I've talked before in posts like my "Life of a Story" post about using Duotrope to research markets and track submissions. I've always handled sending a story out to market in what seems like a somewhat time-intensive manner. When a story is rejected or is going out for the first time, I run a Duotrope search, go through the list of possible markets (excluding ones I already have a story out to) and then submit the story. This can be very quick or somewhat tedious. And I ended up looking at a lot of the same markets' information repeatedly.
Recently I've started doing a bit of pre-planning around my submission. I think that this will help me save a bit of time on resubmissions in the future. Here's what I've done.
As I go to submit stories recently, I've started by making up an index card for the story. Those cards end up looking like this:
What I have here is the story name in the upper-right corner, a list of possible markets (with abbreviated names in many cases) running down the left-hand side and space for information about each market. I note the percentage of acceptances per Duotrope, the approximate pay I could expect if the story was purchased, and my best guess as to the likely response time. I then have space off to the right to make notes for each market. For example, my note about Interzone ("INTER") reminds me that to submit there I have to send a paper submission to the UK.
As I submit to markets, I cross them off the list. If I get to the point that I've run out of markets for the story on the card, then I can decide whether I want to market the story further or handle it in some other way.
Now, when I go to actually send a submission out I do still have to cross-check with my outstanding submissions to make sure I don't have a story currently in the market's queue. Fortunately, Duotrope has made this really easy by adding a "submissions in the past 12 months" section to each market's page. A quick glance at the market's individual page and I can see if I've got something out there or not. (I'd want to go to that page anyway so I could note the submission itself. This isn't intended to replace using Duotrope when doing a submission, just an attempt to cut down on the amount of effort for each individual submission.)
This method won't necessarily be for everyone. Some people wouldn't like the hand-written aspect (though you could certainly do the exact same thing in Excel or another tool) and others might prefer to do each market search individually like I've done in the past. And there are some (in my opinion, minor) drawbacks to this method. For example, it doesn't give you an easy way to add new markets to a story's submission plan as they pop up and since markets sometimes temporarily close you might end up checking through several markets for a story before finding one that you don't have something out to and which is currently open.
Still, at the moment, I'm finding this a useful tool and there's also something a bit satisfying about creating one of these cards and reminding myself that even if a story just got a rejection there are still plenty of other places to send it back out to.