Friday, June 5, 2009

A Question for My Academic Peeps

At what point do you tell a journal editor to pull your article from consideration? I sent an article to an editor last June. In July, I get an email saying to give them six months. In January, after six months, I email, and she says I will "hear soon." In May, I email and hear they are really sorry but they will let me know the status when they are in the office on Monday (this was a Saturday that I emailed). In a few weeks, it will be a year.

To be honest, it's an article I wrote very quickly because I wanted to have something else in my tenure packet under submission somewhere. Sure, I worked on it, and it's got some things I like, but I'm not so fully invested in it, certainly not in its current state. But I'd love the feedback. I learn a lot from that feedback.

So I could just wait, but I'm beginning to wonder if that passivity on my part will encourage their passivity, and I'll never hear a thing. Do I pull it? Perhaps by replying to the email that says six months so I can show that I've waited a year? Am I the one being unreasonable? Do I wait?


  1. Under these circumstances, I'd send them a note explaining that I'd like a response, and that if I don't get one within xxx, I'll just send it somewhere else. No problem, in principle, with pulling it if you're not getting anything at all.

  2. I asked a similar question on my blog about a year ago, and people had some helpful advice: . I ended up doing what Seth said in the last comment and then pulling it. After I pulled it, I finally received a rejection and some very helpful comments.

  3. I'll second Seth's comment, but add that it really depends on the journal. In some cases, it might be backlog, in others, a matter of needing to send to a 3rd reader, etc. Many times, what seems like editorial neglect actually isn't. Given your correspondence with them, it's unlikely that your submission fell through the cracks.

    If you want to send it somewhere else, though, I'd just let them know that, matter of factly.


  4. Thanks! This already helps. If it were a problem of backlog or something like that, I'd be fine if they'd just tell me and not say, "You'll hear soon" or, in the second email, "I'll let you know Monday." Just tell me what's going on. I'm in no rush. I just don't want it to sit around.

    And FYI, this is a more general pedagogy journal as opposed to a rhet/comp journal.

  5. I agree with Seth's comment. In fact, I recently had to go through the same thing. Once I gave THEM a deadline, I did finally get feedback (two wholly opposite reviews -- one to accept as is, the other to reject outright, so I pulled from the journal).

    FYI, I am pretty lucky in my field. I review for several journals and we are under major pressure to turn around reviews in 90 days or less.


  6. Not to add anything new, but to reinforce what's been said: Based on advice I've gotten from professors, I'd agree with Seth's point.

  7. For untenured faculty (or anyone else for that matter), that kind of dithering by a publisher is unethical. Because publications are such a key part of tenure and promotion, a professional journal should not act as they have time to burn--A Coy Mistress comes to mind. If they ask for 6 MORE months, what's to stop them from asking for 6 more later on? I've reviewed for several journals and sat on editorial boards, and it is an editor's job to get the reviews back in a timely manner. If a reviewer doesn't have time, the editor should either send it on to someone else or give the reviewer a not-so-gentle reminder.

    One of the problems is that an editor is flooded with tons of submissions, many of which are totally inappropriate for the journal. If the editor has set up a screening process, most of the clunkers can be tossed with a simple email to the submitter. Then, only those that are in the ballpark are even considered.

    Good academics are often terrible journal administrators as they want to think through EVERYTHING. One of Dante's circle of hell is made up of this kind of decision making.


  8. Nels: I'd definitely pull the article. A year is a very long time to wait for the first reviews to come in. In my opinion, the good journals in comp/rhet don't do this. One *did* have an article of mine for over a year when I finally pulled it. At that time, I swore I wouldn't let that happen again. Said journal shall remain nameless, but if you want to know the name e-mail me.

    Remember you can get feedback from the next journal you send the article to--so all is not lost there.

    Kelly Ritter