A step-by-step guide to creating a journal publication schedule (Download - Publication schedule template)

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A step-by-step guide to creating a journal publication schedule (Download - Publication schedule template)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2013 and has been refreshed.  

Is getting published in a journal one of your new year resolutions? Publishing in journals is vital for researchers, but the journal publication process can be arduous if you do not plan well. To help you attain your goals, this article will:

  • Provide a step-by-step process to help you create your own publication timeline that will help you stay at the top of your publication game
  • Make you aware of the possible outcomes after you submit your manuscript to a journal
  • Include a downloadable journal template at the end that will make it easy for you to plan your tasks and track your progress   

The journal publication process varies. The time taken from submission of a manuscript to acceptance for publication in a journal can range from a few months to 3-4 years. But why does the journal publication process take so long? Because manuscripts typically get rejected rather than accepted by the first journal they are submitted to. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a paper to be rejected up to 3 or 4 times before it is finally accepted by a journal. 

Publication is often a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’
3 million: Number of manuscripts submitted to journals each year
1.5 million: Number of manuscripts that are then rejected by the journals
95%: Rejection rate of journals like Cell, Lancet, and Nature

62%: Percentage of published papers in epidemiology that had been rejected at least once
79%: Percentage of manuscripts initially rejected by the journal Radiology but subsequently published within 3-4 years
20%: Percentage of papers published by top ecologists that were rejected at least once

3-6 times: Estimated number of times that manuscripts are submitted to journals before getting accepted for publication
2 years: Period within which at least 50% of manuscripts across disciplines were published after getting rejected by the first journal they were submitted to

Any author wanting to get his/her paper published in a journal must factor in the possibility of rejection and accordingly prepare a publication timeline to help streamline the journal publication process.

Given below are some of the major decisions/actions that authors should take while creating a publication timeline. 

1. Decide the format of your paper

Should your paper be written up as a full-length original research article or a brief technical report? If you are in a hurry to have part of your findings published, even before you have completed the full study, then rapid communication is the best option to speed up your publication timeline. You should not try to write up your research in an unsuitable format just because you want to publish in a particular journal (e.g., don’t turn a case report into an original article just because the journal of your choice does not accept case reports).

2. Determine your journal strategy

When planning your journal publication process, you should create a list of at least 5 journals to submit your manuscript to. As explained above, there is a high chance that the paper will not get accepted by the first journal you submit to. You might need to consider various strategies while determining this list of journals. For example, is publishing in a prestigious journal your most important consideration? Then you might wish to try your luck with 3 prestigious journals before lowering the target for the last 2 journals. Or would you like to publish in a prestigious journal but cannot afford a 1-2 year publication timeline? Then you might want to submit to a prestigious journal initially, but lower the target gradually; as you go down the list, pick journals where you have an increasingly higher likelihood of being accepted. 

3. Ensure that you meet all the submission requirements of the target journal

Submission requirements vary across journals. For example, some journals may require only a single cover letter stating that all authors agree to publication, while others may require that all authors read and sign the journal’s authorship agreement form. Thus, it can take anywhere from a week to a month before you are ready to complete the submission of your paper to a journal. Your publication timeline should also factor in time to reformat the manuscript in accordance with the journal’s instructions for authors. When compiling your list of journals, try to ensure that the journals don’t have radically different formats for manuscripts. For example, if your paper is 5,000 words in length, it is best to avoid journals that have a word count restriction of 3,000 words.

4. Take advantage of pre-submission inquiries

As part of the journal publication process, many journals let you submit an abstract or short summary to ask their opinion on whether the topic of research will be of interest to the journal. If your selected journal allows this option, be sure to take advantage of it. If the journal is not interested, you can avoid the entire submission process, shaving weeks even months off your publication timeline. 

Possible outcomes after manuscript submission

Determine the next steps to be taken once you receive a decision from the journal

Scenario 1: The manuscript is rejected by the journal without peer review
In this scenario, the decision of the journal editor is likely to be communicated to you very quickly, sometimes as quickly as a day and typically in less than a month. If this happens, you have no option but to consider another journal. This is why it is important to keep a list of backup journals ready so you can quickly move along with your journal publication process. Simply select the next journal on your list and immediately begin the submission process, without losing any days on your publication timeline to look for another journal.

Scenario 2: The manuscript is rejected after journal peer review


Type 1: Conditional rejection
conditional rejection is not bad news. It means that the journal is willing to reconsider the paper for publication if you follow the reviewers’ and editor’s suggestions. You have two options available to move ahead with the journal publication process: reject/ignore the changes suggested, or revise the manuscript on the basis of the reviewers’ comments. It is highly advisable to go with the second option (unless you fundamentally disagree with the reviewer), since the journal has already indicated its interest in the paper by asking you to resubmit. This will also shorten your publication timeline because the journal is already familiar with your paper and may even decide to go ahead and publish it without another round of review. 

Type 2: Outright rejection
After receiving an outright rejection, authors should ideally consider the reasons for rejection before moving ahead with their journal publication process. Incorporating the reviewers’ and editor’s comments can increase the chances of publication in another journal. Indeed, one study did a case study of a journal and found that in the case of manuscripts rejected by the journals, those that were revised by the authors following reviewers’ suggestions were subsequently published in journals with higher impact factors than those that were not revised (they also found that some manuscripts had a publication timeline of over 28 months).7 If, however, reviewers identified a major flaw in the research, then the author would be well advised to devote some more time to improving the research before considering another journal, rather than waste time submitting the manuscript to one journal after another.

Scenario 3: Manuscript is accepted for publication

Congratulations! Most of your work is done and you’re near the end of your journal publication process. Be sure to provide thoughtful and well-reasoned responses to the reviewers’ comments, especially in the case of a conditional acceptance. And make sure you complete all the revisions, proofing, and figure production work that the journal requests on time, to avoid extending your publication timeline.

How to plan your publication timeline

A recommended approach to creating a publication timeline that ensures a seamless journal publication process is to work backwards from the target date of publication. 

Of course, the publication timeline can be tentative since some steps in the journal publication process, like peer review periods, can be difficult to estimate. Further, a single author may be able to revise the paper and prepare all submission requirements within a few days of receiving a journal decision. However, if you have 10 co-authors, it could take you a few months just to revise the paper.

You may download journal templates from a reliable website to create your publication timeline easily and quickly.


Rejection, rather than acceptance, is the norm in academic publishing. But most papers end up getting published if the authors stay persistent. When creating a publication timeline, authors should factor in time to submit their paper to more than one journal before they get accepted. Plan well ahead! If you need a paper to be published this year, you should begin the journal publication process no later than today!

You can download a journal template, which will help you plan each step of your submission. This publication schedule template is customizable, so you can add or remove tasks as required based on the journal you are submitting to. 


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Publication schedule template_Editage Insights.docx

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Published on: Jan 30, 2018


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