Just out of interest when you use a submission service do you get a full report to say where the articles have been published - or do you just assume that they have been published.
The article submission services have always struck me as very similar to the search engine submission services.
Keep in mind, the SOLE purpose of the article distribution service is to get your article exposure in front of publishers. No one except the individual site owner or ezine publisher can guarantee your article will be published. It's not the job of the distribution service to get your article published. It's their job to get your article exposed. You have to have the talent and subject matter that's good enough to be published. That's your job as the author.
A lot of article databases require you to submit the article using their own customised submit method, some require a summary of the article, some will accept HTML format some won't, some require the article to be provided in multiple format such as text, HTML and PDF format.
They nearly all require the article to be categorised using the article databases websites own categories.
I appreciate that there are a few that support a common format that would allow for the process to be automated. Do the article submission services rely on automated procedures or are they getting people to manually submit them?
Yes, they are almost all different. You have to tell the submitter what category/categories your article would fit best into. Most article submission services are done manually to be sure all articles are formatted corrected and that they meet the criteria of each, individual site/ezine. Thus the reason it is so dang time consuming.
If they are being submitted automatically how do you know if they are being listed under the correct category?
You assume they are.
Some people use automated software for submitting. I tried several out a couple of years ago and they all fell very short of my expectations. Because the article sites are so different, it is almost impossible to effectively automate such a process.