Image Credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.coms
Image Credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.coms

Are you looking to attract more quality submissions to your scholarly journal? It’s an ongoing goal and, at times, a struggle for many editorial teams. Early-stage journals must, of course, work to develop their reputation and reach to bring in quality submissions. And even longstanding journals that have traditionally experienced natural growth must continually take steps to solicit top-quality research to stay competitive.

When it comes to increasing the number of submissions any journal receives, regardless of its stage in publication, focusing on publishing and promoting path-breaking research is paramount. You must work to attract papers from leading academics and to show that your journal is at the forefront of its discipline. In this blog post, we round up some of the most effective steps you can take to increase the number of quality submissions your journal receives.

Further Reading: For more journal submission growth and reputation development tips check out Scholastica’s free eBook Academic Journal Management Best Practices: Tales from the Trenches.

Invite leading scholars to join your editorial board

Your editorial board is your journal’s greatest asset. In addition to bolstering its reputation, each editor you invite has the potential to help expose your journal to a wider audience through their scholarly networks. Whether your journal was recently launched or it’s been around for years, one of the best steps you can take to raise its profile and attract more quality submissions is to invite prominent scholars to serve as editors.

If you’re still building out your core editorial board, you should work to bring on well-known scholars in the field. For journals that already have an established editorial board but want to foster additional scholarly affiliations, a great way to engage with leading academics is to seek a pool of consulting editors that you can call upon to do a certain number of manuscript reviews per month or year. You can also encourage submissions from your consulting editorial board members.

One journal that has had great success working with consulting editors is Sociological Science. The journal has a large group of consulting editors that it uses as a sort of built-in reviewer pool. This is part of the reason Sociological Science is able to maintain an impressive 30-day or less turnaround time for all manuscript decisions. The journal’s speedy time to decision is certainly one reason it’s able to attract many submissions from top scholars.

Another way journals can broaden their scholarly influence to attract more quality submissions is by inviting notable academics to serve as guest editors for special issues on particular topics of interest in the field. These time-bound asks may be more feasible for busy scholars to take on than full editorships or supporting editor roles. The guest editors you invite will be able to help you solicit relevant submissions for your special issue and may even be willing to contribute a piece themselves. When looking for special issue ideas and contributors, conferences can be a great place to start. If you find a conference where scholars gave a series of related, highly relevant presentations, consider inviting those scholars to submit their work for a special issue.

Anita Harris, Managing Editor of SubStance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism, shared how special issues are helping SubStance keep up its submission volume and attract new authors in Scholastica’s eBook Academic Journal Management Best Practices: Tales from the Trenches. “Running special issues is something we realized we’re sort of dependent on at certain times if we’re experiencing a lull in submissions because it does ebb and flow,” said Harris. “Cultivating special issues has really helped with that, and through them we attract new authors that we might solicit additional articles from in the future.”

Prioritize journal promotion and seek contributions from top scholars

Of course, to attract more quality submissions to any journal, you have to regularly promote it. At the highest level, be sure that your editorial team is actively fostering conversations about your journal with fellow academics in person and online — use the power of word of mouth to your advantage.

You’ll also want to build out more formal journal promotion channels. Online outlets will likely be your best bet for this, both in terms of reach and affordability. Some online journal promotion options include:

  • Posting calls for papers and new article highlights from social media profiles, like Twitter and Facebook
  • Starting a publication blog to post journal announcements and author highlights (you can even solicit guest blogs from authors!)
  • Building an email list to send journal updates directly to authors’ and readers’ inboxes

Over time, you can use publishing analytics to identify which online channels are working best for your journal. For example, if you find that Twitter is a top referral source, then you know that promotion channel is serving you well. On the other hand, if you’re regularly posting journal updates on Facebook and you find that Facebook only accounts for a tiny portion of your website referrals, you might want to rethink using that social media outlet and try focusing on another instead.

Journals can also look to geographic readership and submissions data to identify opportunities to build up a more global submissions base. For example, Harris said she and fellow editors at SubStance have begun digging into their submissions data to look for opportunities to better engage researchers outside of the US. “We’re looking at what countries we get submissions from to find any trends. We want to see if there are opportunities to solicit more articles from different regions to build relationships that way,” she said.

Another great way to build your journal’s reputation and consequently attract more top submissions is directly soliciting contributions from notable scholars in the field. Of course, this can prove difficult for many journals early on. As Clare Hooper, Head of Journals at Liverpool University Press, explained in a Scholastica webinar on growing journal impact and reputation, “you get into a sort of virtuous circle of content leading to readership leading to citations leading to submissions. The better content you publish, the better and more content is submitted.”

How can early-stage journals solicit noteworthy scholarship when they’re up against more established titles? During the same webinar, Pippa Smart, Founder of PSP Consulting and editor-in-chief of Learned Publishing, shared some helpful advice. “Identify top authors you’d like to have in the journal and then, rather than going after their original research, go after editorials, commentaries, and other short pieces in order to build up reputation,” said Smart. This is also a situation where special issues can come in handy. As noted, special issues offer a natural opportunity to solicit contributions pertaining to specific subject matters.

Focus on author satisfaction

Have you ever found yourself saying, or have you ever heard another scholar utter something along the lines of — “It’ll be a very long time before I try submitting to that journal again!”?

No matter how notable a journal may be, if its peer review process feels like an exercise in frustration, it will start to lose out on submissions from authors who know the struggle that comes with them. Authors want to be able to easily submit their manuscript to a journal, they want to know what’s going on during peer review, and they want upfront answers to common questions like what open access policies the journal has in place. One of the best things your journal can do to attract more submissions is to work to give submitting authors the very best experience possible. You’ll want to:

  • Make sure all of the information on your journal website is up-to-date and that it’s easy for authors to navigate
  • Maintain clear submission and manuscript formatting guidelines and work to iteratively improve them over time (ideally, keep your instructions for authors to no more than a page, and remember bullets and tables are friends!)
  • Focus on improving your author communication and manuscript turnaround times by regularly working to streamline your peer review process
  • Make sure that your peer review system offers an intuitive user experience for authors with easy access to user support
  • Take steps to keep authors in the loop during peer review — journal management software like Scholastica can help you set automated notifications
  • Make sure you’re sending authors valuable peer review feedback and limit revise and resubmit rounds
  • If your journal is OA and relies on article processing charges for funding, make sure the APC is reasonable for scholars in your discipline

In addition to making your submission and peer review process as painless as possible, your journal can provide added value to authors by helping them promote their published articles. For example, you might post new article highlights on your social media channels and also provide authors with publishing data like article pageviews and download counts to help them gauge how many readers they’re reaching. If authors like working with your journal and feel that it’s worth their while, they’ll be more likely to submit again and encourage others to do the same.

We hope you find these tips for attracting more quality submissions useful! Do you have any suggestions to add? We want to know. Tweet them to us at @scholasticahq!

Tales from the Trenches