Organization Quest 2011

If you read my previous post, you might have noted that one of my short-term goals was “Organize submission history/tracking.” I’ve been thinking that organization, not only of this submission data, but of many other aspects of my writing life, is a really key thing that I have to tackle this year. Without a certain amount of organization, I can make as many other goals as I want, but I will have little chance of meeting them.

In the latter months of 2010, I spent quite a while scouring the internet for the “perfect” submission and manuscript tracking program. I wasn’t entirely successful, as I think the only way I’ll find the perfect program is to write it myself or bully my husband into writing it for me to my exact specifications. However, I did find one that came darn close, and after evaluating it, I ended up buying The Writer’s Scribe from Swatski Enterprises.

I’ve think it’s safe to say that I’ve given the program a complete workout since acquiring it. I did run into a few small hiccups along the way, learning the program’s ins and outs, but the support from Doug Swatski was quick, thorough, and altogether wonderful. I’m very happy with the program now and expect that I’ll be using it for the forseeable future.

The image I’ve included (from the program website) is the Submissions Overview screen, and as you can see, it does provide a very nice overview. You can see at a glance what subs you have out, how long since you sent them, and the results of the last submission for any given piece of work, as well as picking up on stories that are due to be sent out to a new market. It also provides a running total of acceptances, rejections, and subs that are pending.

On the other tabs, you can view the details of a story, publisher, or submission. Depending on the level of detail you choose to include on publishers, the program can also suggest publishers for a particular story. It will provide alerts on a time scale you set, to let you know when the date of an expected reply is past. It also tracks sales and expenses, and allows the generation of many different types of reports.

When I said I’ve given the program a thorough workout, here’s what I meant: I input the data for 72 works, 114 markets, and 193 submissions. I went all the way back to when I first started submitting stories, and although it’s quite possible I missed a few, it’s a pretty good record. All my various scraps and folders of paper data are gathered together to give me a nice overview of my submission habits and history, and I can easily see what I should now prioritize.

I did send the developer a few suggestions for features that might be useful to add to future versions of the program, to which he responded very positively.

I’d definitely recommend this program (especially at its very reasonable price of $25 US) for any writer who wants to get serious about tracking submissions. It’s available for both Windows-based and Mac machines.

Jutoh Ebook Creator ~ For the Win!

I’ve just finished creating the e-versions of Third Person Press’ new anthology release, Airborne. While I was at it, I created new formats for our first anthology, Undercurrents, which previously existed only in .pdf format. I did that because with Jutoh from Anthemion Software, it was so easy.

I’ve spent some time experimenting with, and ultimately being frustrated by, other ebook creators (this over a period of several years). I’ve tried some that were proprietary and some that claimed to handle multiple file formats, but it seemed to me that all of them were difficult to figure out, required enormous and time-consuming amounts of hand-correcting, or simply did not produce properly-formatted, readable output in a reliable way. Then I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Jutoh.

I was already a fan of Anthemion’s Writer’s Cafe, which I know I’ve spoken of here before in glowing terms. I don’t tackle any large writing project now without using its Storylines feature to keep track of my…well, storylines. I rarely write a short story without using it, either. I can see after using Jutoh for just these two projects that it has also become an indispensable tool for me.

My other reason for heaping praise on Anthemion is the absolutely superlative support offered. Questions are answered promptly and personally, and guidance is always close at hand when needed. Their software is also extremely reasonably priced. Writer’s Cafe is $45US and Jutoh is $32US…although buying both together nets you a deal on Jutoh. As a registered WC user already I inquired about the Jutoh discount and was promptly afforded it. I really can’t say enough good things about the support!

As for usability, with Jutoh I was able to take an already-heavily-formatted, multiple-chapter document and convert it with only a minimal amount of hand-formatting into epub, mobipocket, and Smashwords-ready formats. Other formats are also available, as well as export as an .mp3. I expect that the program would have dealt even more handily with a document that was not already extensively setup for its print format. Next time I will create the ebook version first and then do the formatting necessary for print, and see how that works.

The user interface is easy to understand, and upon launching a new project, a wizard walks you through the process of getting started. I particularly like this feature, as opposed to some software programs that seem to sit smugly waiting to see if you will be able to figure them out. In addition, Jutoh has an excellent help file which opens in the workspace, so that you can read instructions and carry them out without a lot of switching back and forth between windows. A sample file is included if you need some visual cues to get started with the program. A built-in “check” feature also reviews ebook files after they are compiled, and offers warning and error messages when problems are encountered. A cover designer with several templates lets you create a cover easily if you don’t already have one.

I did encounter a slight error when using the “find” feature, however, the program automatically generated an error report which was submitted to the developer, and I had a reply to that report in short order. That’s what I mean about the superlative support–they’re actually paying attention to their customers’ experiences with their products. I have seen this in action before with the mailing list for Storylines, where there is a lot of interaction between users and the developer so that everyone’s experience of the program is improved.

If you are interested in creating ebooks of any sort in multiple formats, I recommend Jutoh very highly indeed.