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When I started my "quest for knowledge" several years ago I began in an already ill defined-field which was on the borders between science and philosophy but as I progressed I drifted further and further into something I can only classify as "something pertaining to many sciences but not really a part of any one field". It became some even I-can-not-tell-what field of science and although I have completed my quest and came with a sound paradigm it doesn't really pertain to the scope of any of the journals in my area which I use in my references. Or to be more precise, it pertains to all of them but only "a little bit", this is why selecting the proper journal seems so difficult now.

In order to solve the problem, and actually thinking this is a solution, I decided to write a small e-mail to journals explaining my situation and what I have done. It was something like a 200-300 word abstract so they know what my paper is about and then asked if this is within the scope of their journal. None have answered me!

Has anyone had a similar experience? Did I do the right thing writing their editorial boards these e-mails? Did I shoot myself in the foot by doing this? Any suggestions what the effect of these e-mails could have been (e.g. they think I am a crackpot, they just deleted them, they put me in a "forbidden list")? Am I doing something terribly wrong here? Can anybody give me advice as to how I can handle the situation from now on? Do such e-mails effect my chances of publishing there negatively or outright stop them?

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    Thank you for the edit. I am still new here and may be this is the reason why I make so many mistakes. I will try checking spelling and grammar better next time I write a question. – Yordan Yordanov Mar 1 '17 at 0:25
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    Not a duplicate, but possibly of interest: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/61712/… – mhwombat Mar 1 '17 at 0:53
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    Actually, gerrit, I am sometimes very tempted by the idea to say the hell with the peer review and write a small book on the questions I have delved into. I will organize it accordingly and provide with reference, write it under the creative commons license, go to one small book printing business located near where I live, go to some torrent tracker and push it there to see what happens :) I have really thought about it. This business offers the service of "small number books publishing"(I can't translate it correctly)for a modest amount of money.But then will I be considered a real scientist? – Yordan Yordanov Mar 1 '17 at 16:38
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    @YordanYordanov: freedom of speech, go ahead. The problem is not making the claim. Plenty of pseudo-scientists do it all the time. Your problem is that you don't want to be lumped with those. That's why you often see the strongest scientific rigor on the edges of respectable science. – MSalters Mar 1 '17 at 20:46
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    Peer-review for all its evils is the best way to "stay in reality"! Otherwise all we will be doing is creating new religions with some "grain" of reality in them. And we all know how they end up! – Yordan Yordanov Mar 1 '17 at 21:39
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Don't worry. There is nothing bad about what you have done, and it will almost certainly have no impact on consideration of any manuscript you may submit to any of those journals.

Most academics divide their time between large numbers of obligations, and they receive many unsolicited emails; this is even more true of those who are on the editorial board of a prominent journal. Many of them will not reply to an unsolicited message from someone they don't know.

They have not put you on a "forbidden list" or labeled you as a crackpot (unless the content of your message was such as to warrant that -- but even then they probably don't remember your name).

Let me add that it is sometimes a good idea to contact an editor before submitting your paper, and I have done so on occasion. This usually requires that you know the editor, or that someone who knows them can introduce you -- or that you can manage to bump into them at a conference. Asking informally if your manuscript is a fit for their journal can be helpful when the work falls between disciplines, and an immediate answer saves time for you, for the journal, and possibly for potential reviewers. When doing this you should usually contact the particular associate editor who is most likely to handle a manuscript like yours.

  • Thank you very much. I feel relieved now! I still just don't know how the system works. That is why I ask here. – Yordan Yordanov Feb 28 '17 at 20:44
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    The assumption that a 200 to 300 word abstract of the OP's work would not give the impression that he is a crackpot is a strong one. Based on his description of his work in the question I would say there is at least a 50% chance he is a crackpot, and the question doesn't even go into any details on his work. – jwg Mar 2 '17 at 8:34
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I'm somewhat surprised at the other answers labeling this an unusual practice, since some journals invite pre-submission inquiries. For example, Current Biology says:

The editors strongly encourage authors who are interested in submitting work for potential publication in Current Biology to send a presubmission inquiry prior to any formal manuscript submission. Presubmission inquiries should include a clear abstract and a cover note explaining the significance of the advance and the potential general interest to the broad readership of Current Biology.

