Do you have a good idea for a journal article? Here’s a brief guide on how to pitch ideas to editors.
There is no formula for the perfect review type article. But when publishers think about what to order, we ask three questions: Why this topic? Why this author? And why now? Answering these questions does not guarantee that an article will succeed, but missing one of them is likely to lead to failure – no one wants to read an article on a trivial subject, by someone without relevant experience, and it’s been five years. .
Although the majority of the content we publish is invited by editors, we also review submissions and use the same three questions to evaluate them. So if you want to submit a paper, a good cover letter is essential. Here are some tips for writing it.
First of all, when should you apply? We are more than willing to consider manuscripts completed. But considering how much work goes into writing a journal article, and the fact that we can suggest changes to your original scope, purpose, or structure, it makes sense to start your conversation with us before we start writing. If you have a full manuscript in hand, the advice we give here applies just as well to your submission cover letter. You can send us presentations and submissions on our online manuscript tracking system.
How should you start the letter? If possible, you should address your letter to the editor who deals with your field of research: the biographies of our editors are on the journal’s website, if you do not know who they are. You should introduce yourself very briefly; if you have had contact with any of the editors before, for example by talking at a conference, you should mention it here. You should also specify what you are offering.
The most important part of your letter is the explanation of why the topic you propose deserves a review article. You should keep this discussion concise, but provide strong arguments to make your point. Please don’t drop your name (“We pitched our idea to Professor Bigshot, and they think it’s awesome”) or include hype, clichés, or empty statements. A good topic will make us think “What a great idea!” on its own merits. The article you submit should provide insight, perhaps showing how recent discoveries open up a new area or give a new angle on an existing area, or bring two or more disparate areas of research together. You should mention any recent meetings that show community interest in the topic, or related developments in the field, such as projects, installations, or collaborations.
Your topic must not have been covered recently in the journal (you can search the journal archives from the homepage). When we review your proposal, we also look for competing articles in other journals. You must therefore explain how they differ from your idea: does your proposal take a different angle, does it cover more recent advances, or does it focus on techniques rather than results, or vice versa ?
The question ‘why now?’ is also important. Why write the article you propose now and not two years ago or two years from now? We are not asking for an exhaustive literature review, but you should highlight some key articles that show that people are interested in your topic and that interest is likely to grow and not die out in the years to come. to come.
To answer ‘why this author?’, you need to introduce yourself in a bit more detail. Are you a “key opinion leader” and do you have established research experience in the field? Why will people want to hear what you have to say? What new angle do you bring? If you are a team of authors, how do you complement each other?
Finally, you must explain why you are featuring us, and not another newspaper. We want to know that you have thought about our types of articles and our target audience, and that they are suitable for your article. You should also mention when you would be able to complete the article and ask us any questions you may have.
Even if you’ve covered all of the above, we still might decline your proposal because we’ve ordered on the same topic before, but that’s no reason not to start a conversation with us – something else might exit. We hope these tips will help demystify the pitch process and help shape your idea into the best possible article.
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Nat Rev Phys 4, 139 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42254-022-00435-5