Three tips to increase your chances of pleasing a journal editor

July 27th, 2008 by jose

Recently I met with someone who is the editor for one of the top journals in my field. We discussed what would increase your chances of pleasing a journal editor. He gave me three clear pointers that I thought would be interesting to the readership here. But, I also think I’m going to try a different method to get them to you: mail. There are about 2000 RSS subscribers, and only a few dozen email subscribers. I think it’s those subscribers show a lot of commit to what I have to say here and it’s about right that they get extra content. If you use RSS over email because you find it more convenient, then my apologies. You can always subscribe to get the content, then unsubscribe, although I plan to decouple the two sources and prepare extra content that goes to the mail subscribers only in the future.

As Jason calacanis and Nova Spivack put it:

Why have I been doing so much more Twining than blogging and social networking? First of all, I’m not interested in having a conversation with the entire general public, or ever being an A-List blogger, or interacting with networks of random strangers. What I want is to efficiently participate in many different specific groups and communities around particular interests and relationships I have.

I still think that could be a great community where we share really effective tips (this one email is probably one of these). Just a quick reminder that posting is open to anyone who has anything to say (posts are reviewed). There is a post describing how to make a post. And of course, the comments are open.

EDIT: Since lots of RSS subscribers felt alienated, I have added the content here. I hope you understand why I thought it might be sensible to keep it to a reduded audience. The error in my logic was that email subscribers show more commitment: in fact RSS subscribers think the technology is superior and that’s why they do not subscribe using email.

As promised in my blog post, here are three tips to increase your
chances of pleasing a journal editor (and getting your paper published).

(1) Don’t take no for an answer. This editor told me that in many cases the reviews were not completely damaging, but many authors assumed that the paper was beyond repair and never resubmitted. Sometimes, even though you didn’t get a ‘revise and resubmit’, you can write back to the editor and say that you do not agree with some of the reviewers’ points, and that you have fixed the paper. Note that you were not invited to resubmit, but you are doing it anyway. Sometimes the editor will agree with your point and keep the process going.

This little sneaky tactic can save you a lot of time waiting for another journal to start the process from scratch, not to mention psychological wear-and-tear taking rejections.

Note: my editor in question said he would be more than happy to reevaluate such cases, but he may be an exception.

(2) Write it clearly. In a world where everybody rushes papers for publication, a well-written paper feels like fresh air. How do you know your paper is well-written? Leave it alone for a week. If you come back to it and you cannot understand your own point at first read, rewrite. Use your lay-man friends, or people from a different discipline, as testers.

Another trick that I’ve seen good writers do is to use very large fonts so they concentrate on one paragraph at a time (one screen full of large fonts). They move to the next screen only when they are totally satisfied with their writing. This often involves rewriting each sentence a few times, and shortening it.

(3) Don’t resubmit in a week. It shows disrespect for the entire review process. If the reviewers and editor took a few hours of their time to make your paper better, by all means do not disregard the changes they propose. Rarely you can address all suggestions in just one week.

What happens when you take an extraordinarily large time to resubmit? I thought it’d be catastrophic, but this editor concretely thought that this is not an issue. Sometimes life gets in the way. By all means resubmit even if you think your reviews have forgotten about you. They probably have anyway even if you submit in a snap :)

Hope this helps!


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14 Responses to “Three tips to increase your chances of pleasing a journal editor”

  1. GTD WannabeNo Gravatar Says:

    I’m shaking my head at your decision to decouple the RSS and email streams. With all the work that we’re doing to try and streamline our lives and get out of our inboxes, and now in order to get content, I have to go back to the “old” way of doing things?

    All I can figure is that you’re going to try to monetize the email stream. Not interested, thank you.

  2. Anonymous Says:


    First of all, I kept the journal and editor anonymous; letting people know one of them would make it easier to guess the other one. Second, it makes sense for this particular set of tips to keep a smaller group that the entire readership. There’s a reason for that: I don’t want editors around the world to blame me for people using tip #1 (Plus I don’t think the editor that gave that tip to me would be that pleased either).

