Q: How do I withdraw my paper from a journal that's demanding money for a confirmation letter?
Hello. I submitted a paper to an open access journal. They have been difficult to contact but have finally approved the manuscript and sent me a proof-read with the request to pay $2000. When I saw the proof-read I was shocked at the quality. They had omitted the introduction and changed the tables layout to one that is far worse than the one we submitted. Not only that, half the table was on one column and the other half in the other. Figures slanted, font not standardized. In other words, mistakes that a decent journal would never make. As a result I have requested to withdraw the manuscript but they have asked me to pay $1000 in order to obtain a retraction letter. What should I do in the matter? I feel I am being coerced. Many thanks.
I noticed that you have use the word "retraction letter" in your question. However, you have used the word incorrectly to mean a "confirmation of withdrawal." Be careful not to use the word "retraction letter" in your correspondence with the journal, as a retraction notice is public, and if the journal publishes and then retracts your paper, it will be a bigger problem for you.
From what you have shared, it seems that this is a questionable journal. You have not mentioned whether your manuscript went through a peer review process and whether you received reviewer comments, but from your question, it seems that you haven't. I think you should write a withdrawal email to the journal. The journal should not charge you anything for confirmation of withdrawal. In case they don't respond or continue to ask for money, send the request a couple of times more, stating that it is unethical to demand money for a paper that you wish to withdraw and requesting them to send the confirmation email. If they still continue to be non-responsive or demand money, you can send an email saying that you will consider your manuscript "unsubmitted" if they don't send you a confirmation of withdrawal by a certain date (give a deadline of 1-2 weeks). You can then submit the paper to another journal after the deadline. However, keep all your correspondence with the previous journal as an evidence just in case you are questioned later.