I recently spent almost two weeks trying to figure out the best way to get organized. As I’m sure many of you know it doesn’t take much for old ways of organization to become outdated. In this case, the level of work that I’m doing has changed so much that my previous methods just weren’t enough. In addition to keeping track of submissions, payments, and contracts, I need to be able to keep track of daily phone calls and the status of each of my authors—including publicity, work in progress, submissions, and of course contracts and payments. So coming up with a system that I could rely on and that would really work for me took a little bit of time. I thought about a database, white boards, desk calendars of all shapes and sizes, and reviving my old Filofax. In the end, though (and really, this took more time than it should have), what I reverted to was plain old pen and paper. I now have an alphabetical binder with a page for each author. That way when we’re on the phone, discussing
what’s next or where we are at, I can quickly look to that page and refer to previous conversations and a list I have of the status of almost everything on behalf of this author. I can also look to that page to refer to previous conversations with the editor, the head of contracts, or even the publicist. But of course one book isn’t enough. I have another notebook dedicated to things like phone calls and emails. This tells me the status of phone calls I’ve made and shows me who isn’t calling me back and who I need to call back. When something is complete I simply cross it off. That way I can refer back to previous dates to see who I left a message for and whether or not that editor, author, or contract person returned my call. I can easily see how long it’s been and when I should harass her again.
In addition to these two systems I also have a database for contracts and payments and another for submissions I’m making. And of course I have a log of submissions I’m receiving. And don’t get me started on my calendar. It can take me an hour just to figure out who I need to be calling that day and for what reason.
I’ve often wondered how people who are disorganized manage in this business. How do they stay on top of all that needs to be stayed on top of, or do they? And what do authors do? How many of you looking for an agent keep track of who you’re submitting to, and when and how do you track this? If you’re published, what, besides your deadlines, do you need to track and how do you do it?