Nature does them, but a less formally, as does Neuron. Theodora Bloom, a editor from PLoS Biology, has a longish post describing how and why PLoS Biology uses these inquires. In general, this should help you determine if your paper is in scope and sufficiently "newsworthy" (for journals that care) before you rewrite and reformat your manuscript for a particular journal. It certainly can't guarantee anything, but it may save you some time and frustration.

However, if you are doing this, you should follow the journals' procedures (if any are published). Nature, for example, wants a specific format (essentially the first paragraph/summary of your paper), while Neuron wants the emails to contain "presub" in the subject line.

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Based on your description I think it's indeed possible that your email, or maybe even the content of your article itself, makes you appear somewhat like a crackpot - it's impossible to say without knowing what you wrote. But that is neither here nor there; a single email should not get you blacklisted or affect your chances of getting published, so I don't think you need to worry that you caused yourself irreparable harm.

With that said, the email doesn't sound like an effective strategy, and it doesn't seem very surprising that you are not getting any responses. Journals are busy enterprises and they like to work according to a specific workflow to maximize their efficiency. That workflow is quite simple and looks like this:

  1. The author submits the paper by following the instructions for submission on the journal's website.

  2. The journal processes the submission, gets the paper reviewed and eventually informs the author of the decision.

(In some cases there are extra steps involving revisions, but such complications are irrelevant for the current discussion so I'll ignore them.)

To summarize, you didn't get any responses because you didn't follow the instructions for submitting your article. Follow the instructions, and then the journal editors will have the information they need to make a decision about whether your paper is a good fit for them, and they will let you know (hopefully soon). Simple.

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    I am sorry if you think my question can be off-topic, but can you recommend me a question on this SE section dealing with first publication. Has this question ever been discussed here? About the troubles one may get if trying to publish in a journal for the first time? – Yordan Yordanov Feb 28 '17 at 22:10
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    @YordanYordanov can't help you with that, sorry. Use the search feature of the site. – Dan Romik Mar 1 '17 at 1:20
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    This question and its answers may be at least a bit helpful to you: How to write an academic paper for the first time?. Writing a good paper is difficult, and the input from more experienced colleagues and an advisor are invaluable - without this help, submitting a publishable work is going to be even harder for you. Kudos to you for giving it a try. – user58322 Mar 2 '17 at 15:06
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I don't think those emails will hurt you. But they won't be any good either, I think. The problem is that journal editors don't really act as an editor, in the sense that they are not expected to work with the author to improve the manuscript and/or define its scope. Most scientific journal editors receive (many) manuscripts, they find suitable referees for them, and then eventually decide whether the article will appear in the journal or not.

  • This is only one part of the definition of the word editor. What editors of academic journals do is indeed acting as editors. – jwg Mar 2 '17 at 8:38
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Regarding the question

Is it OK to send an abstract to an editor asking if the corresponding article could be considered for publication in the journal?

(my rephrasing).

My answer is: Yes, it is ok, but this is unsusual and I am not surprised that you did not get a response.

To give some advice: You can do a similar thing, but, instead, send the whole paper and not only an abstract to an editor and ask if this article is within the scope of the journal. I did this, and I got a reasonable response from the editor very quickly (a few days - the paper got rejected finally, but on the ground of well found reviews). I guess that just sending an abstract would not have gotten any response in my case, too. This is because it is virtually impossible for an editor to judge the content or contribution from an abstract without the paper - well, you can describe some contribution, but an abstract is much too short to argue in a proper way.

Regarding your further questions:

Am I doing something terribly wrong here?

Not terribly wrong, but unusual.

Can anybody give me advice as to how I can "handle the situation" from now on?

My advice: Write your article with a specific audience and journal in mind, then send it to the (associate) editor of said journal that fits best and ask if the paper would fit the scope of the journal. If he or she says no, rewrite the article for another journal and repeat (or find a journal for which you think that article does not need rewriting). If he or she says yes, but do take it for granted that the paper is accepted. The chance of acceptance is not changed by asking in advance.

Do such e-mails effect my chances of publishing there negatively (or outright stop them)?

No, it would not get you blacklisted for the journal (I am not sure if such a thing actually exists) and your chances to publish an article are most likely not changed (unless you send multiple requests for an opinion of an unfinished work and really annoy any (associate) editor).

