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'10 Authors Insider Tips

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Have More Good Sex
I Can Do Better ...
Trying to Get the Feeling
Plotting and Planning
Character Profiles
Discovery Draft
Be Bad to Be Good
E-Book Revolution
Naked for Halloween
Sex With Pilgrims

by Louisa Burton
The Music of Words
The Balancing Act
Your Fictional World
Backstory & Foreshadowing

The Fine Art of Submission
by Shanna Germain
Nailing the Query Letter
Banish the Boring Bio
Becoming a Market Master
Become a Market Master, 2
Backstory & Foreshadowing
Enticing An Editor, Part 1
Enticing An Editor, Part 2
Contracts, Money & More

Serious about Smut
by Vincent Diamond
No More Horsing Around
Short Stuff
Selling Short Stories
Editors' Pet Peeves
Settings: Beyond Time & Place
Beating Up Your Scenes
Selling Your Books in Person
Staying in the Saddle

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Broken Rainbows
Talk the Talk
10 Commandments for Writing
Plotting to Avoid
Cover Story

'10 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
St Valentine's Day
Renaming Body Parts
Sex, Cigarettes & Erotic Fiction

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
C. Sanchez-Garcia
Kathleen Bradean
Lucy Felthouse
Neve Black
PS Haven
Tracey Shellito
Tresart L. Sioux

Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
Plenty of Miles Left
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Fly the Unfriendly Skies
Coffee Time
Castrated Words
Virtual vs. Actual Romance
The View from Gallows Hill

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
The Fashion Industry
The Same Old Same Old
Writing Porn
About the Closet
... About Spirituality
Making Sense of Religion
Worked Up About Monogamy
What's Next
All Worked Up About Nature
Still All Worked Up...

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Holiday Ghosts
Love and Romance
An "Interracial" Epic
Trying to Make It Go Away
Sexual Etiquette
Sex and Children
People Against Bad Things
Virtual Acceptance
His Cold Eyes, His Granite Jaw
A Flash of Northern Light

The Fine Art of Submission

How to Properly & Professionally Prepare,
Package and Present Your Work To Markets
by Shanna Germain

Becoming a Market Master, Part 2


The Fine Art of Submission by Shanna Germain

I recently had the opportunity to perform one of my favorite actions as an erotic editor. I got to send an email to an author letting him know that I was accepting his story for one of my upcoming anthologies.

A few minutes later, I got this email in reply: "That's great news! Can you remind me what story I sent to you? I can't remember!"

Because the author was a friend of mine, I could shake my head, laugh it off and send him the information that he needed. But if that had been a writer I didn't personally know, I would have had a number of concerns, including:

--Had the author submitted it somewhere else and forgotten?
--Was I really buying first rights or had he sold it elsewhere in the interim?
--How disorganized was he? Would he remember to return the contract, send his bio, email the piece back with edits?
--Not to mention a bit of grumpiness that I had to look up his story for him, and remind him which story he'd sent to me.

Perhaps it's not fair to judge a writer on a single mishap like that, but I treat my writing like a business, and when I'm wearing my editor's outfit (which is kind of like a sexy nurse outfit, only without the hat), I expect the writers I work with to be business-like as well.

On the other hand, I do understand that some writers are fantastic word-smiths, but struggle with getting and staying organized. Thank the gods there are a million tools available to help the detail-challenged among us.

Just as with keeping track of markets (see my last column, Becoming a Market Master), the trick to keeping track of submissions is to find a system that works for you, and then use it. Every time. You can have a fantastic, state-of-the-art program, but if you don't take the time and effort to keep it up-to-date, it won't do you any good.

