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Scholarly Communications & Open Access

Selecting a Book Publisher

Authors should evaluate prospective publishers carefully. Examine the goals, target audiences, and special interests of different presses, and consult with colleagues and librarians to determine the prestige of a particular press, its editorial efficiency, quality of marketing and advertising, and royalties. Upon request, publishers should make available editorial policies and manuscript submission procedures.

Evaluating a Book Publisher

If you have searched the internet or asked a colleague about a prospective publisher and are still unsure about signing a contract, look for these red flags on the publisher's website or in their communications:

  • Fees of various kinds. Agents who charge reading fees, evaluation fees, retainers, “marketing” or “submission” fees. Publishers that require writers to buy critiques, pre-purchase books, or pay for some aspect of the publication process.
  • Conflicts of interest. Agents or publishers that recommend their own paid editing services. Agents who consistently steer clients toward publishing or editing operations they themselves own. Independent editors who pay kickbacks for referrals.
  • Abusive or nonstandard contract terms. For instance, an agent who claims an inappropriate financial interest in a client’s future work, or a publisher that demands temporary surrender of copyright. 
  • Unprofessional practices. Agents who shotgun-submit or use their clients’ own query letters. Publishers that turn their authors into customers by encouraging or forcing them to buy their own books. Independent editors who claim that manuscripts must be “professionally” edited in order to be competitive.
  • Nonperformance. Agents who’ve been in business for more than a year and still have no sales. Publishers that don’t fulfill their contractual obligations. Independent editors that take clients’ money and don’t deliver.
  • Dubious qualifications. An agent, publisher, or other purported literary professional who sets up in business without a relevant professional background. Such people are often well-intentioned, but have no idea how to do the job.
  • Offers to publish a thesis or dissertation without significant revision. Graduate students are popular targets for questionable publishers. 

Based on:

The ASU Evaluating Publishers guide and Writer Beware

Selecting a Journal Publisher

Changing publishing models, including the rise of open access journals, have reshaped the ways in which scholars share and use journal articles. In selecting a journal for publication, it is important to consider the quality and reputation of the journal and its impact. In addition to the tools below, the measuring impact section has more information about journal impact factors.

Evaluating a Journal Publisher

When reviewing an unknown publisher or journal for quality and legitimacy, the following should be considered. 

  1. Peer review process: All of a journal’s content, apart from any editorial material that is clearly marked as such, shall be subjected to peer review. Peer review is defined as obtaining advice on individual manuscripts from experts in the field who are not part of the journal’s editorial staff. This process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, shall be clearly described on the journal’s website.
  2. Governing body: Journals shall have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal’s scope. The full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors shall be provided on the journal’s website.
  3. Editorial team/contact information: Journals shall provide the full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors on the journal’s website as well as contact information for the editorial office.
  4. Author fees: Any fees or charges that are required for manuscript processing and/or publishing materials in the journal shall be clearly stated in a place that is easy for potential authors to find prior to submitting their manuscripts for review or explained to authors before they begin preparing their manuscript for submission.
  5. Copyright: Copyright and licensing information shall be clearly described on the journal’s website, and licensing terms shall be indicated on all published articles, both HTML and PDFs.
  6. Identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconductPublishers and editors shall take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the publication of papers where research misconduct has occurred, including plagiarism, citation manipulation, and data falsification/ fabrication, among others. In no case shall a journal or its editors encourage such misconduct, or knowingly allow such misconduct to take place. In the event that a journal’s publisher or editors are made aware of any allegation of research misconduct relating to a published article in their journal—the publisher or editor shall follow COPE’s guidelines (or equivalent) in dealing with allegations.
  7. Ownership and management: Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal shall be clearly indicated on the journal’s website. Publishers shall not use organizational names that would mislead potential authors and editors about the nature of the journal’s owner.
  8. Website: A journal’s website, including the text that it contains, shall demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards.
  9. Name of journalThe journal name shall be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal or that might mislead potential authors and readers about the journal’s origin or association with other journals.
  10. Conflicts of interestA journal shall have clear policies on handling potential conflicts of interest of editors, authors, and reviewers and the policies should be clearly stated.
  11. AccessThe way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers and whether there are associated subscription or pay per view fees shall be stated.
  12. Revenue sourcesBusiness models or revenue sources (e.g., author fees, subscriptions, advertising, reprints, institutional support, and organizational support) shall be clearly stated or otherwise evident on the journal’s website.
  13. AdvertisingJournals shall state their advertising policy if relevant, including what types of ads will be considered, who makes decisions regarding accepting ads and whether they are linked to content or reader behavior (online only) or are displayed at random.
  14. Publishing scheduleThe periodicity at which a journal publishes shall be clearly indicated.
  15. ArchivingA journal’s plan for electronic backup and preservation of access to the journal content (for example, access to main articles via CLOCKSS or PubMedCentral) in the event a journal is no longer published shall be clearly indicated.
  16. Direct marketingAny direct marketing activities, including solicitation of manuscripts that are conducted on behalf of the journal, shall be appropriate, well targeted, and unobtrusive.

Based on the ACRL Scholarly Communications Toolkit.

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