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Manuscripts submitted to a journal are often directly rejected by the editor without going out for review. I find this acceptable with the caveat that it's a huge waste of time having to reformat and readjust word length. Journals with high rejection rates should have an abstract only submission as a first step.

Anyhow, given this current situation: should I contact the editor of one or more journals that I think would be a good target for my manuscript before formally submitting my manuscript?

Some journals offer this option but others don't. So I am not sure if it is acceptable to or if just by sending an abstract I will somehow limit my chances of getting to the review stage.

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    This would depend on the culture of the subject of the papers, but in mathematics I expect that this would just annoy the editors. – Andy Putman Apr 16 '15 at 19:04
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    What area are you in? – jakebeal Apr 16 '15 at 19:07
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    Why do you think that a rejection without review is a bad thing and should be avoided? How is it different from "contacting the editor before submission"? – Dmitry Savostyanov Apr 16 '15 at 20:30
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    @Dmitry: if it is a lot of work to format the manuscript to the standards of the publisher, an immediate rejection wastes that work. It would seem reasonable to want the ability to inquire if the paper has enough interest to make this work worthwhile. (This is perhaps an argument in favor of journals that don't require formatting to their standards until after acceptance.) – Nate Eldredge Apr 16 '15 at 22:29
  • @Andy: Of course, math journals also rarely have strict word limits, and are often flexible about the formatting of the initial submission, so a formal submission is only a little more work than an informal inquiry. – Nate Eldredge Apr 16 '15 at 22:32
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Thanks for clarifying. Don't worry about the effect this would have on your future chances with this paper and this journal. If this pre-submission step fails, that is an indication that the classic approach would also fail. Either they feel it's worth sending out for review or they don't.

But send the whole thing, not just the abstract. They need to be able to see the tables and figures.

When you send the full long version to the editor, here's a way to word the question: ask whether the work is appropriate for the journal.

If you get an encouraging response, then you can start slashing, do a formal submission, and hope for the best!

(Source: I have to give the credit to my spouse for this answer, who has about 250 publications. Edit: in case this helps -- in the field of experimental physics.)

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I've contacted journals before submission, but usually only to check how long they take to do a review, and to confirm/check that they do quick rejections. Quick rejections are good - it's horrible when they keep you waiting six months only to send you a review telling you your manuscript sucks or is unreadable. I always wonder that, if it is so bad, why didn't they reject it quicker? I don't think they can tell you whether it will be sent to review without actually seeing the manuscript. You could also ask them how much they care about formatting. Perhaps they don't, then you don't have to bother with any special formatting, you can just use a generic template, like the LaTeX article class.

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    If they tell you that "your article sucks" and they're true, then it's probably your mistake. But what's really annoying is if they reject it after several months for "not fitting" -- which is something a bit harder to decide. – yo' Apr 17 '15 at 20:29
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    @yo' Well, if they don't like it that is fine. But in that case, it should not take them months to arrive at a decision. – Faheem Mitha Apr 18 '15 at 0:23

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