So you’ve finished your thesis and now have to publish from it. You’ve developed a publication plan and you know the papers that you want to write, papers that have a clear focus and something to say. Now you want to put those papers into suitable journals.
And you’ve picked a first paper and a journal. You know this journal pretty well. It’s one you used regularly in your research and you cited it in your thesis. You’ve now done a bit more research on the journal. You know who the Editor is, and you know the academic work that they do. You’ve looked at the Editorial Board, and you know a number of them and their work too. And you’ve checked the contents of some recent issues and you know that they do publish some things that are in your field. After all this research your initial hunch is confirmed. It seems like it’s the right journal …
But you’re still uncertain. You want to publish in the journal but will the journal want to publish you? Maybe a note to the Editor is a good idea?
Writing to the Editor is an OK thing to do. Well not pen on paper, I mean emailing. And it’s fine. Editors often get emails from prospective authors and they are used to it.
Now an email to a journal Editor won’t help you in the reviewing process – but it might provide some reassurance that the paper you are writing is of interest to the journal, and ensure that it won’t get sent back as soon as it arrives, judged as unsuitable. However, do you really need this reassurance?
If you are sure that the paper you want to write is a good fit for the journal you might just as well put it in – you don’t really need the Editor’s approval to do so. Yes, if it’s your first paper and it’s a bit scary, but it may just be a matter of plucking up courage. Editors are busy people and there is no point asking them about a prospective paper if it really obviously sits in the journal’s area of interest. Take a deep breath and put it in if that’s the case.
But, if you have done your homework on the journal and you still aren’t quite sure whether your paper fits or not, then of course it is a very sensible idea to check out its suitability before you send it in. Now you email.
The journal Editor’s contact details are usually listed on an “about the journal” page of the journal website. There might be regional Editors, in which case you need to contact the person in your area, not the managing Editor. If there are two Editors, choose the one in your part of the world, if that is a choice.
So what do you say to the Editor? I’m thinking of writing a paper about x, would that be of interest? Well that’s OK, you might write that, but it doesn’t really say a lot. This kind of email simply says what the paper will cover. That’s not necessarily helpful. The Editor won’t know a lot about what you want to do if you simply name the topic or the field. You might still be going to write something about x that won’t be right for the particular journal. You need to tell the Editor more than this.
It will help the Editor to decide whether your paper is suitable for their journal if you provide more specific details:
- What aspect of the topic x does the paper address?
- Why is this important?
- What is the research on which the paper is based? – include a few pertinent details about scale, method and scope of the project
- What is the argument that you make?
- What is the contribution – the point of it all – the So What question?
If you can write this information as a short abstract, with an appropriate title, then you will be telling the Editor what they need to know in order to make a decision. You will also be showing them how the paper might appear in their journal.
With this more detailed information the Editor will be able to make an informed decision, based on the actual paper you want to write. They might say no, not a fit. Or yes, put it in. Or they might even suggest a new angle or twist that would be of most interest to their readers – very handy for you if they do.
Ultimately most journal Editors are keen to help people starting out. They also like to avoid rejecting papers simply because they don’t meet the journal’s remit. So it’s not an imposition to email them and it may ultimately save you time and heartache. Just make sure to give them the best information about your paper that you can.