Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
Interacting with Editors
From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing
Writing as Professional Development
When corresponding with editors, authors sometimes neglect to be professional and to proofread. Mistakes in an e-mail to the editor do not inspire confidence in any manuscript this particular author might submit. The tone of the correspondence should be professional and not overly familiar. When you write to an editor, use his or her name—just as you would in any business correspondence. When it comes to manuscript submission, authors need to study the journal’s guidelines or the book publisher’s requirements just as carefully as a responsible student would review the syllabus for a graduate-level course. Far too much of an editor’s time is spent responding to authors who do not bother to learn the first thing about the publication and its requirements. Neglecting to do this borders on insult to editors who are committed to the publications that they represent.
One helpful tool for authors is the letter of inquiry. It is a short, business-like e-mail that:
· Provides a descriptive title for a completed manuscript
· Very briefly explains its purpose (this can be pulled out of the pronouncement paragraph)
· Reflects familiarity with the intended outlet and its audience
· Verifies that the manuscript is not currently under review with any other publisher
· Affirms that the work is original
The advantage of submitting such a letter is that it helps authors to gauge the editor’s interest in the work prior to entering into the lengthy process of peer review. However, be sure to check the guidelines for submission because not all editors welcome letters of inquiry.
In publishing endeavors, trust is built when people demonstrate their commitment to improving the quality of the work. Signs of a hurried response, resistance to investing effort to improve the work, and indignant displays of ego tend to erode the editor’s confidence in an author. Some actual examples of this are:
· Editor: “One suggestion from the reviewers was that you revisit the title. As it currently stands, it reads more like a book or an encyclopedia title. It gives no hint that it was a study and leaves the reader expecting a more practical article.”
· E-mail from author: “We didn’t change the title because we can’t think of a better one. Can you suggest a new title for us?”
The editor cannot be expected to do authors’ homework for them. or to deviate from the policies that govern the review of manuscripts. They also cannot afford to invest additional time in work that was submitted well before it was ready or to deviate from policies that govern the review of manuscripts:
· E-mail from author: “After reading the reviews, I know that I can revise the manuscript and improve it. Would you be willing to give me another chance?”
· Editor: “Unless it is an actual error, decisions on manuscripts are final. If, in the estimation of the reviewers and editors, the work does not meet our publication needs and is rejected, then there is no recourse for the author other than to pursue a different publication outlet”.
Disregarding the reviews and engaging in arguments with the editor is not a way to reverse a decision. The best approach is to build your credibility by accepting criticism, striving to improve your work, meeting deadlines, and interacting with the editor as you would a respected colleague. The editor has to balance responsibility to: (1) the sponsor/publisher/ organization, (2) the profession, (3) the readership, (4) the peer reviewers, and (5) the authors.
While it is to be expected that authors care about their work, believe in what they have written, and are the major stakeholders when a manuscript is reviewed, that is no reason for huffy displays of ego and defensiveness. Bear in mind that the editor has the final say, even after the reviews come in, so it isn’t a simply tabulating the reviewers’ votes or calculating a score on an evaluation scale completed by reviewers. Some authors seem to think that they can somehow circumvent the revision process and then become indignant when their work is not accepted for publication. For example, an author indicated that he was “outraged” when a contract was not offered to him. But no amount of ire was going to bully the editor into disregarding three very negative reviews of the manuscript by respected scholars in the field.
When you consider that a typical journal editor gets manuscripts submitted on a daily basis, every day of the year and at any hour of the day, it helps to explain why editors are so selective. This is not to suggest, however, that the editor is always right. The changes that they suggest or make may change the meaning of the work in ways that are unacceptable to the author. Furthermore, an editor can be unreceptive to a new idea at one point, only to see things differently later on. The best that editors can do is to be professional, respectful, and place faith in the team of peer reviewers they have assembled.