Ask any aspiring writer sending out stories and manuscripts for publication, and you’ll hear the same thing: in the end, the submission process comes down to a numbers game. However, keeping track of all those submissions, acceptances, and inevitable rejections requires both patience and organization. And that’s where Submittable comes in. The cloud-based management system, launched in 2010 in Missoula, Mont., has made the submission process more streamlined, convenient, and transparent.
Through Submittable’s online platform, writers are able to track and manage their submissions while receiving status updates from publications. Jolene Brink, product marketing manager for Submittable, says the platform was created by its three founders, “a writer, a filmmaker, and a rock ’n’ roll guitar player who wanted a better, faster way for individuals and organizations to navigate any application process.” Submittable CEO Michael FitzGerald—the aforementioned writer— had experienced the often grueling process of submitting his work. “He knew that the paper slush pile added months of lag time to the review process for everyone involved,” Brink says. “So he focused on building a better digital slush pile to help publishers and writers do their best work.”
In the last two years, Submittable has facilitated more than five million submissions—both short works and book-length manuscripts—made to literary journals, magazines, and nonprofit publishers, including the likes of Graywolf Press, Harlequin, and Coffee House Press. In addition to receiving manuscripts, publishers also use their accounts to run writing contests, distribute surveys, and collect applications for jobs, fellowships, consultation services, workshops, classes, writing retreats, and residencies. Agents also use the platform to better filter and manage query letters and writing samples.
In addition to connecting writers to publications, Submittable offers convenient revenue-building opportunities for publishers, whether it’s through collecting submission fees, accepting donations, or selling merchandise to writers using the service. Brink acknowledges that submission fees can be a sensitive subject within the writing community. “We hear every day from writers concerned that submission fees are a barrier to publication,” she says. “But we also hear from literary journals that use submission fee revenue to keep the lights on and publish new voices.”
Submittable is continuing to broaden its client base through outreach efforts, including a popular weekly newsletter serving more than 200,000 writers and people working in creative industries. “We are often contacted by people who are concerned when they think the newsletter somehow skipped their inbox,” Brink says, noting that Submittable has also expanded to serve customers outside the publishing industry, including marketing teams from a variety of industries, foundations that provide grants, and corporate giving programs. “Today, Submittable is used by everyone from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses,” she says. “What was in its earliest days a fairly simple platform is now a robust and extremely customizable submission and review tool.”
Going forward, Submittable is developing AI-powered services, including mobile apps that connect creatives with publications and other organizations. “Advanced reporting, multi-round review tools, and public voting updates are all in the pipeline,” Brink says.
While Submittable has grown substantially since 2010, it remains a small-town venture that just recently hired its 100th employee. “For a homegrown operation based far, far away from the hub of Silicon Valley, we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Brink says. As the platform grows, she and other employees haven’t forgotten the support and encouragement they received in their earliest days. “We know there’s more work ahead,” she says, “but we wouldn’t be here without all of the publishers who supported and believed in us from the beginning.”