Writing Clinic: Contacting the Editor
Michael Gerchufsky, ELS, is the managing editor of Consultant. E-mail him with thoughts on this post at email@example.com.
In earlier Writing Clinic blog posts, part 1, part 2, and part 3 of “Choose Your Topic Carefully,” I recommended a few first steps to contributing an article to Consultant, including choosing a topic with the appropriate scope and “hook.” In part 1, part 2, and part 3 of “Choosing an Approach,” I discussed the array of possible article formats in the journal and other tips for approaching the writing of an article.
In upcoming posts, I’ll delve into more detailed and specific practical advice about the literature search and the nuts and bolts of the manuscript itself. But first …
Contact the Editor!
One of the most important bits of advice I can offer about submitting an article to Consultant — or any publication, for that matter — is to contact the editor first. In my years of experience as the editor of a medical publication, I have found the most disappointing situations (for editor and author alike) is when I have received a strong submission that is well-planned, well-researched, well-written, and timely — in short, every desired trait an article can possibly have. Except: We have just published an article on that topic or have one in the works.
So please, please take a few seconds early in your article planning and writing process to send a brief email to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You may have been “scooped” by a colleague. It doesn’t have to be a formal query letter — a simple email pitch with the details ought to suffice.
Even without the existence of a duplicative article, your topic may not be viable as is and may need to be tweaked somewhat to differentiate it, or to align it with the mission of Consultant to provide practical clinical information that is immediately deployable in practice. Or, to borrow a phrase, it might be that “it’s not you, it’s me”: We simply might not be interested in running an article on the topic you suggest.
Or the timetable you suggest for completing the article may not work for the editors, who might want to cover that topic much sooner. For example, if you’re considering writing an article on preventing influenza infection during the COVID-19 pandemic here in October, when cold and flu season is revving up and COVID-19 rates continue to climb in many places, and you expect to complete the article in January, chances are that’s not going to work. Remember that after submission, the article will require peer review (2 or 3 weeks at barest minimum), editorial review and editing (possibly another number of weeks), your author revisions (depending on how much work is needed, it could add weeks to the process), and finalization here at the journal. Then the editors need to find a spot for the article in an upcoming issue. The article you begin now for January submission may not have a chance at print until May or June.
“On Spec” vs. Assigned
I always welcome articles “on spec” — that is, out-of-the blue, fully formed submissions about which we may not have discussed previously.
Nevertheless, if you have a strong interest in writing but don’t have a specific topic in mind, I’d love to hear from you. Like most publications, we have a “wish list” of topics that we’d like to cover in upcoming issues to meet the needs of our audience of primary care providers. I’d be happy to work with you to come up with a topic that is mutually acceptable and thus has a much better chance of being published within a defined timetable. We’d then be able to work up a set of milestone dates for the article and keep in as close communication as needed during the writing, editing, revising, and publishing processes.
Who Works for Whom?
Throughout all the stages of going from practicing clinician to published author, remember this at all times:
The editor works for you, not the other way around!
Never be afraid to ask the editor for advice, assistance, direction, or anything else at any time. My job as editor is to help you in any way I can, and I am at your service. I welcome you to leave a voicemail message for me at (610) 560-0500, ext. 4396 — or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Next time: Tips about the literature search. Thanks for reading.