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How to Choose a Journal

As I talk to people about publishing, one of the questions I hear the most is “How do I know what journal to publish in?” It’s a great question, and it doesn’t have an easy answer. When I was editor of Provenance, I of course wanted the submissions but it was more important to focus instead on what is best for the author. Many times I suggested other journals if I thought they were more appropriate.

We all strive (dream?) to have an article accepted for American Archivist. They receive a lot of submissions, and it can be tougher. If you’re interested in acceptance rates, you can read the reports online including from the May Council meeting. While I can’t speak for all the archives journals, I seldom received more than 10, and usually less, in any given year for Provenance. Fewer submissions does not mean automatic acceptance, as all go through the peer-review process and not all are accepted for publication. Journal of Archival Organization is quarterly, and more issues may (theoretically) increase the chance of acceptance. Archival Practice has a rolling deadline, meaning that as articles are accepted they are published (after revisions, of course).

And what about non-archives journals? I have no idea about acceptance rates for other disciplines, but don’t limit yourself. The more we publish about what we do and how we do it to non-archivists, the more others will understand our role in documenting society.

Then there’s the chicken-egg dilemma: do you pick a journal and then write, or write and then find a journal? I have no good answer for this either. It really depends on your topic and type of article you’re writing. American Archivist has great guidelines on different types of submissions. But if you follow those, that doesn’t necessarily limit you to that journal. I suggest reading the scope and submission guidelines of several journals to be familiar with what’s out there. Review my list of journals and see what might work for you.

So how to decide? Here is a list of considerations to get you started:

  • Who is your audience? Is it archivists or possibly historians, environmentalists, genealogists, political scientists, journalists, academic faculty, or others?
  • What is your timeframe? Are you publishing for tenure or for fun?
    • If for tenure, is there a requirement to publish in top-tier journals? A number of articles?
    • Does the publication’s CFP/issue release work with your timeline? It can take a year or longer to get published, though some journals may have quicker turnaround times.
  • What is your topic? Is it general in nature? Or does it have a focus such as technology, audiovisual, manuscripts, records management, conservation, or other? Is there a subject-oriented journal that would be most appropriate?
  • Is there a journal that you read and really like the content?
  • Does your article meet the journal’s scope and guidelines?
    • Don’t send it to more than one journal at a time; this is often stipulated in submission guidelines.
  • If declined at one journal, go ahead and send it to another. Different review boards have different ideas of what fits their journal.
    • I’ve said this before but is always a good reminder: don’t take rejection personally. Use the feedback to make your article better and keep going.
  • If you’re not sure, email the editor. Don’t be shy, they want to hear from you! (And trust me, they want submissions).
  • Talk to your peers. Find out what journals they read regularly.
  • Do you have a strong opinion about open-access vs. subscription?
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