Before formally submitting to a journal, you can contact the editor describing what you would like to get published. This is known as a presubmission enquiry. If appropriate and presented correctly, a presubmission enquiry will allow the editor to quickly assess if a formal submission is worth your time. Some journals (e.g., The Journal of Neuroscience, Nature) have dedicated systems for receiving presubmission enquiries. If no such system is available, you can email the editor of the target journal directly. Editor contact details are usually listed on the journal website.
When is it appropriate to make a presubmission enquiry?
Presubmission enquiries are mandatory for some journals (e.g., Methods papers for PLOS Computational Biology), strongly encouraged in others (e.g., Current Biology), or are explicitly discouraged (e.g., The American Society for Microbiology; Epidemiology ). Some journals only accept presubmission enquiries for particular article types (e.g., Nature invites presubmission enquiries for Reviews, Perspectives and Opinion pieces but not for Articles or Letters). In many cases, guidance regarding presubmission enquiries is not provided. If guidance is not provided, you can email the editor directly. However, it is important to remember that editors are busy people and it is pointless asking them to comment on the suitability of your paper if the topic is quite obviously within the scope of their journal.
It is recommended you email the editor if:
- You are unsure of your article’s suitability for a target journal; you have reasons to believe your article would be relevant and interesting to the journal’s audience but the journal has not published such a study before.
- Your findings are of time-sensitive significance and you require a journal that can provide priority review.
- There are special circumstances that require editorial guidance; for example, if you have previously published a portion of the study data.
- You have an idea for a review-type article that you have not fully developed. An editor may be able to suggest improvements or recommend a more suitable approach before developing the full manuscript .
What are the benefits?
- You can consult more than one journal at a time, something you cannot do with formal submissions.
- You will receive timely (usually within 2–3 days) and useful feedback on the suitability of your article. For example, if a journal has published a similar article recently (or has one in the pipeline), an editor may suggest a time in the future when your article would be more favourably received.
- It will prompt you to consider and articulate the significance of your findings before writing the full manuscript.
- It will open up a line of communication with the editor, giving you the opportunity to cultivate a close working relationship, which you can strengthen through repeat submissions.
How to write an effective presubmission enquiry
First, consult the guidelines provided by the target journal. Create a good first impression by being professional and brief in all communications. Carefully follow the instructions and provide all information requested. If the target journal does not provide specific guidance, it is customary to submit a cover letter and an abstract.
The cover letter should briefly describe the purpose of your research project, what questions led you to your research project, methods used, why your findings are significant, how the results relate to other studies, and why your study will be of interest to the journal’s readers (see our guidelines for writing a good cover letter).
In addition, the cover letter is the best place to highlight any important considerations for publication. You should:
- Detail prior correspondence with other journals (e.g., has your article already been peer reviewed? If so, what have you done to address the reviewers’ comments)?
- Disclose all full and partial prior releases of data (e.g., poster presentations) and conflicts of interest.
- Mention any highly related articles that have recently been published .
- When attempting to build a relationship with an editor, honesty is the best policy. By failing to mention such details, an editor could look unfavorably on your work and question what else you haven’t been transparent about, or may even send your paper to reviewers that have previously rejected it.
The abstract should mirror that of a scaled-down paper (see our guidelines for writing an effective abstract), but can be slightly longer than that of a typical research paper and may include relevant citations .
You can also ask the editor to recommend other journals that might be suitable if they think your article is not a good fit with their journal.
Sending a presubmission enquiry does not guarantee that your manuscript will be accepted.
However, if appropriate and presented correctly, it could save you a lot of time.
1. Lengauer T, Nussinov R. How to write a presubmission inquiry. PLoS Comput Biol. 2015 Feb 26;11(2):e1004098.
2. Wilcox AJ. On presubmission enquiries. Epidemiol. 2012 Sept;23(5):656.
3. Chipperfield L, Citrome L, Clark J, David FS, Enck R, Evangelista M, Gonzalez J, Groves T, Magrann J, Mansi B, Miller C. Authors’ Submission Toolkit: a practical guide to getting your research published. Curr Med Res Opin. 2010 Aug 1;26(8):1967-82.
4. Bloom T. What’s there to gain from a well explained presubmission enquiry? PLOS Biologue. Weblog. 2012 June 28. Available from: http://blogs.plos.org/biologue/2012/06/28/whats-there-to-gain-from-a-well-explained-presubmission-enquiry/ [Accessed 2nd November 2017].
5. Guberman J, Saks J, Shapiro B, Torchia M. Getting published and increasing your visibility. In: Bonetta L (ed.) Making the right moves: a practical guide to scientific management for postdocs and new faculty. Second edition. Maryland, NC: Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Burroughs Wellcome Fund; 2006. p. 179.
Filed Under: Archives, Author's Resources, Latest Posts, Manuscript Preparation, Submitting an ArticleTagged With: contact journal, journal editor, presubmission enquiry, publishing
Have you ever struggled to write up your results into a publishable paper only to get it rejected? Richard Threlfall, Managing Editor, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry, gives some insider tips on how to improve each section of your article and increase your chances of getting published.
The Cover Letter
Often overlooked in submissions, your cover letter is your chance to talk directly to the editor and to highlight all the most important results of your research. It can either make a great first impression or leave the editor uninspired, so it is a fantastic opportunity to make the editor sit up and take notice of your paper!
It is a very bad idea to submit a cover letter that just says:
We are submitting our manuscript for consideration in your journal. It is not under consideration for publication anywhere else.
An even worse idea is not to submit a cover letter at all (which does happen)!
Much like an introduction, a good cover letter explains to the editor the critical question your research addresses, how you have answered this question, and why it is of significance to the wider community.
Consider the basic examples below:
Compound X has interesting biological and pharmaceutical activity. We made some improvements over a previous synthesis and believe it has wider applications in organic chemistry.
A letter like this poses more questions than it answers for the editor. A better start might be:
Compound X is a potent anticancer agent. However, up until now, it could only be isolated in small amounts from Plantius planticus. Our total synthesis gives compound X in 99 % yield by …
We have synthesized catalyst A, which is 75 % more efficient than catalysts B and C for the industrially important hydrolysis of Y. This improvement in efficiency is caused by …
Technical details (where appropriate) will add to the editor's understanding of your paper, but be careful not to put in an overwhelming set of numbers or to exaggerate.
Lastly, suggest referees whether the journal requires you to or not. This shows you have a good knowledge of your field.
The best cover letters are concise and give a clear explanation of the advances and discoveries made in the course of the research. Remember, journals receive many papers per day and editors see hundreds of manuscripts per year, so take every opportunity you can to get your work noticed!
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