I’ve mentioned before that I ride the bus to campus with a man who’s the Assistant Editor of an Elsevier journal here at UNC. We talk scholarly publishing a lot, as you might imagine. Our latest conversation has been him giving me some advice on how not to piss off journal editors.

First, don’t send nasty-gram emails to the editor. That one seems obvious, but apparently it escapes some people.

Second, don’t diss your reviewers. Even in large fields (which LIS is so not), your reviewers and the editor may be buddies. But even if that’s not the case, a journal’s reviewers are more valuable than you are. As my bus-riding friend says (I’m just going to call him Mister E from now on), “a pool of reliable reviewers are a journal’s greatest unpaid asset.” A journal will always get more submissions. It’s a lot harder to recruit reliable reviewers.

Third, the harsher the reviewer’s comments, the more useful. This is so true. I’m working on revising a paper now that was accepted with revisions. It had 2 reviews: one said accept with minor revisions, and had a few general suggestions. The second said that the paper had several weaknesses that need addressing before the paper can be considered publishable (ouch), but then went on to deliver 2 pages of densely packed, very specific criticisms. Now which is more useful for me in making my revisions? One guess. I may even break down and thank this reviewer in the Acknowledgements section.

Finally, never submit companion manuscripts to the same journal. This one came as a surprise to me, especially in light of these two citation classics of LIS:

Belkin, N. J., Oddy, R. N., & Brooks, H. M. (1982). ASK for Information Retrieval: Parts I & II. Journal of Documentation, 38(2).

Saracevic, T., & Kantor, P. (1988). A Study of Information Seeking and Retrieving I, II, & III. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 39(3).

That last one, wow, step back. Not two companion manuscripts, but three! Anyway, here’s the argument:

  1. What if the reviewers like and recommend that the journal accept one manuscript, but not the other? The one that was accepted had better be able to stand on its own, or it will either:
    1. be rejected also, or
    2. require humongous revision.
  2. It’s potentially a waste of space for the journal, because if the companion manuscripts can stand on their own, then that probably means there’s duplication of background info, etc. Why should the journal waste pages printing essentially the same material more than once? (My idea for a solution: modular scholarly writing. I mentioned this to Mister E and he said that I should suggest it to an editor & see what they say, that the right editor might actually go for it. But he added that I should suggest it at the end of the calendar year, when journals are creeping up on their page limit quota.)
  3. Why not just combine both parts into one big paper and submit an über-manuscript? Well, if it’s too large, the editor may reject it & tell you to go write a book.