Professional Responses To Journal Editors
Rejection of any kind always comes with a sting, and when the academic or scientific writing you have worked so hard to produce meets with rejection from the editor of a reputable journal, the impulse to reach out and slap the wasp responsible for the pain is understandable. Following through on that impulse is extremely unwise, however, especially since wasps are tough and entirely capable of stinging more than once. If thinking of that editor as some kind of insect has therapeutic value, it may be more productive to compare him or her with a honey bee – a creature focussed on producing the sweetest product imaginable, but also able to give a nasty sting if anyone upsets its habitual patterns for success. Editors are not predators or scavengers as wasps are, but they need the right pollen to produce their characteristic honey, and they are unlikely to sacrifice much time from their busy schedules for flowers that do not provide what they require to do their jobs well.

Setting aside the metaphors, as a scholarly author aiming to publish your writing in reputable journals, it is imperative that you communicate with editors in a professional manner at all times, even when one of them has just crushed your fondest hopes of publishing your paper in the journal you think best suited to your work. Never respond to negative news from an editor simply to complain or vent your anger. It may seem satisfying to do so at the time, but such a response is neither professional nor productive. You may regret your hasty words the second you send them off or you may regret them years down the road when you discover that the new acquisitions editor at the university press through which you are hoping to publish your groundbreaking academic or scientific monograph is none other than that journal editor you chose to alienate more than a decade before. If you are lucky, he or she will not remember, but it is an unfortunate fact that human memory tends to linger long over negative events.

Communication with an editor from whom an author has received negative news must always be respectful, and it is usually best if it is focussed on producing a specific positive effect. Perhaps, for instance, you have been informed that your paper can only be published or seriously considered for publication if you make certain changes. Valid reasons for writing back to the editor would include thanking him or her for taking the time to offer constructive criticism, clarifying the feedback you received if you are uncertain what should be done before resubmitting your paper, outlining precisely how you plan to revise your work in response to the editor’s comments, including mentions of anything you feel you cannot change and explanations of why, and obtaining confirmation that your work will indeed be published or reconsidered for publication if you follow the editor’s advice. If you do your best while addressing such concerns to focus on the needs of the editor and journal by attending to every criticism, you will come across as an accommodating author willing to work with the publisher toward a common goal.

Civility in the face of bitter disappointment, broadening your perspective to prioritise the needs of others and achieving both while also staunchly ensuring – even defending if necessary – the integrity of your research are elements of a challenging textual exchange for any writer, so it may prove useful to have an experienced and trusted colleague or mentor look over your letters and offer feedback about the effectiveness of your tone and the feasibility of your expectations. This will require more time, of course, and very likely some additional revisions to your correspondence as well as your paper, but all improvements will contribute to your chances of successfully publishing your writing.