Attracting authors

Topic lead: Katie Foxall, Ivonne Lujano, Alex Mendonça
Last updated: 05/10/2023

Making a journal appealing to authors is essential to attract submissions. It is important to drive author interest through building a positive reputation, providing effective author services and making sure that articles achieve as high an impact and reach as possible. These activities are also integral to retaining authors once they have published, to attract future submissions.

Attracting and retaining authors is a significant challenge for new and growing journals alike. This is key to maintaining a healthy pipeline of submissions and building the journal’s success in the long term. As a starting point, journals should check the Think.Check.Submit. website to ensure that they meet all the criteria which mark out credible publications.

A mix of other strategies can help attract and retain authors, as illustrated below.

Indexing and memberships

Developing a good reputation is essential for any journal: being included in trustworthy indexes like the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Web of Science or Scopus, and a member of industry organisations such as the Committee on Publication Ethics and the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA) can go some way towards signposting legitimacy. Some of these organisations offer reduced membership fees for underrepresented areas of the world. If relevant to the journal’s focus and audience, inclusion in repositories such as PubMed Central, arXiv and Humanities Commons is also valued by authors.

Building and managing relationships

It is important to build relationships within the target research community, and to create a sense of community around the journal. Recruiting highly engaged editorial board members who are well-known in their fields is a way to achieve this. These board members can act as ambassadors for the journal, recommending it to their networks as a good publication option.

Commissioning review articles and special issues on topics of interest in the field, which are more likely to attract a wide readership and a large number of citations, is another strategy to engage and build community.

Author services

Providing an excellent publication experience from start to finish ensures that previous authors submit again and recommend the journal to their peers. It is important to make it as easy as possible to submit an article, with clear author guidelines and editorial policies as well as an up-to-date website that is easy to navigate.

Furthermore, a rigorous peer review process is not only helpful to authors for improving their work, but ensures that only high quality articles are published, making the journal more attractive to prospective authors. The process must also be timely and efficient, with effective author communication at all times. Quick turnaround times are often among the most valued journal attributes for authors.

If the journal has article processing charges, these must be appropriate to the author’s circumstances, e.g. based on geographic region and subject field. Journals should offer article processing charge waivers where appropriate, and this information should be easy to locate and understand on the journal’s website.

Marketing and promotion

Drawing attention to a journal can be achieved via regular posting on social media outlets, press releases and outreach on scholarly social networking platforms (see Building and maintaining a profile). Creating a blog or news area to post journal announcements and highlights is a good way to communicate with potential authors, and guest blogs can be solicited to help generate content and attention. This approach, however, depends on resources available to the journal and may not be viable in all cases.

More targeted promotion such as advertising the journal at conferences, sending out tables of contents to relevant audiences or through university departments that have a research focus in the relevant subject area can also help to attract new authors. Mass solicitation or “spamming” of potential authors should be avoided in all cases.

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