Publishing Your Paper: After Acceptance and the Editorial Process
Updated: Apr 21
If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve had an article accepted for publication—or you’re preparing for success. In either case, congratulations! This blog will help you with the process of publishing your paper and then navigating the different editorial processes that you will encounter once you’ve had a short work of nonfiction accepted to an academic or public-facing venue.
Although every journal has its own editorial process, most academic venues follow a few standard practices. The first is taking forever to reply to your submission. You can expect to wait for 3-6 months before hearing back from any journal in the humanities. In STEM fields, you may receive a slightly speedier reply. When you do hear back, an academic journal will give you one of three results: a rejection, a “revise and resubmit,” or an acceptance.
It is highly unusual for a paper to receive a clean acceptance, so you should be pleased with a “revise and resubmit.” For some journals, a request to “revise and resubmit” means that the head editor wishes to invest time in your work, polishing it before publishing it. In others, it means that the journal is curious about your idea, but it needs a significant amount of work. Either way, this result will be accompanied by a list of questions and recommended edits from one or two peer reviewers. These expert readers will be “blind,” which means that they will not know who you are. Generally, a journal will give you a month or two to reply to these comments and resubmit your manuscript, which will earn either a rejection or an acceptance.
If your paper is accepted, you will likely receive further comments from blind peer reviewers as well as formatting and stylistic guidance from a member of the editorial board. Each journal has its own rules of “house style,” so you should aim to accept the majority of the editorial board’s suggestions. If you disagree with a suggested edit or two, you may respectfully decline it, but do so sparingly. Your editorial board will be more familiar with the journal’s audience than you are, and your work will benefit from their guidance in ways that you, as a first-time author, may not immediately perceive.
The same basic rules of respect apply if you are publishing a public-facing article, although the editorial process will look different and take less time. If you’ve had an article accepted to a venue based upon a pitch, your initial acceptance email will connect you with your editor and ask you to send your full article draft directly to them. You may go through a couple rounds of edits based upon your editor’s ideas, which will usually appear as suggested changes or comments in your manuscript.
Once your editor is satisfied with the article, they’ll likely introduce you to a copy-editor and a fact-checker, who will make sure that your work follows the venue’s “house style,” is accurate, and has cited its sources properly. A couple days before your article is published, your copy-editor or the journal’s head editor will send you the “copy” of your article—the version that will appear in print—to review and approve.
Ultimately, no matter where you publish, the editorial process will require some humility on your part. If you engage with your editors’ comments with an open mind, you can learn a great deal about your essay topic long after you’ve signed an author contract.
Stay tuned for my next piece in the Path to Publication series: “How to Recover from Rejection” and happy writing!