Dealing with Manuscript Rejection – Focussing on the Problem
An essential stage in dealing with manuscript rejection from the acquisitions editor of a scholarly journal or press consists of determining exactly what the main problem may be, with the main problem being whatever is preventing the successful publication of the manuscript. This process will ideally begin after the initial shock and disappointment generated by the manuscript rejection have eased a little. Certainly the ability to approach editorial criticism objectively and assess its meaning and implications will be enhanced by bringing as little personal baggage and emotional intensity to the job as possible. Your manuscript is a professional document, and a professional approach will be most appropriate for identifying why it has not encountered the success you anticipated.
Assuming that you have set aside those personal responses as much as possible, you should also ensure that you have enough time to consider the comments, whether short or long, provided by the editor. Rushing is not the answer in such situations and is unlikely to promote the open mind and flexibility required to accept the new ideas criticism often introduces. You may have to adjust your own thinking to understand and meet the needs of the editor and accommodate the feedback of peer reviewers, so it is best to accept this fact and welcome the opportunity for growth and improvement with open arms.
As you begin to read do your best to focus on the main issues. Sometimes these are clearly stated in the editor’s message or the peer reviewer’s report, so you may be offered a straightforward statement of this kind: ‘Your writing is awkward and grammatical errors are preventing clear communication of your procedures and ideas.’ The remark may be cutting, but what it seems to lack in sensitivity is certainly compensated by its clarity, for its meaning cannot be missed or misunderstood. Keep in mind that the exact same message might be conveyed less directly via marginal comments about confusing sentences or a long and detailed list of language errors. In such cases the author will be spared the cutting remark, but he or she will need to use those details to focus in on the problem as sharply as that more direct editor did.
Language difficulties are an extremely common reason for manuscript rejection among academic and scientific editors, but so are formatting issues. Most scholarly journals and presses have detailed instructions that authors must follow when preparing their writing for publication. Such guidelines tend to outline the structure a paper should adopt, indicate the documentation style that should be used and mention any length limitations for documents and their separate sections. Neglecting these and other aspects of publisher guidelines will often result in manuscript rejection, but that reason may not always be spelled out for the author. Instead, you may need to examine the details criticised or highlighted, and it is always a good idea to review the relevant author instructions when dealing with manuscript rejection because some of the problems an editor will consider major simply because they are visually obvious and may not even bother to mention might have arisen when you missed a single guideline that probably seemed inconsequential to you at the time.