How do freelance writers keep track of their article pitches and submissions? I’ve been using an Excel spreadsheet to track my magazine article pitches and submissions for over two years. Here’s how and why it works like a charm…

Before the tips, a quip:

“Work with yourself, not against yourself,” says Julie Hood of “Understand your personality and what works for you.  Do what feels right and what appeals to you-not what seems to ‘be organized.'”

Fellow scribes, if you want to get organized and track your article pitches, submissions, or writing goals (such as how many words you write per day, how much money you earn per month) – you need to find what works for you. Try new ideas, such as my Excel spreadsheet or someone else’s writing software program – and keep trying until you find what makes you feel like a real writer. The more “real” you feel, the more success you’ll enjoy.

For more info on being an organized writer, read Writer’s First Aid: Getting Organized, Getting Inspired, and Sticking to it! by Kristi Holl.

And here are my tips on tracking your article pitches and submissions…

How Freelance Writers Track Article Pitches and Submissions

My simple Excel spreadsheet is easy to use, free, and inspiring! Here’s how I stay organized as a freelance writer – and I use the same format for both my book proposal and my article pitches. I also used it to keep myself organized while I queried agents.

1. I use two spreadsheets – one for my “regular freelance writing jobs” (editors and magazines I’ve worked with in the past). And the other is simply “magazine publishers” (markets I have yet to break into).

2. First column: name of magazine or book publisher. In alphabetical order, I list the names of all the magazines I’ve ever pitched – and some I hope to pitch soon.

3. Second column: contact. This is the editor or publisher’s full name and title.

4. Third column: email address. I’ve only snail mailed one article query, to AARP…and I never heard back. That was over two years ago; now, I only pitch ideas to editors via email. So, no snail mail addresses in this column for me (except for book proposals…that can be a different story).

5. Fourth column: magazine type. Seniors, women’s lifestyle, alternative medicine, healthy living, yoga, writing, family, men’s lifestyle, green living, divorce…the types of magazines are endless!

6. Fifth column: article. Here, I include the title of my article, such as “The Magic of Menopause” or “When it Flares: Coping With Chronic Pain.”

7. Sixth column: date sent. As soon as I email a pitch to an editor, I record the date I sent it. This is one of those annoying little writing chores that make your life SO much easier later! Like reading your work out loud or editing your sentences and articles – once you get into the habit, it becomes second nature.

8. Seventh column: response. When an editor assigns an article, I go: YES May 14, 2009!! This not only shows me the response time for my editors and article pitches, it also keeps me inspired. I also highlight the day an article is accepted or assigned in my daytimer, and savor the feeling of accomplishment. If an editor passes or doesn’t respond after several weeks, I re-pitch the idea.

9. Eighth column: follow up? This is my least used column in my pitch and article submission tracking spreadsheet, even though I know that the more I use it, the more articles I’ll sell! I’ve only followed up with editors about three times – that is, I’ve only emailed a gentle “Have you had a chance to consider my ‘magic of menopause’ article idea yet?”  Of those three follow up emails to editors, one apologized and said she’ll make sure my pitch is discussed at the next editors’ meeting. Honestly, I figure that if they like the idea, they’ll assign it.

10. Ninth column: comments. Here, I list pertinent bits of info, such as how much a magazine pays or what the editor said in his/her email to me. “Not a natural fit” and “will discuss at next week’s story meeting” are a few examples from my tracking sheet.

Fellow scribes, how do you track your article pitches and/or book proposals? I’d love to learn how other writers do it – comments below – and I’m especially curious about following up with editors. Do you remind them of your pitches, and do you get more assignments because of it?

To learn more about freelance writing, read Should I Quit My Job to Work as a Writer for Hire?

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9 thoughts on “How Freelance Writers Track Article Pitches and Submissions”

  1. It never occurred to me before to go out and look for pre-made Excel templates that can help you track your pitch process.

    Then again, you only succeed by starting!

  2. At first I created a table to track submissions and responses in an MS Word doc, but it’s much too narrow, as I keep thinking of new columns that I need to add. I tried using one cool Excel template that I found, but found it a bit challenging for my needs. These are great ideas which I will use to create the perfect pitch and submission management in an Excel spreadsheet that I make myself this time.

    Thank you

  3. I utilize a physical system for my manuscript tracking. This may seem inefficient, and possibly environmentally unfriendly. However, I’ve found it make sense.

    My tracking system literally involves moving a submission page from a manuscript’s main physical file, to a physical file called ‘ready’ when I’m ready to send it out. When its sent out or published, the submission page is marked, signed, and added permanently to the manuscript file.

    Some might think ‘why?’. Most of my manuscripts are sent in via snail-mail, as I write to alot of literary magazines, and only 50% of them have email submission. Thus the manuscript has to be kept and organized. Secondly, all of my notes pages and editing pages go in the same file (which are all physical, because I might be anywhere and want to jot a note, etc).

    Without this massive infrastructure investment for tracking my manuscripts and notes, I might loose a vital note-page or the like. Which would require me to reproduce it, which seems inefficient. I keep electronic backups, and re-use my manuscripts. Lastly, I use recycled paper about 90% of the time.

  4. Jean-Sébastien Marier

    Hi Laurie,

    I am an Ottawa-based journalist and found this article while searching on Google for a “story pitch tracker.” Thank you so much for posting this, I am going to use your template for my own work.


  5. Lisa, that’s a great idea to have a second spreadsheet to track your articles and their history! I tried that, but couldn’t keep up….I find it challenging enough to keep my article pitches and submissions spreadsheet updates. So much paperwork, so little time!

    As Peter DeVries quipped, “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”

    The beauty of having an article spreadsheet is that you can see when copyright is reverted back to you, and perhaps sell that article or story as a reprint. Gotta love that.

    Thanks for your tip, Lisa!

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog ..5 Tips for Increasing Your Blog Readership =-.

  6. I use the same type of system.

    The other great thing about it is that you can make it a point to look at the spreadsheet once every week or so, and then you really do get a very clear picture of how active you’ve been — or NOT been. Otherwise, it’s easy to THINK you’ve been sending things out regularly, but in fact you may be way behind your goals.

    I keep a second spreadsheet page organized by articles and cross reference where I’ve sent each idea or personal essay so I can see the piece’s history at a glance.

    Then I have a third spreadsheet page I call “old and sold” where I list each item that’s completed/paid. It’s gratifying to see that page fill up.
    .-= Lisa Romeo´s last blog ..Writing in Text =-.

  7. Great idea! I’m afraid a great deal of my personal tracking system still consists of post-its and notes scribbled on bits of paper stuck into relatively the same place. Oddly enough, it works so far, but even I can figure out that it’s not a long-term answer LOL.

    TheBeerLady’s last blog post..The best Margarita recipe

  8. Laurie,

    Some folks do respond well to a visual representation of their work. This is a great idea to help keep things together. It also helps to keep things from falling through the cracks, because once you get going and have a lot of balls in the air the juggling gets a bit tough.


    Tumblemoose’s last blog post..Vanity Plate E-Book

  9. I didn’t mention how I track my invoicing, payments, etc. I’ll blog about that soon — it’s a whole different spreadsheet, tailored to make tax time easier!

    Laurie PK’s last blog post..Tracking Your Article Pitches and Submissions