Q: Why has my manuscript been so long at the initial submission status of 'With Editor'?
An Elsevier journal kept my manuscript for more than five months at the initial ‘With Editor’ stage. They did not initiate [any action on] the manuscript. I am angry and sad with their system for the situation. They did not give me a decision even after five months. I strongly believe that as they are not providing responses properly, we should reject the journal.
Your disappointment and frustration are understandable. Five months is a long time to be at the ‘With Editor’ stage. However, from our knowledge of top-tier journals/publishers such as Elsevier, while submissions occasionally take time to process, they do eventually get processed. As your manuscript has been at this stage for so long, there may be some challenges on the Associate Editor (AE) side, rather than on the peer reviewer side.
Now, it's not entirely clear in your query whether you have written to them over this five-month period, and if so, what their response was. Anyhow, as it has been close to half a year now, and going by your sense of frustration, it’s probably best not to pursue publication with them any longer. So, you could write to them seeking to withdraw your manuscript. For help with manuscript withdrawal, you may refer to this resource: Should I withdraw my paper if the journal is taking unusually long to process?
Once you initiate the withdrawal, and while the process completes, you may write to some other target journal(s) through a presubmission inquiry to know if they would be interested in your paper. If so, as soon as the withdrawal procedure is completed here, you may submit to the other journal. Before doing so, you could also make updates to your manuscript as needed, because by then, it would have been over six months since you drafted your manuscript, and depending on your topic or field, some data or information might not be relevant any longer.
Additionally, we would like to tell you about one of our new platforms, R Pubsure, which is designed to help you make your manuscript submission-ready and to help you minimize desk rejection. R Pubsure does this in two ways. First, the AI-powered system helps you progressively improve your manuscript through a series of checks. Then, once your manuscript is submission-ready, you also get the chance to showcase your improved manuscript to several editors, on the same platform, one of whom may consider it for publishing with their journal, if of course they find it interesting and relevant. You may learn more about the platform here: R Pubsure
Hope that helps. All the best for your next steps!