Before formally submitting to a journal, you can contact the editor describing what you would like to get published. This is known as a presubmission enquiry. If appropriate and presented correctly, a presubmission enquiry will allow the editor to quickly assess if a formal submission is worth your time. Some journals (e.g., The Journal of Neuroscience, Nature) have dedicated systems for receiving presubmission enquiries. If no such system is available, you can email the editor of the target journal directly. Editor contact details are usually listed on the journal website.
When is it appropriate to make a presubmission enquiry?
Presubmission enquiries are mandatory for some journals (e.g., Methods papers for PLOS Computational Biology ), strongly encouraged in others (e.g., Current Biology), or are explicitly discouraged (e.g., The American Society for Microbiology; Epidemiology ). Some journals only accept presubmission enquiries for particular article types (e.g., Nature invites presubmission enquiries for Reviews, Perspectives and Opinion pieces but not for Articles or Letters). In many cases, guidance regarding presubmission enquiries is not provided. If guidance is not provided, you can email the editor directly. However, it is important to remember that editors are busy people and it is pointless asking them to comment on the suitability of your paper if the topic is quite obviously within the scope of their journal.
It is recommended you email the editor if:
- You are unsure of your article’s suitability for a target journal; you have reasons to believe your article would be relevant and interesting to the journal’s audience but the journal has not published such a study before.
- Your findings are of time-sensitive significance and you require a journal that can provide priority review.
- There are special circumstances that require editorial guidance; for example, if you have previously published a portion of the study data.
- You have an idea for a review-type article that you have not fully developed. An editor may be able to suggest improvements or recommend a more suitable approach before developing the full manuscript .
What are the benefits?
- You can consult more than one journal at a time, something you cannot do with formal submissions.
- You will receive timely (usually within 2–3 days) and useful feedback on the suitability of your article. For example, if a journal has published a similar article recently (or has one in the pipeline), an editor may suggest a time in the future when your article would be more favourably received.
- It will prompt you to consider and articulate the significance of your findings before writing the full manuscript.
- It will open up a line of communication with the editor, giving you the opportunity to cultivate a close working relationship, which you can strengthen through repeat submissions.
How to write an effective presubmission enquiry
First, consult the guidelines provided by the target journal. Create a good first impression by being professional and brief in all communications. Carefully follow the instructions and provide all information requested. If the target journal does not provide specific guidance, it is customary to submit a cover letter and an abstract.
The cover letter should briefly describe the purpose of your research project, what questions led you to your research project, methods used, why your findings are significant, how the results relate to other studies, and why your study will be of interest to the journal’s readers (see our guidelines for writing a good cover letter).
In addition, the cover letter is the best place to highlight any important considerations for publication. You should:
- Detail prior correspondence with other journals (e.g., has your article already been peer reviewed? If so, what have you done to address the reviewers’ comments)?
- Disclose all full and partial prior releases of data (e.g., poster presentations) and conflicts of interest.
- Mention any highly related articles that have recently been published .
- When attempting to build a relationship with an editor, honesty is the best policy. By failing to mention such details, an editor could look unfavorably on your work and question what else you haven’t been transparent about, or may even send your paper to reviewers that have previously rejected it.
The abstract should mirror that of a scaled-down paper (see our guidelines for writing an effective abstract), but can be slightly longer than that of a typical research paper and may include relevant citations .
You can also ask the editor to recommend other journals that might be suitable if they think your article is not a good fit with their journal.
Sending a presubmission enquiry does not guarantee that your manuscript will be accepted.
However, if appropriate and presented correctly, it could save you a lot of time.
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2. Wilcox AJ. On presubmission enquiries. Epidemiol. 2012 Sept;23(5):656.
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4. Bloom T. What’s there to gain from a well explained presubmission enquiry? PLOS Biologue. Weblog. 2012 June 28. Available from: http://blogs.plos.org/biologue/2012/06/28/whats-there-to-gain-from-a-well-explained-presubmission-enquiry/ [Accessed 2nd November 2017].
5. Guberman J, Saks J, Shapiro B, Torchia M. Getting published and increasing your visibility. In: Bonetta L (ed.) Making the right moves: a practical guide to scientific management for postdocs and new faculty. Second edition. Maryland, NC: Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Burroughs Wellcome Fund; 2006. p. 179.