February 12, 2010

The Key to Publishing Journal Articles – Submit, submit, submit

One of my wise mentors once told me that one of the best attributes a new academic can have is a thick skin. Rejection is a major part of the academic experience, so a thick skin helps.

One way I have found to deal with rejection is always to have a manuscript under review. Of course, the more manuscripts you send out, the more rejections you will get. However, it is also true that if you don’t send anything out, you will never get anything accepted. My strategy has been to submit, submit, and submit.

I began my position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas in 2005. Just before starting at Kansas, I sent a paper out for review. Since then, I have always had at least one paper under review. This means that I have never received a rejection letter without another possibility for acceptance out there.

When I finished my doctorate in May 2005, I decided that, instead of taking a summer teaching position, I would live off of my credit card until my first paycheck in September 2005. Generally, that is not a sound financial strategy. However, I was going to receive a 300% increase in income as an Assistant Professor, and figured I could pay off the credit card by December 2005. I got a credit card with an introductory rate of 0%, and spent the summer trying to turn my dissertation into publishable articles.

At the time, I didn’t have the benefit of Wendy Belcher’s book – Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success but, that would have been the perfect time to use it. I worked over the summer on revising my dissertation, and, just before moving to Kansas, I submitted an article based on my dissertation.

Once I arrived at Kansas, I found a whole new world of responsibilities I had not had before – faculty meetings, committee meetings, students, and formal and informal gatherings with colleagues.

I knew that, to achieve tenure I would not only have to meet my daily responsibilities – attend meetings and teach my classes – but I also would need to publish articles. I also expected my article that was under review to be rejected. To prepare for that inevitable rejection letter, I began to work on another article to submit. I also had articles circulating from my time in graduate school, and got to work on those.

By the time the rejection letter came in December, I had a different article accepted, and another chapter of the dissertation under review. And, so I continued, always making sure to have at least one article under review all of the time.

You might wonder what happened to that article I sent off in August 2005. Well, it was just recently published – in February 2010. Yes, it took nearly five years. In fact, it took the longest, as all of the other papers I have submitted over the years have been accepted, usually after two or three rejections.

As I write this, in my fifth year on the tenure track, I now have only one paper that has not been accepted at a journal. That paper is currently under review. I will get the reviews any day now, which means I had better get the next article I am working on out the door. Otherwise, I face the possibility of getting a rejection without anything else under review.


  1. Holy. Cow. That is insanely good advice.

  2. Hi Emily! So glad to see you continue to read the blog, and find it useful! I hope all is well in Kansas!

  3. This is among the best academic advice I have ever read. Thank you for blogging this.

    I would love to hear more about how you handle rejection and develop a thick skin. It is hard not to panic at times!

  4. Good question! I think that developing a thick skin is something that often happens over time. The more you submit, the more you get rejected, and thus, the more you see how normal it is.

    When I get a rejection, I try to convince myself that it is just another step on the road towards getting published and that the comments will be useful as I move towards that goal.

    Remember, a publication rejection is not a rejection of YOU, but of that piece of work. It is crucial to distinguish between the two.

  5. Thanks Tanya! That is a good way to look at it.