Publishing Tips: What Do Editors Want?

Recent queries from readers of NursingWriting have focused on the question, “I’ve been writing ________; do you think the editor of _______ journal would be interested in it?” or “I’ve written ______; do you think that this is the kind of thing that the editor has in mind for the special issue of _____ journal?”

So here are some quick tips about what editors want (based on my experience as an editor of a journal, as a member of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals, and as a published scholar).

  • Editors are usually eager to receive new material (unless the periodical is a highly prestigious journal that receives many more submissions than it accepts).
  • Editors want to know that writers have carefully read the specifications of a call for submissions, including topic specifications, length specifications, and format specifications.
  • Editors want to know that writers have actually read their journals, that writers know the kinds of material that their journals publish (for example quantitative studies or qualitative studies, personal essays or reviews), that writers know the format or style sheet that the journal employees. This entails writers’ reviewing a couple of recent issues of a journal or periodical, either on line or in a large library collection (like that provided by your local university).
  • Editors welcome inquiries by writers prior to submission. An email to an editor in which a writer provides a précis or summary of his or her paper, characterizes the kind of paper, and informs the editor about the length is usually sufficient.
  • Editors are often over-extended professionally and may need a follow-up email from the writer after a reasonable time (say two weeks).
  • Editors-in-chief may be enthusiastic about your proposed submission, but still rely on their fellow editors, an editorial board, or peer reviewers for the final decision about whether or not to publish an author’s work. (Authors learn how to take rejection without dejection!)

In most cases, there is probably a venue suitable for the work that you are writing; the key is for you to do your homework in selecting those venues. Most journals will have “advice to authors” or “submission guideliness” on their Web site; if you click on “CELJ” in our Web Sites to Watch sidebar, you will find additional general guidance from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

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