Software Review: Manuscript Submission Programs for the Writer

by Jayne A. Hitchcock

Writers have a lot more options these days to keep track of their submissions. I recently got a chance to check out three software programs -- Ink Link 3.1, Paper Chase and Writer's Market. I'll go over the main features of each programs, their unique qualities, then the ups and downs of each, and finally, my personal preferred choice -- but as always, you make up your own mind!


I've been using Ink Link since it first came out a few years back. Allan Izen, Ink Link's developer, put together a "manuscript manager" that offers a nifty system of keeping track of just about everything a writer does.

The opening menu provides the option of going to your "Works"(manuscript titles), "Submissions" (where and when you submitted), "Resources" (interviewees, research, etc), "Reports" and "Utilities" (copy/restore files, view reminders, empty trash.) The program can be minimized or maximized to fit your monitor screen (mine is 17 inches and the program stays in the upper lefthand corner instead of stretching out and looking strange, which is nice). Although there is no HELP file per se, when you place the mouse cursor over a selection or button, a description of what that selection/button will do is displayed in a bar at the bottom of the program.

Ink Link 3.1 is easy to use. It was a snap to install and set up. Adding my manuscript information was a cinch. I can view my works by title, subject, type (such as article, short story, novel, commentary, etc) or date. Extensive notes and comments can be added for each publication/publisher/agent submitted to, including expenses for mailing costs and how much I was paid if a manuscript was sold. There is also a handy reminder feature -- when the manuscript is out for a certain amount of time you will be reminded so that you can send a follow-up note or remove it from the list. Speaking of follow-up notes, Ink Link allows you to click on the name of the place you submitted to, click on the "Letter" button and up pops a follow-up note with the contact name, place and address automatically placed in the letter, as well as the date. All you need to do is print and pop it in the mail!

The reports function allows you to view, print or export reports on all pending works, pending reminders, single market or work history, an entire market list (which shows everywhere you've submitted something, by market), a financial report and publications resume, which basically gives you a list of what you've sold and where.

Ink Link, $65.00 (includes shipping), on 3.5 diskettes, Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 compatible, Year 2000 compliant, Free Upgrades, money back guarantee, downloadable demo, Visa/MasterCard accepted 1-800-380-7593 or mail to Ink Link Software,P.O. Box 819, Kailua, Hawaii 96734

See the latest review of Writer's Market 1999: The Electronic Edition

The 1998 version of Writer's Market on CD-ROM is much, much better than the previous year's version, plus it now includes a submission tracking capability. The submission tracker is pretty basic: You add a manuscript by title, word count, description, type and format. Type and format have pull-down menus to select from, which is kind of nifty. Like Ink Link 3.1, you can list your submissions by market, what the status is, if it was accepted or reject, pay negotiated and when you got paid. The date you submitted the manuscript to a certain market is automatically added and if you change your mind, you can un-submit your manuscript from a market. This also offers reports that can be viewed or printed by title, market, pay or a custom list. That's about it.

1998 Writer's Market: The Electronic Edition, $39.99, available only on CD-ROM for Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, 486 or faster CPU (Pentium recommended), can be purchased in just about any bookstore, through or from the publisher, Writer's Digest Books at 1507 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45207, 1-800-289-0963 or 513-531-2690


This piece of tracking software was developed by Kye Valongo, a writer in the U.K. Kye found it difficult to keep track of his submissions the old-fashioned way. So he came up with Paper Chase. Since Kye is based in the U.K., it seems this is geared more towards that market, although it has functions and capabilities anyone can utilize. The program can be downloaded from his site or diskettes can be snail mailed to you. It comes with its own database engine (similar to the publications listing WMEE provides) and was easy to install and set up.

When you open Paper Chase, two windows pop up on your screen: The first is the "main menu" window where you select what function you want to go to. The other window is a "reminders" window with the current date on it, which I found to be a nice feature. You can edit the reminder or close it.

A very unique feature of Paper Chase is the "Ideas" function. Not only can you list your current manuscripts here, you can jot down any ideas you get (this is a perfect program to install in your laptop, palmtop, etc. for those late at night ideas or when you are traveling and get a brainstorm).

You give the idea a brief description, then select from a pull-down list of types (such as news article, short story, photograph and you can add your own type to the list if you want), then type in some notes about your idea, give it some key words. After you're done, you can match your idea to various publications listed in the database - really! I thought this was so totally cool (don't groan). One word of caution, "post edit" means to save the idea (that wacky Brit).

If you do find a publication that matches this idea, you can print a query for that publication and send it off in the mail. Double-click on the publication and you get another window - Event Diary and Expenses. Record the query date, reply, follow-up, used (accepted), etc. Then list your expenses by item, amount and date.

You can also go back to the main menu window and click on "Publications" which has over 1,000 publications from all over the world. The default is the world, but you can break it down by clicking on the appropriate country flag which includes Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. Since I'm in the USA, I clicked on that flag and got a list of pubs from A to Z, 29 of them. Most were sci-fi/fantasy and although the listing was limited to 29 pubs, the good news is that you can add to the database, delete or edit listings. Since Kye is from Britain, it only makes sense that the majority of publication listings are from that area, but in a way that almost limits the market for Paper Chase.

If you double-click on a pub, you can add notes about it or edit any of the information on the screen.

Going back to the main menu window, click on "Tracking" and you can preview or print reports on your ideas and manuscripts by date and what stage your manuscript is in (i.e. query, rejection, accepted). Click on "Expenses" from the main menu window and it lists your expenses by idea/manuscript. You can print expense one title at a time, or all at once. The layout of the report is attractive, with the Paper Chase logo at the top. There is a very useful "Help" function available from the main menu window, with various topics to choose from.

Paper Chase, 39.99 UK Pounds (e-mail company for dollar equiv.), 3.5 diskettes, Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, Year 2000 compliant, monthly updates are free via email/snail mail - diskettes are available for a small fee through Technicalities, P.O. Box 26, Hyde, Cheshire, SK148FB, United Kingdom, Telephone (01457) 762800

Now the big decision - which tracking program do I like the best?

All of them have features I like and dislike, which I've noted. I've been using Ink Link for so long it would be hard not to use it, but I like the idea of the publications listed in Paper Chase (although right now the number of USA listings is limited.) I also like the query letter option Paper Chase has and the follow-up letter option Ink Link 3.1 has. Although I will use WMEE for selecting publications to query/send submissions, I won't be using their tracking system, as it is really limited all around. But truthfully, for the writer on a budget, it *is* the best deal at $39.99.

Aargh! I can't just pick one!

I think I'll end up using both Ink Link 3.1 and Paper Chase for tracking my submissions until I can decide which one works best for me or I may continue using both. Or someone may take all the things I really like about these programs and develop an entirely new manuscript tracking system. Who knows?

All I know is that each one of these programs is a boon compared to the old way -- index cards, letters filed in folders, a chalkboard or wipe board on the wall or a list written by hand or in a word processing program. These programs have definitely made life a lot easier for writers!

J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at

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