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Services for Authors at the Penn Libraries: Developing a Publishing Plan

Why Should You Develop a Publishing Plan?

Publishing is personal. Many individual and disciplinary considerations go into determining what the appropriate publishing venue looks like for any one person. Taking time to think through your options, to examine your motivations, goals, and needs, and to consider how these align with, and/or diverge from, those of your field(s), is vital for navigating the publishing world in an informed and deliberate manner.

The first step in developing your publishing plan is establishing a criteria:

A criteria of those characteristics that are most important to you and your work, and directly answer the demands of your short- and long-term career and personal goals. Particularly when it comes to publishing in academic journals, these characteristics may include, but are not limited to:


Where you publish can have a great impact on who reads and doesn't read your work. Costly journal subscriptions can inhibit widespread access by limiting your audience to those affiliated with an institution/library that can subscribe or afford subscription. This is especially important if your target audience includes people not associated with an institution (e.g. journalists, policy makers, practitioners, community organizers). If you're targeting an interdisciplinary audience, then identifying a journal likely to reach this mixed group may prove challenging and require some strategizing.

Consider: Who do you want/need to reach with your work? What conversations (scholarly, political, societal, etc.) is your work engaging with? What groups of readers are being excluded from a publishing venue's main audience? 

Topic or Theme Match

You may have the option between journals or publication forums with a broad scope within a discipline, those that focus on a specific field or subfield, or those that reach a niche, specialized community. Still others, such as a journal's special issue or an edited volume, will zero in even further into a particular topic or theme.

Consider: Which option is the best fit for your work, and/or how can you align your work to fit into your preferred option? Which is most likely to accept your manuscript? Which option will help you reach the largest audience, or your target audience (if those differ)? Which is most esteemed in your field? Which is most conducive to your overarching goals?

Metrics of Quality,  Prestige, and Impact 

Publishing your work in authoritative and prestigious journals is often a primary objective for various reasons: such prominence can lead to more visibility/discoverability (and, therefore, higher citation counts and impact); publishing in such journals can advance your professional goals and place you among the most renown figures in your field; respected journals are very likely to have rigorous review processes that both underscore the quality of the materials they publish, and ensure the avoidance of predatory and substandard publishing practices.

Consider: How are quality, prestige, and impact measured in your field? What role do impact metrics/citation counts play in your field, and career goals? Where do your respected peers, mentors, and advisors tend to publish? 

Format or Nature of your Work

The format or nature of your work significantly impacts where you can publish. For instance, if you seek to publish multimedia work or "non-traditional" work (e.g. video essays, data, work employing different technologies, digital tools and methods, and/or that develops over a long or multi-phased period, etc.), you'll need to ensure that you submit to publishers that are able to support and render these materials.

Consider: What do you want to publish? Is it a book project, an article, a review, etc.? Is it based on previous work (e.g. dissertation, preprint)? Is this a niche topic or does it speak to a general audience? Is it interdisciplinary? Is it for a lay audience? Does your work incorporate non-traditional elements (e.g. multimedia, data)? 


Your timeline for publication may dictate where you can publish. If you want your publication out sooner, you may want to look at places that publish more frequently (e.g., journals that publish monthly instead of bi-annually). Some publishers will post average turnaround times, but beware of turnaround times that sound too good to be true---they probably are! Publishers will periodically advertise special book series on topics of current interest with a quicker acceptance-to-shelf production schedule; similarly, journals periodically organize special issues with a distinct topical or thematic focus, which carry a set publication date.

Consider: When do you need to publish your work? Can your career and/or personal goals accommodate a lengthy (at times 1-2 years long) acceptance-to-shelf period? 


Your work, field, and/or funding policy may require you to publish in open access venues. Hybrid journals (subscription journals that allow some individual articles to be open access) often charge fees for this allowance. If you need or want to publish open access in hybrid journals but do not have funds to cover those costs, this may not be an option for you. Note that open access does not always require you to pay. Other journals might ask you to pay a certain amount of money per page or color photograph, which can also be expensive. Always check to see if there are fees associated with publishing your work and, if so, that you can cover those costs.

Consider: Does your funding dictate the need to publish open access or to deposit your work in a certain repository? Do you have funds for publishing costs? Can you cover potential costs associated with open access publishing? 

Rights Over Your Work 

Publishers often require you to sign over all or many rights to your work in order to publish it, leaving you to request their permission if you want to repurpose or re-share (e.g. include your published article in your dissertation or monograph; use a chart/graphic in a subsequent publication or conference presentation; or post your work on academic social networking sites, institutional repositories, or personal websites). This is especially true of for-profit publishers, rather than for open-access publishers. It is important to check your publishing agreement and the publisher's policies to understand the rights you will retain once you have published (For more detailed information, consult this guide's Rights to Share and Publisher Contracts tab).

*If you are planning on applying for a patent, note that you will have one year to do so after your work has been made available.*

Consider: What do you want to do with your work after publishing? Do you want to post it online or to an institutional repository? Do you want the possibility of sharing your work with colleagues or others? Do you want to reuse all/parts of your work in a conference presentation, online teaching, or your dissertation/subsequent publication? Are you planning on applying for a patent?


Other Considerations

Before & After you submit

  • Rank your journal/publisher preferences based on your publishing plan
  • Ensure that your manuscript is formatted correctly and follows the journal's guidelines
  • If you have co-authors, decide who will be in charge of copyright concerns
  • Keep a folder with your preprint, postprint, publishing contract, and final version


Read and negotiate your publishing contract

  • Use an author addendum and/or negotiate for more rights to your work.
    • Journals: Use the SPARC Author Addendum to retain more rights. If the publisher does not accept a SPARC addendum, try to negotiate for things that you want. Publishers often have multiple contract options. 
    • Note: You are often not required to use the click through agreement. Write to your editor if you would like to submit an addendum or negotiate your agreement
    • Make sure to keep track of your manuscript provenance
  • Confirm your publisher's policy on the conditions under which you can share your work