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I submitted a paper to a journal several months ago (less than six months). That journal does not have an electronic submission systeem. I sent an email to one of the editors of that journal and I wrote politely (I believe) that I am submitting a paper to the journal. It’s my bad that I forgot to CC the email to the managing editor of that journal.

Up to now I have not received any acknowledgement of the submission and therefore I don’t know whether the paper is in the editorial process (i.e., being reviewed). I did send another email to the editor (and CC it to the managing editor) and ask if the submission was arrived safely. But again I has received no response (from both). So I am kind of afraid that my submission and/or the last email is regarded as spam. Of course I won’t reveal the journal’s name but it is a good and decent journal.

I know it’s not rare that authors may not receive acknowledgement of submission. But I do’'t know how to make sure that the submission email didn’t go into the spam folder.

What should I do? (Unfortunately this is not the first time I encountered this situation)

Edit: By the way, I would like to know if my situation is typical or rare? Of course if the journal has an electronic submission system, then this situation is not likely to happen.

  • Is there a phone number listed anywhere on their webpage or in one of their in-print journals? You might have better luck calling them. – WetlabStudent Nov 8 '15 at 11:07
  • No phone number there – Ho Man Ho Nov 8 '15 at 11:11
  • I sent an email to the editor along with the pdf file as attachment. – Ho Man Ho Nov 8 '15 at 11:17
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    The email addresses are listed in the wbepage of the journal. I checked the editor's emaill address listed on the journal webpage and the one in the editor's department webpage. They are identical. Moreover, when i first sent the submission email I cc it to myself, and I received the email right after. – Ho Man Ho Nov 8 '15 at 11:34
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    Um...about one week. From your answers, I should wait for 2 more weeks then. – Ho Man Ho Nov 8 '15 at 16:12
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Let me first state my strong opinion, and ask everyone to agree, that for an editor to not answer a request for acknowledgement of a submission in a reasonable amount of time, assuming they actually received your email, is inappropriate and unprofessional. Yes, we have probably all seen such behavior. I don't care that it happens, maybe even not infrequently; I don't care that editors are overworked, busy, tired, absent-minded, or that they are volunteers who are not paid for their services (note: unpaid, but not uncompensated, since they very much enjoy the prestige that comes with being a journal editor, and in many cases receive benefits such as a teaching reduction at their institution). A journal is a professional entity and needs to conduct itself professionally. If you are an editor, you signed up, voluntarily I assume, to perform a job, so there is simply no justification for not doing that job. So, repeat after me: not acknowledging a submission, especially when requested, is wrong. Feels good, doesn't it? ;-)

The point is that if nagging the editor makes them angry or annoyed, I don't see that as a problem. It is 100% the editor's fault that they are being nagged, not the OP's fault for nagging. And if their anger leads them to treat the OP's submission vindictively in some way (as the OP seems to worry it might), then that editor is an unprofessional loser, and their behavior reflects very poorly on the journal. In that case I would seriously advise the OP to consider not publishing in such a journal and seeking a fairer treatment elsewhere. (Also, as @user24094 commented, an angry response is at least a response!)

It's also important to note that mistakes do happen, so there is a non-negligible possibility that if you are not getting an acknowledgement then your submission was actually not received. That is why acknowledgements are needed in the first place! Here are two related stories that happened to me:

  • Many years ago I submitted a short paper to a good journal. I don't remember if I received an acknowledgement, but I definitely did not receive a referee report... until two years later, when an apologetic email from the editor came. He confessed with embarrassment that my submission had been on his desk that was stacked with lots of other papers so that he lost track of my submission, and that at one point my paper fell into the crack between the desk and the wall, where he now found it while cleaning up his office. (I guess in those days some submissions were not handled electronically.) To my surprise (since I myself had some misgivings about the paper and had given it up as being possibly unpublishable) he then added he liked the paper very much and would be happy to accept it, assuming I was still interested, which of course I was.

  • A couple of years ago I saw in my files a note about an old gmail account I had set up to receive email forwarded from an institution I had left several years before. I had completely forgotten about the existence of that account, so I logged in to see if there was anything important there. I assumed there wouldn't be, since anyone who is trying to reach me can just google my name to get to my current home page on which I list my current email address - right? Well, to my surprise, I found on the old gmail account a series of increasingly desperate emails from the editor of a certain combinatorics journal, asking me to referee a paper, then some months later asking if I had received the earlier email, then asking for an acknowledgement, etc.... What seems to have happened is that the journal had some kind of automatic system for tracking the email addresses of authors who published there (obviously a bad idea), and the editor was sending me those emails through the automated system instead of doing the sensible thing of just looking for my email address and sending me an ordinary email.

To summarize, my advice to the OP is to consistently nag the editor, including indirectly through any intermediaries you can think of (editorial assistant, managing editor, colleague at the editor's department etc.), every week for a few weeks. If you do not hear back after 2-3 weeks I would assume that the submission had not been received, write one final email in which you politely inform the editor that you are withdrawing the submission due to the lack of response, and submit the paper elsewhere.

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    Thank you for your advice. I understand your point. I think I will nag the managing editor and other associate managing editors for one more two times. If I don't get any response from them I will withdraw it, though it is the last thing I want to do. There are two reasons; 1. the editor I picked in a big shot in the field. 2. It's hard to tell. Anyway, I will wait for 2 or 3 weeks and will put the updated status here. – Ho Man Ho Nov 9 '15 at 1:47
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There's one other thing you might try (in addition to the good advice already given). You could look up the affiliation of the editors who haven't been responding, and call them up at their home institutions.

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You can also find out, if there is an assistant editor. Some times volunteer can work for such review processes. He/she may help you. I also faced a similar issue. I was keep on writing on almost every week to editor, and then one he finally responded with anger. But at least I got the response!

  • I did email the assistant editor. When I became worry about this issue, I look up at the list of editors and I found that the assistant editor is someone I know! His reply is basically telling me to email the editor and CC it to the managing editor. Of course I understand his point as I know basically there is nothing he can do. Well I think I am not going to email the editor every week because I don't want to get an angry response. – Ho Man Ho Nov 8 '15 at 15:24
  • your choice. good luck! – user24094 Nov 8 '15 at 15:36
  • @indextheory: Did you explain to the assistant editor that you already did email the editor / managing editor, and that you think your emails are not getting through? If the assistant editor is someone you know, surely you can ask him to send them an email on your behalf (or contact them some other way)? – Nate Eldredge Nov 8 '15 at 15:40
  • @Nate Eldredge: I am sorry that I made a confusion here. I meant I found that the assistant editor is someone I know (but frankly not too close). I told him my situation and he told me that I should email the editor and the managing editor. Then I did it. – Ho Man Ho Nov 8 '15 at 15:52
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    @indextheory: I see. I think you should contact the assistant editor again, explain that you have not had a response after N weeks, and ask him directly if he can help you resolve the issue by contacting the editors on your behalf. I think that every (assistant) editor has a responsibility to ensure the smooth operation of the journal, even if it means occasionally doing things that are "not their job". – Nate Eldredge Nov 8 '15 at 15:58

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