agent keep track of who you're submitting to, and when and how do you track this? If you're published, what, besides your deadlines, do you need to track and how do you do it?

—Jessica

19 comments:

Maggie Jaimeson said...

I keep a spreadsheet file for each manuscript. The spreadsheet contains name, address, phone of person I sent it to. A column for partial next to a date column. A column for full next to a date column. A column for buy and one for reject. Finally a comments column that I summarize (e.g., form reject, request for revisions, likes writing asks for something else).

I used to have a form I'd fill out and keep in a file with each manuscript, but the last five years I've been consicously trying to cut down on paper. I find the spreadsheets to be quick and easy.

Sally MacKenzie said...

I have a master calendar on my desk. This keeps track of all the family things--doctors' appointments, swim meets, school vacations--as well as writing things like when it's my turn to blog in the group blog and what the Romance Sells deadline is. It's the one organized point in my office. The rest looks like a paper bomb went off. Once I finish this next book, I promise to get more organized, so some filing--AND clean the bathroom.

Leo said...

I honestly should start something like this, a spreadsheet or a notebook log for my submissions. That way I don't have to count on the calendar to see if I should follow up on a submission.
Great advice!

Anonymous said...

I'm still in the writing process so right now my tracking consists of a folder in my favorites where I put all agents I'm interested in submitting to. As I get closer (probably starting when I shove this manuscript in a drawer before revision), I plan to create an Excel spreadsheet with the agent name; agency name; address; dates when the query, partial, and full were sent and when the requests for partial/full were received, etc. I'm sure I'll come up with other fields as I go along.

Nancy said...

Jessica,

I use a Word chart for agent and publisher submissions. One chart per manuscript and I update it as soon as I receive any response.

The most effective and efficient boss I ever worked for used a spiral notebook to record everything. Simple and awesome. Fast, too. While other people in meetings tapped away at the hand held gizmoes (sp?) he flip a couple of pages and have what he needed.

I'm enjoying your blog.

Nancy

Nancy said...

"had" what he needed.

N.

2readornot said...

I think your organization sounds good -- I definitely consider that when querying agents (from what little I can know). There are a couple of agents who are notorious for their lack of organization, and I won't query either of them...seems like it's just too easy to be lost in the piles on their desks (even though both have gotten great deals lately).

Kate Douglas said...

I'm picturing your page for me in your handy little notebook and imagine there's a note at the top reading, "Pain in the butt" or something similar! My life exists primarily in my Outlook calendar. If it weren't for those little reminders popping up to remind me to do things, I'd never get anything done. I've also got files for receipts and royalty statements, and lists tacked to the office wall with my deadlines in large print. I've never learned to do a spreadsheet, but I do keep notes about everything. I have to. At my age, my brain is full.

Anonymous said...

I've heard several people who have used this free software that it is great - it is probably like a spread sheet or something similar to what you all have set up - but it is nice to have something to fashion your things on

http://members.iinet.net.au/~simonh/spacejock/Sonar.html

His website also has things like yWriter - (for writing your book, keeping track of characters, notes about this and that, scenes - you can save it as a whole or individual scene/chapter/whatever

and yBook - where you can put your information in (download from your saved files) to show you what your book will look like in print (I'm guessing standard paperback size, but may be adjustable - don't know haven't used it since most everything I write is short stories.)


Hope this helps everyone - E :)

Anonymous said...

Actually, since I mail stuff out for a living and have the world's least reliable post office, I use a mail program called Endicia. It creates postage and logs everything I send out with descriptions. So at the end of every month, I go through the log and put the info into a database. The log allows me to remember not only what agency, but what agent I sent stuff to, so I don't have to enter the information into the database with every mailing, which I would NEVER do because I am not that organized!

Joanne said...

I'm supremely anal and organized (which bodes well for my day job as an Executive Assistant to a bank VP), so I have a spreadsheet listing all of the pertinent contact info, dates, results etc. It has a tab for each mss and I color code if something is out on submission (pink) or if it's been rejected (Green). This way, I can see at a glance what I've got out there.

Christine Keach said...

I keep a word document with my manuscripts logged, who I've submitted to, the date and what the response is. I tried a spreadsheet and a calendar but that didn't work for me.

Julie Rowe said...

I use a sumbission tracker sheet that notes the date, title of submission, where I sent it and the response. I also keep files for all my novels and articles and file copies on all correspondence in it.

jbstanley said...

When I was submitting query letters, I covered an entire room with orange posters. Each poster contained a column listing the name of the agency, the date the query was mailed, and columns for form rejection letters, comments received, and manuscript requests (and the date I sent those off). On one hand, the amount of check marks under the form rejection letters were a downer, but on the other hand, the smiley faces I made next to agents who had written me personal notes or requested more of my work kept my head in the game. I wish I had kept those posters - to show other writers an organized view of the "finding an agent" process. Luckily, Jessica was one of the agents who requested my work and talking to her on the phone sealed the deal. Good luck with your posters, folks!

jbstanley said...

When I was submitting query letters, I covered an entire room with orange posters. Each poster contained a column listing the name of the agency, the date the query was mailed, and columns for form rejection letters, comments received, and manuscript requests (and the date I sent those off). On one hand, the amount of check marks under the form rejection letters were a downer, but on the other hand, the smiley faces I made next to agents who had written me personal notes or requested more of my work kept my head in the game. I wish I had kept those posters - to show other writers an organized view of the "finding an agent" process. Luckily, Jessica was one of the agents who requested my work and talking to her on the phone sealed the deal. Good luck with your posters, folks!

Michele said...

A friend of mine created a submission tracking software program called 'Write Again!' It's pretty awesome and simple to use. The price is reasonable and there's a 30 day free trial if you'd like to try it out first.

Here's the link: http://www.write-again.com/

Michele said...

Sorry, I don't normally go around posting on blogs to try to generate sales for my friend, but it seemed to fit the theme of the original posting and I know that a lot of people have trouble keeping track of short story and novel submissions, I know I do.

I apologize if it sounded like spam.

Tori Scott said...

Each book I write has it's own folder in My Documents, and in each folder is a file titled Submission History. When I send out a query, I add it to the history under either Agent or Publisher with the name and address of the individual I submitted to, the date I sent it out, and the response. It's easy to keep up to date.

SamB said...

If you're going to keep one handwritten page for notes, I'd use the same format on each one - date of call on left column, things to follow upon circled, etc. It's like a visual data base letting you scan for something.