Locating Suitable Outlets - From Trepidation to a First Draft - Professional Roles and Publishable Writing

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Locating Suitable Outlets
From Trepidation to a First Draft
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing

The publication of empirical research in a short list of top-tier, peer-reviewed journals is not the only type of scholarly writing that has value. What “counts” as writing at one institution will be dismissed as inconsequential at another. Therefore, each scholar needs to closely analyze expectations for scholarship within his or her workplace. For example, “Research universities require that faculty publish their research in high-impact media, such as SSCI indexed journals or A-rated journals. Often, research has to be empirical to count towards tenure and promotion” (Wang, 2015, p. xxiv). For writers from other types of institutions, expectations may be less clear—and, they may change considerably over the course of a career.

Where promoting professional development is the goal, writing something well is better than writing nothing at all, because it demonstrates effort and builds skills. What is published today in a modest outlet can support success tomorrow in a more competitive outlet. For example, a doctoral candidate and high school mathematics teacher wrote a brief account of a strategy for teaching probability to students that was published her professional association’s newsletter. Afterwards, the editor of the organization’s state journal invited her to write a full-length article on the topic. This too was accepted for publication. Well-written pieces have a way of attracting positive attention and sometimes lead to additional opportunities. It is always encouraging to see that someone else has found your work helpful or to see it cited in another published source.

Authors often are surprised when they are advised to identify outlets in advance of completing the manuscript. However, when groups of journal editors get together, they compare notes and guesstimate that about 20—30 % of what is submitted to their publications is inappropriate for the outlet; these manuscripts are rejected with a form letter and not even sent out for review. Why? Because they are the equivalent of a telephone call that is a “wrong number” and are disconnected as quickly as possible. Authors can significantly increase their chances of acceptance by thoroughly investigating the intended outlets and writing for that specific audience from the beginning. This is much more efficient than preparing the entire work and then searching for publisher. In fact, this is one reason that book publishers do not ask for the entire book before they offer a contract; rather, they typically request two or three sample chapters so that the manuscript can be developed along the lines that will make it most marketable. When a manuscript is a mismatch for an outlet, it is rejected without review. If this happens, the author probably has waited for several weeks, only to get a disappointing result and no direction about ways to improve the work. If, however, the author knows the outlet/audience, studies the guidelines for submission, and prepares the work accordingly, chances for getting a “revise and resubmit” rather than an outright rejection increase considerably. Table 3.1 suggests strategies for analyzing outlets.

Table 3.1

How to analyze outlets

What is the purpose of the publication?

Read the mission statement of the publisher, the “about…” or history section on the homepage. Many publications have a masthead. This word originally referred to the front of the ship that determines the direction of the journey. The masthead for a journal also provides direction; it can be stated as a motto. For example, Childhood Education, published by the Association for Childhood Education International’s masthead reads:

Bright futures for every child, every nation

Childhood Education, the award-winning, bimonthly journal of the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), focuses on the learning and well-being of children around the world. Each issue includes articles highlighting various perspectives on innovative classroom practices from around the world; cutting-edge concepts for education delivery; innovative schooling models; child growth and development theory; timely and vital issues affecting education, children, and their families; and research reviews. The journal’s editorial intent is to include a wide distribution of articles from varied countries, and from advocacy- and policy-oriented organizations as well as academic institutions

Who evaluates the manuscripts?

Look at the personnel, variously referred to as the Staff, Editorial Board, Advisory Board, or Publications Committee. What are their institutional affiliations, and roles? Are they practitioners in the field or international researchers, for example?

What types of manuscripts will they consider?

Search online by the journal’s title or the publishing company’s name and read the guidelines for authors. If a journal has regular departments or features, who writes them? For example, do they publish book or media reviews? Are they written by staff members, a Department editor, or do different individuals contribute them? If it is a book publisher, look at their catalog. What are their areas of specialization? Might they be branching out and seeking manuscripts in a different area? Check the publishers’ displays at professional conferences and chat with their sales representatives or acquisitions editor to learn more. Look for one-page “calls for papers” printed in the journals, posted on bulletin boards at conferences, or distributed at the publisher’s booths

What topics have been recently published?

If it is a scholarly book publisher, look for new publications in their catalog or online. For journals, browse through the tables of contents over the past couple of years. Are some or all of the issues thematic (focused on the same topic) or are they multi-topic issues? Is the same individual the editor for every issue, or do they have guest edited issues? Do they have an editorial calendar with copy deadlines for issues or do they review manuscripts at any time?

What writing style and format is preferred?

Examine the formality of the writing in the pieces that are published. What writing techniques, structure, and organization do authors employ? How do the authors make use of headings, figures, tables, charts, and graphs? What is the typical length of the books or articles that this group publishes? Some indicators that the writing is less formal are the use of personal experiences or anecdotes, the personal pronoun I, and photos or advertising in the publication

Which of their publications have been particularly successful?

Refer to the publisher’s website. What were the journal’s top downloaded articles? Which of their articles have earned awards? If it is a scholarly book publisher, search the web or catalog to read comments about their books. The top books often are in the first few pages of the catalog. Which ones have been recognized with awards or earned positive reviews? If it is a college-level textbook publisher, which books have survived beyond a first edition?

What are the submission policies?

Locate the submission guidelines for authors. What referencing style is required? What is the page or word limit for journals or the preferred manuscript length for book publishers? How are manuscripts submitted and to whom?

Whatever you decide to write, ask yourself these questions about places where your manuscript might be published:

· Who is my audience?

· What is my focus?

· Why bring this information and audience together at this time?

· How will publication in this outlet help me to accomplish my goals?