Soliciting article submissions

Maintaining a strong paper flow is critical for the success of a journal. Therefore a journal's editors and editorial board in conjunction with the publisher and marketing department must work together ensure enough high quality submissions are received.

How to invite regular papers

There are many ways to increase submissions to a journal - the key is to get the right papers, that meet the objectives of the journal and have a good chance of being accepted and increasing the journal's readership.

Identifying hot topics

It is very important to keep an eye out for good papers and hot topics from other journals by reviewing their table of contents (TOCs), at least once per week. It is very time consuming to do this, but it does reap rewards—scheduling Table-of-Contents scanning into your weekly schedule will help you to avoid missing hot topics that could make a big difference to your journal. RSS readers can easily be utilized to help you to keep track of what is being newly published in your field by presenting TOCs for preselected journals, and it is also useful for letting you know what you have read and what you haven’t. Many editors of well-known journals use RSS readers, such as Feedly, for this purpose.

If you work with other editors, this job can be split between several people and TOC scanning meetings can be a way of discussing and triaging potential topics before inviting papers. Indeed, the role of TOC scanning can be delegated to a junior editor who understands the subject area well enough to identify a selection of potential topics and papers for further discussion. It is standard practice to run potential hot topics by editorial board members who specialize in the area before inviting an author to submit a paper on the topic, and they can often recommend suitable potential authors.

When inviting manuscripts, you can sometimes do this from the suggestions of the other editors or the editorial board. However, if you see a good paper you can always invite a contribution from that same author.

Sources for identifying authors

When inviting manuscripts, you can sometimes do this from the suggestions of the other editors or the editorial board. However, if you see a good paper you can always invite a contribution from that same author.
The use of SpringerLink and AuthorMapper, and other such databases, is good for identifying and targeting authors for invited papers.

Importance of paper flow

It is always important to ensure that a regular supply of high quality manuscripts reaches the publisher. If there is a shortage of submissions then you might need to consider revising the types of articles that you include, such as increasing the number of case studies or short reviews. Furthermore, special editions that focus on conference proceedings or other special events (e.g. to celebrate the birthday or death of an eminent researcher in the field) can sometimes attract new authors to the journal.

Partnering with conferences

Many editors also find conferences to be a good source of new papers. Posters can sometimes be good source for new manuscripts. Smaller meetings and subgroups of conferences can help to develop special issues, which might simply be a record of some of the best papers given at that conference.

Partnering with a conference is a good way of sourcing papers. Through a partnership arrangement, the top papers from the conference can be invited, ensuring a steady stream of contemporary papers. These can sometimes be published in a special edition to reflect the conference proceedings.

Partnership is usually at the discretion of the conference organizers. Large conferences are sometimes partnered with multiple journals and some conference teams like to have a say in which articles are to be published. It is important to adhere to journal ethical standards and arrange peer-review for these articles; however, the peer-review process can sometimes be fast-tracked since the articles can be assumed to have already gone through a round of peer review in that they have been assessed and accepted for publication at the conference.

Clear manuscript preparation instructions and examples

Author guidelines should normally be found within the journal and on the journal’s website. It is important to make this information as thorough, but user friendly and understandable as possible, particularly for authors whose first language is not English.

Instructions for authors

Author instruction should be journal specific and depending on the journal's topic or topics of interest, should potentially include the following:

  • A summary of most the journal’s editorial policies
  • Authorship criteria (and for the online version links to any authorship forms)
  • Statement on competing interests and financial disclosures (and for the online version links to any disclosure forms, such as the ICMJE form)
  • Guidance on use of ‘Acknowledgements’—who should be acknowledged
  • Guidance on previous publication and duplicate submission, which should include making the authors aware that if they need to recycle for example a figure from another journal article that they must clearly reference this and apply for permission from that publisher
  • Clinical trial specific information (e.g. registered trial number). Acceptable trial registries include those listed at http://www.icmje.org. Authors of trials must also submit protocols (including the complete statistical analysis plan) with their manuscript and the CONSORT flow diagram
  • Guidance on statements for ethics approval of studies involving human subjects, consent, patient permission forms (when patients might be identifiable from the content) and declaration that the study conformed to the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki/Good Clinical Practice guidelines
  • List of the categories of articles that the journal publishes (e.g. reviews, brief reports, original research, views, letters) and a description of each type to include the maximum word count, number of figures/tables, abstract style (structured or unstructured) and what sections each article includes. The number of references should be included. It can be useful, where resources permit, to include links to several free access articles as examples of each article style, which may help authors to get it right first time

Guidance on manuscript preparation and submission requirements

This critical information should included:

  • How manuscripts should be submitted
  • Cover letter components—including declarations on COI, authorship and copyright
  • Peer reviewer recommendation—with a clear statement on potential COIs for peer reviewers and that reviewers who have published/worked with/from the same institution as the author must not be recommended
  • Manuscript components (refer to the descriptions already given specific for each type of manuscript, but detail the required components: title page, abstract, text, references and as appropriate figure legends, tables and figures, each on a separate page)
  • Recommended file size for electronic submission
  • Detailed information about each section—length, style and content, plus information on journal preferred use of abbreviations, units, gene and protein names etc.
  • Reference style with examples of references
  • Instructions for drawing figures and tables (ideally should be in an editable format)
  • Information about online-only
  • Details of any journal fees (e.g. for publication, reprints, use of color figures etc.).

It is useful to provide a manuscript checklist so that the author can check that they have included all the elements that are required at this stage.

Ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects

Preparing such instructions is a good chance to establish editorial policies and procedures. When inviting authors to write a specific type of article (e.g. review) it is always helpful to provide them with an example of a paper that has recently been published in your journal to give them an idea of what is required.

Pre-Print Policy

Author(s) are permitted to self-archive a pre-print and an author’s accepted manuscript version of their Article.

A pre-print is the author’s version of the Article before Publisher-organized peer-review has taken place. Prior to acceptance for publication, Author(s) retain the right to make a Pre-Print of their Article available on any of the following: their own personal, self- maintained website; a legally compliant, non-commercial pre-print server such as but not limited to arXiv and bioRxiv. Once the Article has been published, the Author(s) should update the acknowledgement and provide a link to the Version of Record on the publisher’s website: “This is a pre-print of an article published in [insert journal title]. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/[insert DOI]”.

Pre-print posting is not considered prior publication.