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LibParlor Contributor Series

Through the Looking Glass: Experiencing the Other Side of Academic Publishing. A Librarian Parlor Series, Part 2

LibParlor Contributors Kristina Clement, Samantha Peter, and Hilary Baribeau provide some takeaways for authors based on their experience as guest editors.

Kristina Clement is the Student Success Librarian at the University of Wyoming Libraries. Her current research interests include Universal Design for Learning in library instruction, outreach to transfer students and first-generation students, instructional assessment, Open Educational Resources (OER), and user experience. You can reach her at kclemen8@uwyo.edu or on twitter @kc_librarian1.

Samantha Peter is the Instructional Design Librarian at the University of Wyoming. Her research interests involve Universal Design for Learning in library instruction, people with invisible disabilities in the academic library and archives, Open Educational Resources (OER), and instruction for rural distance students. She can be contacted at scook13@uwyo.edu or via twitter @Sammy_Librarian

Hilary Baribeau is the Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Wyoming Libraries. Her research areas are in scholarly communications, open access, and open educational resources. She currently manages the University of Wyoming’s OER grant initiative. She can be contacted at hbaribea@uwyo.edu or on twitter @hilarybaribeau.

In our first post in this series, we discussed what it was like being guest editors for the International Journal of Open Educational Resources (IJOER) and the time investment involved. We learned a lot about being guest journal editors through this whole process, but we also learned a lot about how we operate as authors. As the three of us continue to write, there is so much more that we take into account now that we’ve been on the other side. We’ve collected many of our thoughts and in this second post, we offer up our insider advice to help authors navigate the murky world of academic publishing. 

There are three big lessons we learned as guest editors that we think will be immediately useful for authors: 

  1. Read it, read it again, re-read it, and then read it again. This goes for everything throughout the entire publication process. 
  2. Maintain open communication with the editors. Communication is key when it comes to successfully navigating the world of publishing. 
  3. Be prepared for rejection–it happens to everyone. 

Below, we provide several tips for authors related to these three lessons and a few other useful logistical things. 

Preparing a Proposal

  • First off make sure you read the call for proposals (CFP) very carefully. Often the editors have a view for the issue already and you want to make sure that your proposal fits within that vision. If you are not sure your idea fits, you can always reach out to the editors for clarification.
  • It is perfectly fine to pitch an idea to the editors before you submit a proposal. You can ask if an idea sounds viable and would fit within the vision for the issue and this will allow you to better understand if you should spend the time crafting a proposal. The editors also might have some great suggestions on how to make your idea better. But, an editor saying they like your idea is not a guaranteed acceptance of the proposal, the paper, and eventual publication. 
  • Read the guidelines of the CFP and stick to them. If the CFP lists a 500 word abstract, make sure you write a 500 word abstract. If the editors ask you to submit the proposal in a certain way, submit it exactly that way. 
  • Put time and effort into your proposal; sloppy work is an easy way for editors to dismiss your proposal from the very beginning. Do not deviate from what is asked of you and if you have questions about the length, content, or anything else ask the editors. They would much rather answer your questions in advance and have you submit an amazing proposal. 

Submitting Your Paper

  • Before you begin writing your full paper, carefully read over the call for papers  and all author directions. You should avoid making assumptions about the submission process and, if something is unclear, feel free to reach out to editors. Be careful though–often the answer is already in the directions. 
  • When creating a schedule, set your deadlines earlier than the journal’s deadlines in order to create wiggle room for yourself in case anything unexpected happens that may throw off your schedule (and it ALWAYS does). If you are able to submit ahead of deadlines, it makes the process easier on the editor(s) as it allows them to keep their deadlines and get your work through the process that much faster. And, you never know when you might run into the editor(s) in a professional situation, so it’s good to have a strong working relationship with them.
  • The initial submission is not a rough draft. It should be as close to a final draft as possible and a representation of your best work.
  • Citations matter, and not just the formatting but the content. Are the sources you’re choosing to cite appropriate for a scholarly journal? You may want to think carefully about the ways in which your publication uplifts minority voices in the profession or reinforces stratification. Do your citation practices reflect your professional ethics? Plagiarism is often an automatic rejection even if it’s not intentional.

Peer Review

  • When you get your reviews back, make sure that you take the time to read each reviewer’s comments, suggestions, and feedback very carefully. Give yourself space between rereading, as it can be easy to be upset by a critical review the first time you read it. What might seem overly critical might actually be very useful, and a second or third read could reveal just how useful it is. (Pro-tip: sometimes changing the correction font color from the classic red to something more soothing, like green, can change how you read critical feedback.)  
  • Hopefully, the journal editor(s) gave the peer reviewers specific instructions on how to give their feedback, but if you are unclear about the peer reviewer’s suggestions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to the editor(s). 
  • Read all the directions very carefully about how to incorporate peer review feedback. Some journals may ask you to address in writing how you incorporated the feedback. You may also be asked to justify why you chose to ignore certain feedback. Again, asking the editor(s) questions about this part of the process is fully encouraged. 

Acceptance, and Rejection

  • If your paper is accepted, take a moment to rejoice! This is a big moment and you and your fellow authors should enjoy it. Then, read the specifics of the acceptance and see if you need to make any final changes before the copy-editing phase. 
  • If your paper is rejected, please do not try and argue with the editor(s). It’s very poor form to try and coerce the editor(s) into reversing a decision to reject. Accept the decision, take the peer review feedback to heart, and try submitting your paper to another journal. Just because one journal says “no” does not mean that all journals will say “no”. Keep trying! 
  • You are more than welcome to ask the editor(s) for additional clarity surrounding a rejection. Hopefully, they will be willing to help you better understand why your paper was rejected, but this is not always the case. 
  • There are a lot of reasons why a paper might be rejected, and you will likely face more than one rejection in your professional career. It’s important to remember that even if the editors were enthusiastic and receptive to your proposal, sometimes the final paper doesn’t end up fitting with the direction of the journal. The good news is that now you have a completed draft of an article that you can repurpose for another journal.  

Rejection is hard, no matter what side you are on and not all journals will soften the blow. In the end, we had to make the hard choices for our special issues, but we did our very best to communicate to rejected authors that while their submission wasn’t right for our journal, we encouraged them to take the peer review feedback, incorporate it, and keep trying. We wanted to end this second post with a part of what we sent to authors whose papers we were not able to accept. 

It’s always disappointing to be rejected, but we encourage you to take the feedback from the reviewers and the editors and think critically about how you can improve your paper for future publication. It is not our goal to bring authors who are not right for IJOER down, but rather to build them up so that they can successfully publish their work in the future. 

We hope that you will consider submitting future work to IJOER and we wish you the best of luck in your future publishing opportunities. 

Finding the light in rejection can be hard, but it will help you grow as a professional, as a writer, and as a human. We hope that these insights will help aspiring authors feel more confident about submitting their work to scholarly journals. And, the three of us encourage LibParlor readers to feel free to ask us any questions about the scholarly publication process, now and in the future. 

Featured image from the Internet Archive Book Images, via Flickr

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The expressions of the writer do not reflect anyone’s views but their own

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