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I'm the editor of a statistical journal (currently it doesn't have an Impact Factor but will have one soon as far as our information goes). I have experienced that it is very hard to find reviewers for papers. Often people don't even respond to the invitation to review. Recently I invited a person I know very well to review, and they told me that the invitation ended up in the spam folder. This of course would explain why I often don't get a response.

I am aware that different spam folders work differently and I know that not all of my invitations for this journal end up in the spam. I am also Associate Editor for other journals (with OK Impact Factor) where my success rate getting responses is clearly better. So I'm interested in any tips regarding wording or subject lines of such invitation emails that lower the probability of ending up in spam folders.

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    Is it actually spam? That is, are you sending out bulk requests or individual ones, tailored to the recipient?
    – Buffy
    Nov 25, 2023 at 13:19
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    @Buffy The requests are individual. There is a default invitation email template in the system that I often use or modify only a little bit. But we're really not talking about big numbers here; I'm sending out fewer than 10 requests per month. (The vast majority of requests I get myself are default templates with hardly any modification.) Nov 25, 2023 at 13:27
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    That's infuriating but there isn't a lot of what you can do. About half of the e-mails I send from my personal e-mail address to former colleagues (which are now clients) ends up in their spam folder. These are all individual e-mails from [email protected]. There appears to be no rhyme or reason why a specific email gets through or not. I've taken to confirming through a "known good" recipient at that company. It's super awkward, but I don't know what else to do.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 25, 2023 at 15:06
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    You should bringing ths up th the IT people of the domain your email is coming from Nov 25, 2023 at 23:32
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    I'm afraid that I have a habit to automatically marking any email from a journal I haven't heard of as spam without even thinking about it. Usual submission request rather than review requests, but the algorithm probably lessens the association between the journal name and "spam". Such is the extent to which predatory journals have poisoned the well for everyone. Nov 27, 2023 at 8:46

2 Answers 2

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I suggest

  • Do not to use any template at all,
  • Introduce the journal,
  • Use the official journal email with your complete signature, not gmail,
  • Kindly beg for confirmation and feedback even when declining. Explain that this is important for expeditious processing.
  • Keep it short (Title, Authors, Abstract). You can send the template email with all the details for login, links to the journal, etc. upon obtaining the agreement.
  • Avoid links to third party sites, pictures, attachments, Excessive Capital Letters, exclamation marks!!! They can trigger spam filter.

Finally, the day of the week seems to matter as well. I would avoid Mondays. Please, take it with irony, but some people claim that Tuesday is the best day for asking someone out, Thursday is the best for sending promotional emails and Friday is the best for asking for a raise.

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    All good suggestions, thanks; just to say I do most of these already, particularly of course the last bullet point. The day of week thing was totally new to me. Worth a try. Nov 26, 2023 at 11:22
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I'm pretty much guessing here, but perhaps this will help.

It is possible for recipients of a mail to mark it as spam and report that back to the email system. If this template you mention is from the publisher and used by other editors, then it is possible that many such requests have been marked as spam and the system flags similar things automatically.

A possible solution is to build yourself a new template that is quite different from the standard one. It would probably require using different wording/phrasing than that in similar things.

One form of personalization that might also be effective is to note some paper of the recipient that leads you to think they might be a good reviewer. That is, give them the idea that you actually know about their work and its relevance. This is a bit separate from the spam issue, though it might overlap somewhat.

I'm guessing that the "hardly any modification" is the issue, though. You are fighting with AIs now, of course.

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    Oh, well... something along the lines of "I've read your recent paper and now invite you to something" is more or less the standard approach in most spam I get. I guess the chance that this comes through is not particularly high. Nov 25, 2023 at 17:03

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