What to do when you receive a solicitation to publish

It is not uncommon for some publishers to solicit manuscripts or journal articles either by contacting recent graduates directly or putting out a “call for papers." While most publishers are legitimate, some are considered predatory, and their offers are often scams.

Consider the following information when determining the legitimacy of a solicitation.

Theses, Dissertations and Reports | Journal Articles

Theses, Dissertations and Reports

Upon receiving a solicitation to publish your thesis, dissertation, or report as a book, it is best to consider the following:

1. Peer-review

Will the publisher arrange for your book to be peer-reviewed or go through the editorial process? Or do they intend to publish the thesis, dissertation, or report as is?

Dissertations and theses often need many revisions to become a completed book and should go through some sort of editorial process before publication. An editor at a legitimate press will carefully evaluate a manuscript and in many cases request edits to clarify information. 

Predatory publisher clue: offering to print a dissertation or thesis without any editing.

2. Copyright

Does the publisher expect you to sign away part or all of your copyright?

Students at K-State fulfill the Graduate School's publishing requirement by uploading their Dissertation, Thesis, or Report to K-REx or by submitting it to ProQuest. The authors retain full copyright of the work, allowing them to reuse or revise their manuscript.

Publishers, both legitimate and not, may require you to assign part or all of your copyrights or assign exclusive licenses to them as a part of your contract. In the case of books that have been thoroughly edited this may not be a problem, but if you intend to revise and republish later you should beware.

It is important to always carefully read the contract you sign.

3. Distribution and Marketing 

How does the publisher intend to distribute the book? Will it be print-on-demand or will it be available in bookstores? What is the publisher's marketing plan for the book?

Predatory publishers often use a print-on-demand service that lists books in online booksellers like Amazon.com. However, they don’t advertise the books beyond that and usually don’t make copies available in stores. Some may even prefer to sell minimal copies so they can give book vouchers for other in-stock items in lieu of royalties.

Predatory publisher clue: a poor marketing plan.

4. Publisher Reputation

How does the academic world perceive this particular publisher? Have they been accused of fraudulent activities in the past? Are they considered a top tier publisher?

Top tier publishers gain a good repuatation by having strong peer review and editorial processes and publishing high quality content. Talk with your colleagues or contact the Scholarly Communications Librarian to find out more about the reputation of a publisher.

Predatory Publisher clue: little to no peer review or editing services and offer to publish quickly with no regard to quality.

Journal Articles

In some fields the preferred method of disseminating research is to divide and revise a dissertation or thesis into multiple journal articles. Upon receiving a solicitation to publish an article through a journal, it is best to consider the following points:

1. Peer-review

Is the journal a peer-reviewed journal? What is the turnaround time on the peer-review?

Peer-review is a significant part of the scholarly communication process in academia. It is expected that academic articles will undergo the peer-review process.

Predatory Publisher clue: a turn around process of only a few days or weeks. 

2. Copyright

Does the publisher expect you to sign away part of all of your copyright?

Always read the contract you're about to sign. Signing copyright over to the publisher often tends to be the norm with subscription-based journals. Conversely, allowing the author to retain their copyright tends to be the norm with open access journals. An open access journal that insists authors sign over their copyright should be investigated.

3. Publication Fees

What fees will you be charged upon acceptance of your article? Will you be subject to page fees?

Another publishing model is the "author pays" model, which flips publication fees on the author to allow free and open access to the articles. These fees range from less than $100 to $3000. Many open access journals have excellent reputations and operate under this business model.

Predatory publishers have been known to take advantage of this model. The presence of a publication fee alone shouldn't be enough to cause concern but combined with other factors it could serve as a red flag.

4. Publisher Reputation

How does the academic world perceive this particular publisher? Are they or their journal listed on a predatory publisher list? Are there criteria for determining if a publisher or journal is predatory?

Predatory publishers exist in both subscription-based and open access journals but are more prevalent in online open access venues. 

A good starting point to determine if a journal or publisher is pedatory is Beall's List of Predatory Publishers, a compiled list of over 100 publishers that follow predatory practices. Consider, too, Beall's Criteria for Determining a Predatory Publisher, for those publishers or journals that are not on the list. 

Another option is to consult journal ranking lists, such as the 50th edition Journal Ranking List from Professor Anne-Wil Harzing, or the Norwegian Register of Scientific Journals, Series, and Publishers.

If you have any concerns or questions about a publisher or a journal, talk to your colleagues or contact the Scholarly Communications Librarian. They can help you determine whether the publisher you’re considering is legitimate

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Last updated: 06/03/2014