    Plus, I have to admit that I subscribe to hundreds of RSS feeds and I get bored when people try to hide their content and make me jump through hoops. But one thing is certain: if someone wants to make 100% sure I read what he sends, he better reach me by email because I sure as hell don’t read all the RSS posts I subscribe to. So there’s one reason why I think mail beats RSS for some things.

    I have nothing against people who monetize their blogs/email streams; I have no plans on doing so, though.

  3. icemuffNo Gravatar Says:

    Wow, what a way to get people to unsubscribe to your feed. The problem is, I won’t be subscribing to your outdated and cumbersome but preferred (for your ego?) method of delivering content. Your content isn’t worth bogging down my inbox anymore than it already is.

    Good luck with this plan, I’m sure you’ll need it.

  4. icemuffNo Gravatar Says:

    When leaving a comment, a message is sent to one, the second paragraph of which reads as follows: “If you are not already subscribed I\’d encourage you to join our RSS feed: ; you can also get posts by mail if you prefer to.” Also, there is the little blurb above “If you enjoyed this post, make sure you sign up for our mailing list or subscribe to our RSS feed!”

    You may want to change these, since feed subscription is, apparently, no longer encouraged.

  5. TNo Gravatar Says:

    I suscribed (because I wonder what the tips are about). But this method kind of… sucks. RSS are great, what are you doing with email?

  6. Michael WidnerNo Gravatar Says:

    I would suggest that perhaps one of the reasons very few people subscribe to your site via email is because that’s simply an outmoded way of getting updates, not any indication of how interested people are in the content or how regularly they read it.

    While I would certainly love to hear the tips, I’m not going to subscribe via email just to get them. That’s why RSS was invented. My email filters are complex enough as it is. Plus, there’s no guarantee that sending something via email makes people more likely to read it. Surely you’ve heard of people declaring “email bankruptcy” because they don’t, can’t, or won’t read every email they get.

    I like your site and appreciate the many tips you provide, but this decision seems like a mistake based on a misunderstanding of the purposes of the two technologies.

  7. asdfNo Gravatar Says:

    Baffles me too… how is subscribing via email showing more commitment?

    Doing it for this one sensitive piece might make sense: it won’t be indexed by the search engines.

    Great feed otherwise, hope you’ll reconsider

  8. jamesNo Gravatar Says:

    Let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we? If the editor gave you the tips in what you felt were a confidential situation, then they are privileged information and they shouldn’t be distributed by web, email, RSS or carrier pigeon. End of story. But since you, I think rightly, felt that the audience would be interested, then just ask for his/her permission and post as normal.

    I contribute to because, as you pointed out, there’s a committed and active community in academic productivity issues. But it’s worth remembering that how these members choose to interact with the community is up to them. Surely one of the meta-rules of productivity is that no one system will work for everyone? We should respect that and make the content as flexibly available as possible.

  9. JoseNo Gravatar Says:

    I can see now that this was an error: RSS subscribers feel alienated. So I guess the only way out is to add the content to the post anyway. I hope the editors of the journals around the world don’t get lots of unwanted resubmissions. This is, after all, a small world.

    I have edited the original post to reflect this.

  10. Uncommon Priors » Time for another big roundup. Says:

    [...] post with tips on pleasing journal editors, plus some really bizarre silliness about e-mail subscriptions versus RSS [...]

  11. Jose MarichalNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks for the post. As someone who is sitting on more revise and resubmits than he should, it’s encouraging to know that at least one journal editor does not view this as the ultimate cardinal sin.

  12. Marco BakeraNo Gravatar Says:

    I already reviewed some journal articles and totally agree with you concerning the second point you mentioned. I like to feel the passion of the authors more than reading technical details about their implementation or proofs.

  13. linky. Says:

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  14. Adjunct Advice » Blog Archive » Three Tips to Please a Journal Editor Says:

    [...] Academic Productivity blog has a useful post on how to increase your chances of pleasing a journal [...]

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