Evelyn B. Christensen



Keeping Those Babies Sent Out

Writing is the fun part--and getting acceptances, of course. The non-fun part is researching the markets, submitting, waiting for responses, and getting those rejections. If we want to see our writing in print (somewhere other than coming out of our own printer, that is), then unfortunately the non-fun part (NFP) is something we have to do. For those of us who write for magazines, the sheer number of pieces we process can make the NFP especially unwieldy to manage.

Last spring I thought I'd been doing fairly well with my NFP. Then an author friend asked, "When do you give up sending a manuscript around...after how many rejections?" In order to answer her question I went back through my list of submissions. In the process I realized that although I'd been good about sending pieces out for initial submissions, I hadn't done much with my rejections. I had a whole bunch of homeless "babies" just sitting, crying for attention. My friend's question motivated me to get busy. I sent out seven of those rejected pieces that very week and garnered three more acceptances.

Then I read an excellent Institute of Children's Literature chat transcript featuring author Kathryn Lay. She said that a large number of her acceptances were reprints. Ack! I already knew I needed to try to find homes for my rejected babies, but this made it clear that I also needed to look for second homes for my accepted little darlings. How would I ever keep up with all this extra NFP?

Well, necessity is the mother of invention, as we all know. I set to work and developed a special recording sheet for my submissions. It allows me (at a glance because it's color coded) to see which of my babies still need first homes and which need reprint homes. Since it's been a helpful tool for me, I thought I would share it with you. A blank copy of the recording sheet along with a filled-in sample is here, and an explanation of how I use it is here, with the mechanics of using Microsoft Word tables in case you need help with that.

Do you remember the evening television spot that used to say, "It's nine o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" This record sheet enables you to respond, "YES! I know exactly where they are and which ones need my NFP attention." You can quickly spot your homeless babies by simply looking in the first column for white or light green without a "w." It's also easy to see how many pieces you currently have circulating. Look for yellow. A quick glance at those entries lets you know if you need to do status queries. If yellow is largely absent from your current record sheet, you know it's time to spend some NFP hours and send more of your munchkins out into the world.

The "empty nest" may have some negative connotations when it comes to flesh and blood kids, but, for us authors, "empty nest" is our constant goal. So good luck to you on the NFP--on keeping all those babies of yours sent out into Submission Wonderland (as in, I "wonder" if they'll get accepted).

Published online at Kid Magazine Writers, January 2007, on the Institute of Children’s Literature website, July 2007, and in SCBWI MidSouth's BorderLines, September 2008.
Copyright 2009 Evelyn B. Christensen
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