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I've recently sent out an article for review. I've been in email contact with the editor from journal #1 from the start, and was quite up-front that I wasn't sure whether or not my article would be a good match for their journal (in methodology, yes; in century and author focus, not so much). Today, I found a special issues CFP in journal#2 where my article would be extremely relevant. Their deadline is end of January.

I'm considering contacting journal #1 to see if they've started the review process, explain that I've found what may be a much better match for my article, and ask about withdrawing my submission if the review process has not begun.

Is this frowned upon?

Of course, I feel like I'm playing with fire here. What if I withdraw, resubmit to journal #2, article does not get accepted, then... go back to journal #1 with tail between legs.

Any advice?

  • 4
    This is called withdrawing the submission, not retracting it. (Retraction generally means after publication.) – ff524 Dec 15 '15 at 0:49
  • 1
    Why offer an explanation? You could simply withdraw the submission, without stating a reason, and apologise for the inconvenience. – Nicholas Dec 15 '15 at 1:01
  • Thank you both. Edited my question to reflect the first comment. In answer to the second: I can't help but think "what if it doesn't get accepted in j#2" so offering some sort of explanation might be nice, down the line? – lokilo Dec 15 '15 at 1:04
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    I sure as heck wouldn't plan on going back to Journal #1 if it's rejected at #2! If I were the editor at Journal #1 and you came back, it'd be a desk reject for certain. How do you know you won't pull the same stunt again? – Corvus Dec 15 '15 at 1:19
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    You'd have to go somewhere else. By the way, I appreciate (+1) that you are going to first inquire whether the review process has already started before requesting to withdraw the paper. This shows the appropriate respect for editor's and referees' time. – Corvus Dec 15 '15 at 1:28
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I would suggest the following steps:

  1. Ask journal #1 if the review process has started.
  2. If it has not yet started, ask if it can be kept on hold for a few days.
  3. Meanwhile send a pre-submission inquiry to journal #2.
  4. If journal #2 seems positive about your paper, send a request to withdraw the paper from journal #1.
  5. Be honest about your reason for withdrawal, and add a word of appreciation for the editor's cooperation and understanding.
  6. Submit to journal #2 once the withdrawal is confirmed.

If the review process has started, it would be advisable to let things be and not withdraw from journal #1. If your paper is rejected from journal #2, you could consider submitting it to another journal rather than going back to journal #1.

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Special issues are a bit outside of the standard journal review system. Typically, they will have guest editors who are in charge of recruiting and managing the submissions and getting them through the review process as efficiently as possible so that the entire issue can be published according to schedule. They are also typically responsible for having a certain number of articles in the submission, so the stringency of acceptance criteria may be somewhat relaxed for a special issue.

That said, given that the focus of journal #2 is so much closer to your field, I would lean towards withdrawing the submission from journal #1 and submitting to journal #2. If, for some reason, the article were rejected from that journal, I would use the editorial feedback to revise and improve the manuscript, and submit a different version of it to journal #1.

If the journal is pretty far through the review process, though, then I would not tinker with things, as that would represent a much bigger inconvenience for all involved.

  • I will definitely ask if the review process has started. Since previously I communicated quite a bit with the editor of journal#1 on article suitability, it seems a brief explanation on the reason of my withdrawal wouldn't hurt, right? – lokilo Dec 15 '15 at 2:09
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    That would certainly be advisable. – aeismail Dec 15 '15 at 3:11

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