As a journal editor working for a major publishing company (as well as for The Charlesworth Group), I’m in a position to pass on a few insights in terms of how journal publishing works. Indeed, I’ve actually been the editor-in-chief of a journal now for more than 15 years; amongst the most common enquiries we get from authors are ‘what’s happening with my paper?’ and ‘can you help me to make sure my paper is published faster?’. These are quite different questions, as we will see.
There are two important things you need to know before you write to a journal editor to ask about your paper. First, the editor actually has quite a lot of control over the review process and hence its speed: how long your paper will sit in the system before a decision is made. Second, the average time across the publishing industry between submission and online publication is about 90 days. Three months. That’s how long you should expect to wait for your paper to be completely processed and, hopefully, accepted and published online. More or less.
Editors, in my experience, welcome contact with authors. Most editors, myself included, are working other jobs as well as handling submissions and reviews for journals. In my case, I worked as a full-time academic for several universities before moving to work as an editor and then educator for The Charlesworth Group. The point is, there’s always a lot going on and lots of things to think about: Editors like me are handling 80-100 papers per year and so always appreciate reminder emails from authors. You won’t be ‘bothering’ or ‘harrassing’ an editor. Please write.
Indeed, you must write to the editor handling your manuscript submission if more than two months have passed and you have heard no news. Remember: it usually takes (on average) about three months for the whole process – submission, reviews, revision, acceptance – to run its course. We can provide you with a template if you get in touch with our team: Write and ask your editor, politely, if there is something you can do to speed up the process. Perhaps suggest some more reviewers, as this might be the reason for the delay. Editors have a lot of control of this part of the workflow process, as we’ve discussed; he or she might have asked four or five colleagues to take a look at your paper and not yet received any replies. In my case, I always ask more than four people to review each paper that passes through our editorial office and then make a decision (reject, major revisions, minor revisions, accept) once two reviews have been returned. I’d use a third or fourth set of comments in cases where the first two received disagree. This is just how the process works.
So, you can speed up the process by which your paper is handled by a journal editorial office. You can do this by writing politely to editors.
Once your paper has been accepted by a journal, however, one thing you cannot then do is make the actual publication process faster, unfortunately. This is because journal workflows and publication schedules are fixed.
In our journal, once a paper has been formally accepted by an editor, it will move into production. The text, images, tables, and other figure and appendices are checked and formatting confirmed for journal style. A set of proofs is then sent out to the authors as a final check before online publication. These steps are set in stone and cannot be speeded up; a final publication document identification number (DOI) is then issued for the so-called version of record (the final online published version of a paper), which is then released to the world on the journal home page and other social media announcements.
Make sure you check your final publication proof carefully as journals will not be happy (or unable) to make further changes, even if it takes months before your paper is paginated into a printed issue.
Once your paper is accepted and proofed, a publication date will be issued. Almost always, this cannot be speeded up; In our journal, it’s about three weeks between final acceptance and online publication (with a DOI).
Something you can control, however, as an author, is the media attention and social media announcements that might accompany your paper. Perhaps you’ll write a press release, or provide a media pack to be released at the same time as your article? For this purpose, and to enable you to achieve maximum impact, your journal may be prepared to agree with you on the timing of the release of your article; for this reason, DOI release dates and online publication can be slowed down. If your article is going to be of significance to the journal as well, you might wish to work together with an editorial office or publishing company to time the release of media materials and press packs, for example.
These are all issues to bear in mind as your paper moves through a journal’s workflow (as people in the publishing industry call the process of manuscript submission > review > revisions > acceptance > publication online > pagination into a printed journal issue).
Please ask us if you have any questions. We are here to help.