So I’ve just attended an Institute for Humane Studies online workshop on publishing. It consisted of a talk by Michael Munger, and then we broke into smaller groups and IHS associated faculty would give you individual advice on getting your research published. The experience was pretty interesting and helpful.
I have a few publications myself and a few more in the pipelines. This really doesn’t make me an expert on publishing, but I’ve been serving as some sort of editorial-assistant to a journal for a couple of months (I made up this job-description/title myself, I have no idea what my job-title is to be honest). I’ve worked through email with editors, authors and the publisher, and I’ve sat on editorial board meetings—both real and virtual. It’s given me a little insight into the Editor’s job. Here’s four things that might help you guys when you submit and that you probably haven’t read anywhere else. I know I hadn’t heard about them before. Please note that these can maybe influence the editor’s stance toward your paper, but more importantly it will also cut down review time, sometimes substantially:
- Write a cover letter. This might sound obvious, but even though you can’t submit a blank cover letter entry (at least on the platform the journal I’m working for is using), and you have to click a “I have submitted a cover letter with my paper” confirmation box, you wouldn’t believe how many people try to circumvent this by typing in white space. It’s not a good idea. The editor that will be handling your submission wants to know who you are, why you are submitting, the paper’s history, etc. Why would you think it is a good idea to force editors to Google your name and your paper’s title? Most of the time they need this information just to find a suitable reviewer. Write a cover letter!
- Fill in all the information. When your paper is in the system and you decided you had better things to do than to fill, say, the name and information of your coauthors, and the editor sees this when he opens your cover-page file, it is not going to be good for you. He’s going to have to figure out how to correct your submission on the online platform, or to ask you to correct it yourself. He’s either going to email the publisher to find out just how to do this, or ask one of those assistants with made-up job titles to figure it out themselves. This is likely going to take some time and be pushed back at the end of the queue a few times. Sorry, it’s a long boring process, but it’s essential for the editors to follow the manuscript-flow and to keep track of what’s under review, as well as important to the ‘production’ phase once the paper is accepted. If you expect a journal to be careful about your manuscript, be careful when you submit it.
- Don’t ask permission to submit. This is something people do all the time. They’ve met one of the editors at some conference, and then email them to ask them if they can submit. I assume there are instances where this might be legitimate, for example asking for advice or comments on your paper, but in most cases it’s a bad idea. Most journals have a back office platform that manages and keeps track of manuscripts, so that none are lost or forgotten. If you send your paper to an editor you will likely wait for nothing, and there’s a chance your email will be lost in the process and will sit in an inbox for weeks while you are waiting for an answer from an editor that’s forgotten about you. You don’t need a permission to submit, and asking for permission is not going to serve any function that isn’t already covered by the cover-letter. Just submit it.
- If there’s an option to put your preferred and non-preferred reviewers, use it. I’m going to be direct: it’s not going to be respected. But it’s an important source of information that complements your paper and the cover letter. It informs editors of which literature you think this paper falls in, it says how confident you are about your paper, etc and other information that you might think are already obvious in your paper, but having it at a glance for the editor is good. Use it.