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What’s the cost of publishing an open access (OA) journal? It depends on how you do it.

Today, many journal teams are in the process of transitioning existing publications to OA models or launching new OA journals. Of course, while OA journals make research freely available to scholars, they don’t come entirely without cost. All OA journals have some basic expenses such as website hosting and design. The good news is journal publishing can be made remarkably more affordable on the web, with many journals operating on a budget as low as $500 a year. Publishing your OA journal affordably just comes down to electing the best tools for your needs and carefully planning out your publishing process.

In this post we share 4 tips to help you publish OA journals more affordably online. We’ve also included a “Publishing an OA Journal on a Budget: Checklist“ that gives you these tips and more. Download the checklist and use it as needed to map out your publishing plan.

Explore various journal funding opportunities

When it comes to affordable OA journal publishing, the first step you should take is considering all available funding options. Unlike print journal publishing, wherein subscriptions were the primary funding model, in OA journal publishing there is no one-size fits all approach. Funding models available for OA journal publishing include:

  • Grants/subsidies
  • Submission fees
  • Article processing charges (APCs)
  • Advertising/sponsorships
  • Affordable Green OA

It’s important for OA journal teams to look at all the funding options out there and consider what will work best for their discipline. For example, APCs tend to be challenging for some disciplines, such as the humanities, because researchers have more limited access to publishing funds. However, having a small submission fee per manuscript or using a subsidy model like Open Library of the Humanities (OLH) can work better for humanities research. Regardless of which funding model you opt for, you’ll also want to stay on the lookout for new opportunities, particularly within the realm of publishing grants and subsidies. You can find an expansive list of options on the OA publication funds page of the Open Access Directory.

In addition to exploring different primary funding models, as you build your journal’s readership it’s a good idea to give readers the ability to donate to the publication. You’d be surprised at how many will do it! You can open up your journal to donations by adding a donations button to your website and even sending out annual calls for donations to your email list.

Reach out to your library and graduate student networks for help

Particularly when just getting started, journal management can be a bit overwhelming for OA journal teams. Some journals opt to hire a full-time managing editor to handle day-to-day operations and make sure everything stays on track, but that isn’t a possibility for every journal. The good news is, there’s power in numbers. In order to make managing your journal, well, more manageable, you’ll want to reach out to others within your editors’ university networks for help.

Your university library can be a great starting point when it comes to getting a solid journal structure in place, particularly if you’re launching a new publication. Two areas of early-publishing that can prove challenging for editors to tackle are making a metadata plan and getting their journal abstracted and indexed. Lucky for you, these are likely the fortes of many librarians at your university! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your scholarly communication librarian to ask for advice - they may even already have systems in place to expedite things like getting an ISSN and Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). In the case of journal abstracting and indexing, keep in mind that subject expert librarians often know best.

In addition to working with your library to get your publication set up and receive help managing tasks your editorial team may be unfamiliar with, you may also want to start building up a network of graduate students interested in working with your journal. You can solicit one or more graduate student volunteers to fulfill common managing editor tasks such as technical vetting of manuscripts.

Simplify your peer review and production processes

A beautiful aspect of publishing your journal online is that it opens up endless opportunities to automate and streamline your peer review and production workflows. Be sure to take advantage of all the web has to offer! Adopting affordable peer review software is a great place to start. With peer review software you can manage your journal with much fewer hands and in much less time. For example, you’ll have opportunities to automate tasks like sending reviewer reminders and tracking manuscript activity, as well as to manage journal communication all in one place.

Your journal should also seek tools to publish more easily and affordably online. Ideally, aim to manage as many aspects of your journal in the same platform as possible to avoid having to split your time between learning and using different platforms, as well as to cut costs. Putting the onus on authors to ensure their articles are properly formatted can also make a big difference. You can do this by creating thorough article formatting guidelines as well as making article templates for authors to use. If you opt to create templates, be sure to use Word or Google Docs (not InDesign or other professional layout software that most people can’t use).

In online publishing you will also have to make a plan and budget for managing your website. One of the easiest ways to do this without taking up too much of your editorial team’s time or raising costs is to use a website template you can customize yourself. Getting a site you can manage without the help of a web developer will save your journal a lot of money and headaches. Just be sure to use a website template that addresses all of your journal discovery needs like metadata parsing and Google Scholar indexing.

Use free promotional tools to spread the word about new articles

Finally, once you’ve covered all of your peer review management and publishing bases, you will have to think about journal promotion. It’s not enough to just publish articles; you have to make sure scholars in your field know about them. When it comes to affordable journal promotion, social media is your friend!

If you’re just establishing a social media presence for your journal, keep in mind that there’s no need to get carried away trying to be on too many social networks at once. Rather, pay attention to which social network seems to be most frequented among scholars in your journal’s discipline, such as Twitter or Facebook, and start a profile on that platform. Use your social profile to post new article updates and announcements as well as to engage with your community (don’t forget to be social!). Along with social media, you can also start an email list or RSS feed for your journal to give scholars an option for receiving publication updates.

We hope you find these tips useful! Be sure to also download a copy of the “Publishing an OA Journal on a Budget: Checklist“ to have these tips and more on the go. If you have thoughts on these suggestions or additional affordable publishing advice be sure to share them in the comments section or tweet at us at @scholasticahq!