In trying to decide what nuggets of wisdom to share with Seekerville today, I started looking over my filing system and decided to give Seekerville readers some pointers on keeping records.
There are three basic filing systems: hard copy, email accounts, and files on your hard drive. Today I'm only going to talk about organizing your email account.
I keep practically everything, and my poor computer is chock full of files to prove it. It’s a good thing files don’t weigh anything, or my laptop would weigh about 1000 lbs!
Obviously, everyone’s system will be different, and I’m sure most of you already have some kind of method in place, but you DO need some kind of organization. After five, ten, or twenty years in this business, you’ll be glad you organized your files so that you can pull something up in a matter of minutes.
I used to print a lot of stuff off and file it, but unless I have to, I don’t do that now. Almost all of my writing-related files are on my laptop (and backed up at least weekly). Of course, certain files will need to be printed and filed, but not everything.
Let’s take a peek at the folders in my email account. I like simplicity. I like to close all the folders and only have a handful of top-level folders. When all my folders are closed, I have the following:
That’s it. Nice and neat and organized. Use only the top-level folders that work for you. You can always add or take away. Actually in reviewing my folders for this article, I moved something to Family Stuff, so it’s a good thing to close all your folders every once in a while and clean everything up a bit.
Starting at the top, I like my Inbox to be semi-cleaned out and since I receive anywhere from 300-800 emails a day, it’s important not to let the folder get too full. So, I have some sub folders in my Inbox:
Inbox Pending is stuff I need to handle soon but is not urgent. Read Later is fun stuff that I would like to read, but will only do it when I have some down time. I could actually delete the entire folder and it wouldn’t affect the my career overmuch. But the emails are writing related and fun to read when I get the chance. For instance, I read several of these emails on a long road-trip just a few weeks ago. Some of the oldest, I deleted after reading. If something really stuck with me, I kept it to read again and again.
Now to the fun stuff. My Writing folder. As with the above folders, I have several sub-folders within this folder, and most of these folders have sub-folders within them. I’ll just list a few here:
Agent: Kelly: This folder is self-explanatory, I think. I needed it right out in the open and easy to get to. And the more we communicate, the more I need to be able to grab it fast. I don't want this folder hidden among many.
Books/CP’s/Brainstorm: This folder has 15-20 sub-folders with emails from critique partners, research on my manuscripts, collaborative efforts, and ideas I’m working on. Keep in mind that this is not where the actual manuscript, synopsis, and notes are stored. This is just preliminary research or brainstorming with friends, etc. Even with stories I’m not currently working on, it’s fun to see the comments and ideas when we brainstormed. I had to pull myself away from one such folder to get back over here and finish this up for you guys!
Publishing Houses: This folder has sub-folders of many of the CBA publishing houses who are actively acquiring. Almost every email that comes in my inbox that refers to a particular house or editor goes into the respective folder. When I’m about to submit to a particular house or someone has requested more of my work, I’ll read through the emails. Also, after meeting with an editor at a conference, I might type up a report on what we talked about and email it to myself. I'll include a clear subject line, and I have a good email to refresh my memory on what we talked about. Recently added emails is one where Kaye Dacus announced her 3-book contract to Harvest House. When Abingdon opened its doors, I added a folder and emails from some of the first contracted authors including Ronie Kendig and Seekerville’s own Myra Johnson. Same with Summerside. 253 emails in Steeple Hill’s folder alone.
Agents: Before I signed with my agent, I had a substantial file of agent info. just like the Publishing House folder above. All broken down into each agency, any information I knew about their clients, websites, etc. and communications from the agents themselves.
Research: If I seen any kind of post about a site that intrigues me, I stick the email into this folder. Now, by the time I actually get around to needing the info., the link might be inactive, but if not, I have a great resource. Since I write historical romance, a quick glance showed topics such as 1880’s slang, 1800’s costumes, historical houses, etc.
I even have a “SOLD – What Next?” and a Promotion folder. Topics on launch parties, marketing, royalty rates, and foreign rights? I don’t delete them even though I'm nowhere near a launch party…they go straight to these folders.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Shoot, it’s just my Outlook Express files! There’s the rest of my hard drive and any hard copies that I must print out. But the point is that a good filing system will go a long way toward making this career easy to navigate and if you have a system in place before you sell, you'll be ahead of the game in so many ways.
If anyone has tips for managing your email and what to file, and what to delete, we’d love to hear it!