Where should I publish?: thinking about your audience

Although we’re not in the business of telling authors where they should publish their work (this is a very personal choice), we do help authors surface some of the issues to consider and direct them towards resources that might help them determine the right publisher. We can convey this information during one-on-one consultation with scholars, but we also deliver workshops that focus on publishing and the variety of questions that surround it. Last week, we visited the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) and led a workshop for doctors, nurses, Geisel Medical School faculty, and post-doctoral students titled “Where to Publish: Evaluating Journal Publishers.” We know that the workshop’s title might lead one to believe that we’ll be providing a simple list of publishers or journals to consider for their articles—but, that is not what we do. So, the first thing we emphasize is that choosing a publisher is based on the author’s needs and expectations, which is something for which they can only speak. We do offer some simple questions that authors can ask themselves as they consider where to publish:

We suggest that authors first think about is their audience and ponder these simple questions:

  • Who is your intended audience, or who would you like to reach?
  • Is there an unintended audience that may be interested in this work?

Defining an intended audience is usually the easier part for authors. Often authors want to reach a set group of  colleagues within their field who can use their research results to progress further discoveries in that field. If the author publishes in a subscription journal, the intended audience typically should be affiliated with another institution that pays for and provides access to the journal of choice. If their intended audience is the public at-large, then authors may consider publishing in an open access journal where their work can be freely available despite institutional affiliation or social status.

So what about the unintended audience? We don’t really know who they might be, but we can guess that some of them will not have the resources or institutional connections to read a subscription journal article. Evaluating open access publishing options becomes important if an author wants to expose their work to an unintended audience. When the work is available freely, researchers in other countries and citizens across the world can access it equally.

But how do you know which open access journal is reputable and reliable? We understand that the open access journal concept is new enough in some fields that authors may not know where to begin as they evaluate them. The resources below help provide some clarity and can be helpful as authors decide whether and where to publish openly:

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ): This is a comprehensive list of high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. It’s a good place to start, and searching by subject will give authors an chance to peruse the options in their field.

SHERPA/RoMEO: This is a resource that covers both open access and subscription publishers. If authors would like to compare publishers’ archiving policies and copyright contracts this is a good place to start. Open access journals are highlighted and the journal’s definition of open access is outlined clearly.

Beyond thinking about audience, there are some other key questions that we recommend authors ask before they choose a publisher:

  • Publisher policies: What are the journal’s policies on submission requirements, fees for page charges, images, open access, deposit for granting agencies, timelines, review process? Be wary of publishers that do not make their policies transparent to authors.
  • Author rights: What rights does the publisher grant authors? What do you want to do with your work once it is published?
  • Impact: Is the journal’s impact important to you? You can generate a journal’s citation report with tools like Altmetric.com that help you understand the numbers of article level citations for a particular journal.

We hope these resources help authors better understand their publishing options, but we understand that asking questions often leads to more questions. The Scholarly Communication Program librarians are always available and eager to delve into these questions more deeply with authors. Please don’t hesitate to call or schedule a time to talk with us!

Barbara DeFelice, Program Director
Jen Green, Digital Scholarship Librarian
Our offices are located in Berry Library, Room 180

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