Choosing a publisher

Is it really such a big decision?

Once a researcher has chosen a format for their work, e.g., a monograph, a journal article or an ebook, they need to think about approaching publisher of that format.  Sometimes a publisher will approach them but this is unusual until they are more established.  Approaching a publisher with a manuscript it mainly done either as the result of a call for papers or by approaching them with an unsolicited submission.  Publishers issue calls for papers when seeking specific content, for example articles for a special themed issue.  Setting up online alerts, joining mailing lists and following publishers on social media can all be good sources to find opportunities to publish

There are many different publishing companies available and researchers are likely to need to approach more than one before they are successful.  Remember that it is bad academic practice to submit something to more than one publisher at any one time so it pays to put thought into the choice.

Different types of publisher

Changing publication models mean that there are a greater range of publishers available than ever before:

Academic - this is still the primary means of research communication and the number of legitimate academic publishers has hugely increased meaning that researchers have more choice than ever before

Popular press - these publishers work to target a non-academic audience and make research more accessible

Vanity - vanity publishers exist to produce copies of a work for a price, often because the work could not be commercially viable

Self-publishing - publishing online means that work is available quickly and easily but often lacks the prestige of using an established publisher

Publisher choice checklist


  • Does the publisher actually publish research in your particular area
  • Do they produce a particular series that might fit the work?
  • Look at other titles by the same publisher to see what type of research are being covered


  • Some publishers only produce print outputs, some ebooks and some both.  Does having the work appear in a variety of formats matter?
  • Does the discipline have a preferred format? For example, some disciplines highly value monographs over other formats.

Time frame

  • How long is the average time from submission to publication?  Some publishers have an extensive lead time and this may not always be suitable
  • Doe the work need to be published within a certain period, for example to ensure funder requirements are met?


  • Are there any costs involved with choosing a particular publisher?
  • Consider the cost of making a publication available via Open Access.  Are there funder mandates to comply with? Are these costs factored in to any research grants?


  • Some disciplines have expectations about where researchers will publish their work
  • Depending on career stage this may be factor in the choice of publisher


  • Does the publisher reach a particular level of impact?
  • Metrics are often one of the most important factors in the decision in where to publish but remember that numbers only tell part of a wider story of impact

Look at your bookshelf

  • if you are still wondering which publisher to approach then take a look at your bookshelf - which publishers are featured? If you have several from the same one then this may be a clue!

This work was licensed under a Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 license by the Office of Scholarly Communications, Cambridge University Libraries