Record-keeping: the Bane of the Creative Mind

When I lecture on writing, I stress the importance of keeping good records, but I must confess, I don't always practice what I teach. When within a few days I hear from a bookstore owner who wants a signing, a festival organizer who wants an appearance, a former student who sends congratulations, a local cable operator who wants programming, a library group who wants me to come and speak, and an acquisitions editor who wants an electronic version of an MS for her editor in chief, I get a little confused.

Yes, I have files where I keep track of all those things, but if I don't do it right away, the details get cloudy. Did the bookstore owner want both an ARC and a list of speaking options? Did I send the festival planner a press kit already? Someone asked for "whatever you can send me that might help." Who was it and what would that entail?

I caught on early to keeping track of queries sent and answers received. It's sometimes hard to know what got rejected when you're querying more than one project. Rejection letters tend to be very generic, so you'd better have what you sent to whom written down somewhere. Dates and specifics of exactly what went to reviewers, bookstores, and libraries will be helpful later on. I got a letter last month that just said a library was interested in hosting my talk. Well, I have more than one, so let's clarify that - luckily, it was in my notes. Oh, the Mystery Talk.

Did that bookstore owner say she'd contact you, or is it your job to call her? Did that publisher say you'd hear from them in 6 weeks or 6 months? Protocol says you don't submit to someone else while a publisher is considering, but when the specified time is up, you're going to want to move on.

The point is to preserve every scrap of information. Sometimes it only takes a few hours for me to forget the details of a conversation with a contact. That is NOT my age; it's a function of how many irons I've got heating as my book release date approaches. There is a file for everything, and I know I have to be diligent about documenting my activities so that I don't have to depend on memory. It takes concentration and organization.

And heaven help me if the Prize Patrol shows up at my door. I'd have to delay accepting my million dollar check while I finished updating my contacts file.

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