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I am a postdoctoral fellow in a STEM field. Quite some time ago, I submitted a long research book project to a publisher. I received two positive referee reports in August 2022.

I have not yet submitted a revision. The reasons why it took so long are the following:

  • It is a book project and several hundred pages long. One of the referees suggested major revisions, and I agree with their point of view. Changing the manuscript accordingly takes time.
  • During a large chunk of 2023, I was suffering from severe depression and was not working at all, except for a few (4-5) hours per week.
  • I have decided to leave academia soon. This is why I did not care about the manuscript anymore. However, now I feel like it should at least be published. (A preprint is available, though.)

To be honest, I could have submitted it a few months sooner, though. I feel like I was being lazy, although I know that's only part of the truth.

My questions are now:

  1. Should I still submit the revision, and what are the likely reactions of the editor? I feel like it will make things look extremely bad, which, to be honest, they are.
  2. If the answer to 1. is yes (which I assume it is): should I justify myself for why it took so long? I mean, the biggest reason is my depression, and this is quite personal; on the one side, I would like to explain the situation. On the other hand, I am a stranger to the editor, and they could not care less about my personal story.

I guess the two questions could be combined to the question "how do I appropriately handle the situation?"

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  • I think most academics would understand that a revision could possibly take over a year, especially for a lengthy publications. If you look at a lot of journals, it's not unusual for there to be over 1 year gap between the revision and acceptance. Note also, if there's a longer gap, the editors might be liberal in deciding what date to list for the revision. End of the day, if the work is good, I think most editors do not particularly care how long the revision takes (within reason).
    – Taw
    Feb 6 at 21:18
  • It may help you to know that your editor (like most people) probably juggles many personal and professional projects, and during the email gap they probably weren't sitting around waiting and fretting about your work -- they would have had plenty of other things to do. If you've been in a similar situation (of just doing other things while waiting for something), you can hopefully see that you probably haven't done them much, or any, harm. Feb 7 at 3:55
  • There's very little risk in contacting the publisher with a simple "I let this drop, and feel very bad about it, but I'm ready to pick it back up if you're amenable" note. Feb 7 at 21:02

2 Answers 2

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Nevermind about the depression for this. It isn't actually relevant other than to yourself and your well-being.

Yes, submit the revision, with an apology for the delay. You don't need to mention depression or make excuses. At a minimum, ask the editor you previously corresponded with if submission of the revision is OK. Things take time. People understand that, especially for books.

It might be that the publisher's needs have changed and they are no longer interested. If so, there may be other publishers to consider.

And, find a way to deal with the larger issues, perhaps by talking to a professional. This might be especially important if your decision to leave academia is mixed up with depression issues.


In other circumstances, one of my books took five years to get out the door. STEM publications in particular may still be relevant after long delays.

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    Good answer. Important to remember in apologizing is that usually the other person wants to hear that you acknowledge how they were affected; they don't actually care why you were delayed in a situation like this. You apologize because you're sorry that they were kept waiting (even if it's not as if they've had bated breath the whole time), not because you need them to accept your excuse. The effect on them is the same whether you were dealing with mental health or had a different project that was more fun or other job responsibilities or anything else.
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 6 at 15:22
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    I generally agree with @BryanKrause's comment, but, still, intentions (and reasons) might matter to some people... Feb 6 at 17:40
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    One can just say "personal/professional commitments" or some such, @paulgarrett. Very generic. In particular you don't need to discuss health. There is, of course, the question as to whether it is ethical to lie in answer to questions that the questioner has no business asking. And the consequences of the lies are an issue as well. But a publisher has no business in asking about things that don't impinge on the question of publishability of the work. It is worth publishing now or it is not. The publisher was in control of any efforts/expenses caused by the delay.
    – Buffy
    Feb 6 at 17:49
  • Oh, I agree, one does not necessarily need to discuss details of personal issues. But I myself would see a distinction between "sorry: personal/professional commitments" and ... for example, no apology at all. Or a dismissive "I've had more important things to do" (even if that is effectively implied). Feb 6 at 17:54
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    @paulgarrett, agreed. It would be a mistake to brush it off.
    – Buffy
    Feb 6 at 17:55
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If your publisher is anything like the publishers I've worked for, they care far less about the delay than the fact that your manuscript is arriving after all. So yes: submit the revision with an apology for the delay. You don't need to explain why since they don't really care. (Note the editor you're dealing with is likely an employee of the publisher and not an academic.)

The only thing to keep in mind is that submitting the revision doesn't mean your involvement is over. There's still copyediting, typesetting, proofreading, marketing (since yours is a book project), etc. The work required might be less mentally intensive for you, but you'll still be expected to do something. If you do not care about the manuscript anymore, you might want to cancel.

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