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Choosing an Academic Publisher

Choosing a Publisher for Your Work

Choosing a publisher is really important! You want a publisher who will distribute your work to a wide audience while also lending you some extra credibility. 

You may have heard that there are low-quality and even deceptive/"predatory" publishers out there, so what criteria should you apply?

Resources for Evaluating Publishers

Evaluating Publisher Quality

The following resources provide some key questions you should ask when considering a publisher.

Learning More about a Journal

If you're not sure about a journal, you can also ask your colleagues -- or a librarian! Please feel free to contact me or your subject librarian with questions about individual journals.

Some Criteria for Evaluating Publishers & Publications

Scope

Of course, you should choose a publisher in the area you want to publish, and specifically, you should choose a publisher whose audience you want to reach.  Many authors find publishers by combing through their own bibliographies, or the bibliographies of works they are citing. Most journals have a note on their website describing their scope in detail, but it's even more informative to look through the tables of contents from their recent issues.

Paying attention to a journal's scope can also help you avoid low-quality or deceptive journals. Excessively broad scope is one sign that a journal may not be on the up-and-up (for instance, if a journal claims to cover multiple unrelated fields).

Reputation

Journals' reputations are important, both because a good reputation improves the journal's reach, and because a highly credible journal also increases the credibility of your work. Talking with colleagues and noting how often you have seen a journal cited in your reading are two ways of learning more about the journal's reputation.

Measures such as Impact Factor and other citation metrics can provide a shortcut to understanding a journal's prominence within its field, but are of course not the final word on a journal's quality. Currently, the library does not have access to Journal Citation Reports, which publishes impact factors.

Author's Rights

The publisher's contract determines what you will be able to do with your own work. This is important if you would like to share your work once it is published (for instance, in a repository of scholarly articles), or if you'd like to someday publish revised versions, etc. 

For more information, please see my guide on author's rights

Editorial Policy

Good publishers provide relevant information about their peer review process. Peer review is an essential component for most academic journal articles!  There are multiple types of peer review and not every journal uses the same process,  so you can usually learn more about the practices of a specific journal on their website.

Peer review takes time. If a journal offers very fast turnaround times (for instance, less than a week), it's likely fraudulent.

Reach

A journal may have a large or small readership,but many readers of your article are likely not to be the regular readers of the journal.  How do you make sure that you reach the largest audience you can?

  • Indexing. Check where your journal is indexed. Is it covered in the most important databases in your field?

  • Open access -- Open access journals (and books) have a very large potential readership, because they are available on the web to anyone who wants to read them. If the journal you are considering is not open access, or if it charges large fees that make it impractical to publish there, check to see whether the author's agreement allows you self-archive your work online. For more information, please see my guide on author's rights

  • Author's rights -- It's a good idea to make sure that you retain the right to archive your work online in some form. If you retain these rights, you can post your work in CUNY Academic Works or an appropriate disciplinary repository. Repositories get a lot of readers who are searching through Google and GoogleScholar. 

Some More Signs of Questionable Journals

  • Suspicious editorial boards. Check for potentially misleading information, such as fake names or email addresses not affiliated with academic institutions. Low-quality journals sometimes list editors who are not actually affiliated with them, so it is a good idea to check whether they mention the journal on their own websites. 
  • Solicitations for articles. If an unknown publisher emails you unexpectedly with an invitation to publish, you should be suspicious. Reputable journals don't spam academics in search of articles.  Invitations from people or publishers you know, of course, are a different matter entirely.

Both open-access and toll-access publishing have attracted some low-quality publishers and publications. Even well-known academic publishers have been found to publish journals with little merit. You need to carefully evaluate any publisher or journal you are considering.