Publishing Strategies (and Tactics): (Some) Rules of the Game Nicolai Foss IVS-CBS & NHH
Books and Journals Books have much more lenient review procedures, if any. Relatively easy to get a book proposal accepted by a publisher (they are almost guaranteed a sale above the break-even level). Rather few really classical papers have been published in books. Although European Schools and Universities will consider book chapters, US Schools and Universities typically wont. However, books may be proper vehicles for certain kinds of publications, e.g., the presentation of the collective endeavours of a research group (e.g., Dosi et al. 1988). -- in general, you should aim at journal publication.
Wait, oh yes wait a minute mister postman Wait, wait mister postman Mister postman look and see You got a letter in your bag for me I been waiting such a long time Since I heard from that editor of mine Etc. -- liberally adapted from The Beatles What kind of letter do you want from the editor? And what kind is it likely that you will get? Imagine you have written and submitted your great paper…
One possible letter I regret the referees are not at all happy with this paper... You are... a long way away from the sort of paper we seek... please consider my advice to turn your energies to other things and take up writing a JEL article several years down the road when you will have accumulated more skills in writing these sorts of papers Could this have been avoided? Yes -- easily!!!
Or…. … I think that the present manuscript makes only a dubious contribution … the manuscript is more of a rambling manifesto of loosely connected thoughts … The condescending attitude is clearly impeding your ability to organize a coherent overall argument. I invite you to get down off of the high horse … the core argument of the paper appears fundamentally and hopelessly flawed (excerpts from 11 (eleven) pages (single space) review report from SMJ). Could this have been avoided? Perhaps.
Or… We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity. -- Rejection from a Chinese economics journal.
Or…. I now have two review reports on the above manuscript … In view of these and my own reading, I have decided to publish your paper in JITE provided you prepare a revised version which takes into account the comments and suggestions of both referees …Not bad, but it can be even better...
The letter we really want: The champaign letter I would like to offer my congratulations on a paper well done. I am pleased that you have submitted it to Organization Science. The reviewers and Senior Editor feel that your ideas offer new insights, and that they would be a valuable contribution to the field, and I concur -- Claudia Bird Schoonhoven, Editor in Chief.
Types of letters 1. Outright rejection (by far the most common). 2. Non-committing invitation to (strongly) revise and resubmit. 3. Acceptance, if certain revisions are carried out. 4. Immediate acceptance (very rare -- except at crappy journals -- and perhaps not psychologically good to receive). Adhering to the following rules will increase your probability of getting no. 2. - 4. letters and avoiding the no. 1. letters.
Rule no. 1: Prepare yourself at the earliest possible stage Think about publishing at an early stage of your Ph.d. study –1.1. Write in English –1.2. Consider writing your dissertation so that articles can relatively easily be written on the basis of it.
Rule no. 2: (Try to) Write every day Writing is a skill that needs to be constantly nurtured. The importance of a regular schedule -- this same half hour every day -- is vital; a definite rhythm is created both mentally and physically and the writer automatically goes to his desk at that certain time, drawn by habit (Principles of Good Writing 1969: 88). Keeps writers block problems at bay. You can be surprisingly productive with only 30 - 45 minutes -- which everybody should be able to find -- of concentrated writing every day. Compose first, do the nitty-gritty later. Consider working on multiple projects simultaneously.
Rule No. 3: Present, circulate, and discuss your stuff! Present as much as possible and as often as possible –3.1. Dont be embarrassed to send your stuff to senior people -- they expect it! –3.2 However, you cant expect people to read multiple drafts
Rule No. 3 (contd) –3.3. Dont send too polished papers; this will reduce comments to mere formalities –3.4. Dont write too self-serving cover letters (e.g. Are 4,5 million Danes right or are [the authors protagonists] wrong. –3.5. Send your paper to those senior people whose work you cite, criticize, extend, test… -- they are the ones will take a natural interest in your work.
Rule No. 4 Remember to acknowledge those who offered substantive comments –4.1. Most seniors are busy!! –4.2. Dont ever play games –4.3. Remember the standard disclaimer
Rule no. 5: Revise, revise, revise, revise and then revise again 1. Never be too impatient. You may have an idea that is great, but because your paper is written crappily it will only be published in an inferior journal. Always let your paper mature for 1-2 months before you look at it again. Then revise … and revise once more. Then, perhaps it may be submitted. The typical SMJ paper has probably been presented 10 times and revised perhaps as many (job-market paper). 2. On the other hand, you can also hesitate too long -- e.g., when the journal is of low quality or you know that others are trying to publish similar ideas.
