The process of journal article publishing is notorious for taking very long—sometimes several years. Typically, the time lag between submitting and publishing an academic journal article is a result of the peer review system, where fellow expert scholars in your field(s) read your draft, suggest revisions, and make recommendations to the journal editors to accept the manuscript, reject it, or, most often, give you a chance to revise and resubmit the manuscript for another round of review.
While the peer-review system has been widely criticized—for its pace, lack of transparency, and susceptibility to exploitation, corruption, and bias—it is still the norm across scholarly fields and vital in journal publishing as well as the tenure review process.
Given the reviewing labor and editorial labor required for peer review, how can authors create our own timeline for journal article publishing within the temporality and accompanying stress of this system? Below are a few strategies that I have recently experimented with and found helpful.
Until academic journal articles became my primary publishing focus, I resisted working on multiple writing projects simultaneously. Graduate school trained me to prioritize one writing project (my dissertation) over everything else.
In graduate school, I was the executive editor of my graduate program’s journal, where I worked with junior scholars on publishing their debut articles. But it wasn’t until I was a postdoc and still adjusting to the new norm of working on simultaneous projects that I submitted my own first article.
When that first journal article manuscript was under review, during my postdoc, I couldn’t think about—let alone write about—something different.
Since peer review labor takes time and thus lengthens the journal article publishing process, especially if your article undergoes more than one round of review, finding ways of sustaining simultaneous projects is essential to maintaining a publishing pipeline. I say sustaining versus writing because your projects don’t necessarily have to be in the same stage.
Keeping track of and switching gears between projects in various stages can be a challenge but it ultimately benefits the writing process. Taking breaks from your writing—to research for another project or do something else entirely—provides the necessary space for new ideas to arise.
Think of the time when your article is with other people (peer reviewers, professional editors, friends) as an opportunity for refueling to prevent writer’s block and cultivate intellectual inspiration.
The long timeline for journal article publishing often is at odds with the increasing value tenure committees and hiring committees place on published work, making it all the more important to plan ahead.
I initially felt frustrated that the articles I worked on throughout my postdoctoral fellowship wouldn’t be published until after the position ended. However, this meant that I had a steady stream of articles in the production pipeline during the first two years of my next job and, thus, a steady stream of articles for my tenure file.
Planning ahead can allow you to create an advantageous timeline of your own. For example, you might consider scheduling an article submission with the goal of having it under review by the time job applications are due (understanding you can’t always control this).
When mapping out my “Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed” article, I consciously decided to go with a journal that has an internal review committee, a team of editors who read submissions before peer review to make the process more efficient.
This particular journal graciously shares the committee’s annual meeting dates on their website. I submitted my article in advance of a particular meeting date with the knowledge that by the following meeting date, I would probably know if they wanted to move forward with my article or thought it was better placed elsewhere.
Through the peer review process, I still revised the article three times before it was published, albeit without the fear of journal editors rejecting it outright after many months of peer review.
Like many scholars, chronic illness and other commitments (e.g., to mutual care networks) make my capacity for writing unpredictable. As I continue to unlearn the ableist martyr-mentality pushed on educators/activists of color, I’m also constantly adjusting my journal article publishing timelines to fit my own personal needs.
This often requires being honest with myself and others. For instance, if you need complete breaks from academic writing, where you’re not working on or thinking about a piece, consider submitting or resubmitting your article in conjunction with time off work (e.g., by the end of the semester or the start of a holiday break).
If you, like me, need more than the standard few weeks to make revisions based on reader reports, consider asking the journal editors for a different deadline, with the understanding that this will affect production labor and thus the publication date. If you are writing with coauthors, consider discussing your accessibility needs with them ahead of time.
While the peer review system is important for vetting and improving scholarly work, it takes several months at the very least. Authors can use the above-mentioned strategies to create their own timeline for journal article publishing that allows them to work with the system while having more ease. Given the labor required for peer review, a flexible plan is essential for avoiding stagnancy and making continuous progress on writing projects.