Journal Rejection via Form Letter – Ways To Identify Problems and Challenges
Almost every academic or scientific author who has endeavoured to publish his or her research has experienced rejection, though hopefully less often than its opposite. Sometimes that rejection comes in the form of a generalised statement to this effect: ‘Your manuscript does not fit our current needs.’ This kind of rejection via form letter is frustrating because it does not anticipate an opportunity for resubmission, and it is particularly maddening if you have done your homework, so to speak, and know very well that your research does fit the range and specialisation of the publisher. The only saving grace of such a rejection is that it is not personal and, disappointing though it may be, it is best not to take it so.
When faced with such a rejection, the most stoic of authors will simply move on to a different publisher. Do a little (or a lot of) reformatting to suit different guidelines, attach a new covering letter and the piece can easily be resubmitted. There is wisdom in this approach, and if you are confident that the problem does not lie in your research or writing, sending it elsewhere can produce good results, though you will need to consider a wider range of publishers and be willing to settle for your second or third choice. Remember to compose your new covering letter as though the publisher were your first choice – indeed, the very best place to publish your work.
On the other hand, many conscientious authors will take a rejection via form letter as an opportunity to second guess themselves. This can be both beneficial and detrimental, so moderation is the key. If you have received only one such rejection for a specific manuscript, worrying would in most cases be productive only if you were already concerned about some element of your work. If you are encountering the second or third unexplained rejection for the same piece, it probably is a good time to reassess your document and ask yourself some fundamental questions. Have I adequately reported my research and explained its importance? Have I analysed my findings thoroughly and come to reasonable conclusions? Is my writing clear and correct? Do I keep my reader in mind by defining obscure terms and maintaining a logical argument? Did I in each case familiarise myself with the publisher’s guidelines for authors and apply them exactly and consistently throughout my submission, from title page to final list of references?
Such questions can direct your attention to potential problems and provide directions for revision when and if the problems prove real. Qualified help will likely be an enormous boon and might come from more than source. Colleagues, mentors and fellow students may be willing to read your manuscript and offer advice. Be sure to choose readers who share aspects of your training and interests, and keep in mind that scholars who have successfully achieved publication will also have personal experience of the process to share. Such readers will almost certainly be helpful in terms of feedback on content, but they may have less to say about your writing style or language skills, though if you manage to confuse or mislead these readers, you have received valuable clues about where attention will be beneficial.
You may find that you are able to detect the nature of such language problems and determine how to fix them once the confusion has been explained to you, but if this is not the case, you will require some professional assistance. An academic or scientific proofreader who specialises in your discipline and ideally in your research area will be able to correct errors in your prose and provide suggestions for greater clarity and other improvements. He or she will also be the perfect person to ensure that you have adhered to publisher guidelines with precision and consistency once you have reformatted your manuscript for that next submission.