  • An abstract is sufficient to judge whether a publication is within the scope of the journal. We've done the same as OP (but send the abstract to the EIC of one journal only) recently with good success (the manuscript has now been accepted with minor revisions). – Roland Mar 2 '17 at 7:27
  • I would guess that very loose and informal 'blacklists' exist, which are probably nothing more than records of people who have either submitted umpteen papers disproving the Riemann Hypothesis and for whom further articles will not typically be sent to reviewers, or who tend to respond to rejection letters with vexatious and persistent challenges, and with whom correspondence will not be entered into. – jwg Mar 2 '17 at 8:41
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I have two suggestions for you.

1) For books, authors are encouraged to submit a "proposal." Here are some sample instructions:

Submissions Guidelines

Please be sure to include the following items in your submission. Your proposal should not exceed 30 pages and should preferably be in the form of a Microsoft Word document.

  • A title and a subtitle.

  • A one-paragraph overview that explains the premise of your book, why you wrote it, and who you see the audience being (with any relevant demographic data you might have about the potential size of the audience).

  • A brief author biography (1–2 pages) that focuses on why you are uniquely qualified to write your book and what kind of platform you have to reach a wide audience.

  • A table of contents that outlines the book, with chapter and section titles, as well as brief descriptions of the material each chapter and/or section will cover. It should be no more than ten pages total.

  • A market analysis of the potential readership for your book, including a comparison to similar books. When comparing your proposal to other works, please briefly explain (just several sentences) how your proposed book differs from these titles. Please limit yourself to 3–4 books.

  • A sample chapter that is representative of the style and content of the larger work.

I will suggest that you take this as inspiration for how to pitch your article to journals. Try to reduce the 200-300 word pitch down to a more manageable size. Maybe your pitch will be a little bit longer than the sample I included. Imagine that you are writing to someone you know pretty well in one of these near-fields. Explain to this friend why your article will be interesting to its target audience.

Interestingly, when I have gone through this exercise, I have ended up with a clearer idea of what I'm trying to accomplish with my article, and it has enabled me to improve my article!

Your pitch may be a bit different depending on which area the journal you're submitting to covers. For example, if you submit to a chemistry journal, your pitch would be different from a submission to a physics journal. You would need to explain to the chemistry journal why your paper would be interesting and important to chemists. And for the physics journal, why it would be interesting and important to physicists. (Physics and chemistry are just examples.)

The pitch is written in a more down to earth way than the paper itself. And note that the pitch is not the same as an abstract.

The pitch is kind of like those short blurbs you hear as ads in the Fresh Air podcasts, where the advertiser tries to give you an idea in 25 words or less what kind of book is being advertised, so you can form a very quick idea of what kind of book it is.

Your pitch will function as a pre-submission query. As others have noted, this is unusual. The better you can prune this down, and really focus it, I think the better your chances will be.

If you are going to introduce a completely new animal to your circus, you need to describe this animal to people, so they will be receptive to it.

2) Find at least one person with a strong publication list of his or her own to put in a good word for you -- in whatever way that person is comfortable doing. In other words, do some networking. This person will not be recommending that the journal accept your article. Rather, this person will be requesting that the journal seriously consider your submission, despite its unusual nature.

Make sure that you and this person (~mentor) are on the same page about the thrust of your pitch, so that s/he can underscore some important parts of it, in a way that matches your description.

Last note. Please don't be tempted to start with the first paragraph of your question here, or anything like that. It was fine for Academia SE, but it wouldn't be an effective way to start your pitch.

Edit:

To clarify, adapt the above sample instructions to suit your needs. Specifically, I would enclose the manuscript itself along with the thing I have called the "pitch."

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    I think this is bad advice. 'Pitching' as a form of advert for an as yet unseen paper does not seem either a good idea or necessary. Journals believe that they will accept any paper which is correct, on-topic and sufficiently interesting. Such a paper should sell itself rather than need to be sold. Similarly, getting someone well-connected to 'recommend consideration' may be counter-productive and should certainly not be needed. Journals review papers by unknown authors all the time. – jwg Mar 2 '17 at 8:45
  • The difficulty here is convincing the journal that the paper is on topic. // Edited answer to correct misimpression. – aparente001 Mar 2 '17 at 14:48
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    -1 Don't "pitch" to journals. If you are worried that your manuscript is not within scope, email an editor with the abstract. Articles are not written the same way as books and you should not try and take lessons from one to the other. – anonymous Mar 2 '17 at 15:17

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