Rule No.6 : Know what you are aiming at Target your paper –4.1. There is a journal for your paper somewhere in the world –4.2. Write with this journal in your mind
Rule No. 7: The choice of journal is a strategic one Think long and hard about publishing strategies – Go ugly early – Begin in the top Construct a submission tree – Maps your options. – Helps you to avoid undesirable path- dependence effects.
An example of a submission tree A cross-disciplinary (economics, sociology, pscyhology) paper on the theory of the firm: Org. Sc. JEBO AMR JITE Kyklos JMG JMS
Rule No. 7 -- Contd Consider the journal hierarchy -- e.g., in general business administration/management studies : A: ASQ, SMJ, AMR, AMJ, OS, MS B: JMS, Journal of Management C: SJM, Journal of Management Inquiry, Long Range Planning, In Organization : A: Org Science, Journal of Organizational Behavior; B: Organization Studies, C: Certain small university press journals. However, the journal hierarchy is locally constructed (e.g., compare Bocconi, Wharton, Rotterdam and Copenhagen). Inherently difficult to compare specialized and general journals.
Rule No. 7 -- Contd Some Rules of Thumb: Avoid journals that accept papers without formal review (increasingly common) as the plague! Quality is almost certainly low. Check whether the journal is in the Social Science Citation Index. New, rising star journals (e.g., ICC, JMG) that are not be listed in the SSCI may still be attractive -- you basically get in at a low price.
Rule No. 8: Conformity Generally Pays Many journals have almost completely fixed formats for papers -- Typically 1.Introduction, 2. Litterature Review, 3. Theory development and hypothesis, 4. Data and measures, 5. Results, 6. Discussion, 7. Conclusion for a mainly empirically oriented journal, e.g., SMJ, Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior. Journals that allow more conceptual papers often adopt the same format, but then skips 4 and 5. In general it pays to stick to this format.
Rule No. 9: Length Dont write too many pages –9.1. Editors are automically suspicious of long ms. –9.2. For most journals 30 dbl.spaced pages are more than sufficient.
Rule No 10: The Language is Standard English -- Not Your Version of It This is too often neglected by authors (in fact, even sometimes by Americans or Englishmen). May not consistute an independent ground for rejection -- but surely influences the decision. Read, e.g., Principles of Good Writing; King, Why Not Say It Clearly ?; Strunk & White, The Elements of Style the paper is written in an extremely sloppy manner, with lots of typos, terribly bad English phraseology (see, e.g., the very first sentence in the paper), and sentences that are occasionally outright meaningless. However, in principle these are all remediable mistakes, and although it is painful to review a paper that is so badly written, perhaps this shouldnt constitute an independent ground for rejection.
Rule No. 11 Dont write too much to editors --- thus, Dear Professor Wisdom, Please find enclosed three copies of a paper, Post- modernism and operations planning, which I ask you to consider for Journal of Management Crap. I look forward to your response on this paper. Sincerely yours, Hopeful will be sufficient.
Rule no.12 If a journal invites suggestions for reviewers and/or editors (as OS does), exploit this opportunity: Editors often have difficulties finding reviewers. You can influence the review process to your advantage.
Rule No. 13 If an editor rejects your paper and gives a specific reason, normally your paper is finished with that journal Sometimes you can fight a rejection (normally requires you are a big gun)
Rule No. 14 Resubmitted papers should include all the major comments of the editor and the referees -- unless you are convinced that they are wrong. (Explain this).
Rule No. 15 Referees (and sometimes editors too) can be extremely nasty Try not to care too much; they are the ones with a problem.
Rule No. 16 Always quickly resubmit a rejected paper to another journal – Use the submission tree. –Think about whether it is worthwhile to include the referees comments in the new submitted paper (it often is).
Rule No. 17: Dont give up.. Or, at least, dont give up too easily. Typically Scandinavian disease to drop a ms after one or two rejections. However, if your ms has been rejected 4-5 times, it probably isnt a great paper. BUT: Remember that Robert Pirsig ( Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ) received 121 rejections!!!
Tenure/promotion-related rules Be the sole author of some papers (at least 1/3 of your output). Try to publish a peer-reviewed paper a year in a respected journal (emerging European norm). Identify a niche within which your research can earn you a national and -- potentially -- also an international reputation (nat and int nat reputations may conflict for certain topics). Seek external funding for your research. Have publications in the areas that you teach.