Tool Recommendations?

Over at they have a database tool to help you track what you’ve submitted where,  what its status is, and what’s on your to-do list, submissions-wise. It is integrated with their listings, which makes it particularly easy to track submissions to markets who list there.

I was a big fan of the tool before they upgraded it.

Now the tool is much less useful than it was before. Gone are quick ways to list information by status, to sort and filter the information in a number of ways. Nowhere I can find the ability to track submissions to markets not listed with them. The upgrade is cumbersome and unwieldy, and is frustrating enough that it is turning into yet another bit of resistance when I resolve to get more submissions out. It’s still better than anything else I’ve tried — if I had first experienced it in its current state I’d probably think it was the bee’s sneeze, but I just get so annoyed when there’s something I could do before that I can’t now.

Of course, what I really need is an intern. He or she could use whatever system they wanted to track things, as long as it was a system. I already have help with the printing and mailing, but every agent wants something slightly different, and now I’m not even sure which non-WritersMarket-listed agents I’ve already sent stuff to.

The problem with the intern idea: who? Who in their right mind has a few hours a week to comb through listings, create to-do lists for an easily-distracted guy and then cry in quiet anguish as that same muddled guy doesn’t get them done? It doesn’t help that I can’t afford to pay an intern anything. The only demographic I could come up with was someone hoping to break into the agenting biz and wanting to get a good look at things from the author’s side while learning about submissions, formatting, and slush. Of course, those people could learn more, make better contacts, and so forth, by being an intern to an actual agent. So, not much hope there.

I suppose there might be someone who wanted to become an agent who, upon reading my lyrical and transporting prose, after coming to identify with my characters so deeply it will affect their child-naming strategies in years to come, might want to be my intern to ride my coattails in my inevitable meteoric rise to greatness. Yeah, that could work.

Finding someone with the right combination of delusion and desperation, yet is still together enough to pull off the job, seems like a long shot. I’m probably stuck with software, which brings me (at last) to the point of this post. Are there any writers out there with a submission-tracking tool they like? I’d write one myself (how hard could it be?), but I’ve already got a word processor to maintain.

Unless it was integrated with the word processor…

10 thoughts on “Tool Recommendations?

  1. You have a few other options. Either find a good stalker or a wife.


    Anyone else see my point???

    I can continue and offer rational sounding reasons both would help. Unfortunately for me stalkers don’t seem to be interested in MY writing and I have no desire to have a wife.

    *wicked grin*

  2. You have of course come up with V 2.0 of Jer’s Novel Writer, as you noted in your final line.

    In the mean time, what more do you want than what’s available in a spreadsheet? If you want views (“view by status”) and relationships (for every piece of prose there are 0 or more to do items), then I suggest Quickbase (, Intuit’s database on the Internet. You define your tables, their relationships, attributes, and views. Incredibly flexible and easy for simple databases.

    It even has an API so v2.0 of Jer’s Novel Writer could just be a front end for your defined schema in Quickbase (although I suspect you already have quite the db engine and schema defined for JNW).

  3. The tool I want would be able to show a variety of reports in a variety of formats — for instance it could show a list of all my works that have pending submissions; when I click the name of the work I would see the details about it, when I click the name of the market it was submitted to, I would see the info about that market. When I clicked the status I would see the entire history of that submission (there can be a lot of back and forth).

    Quickbase looks like it would be just the ticket — except for the price. I looked for the ‘haggle’ button but couldn’t find it. I might be able to figure a way to be a VAR for Quickbase, but I wouldn’t even be able to charge end users $15/mo. In the end, I’m just not the target demographic.

    While it may be possible to use a spreadsheet and get it to do everything I wanted, I’ve no interest in buying a spreadsheet program, then learning how to program the damn thing, and only then having a tool that may or may not do the job.

    The object graph in Jer’s Novel Writer is fairly sophisticated, but is not table-based at all. Ironically, the feature called ‘database’ is the place most in need of a refactoring of the schema.

    I may build a very basic version of the program as a way to learn the Core Data framework in Cocoa. I haven’t had a chance to play with it, but it looks pretty dang slick.

    Edited to add: I misinterpreted Intuit’s pricing tables, and while the VAR option could actually make sense beyond a certain (large) number of customers, the price is prohibitive for small companies and individuals.

  4. How about duct tape, the miracle tool recommendation for any job?

    Now the various software thingies sound find until they crash, but maybe you should just make photocopies of your submissions and duct tape them to your wall. If you need country, status, etc., I’d suggest multicolored sticky notes.

  5. My first thought upon seeing that blog post title was that you should get a Dremel tool — it seems to do so much in so many situations.

    Then I thought about Tillerman’s observation about the tools one needs on a sailboat — there are only two: WD-40 and duct tape. If something moves that isn’t supposed to, use duct tape; if something doesn’t move that is supposed to, use the WD-40.

    Then I saw you were asking about software tools. It would be interesting to find out what are the software equivalents of WD-40 and duct tape. What are the two simplest but most effective software tools, with opposite effects, that between them would solve most of the problems that happen?

  6. Indeed, Quickbase sounds like it’s got the two basic items you need: relationships between objects (tables) and easy to create views (reports). I didn’t know that it cost money, sorry. I get it for free and have never even seen a pricing page, so magical is the back door I use (I guess). But as employee whose yearly bonus is based on company revenues, I urge you to reconsider the $15 a month.

  7. Well, it’s actually a lot more than even $15/mo, which was already too much. It’s just not prided for individuals or even small companies.

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