I just got a response from a journal of the MAA that my manuscript is accepted as a filler.

The correspondence reads:

"The Editorial Board likes your submission and has asked me to move it to the "Filler Archives." Filler pieces are used only on a space available basis. Hence, it is now in a queue with other filler pieces awaiting publication. It is impossible for us to predict if or when we will use it, but if an opportunity to publish it arises, then we will let you know. If you choose to publish it somewhere else, please inform us so that I can remove it from the archives".

Since it is impossible to predict "if or when" they will use my submission, this could mean that I might wait "forever" for publication? I am a little bit confused and I would like if anybody has any similar experience to give me some advice.

What should I expect about the publication of my paper given its acceptance under "filler" status?

  • That seems more than a little unfair. They tie up your manuscript so you can't submit it anywhere else?!? Apr 10 '14 at 13:18
  • 4
    @NauticalMile: No, you can still submit it elsewhere. Apr 10 '14 at 13:23
  • 3
    This is an interesting corner case of the usual prohibition against double submission. Could you really submit it elsewhere without first withdrawing it here? Would you be obligated to inform the other journal? Apr 10 '14 at 13:51
  • @NateEldredge I suppose I have to withdraw first and to inform the new journal..... Apr 10 '14 at 18:30
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    My interpretation of your e-mail is that you don't need to withdraw your submission to the MAA until your paper has been accepted for publication elsewhere. The reason why double submissions are bad is because you would waste the editor's and reviewers' time and effort. But in this case the MAA has already processed your paper, so you're not wasting their time by submitting it elsewhere (which they anyway are letting you know you can do).
    – Sverre
    Apr 11 '14 at 18:18

Yes, this is different from being accepted for publication (instead, it's closer to not rejected). It means they might publish it soon, they might publish it at some point further in the future, and they might not publish it at all. I have no idea what the statistics are, and they may vary depending on the current editor in chief.

Here's some background:

The Mathematical Association of America publishes several widely read, high-quality journals that focus on exposition rather than original research (most prominently the American Mathematical Monthly). There's a lot of competition to publish in these journals, which means they reject many submissions, including almost all submissions to the Monthly.

The Monthly has a tradition of using short, interesting submissions as filler (and I think other MAA journals do as well, but I'm not certain). This tradition arose in the print era, when it was more important to ensure that the number and layout of the pages came out right, and it has continued since readers enjoy the filler and there aren't many good places to publish pieces like this. The filler articles are generally not considered particularly important, and they are chosen to fill the available space, to complement the main articles, or just because they caught the editor's eye.

So why would someone allow their submission to be used as filler? One reason is that there may not be other good opportunities for publishing it, but I think the general reason is that the author doesn't consider it a big deal. The typical filler article is short and entertaining, but not a major part of the author's career. If your submission really matters to you, either because you would feel insulted to see it used as filler or because your career would benefit from having it published soon, then the filler archives are probably not a good place for it. (You might get lucky and see it published immediately, but probably not.)

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