What To Keep Track Of

A good submission organizer should allow you to keep track of at least the basics of your submission process. I suggest something that includes the following, as a start:

  • Title of piece (the name of the piece I'm submitting)
  • Title of publication (the name of the book, website or magazine)
  • Submission date (the date I sent the piece out)
  • Response date (the date I heard back from the editor)
  • Response (out, accepted, accepted tentatively, rejected, cancelled)

Because I'm anal (also: because I have no memory and submit a lot of pieces), I also have the following sections in my database:

  • Type of publication (print anthology, e-book, website, etc.)
  • Type of piece (erotica, fantasy, poem, essay, etc.)
  • Slant of piece (gay, hetero, lesbian, bdsm, romance, etc.)
  • Status (new, reprint, simultaneous)
  • Expected response date (if the guidelines give one, I put it here)
  • Guidelines (this is where I cut and paste the original guidelines)
  • Editor (the person I submitted to)
  • Editor's response (I cut and paste the email of rejection or acceptance)
  • Notes (a place to put anything and everything that doesn't fit elsewhere)
  • Contract (received, signed, returned)
  • Payment amount (listed in dollars)
  • Payment type (check, Paypal, etc.)
  • Payment received (date I received the payment)

Granted, my organizational needs are probably (okay, definitely) at an overkill here, but I find that it saves me a ton of time to have all of this information in a single place. If you don't have any kind of submission tracker at all, I suggest starting with the basic necessities, and adding elements as you discover which ones you're going to want

Organizational Options

So, where do you keep all of this important information? It really depends on what your best organization style is. I'm very visual ("out of sight out of mind" describes me perfectly), so I do best when I have all of my information available on a computer screen instead of paper. However, index cards, paper printouts, even a notebook with a page for each story you submit—any of those will work as long as you do two things: 1. Write down the information every time you submit a story or receive a response and 2. Go through your notes periodically and make sure to resend rejections and follow up on lagging pieces.  

If you're computer and spreadsheet savvy, you can make your own tracker using a program like Excel or Google docs. Spreadsheets personally make my head spin, so I can't offer any suggestions on building one, although I do know that friends of mine keep their spreadsheets color-coded by Out, Need to Resend and Accepted, so that they can tell at a glance what pieces need to be tackled.

There are also a number of pre-build submission trackers available online. Some of the best (meaning they not only have great features, but are also free) include:

  • Writer's Database: Keeps track of your markets and submissions, provides widgets of upcoming submissions and allows you to announce your submissions to Twitter, etc.
  • Duotrope offers a submission tracker for registered users. This is a nice option, because Duotrope is a fantastic market database, so you have two resources in a single place.

Another option is to build your own tracker. I don't mean from scratch, of course (not that there's anything wrong with that—I just don't have the skill set). I personally use a program called Zoho Creator (free, natch). It's easy to build the exact database that I want, it allows me to decide what to show and what to hide (I can make the entire thing private or show only certain sections of it), it's available from any computer via the internet, and it's completely searchable/sortable.

Because I believe it's important (as both a teacher and a writer) to take a lot of the mystique out of the submission process, I keep the basics of my submission tracker online for anyone to look at. You can see it here:

Whatever program you choose, it's important to remember that it won't work for you if you don't work for it. In other words: put in every piece that you send off as soon as you send it off. That's the only way to prevent having to write that dreaded email of "Thanks so much for accepting my story. Now, if only I could remember which one I sent you...."

If you need more incentive, just think of me in my sexy editor's outfit, tsking my tongue at you while I read your email, feeling despondent because you took the time to send me your work, but didn't take the time to keep track of which story you sent me.

*    *    *

Don't forget to come back next month for "Ooh, Baby, Yes!" where I offer suggestions on  navigating the slippery professional space of dealing with erotic editors. Part 1 will look at working with editors regarding rejections, acceptances and questions, while Part 2 will cover contracts, negotiations and beyond.

Shanna Germain
August 2010

If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to Shanna Germain

Learn more about The Fine Art of Submission with Shanna Germain in ERWA 2010 Archive.

"The Fine Art of Submission" © 2010 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Shanna Germain believes that a query letter is like a handshake to your editor: professional, welcoming and covered in germs. Her stories about lust, love and leviathans have appeared in places like Best American Erotica, Best Gay Romance, Best Lesbian Erotica, The Mammoth Book of Best American Erotica and more. Visit her online at

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