Choosing a journal to submit your new manuscript
Your research is done. You have a solid first draft. Now, where will you submit your paper?
Authors will either have a quick answer or struggle to figure out which is the best fit for their work. I suggest you put nearly as much time into thinking through the best match for your work as you did in creating it.
Start to develop a list of possible publications for submission. Potential journals will migrate up and down your list as you learn more about each one.
First understand how the journal operates as this affects who can read your work, and a potential cost. Is the journal subscription-based, published by a society, or open access? Traditional subscription publications mean accessibility of the content is limited to subscribers. Or a journal is published by learned societies or associations. These publications are provided as a benefit to members of that society. Open access means the content is free for all the readers with no or few barriers to access, such as needing a subscription or a membership. There are usually few restrictions on reuse as well. Open access many times means the journal is funded by an article processing charge (APC), which are usually paid by authors, their institution, or the research’s sponsor.
Next consider the audience for the journal. Understanding the audience for a journal is essential. It may seem intuitive based on the journal title, but it may be more nuanced than that. The aims and scope section of a journal will be the first place to turn to understand who the audience is.
Consider any metrics available about the publication, such as impact factor, h-index, altmetrics, and Eigenfactor. These and other metrics become more complicated factors to consider when selecting a journal for publication.
Next look into the rejection rate: The rejection rate for a journal (or as a corollary, the acceptance rate) is a key factor that may be available for you to consider. If you go to the About page at the journal website, it may be listed there. Or try a web search to see if it has been discussed or is available in news articles or other sources. Rejection rates can vary widely. Some journals reject 95% or more of all the manuscripts they receive, and other journals reject only 10%.
Another factor to consider is the time to decision which not only varies widely but can be lengthy. Most top-tier journals understand the importance of this metric in attracting the best articles/cutting-edge articles and have worked diligently toward reducing this time to an acceptable amount. The range may be from three weeks to perhaps (unbelievably) half a year. The average is probably 60 to 90 days. Also, time to publication is important.
Review the editor and editorial board closely. Consider how many of the board members are familiar to you and that you hold in high esteem. As experts, does the board cover the spectrum of the topics in your field? Are there representatives from the cutting-edge areas in your field?
Do not submit to any journal that you have not closely reviewed articles that had published in their pages. Read the table of contents and the issues closely for key factors that may play into your decision to submit your article. Are the articles well-edited and concise?
Many authors follow the practice of submitting to the journal with the highest reputation first, and if they are not successful, then move down the line. It is an excellent practice; however, it can be time-consuming.
Use an assortment of factors in your journal comparison. The decision of which is the top target journal and the order of the rest of them on the list is subjective. There is no way to weight each factor. But considering these points will help you come to an educated decision.
There are about 45,000 active journals. You will need to be focused when figuring out which ones are best for you to consider.
John Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He just released a new book: The Little Guide to Getting Your Journal Article Published: Simple Steps to Success. He is also the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” Contact him at email@example.com.