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Understanding journal article processing charges (APCs): How much should you pay and why? 

Academic research articles are published following one of two basic models, either ‘traditional’ or open access (OA). Most academics are familiar with the first of these two models: You write up an article and submit it to a journal owned by either a scholarly society or publishing company. Once peer-reviewed and accepted, your article is then published free-of-charge and access to it is then ‘sold’ back to ‘users’ – other academics via one-off payments or, more often, via institutional subscription packages.


In the OA model, the costs to academic authors are different because, often, no ‘sell back’ stage is available as articles are free to view and download once published. Authors are usually charged an article processing charge (APC) in the OA model and then usually paid personally at the institutional level, or from research grants (the industry-preferred model). As publishers do not make profit via subscription payments, publishing costs are therefore ‘front-loaded’ in this way.


How much should I expect to pay for an APC? 

OA advocates have long argued that these costs are too high, as the current average charge industry-wide is around €1,500 per article. Many academics, however, often end up paying much more.


A new survey recently published by the European Union and reviewed here (register to view; reveals the large differences in APCs charged by the ‘big five’ major academic publishing companies at the institutional level. The main takeaway from this report is that the amount you’ll have to pay for an OA APC with one of the ‘big five’ academic publishers actually depends on which country you live in, which region within that country, and even which institution you work for. OA APCs, in other words, are not a level playing field: Some authors are paying more for access to the same journal platforms.


Drilling down, when institutional expenditure is compared against total publication output within countries to gain a ‘price per article’, it’s clear that the ‘big five’ do charge significantly more than other publishers on average: €2,050 an article compared to the €1,500 industry average.


At Charlesworth Author Services, we know that the wide cost range of OA publishing can be very confusing for academic authors, especially when English is not your native language. All working academics want to see their research published in leading peer-reviewed journals as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible. Our journal selection service can help you to:


  • Decide if OA publishing is the right option for your research;
  • Choose an appropriate OA journal with a high impact factor and a good reputation;
  • Manage the costs of APCs


In addition to journal selection (offered as one of our flexible individual services), we also provide a range of expert English language editing services and consultancy services, all designed to significantly enhance your chances of being successfully published in your preferred journal.


Get in touch with a member of the Charlesworth Author Services team for more information, and get your paper and grant writing edited and polished by one of our PhD-level specialists working in your research field. To find out more click here.


Our academic writing and publishing training courses, online materials, and blog articles contain numerous tips and tricks to help you navigate academic writing and publishing, and maximise your potential as a researcher. More details can be found here.


Maximise your publication success with Charlesworth Author Services.


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