Revision and Publication
If you have finished and submitted a final semester paper for a graduate course, then received an excellent grade and feedback on it from your professor, OR believe that with some revision and further research you can shape it into a better essay, then you should consider revising the work for publication.
I. Revision 1: Clean-Up
A) Address your professor's criticisms, if any, both grammatical and subject-related. Also clarify obscure terms or provide further details for information that might be obvious to you, but not your uninformed reader. If you presented your paper at a conference, remember what comments and questions you got and try to address any issues they might have raised regarding your work.
B) Do More Research: Even if the essay has received an A grade, try to identify and address gaps in your research. This will result in a much improved argument, which increases your chances of getting the paper published in a peer-reviewed journal or collection as a book chapter, and lessens your changes of the essay being criticized by more knowlegeable academics for overlooking a vital piece of information on the subject.
C) Proofread: Have a peer read your paper and identify areas of confusion for them. Read the essay for yourself, addressing their advice, and try to catch any major spelling or grammar areas. Multiple revisions are warranted at this stage - make sure you are confident about your work before introducing it into the world of written academic study.
II. Find a Journal: Now it's time to look for a peer-reviewed journal in the field that might be interested in your essay. Like conferences, some journals specialize in narrower subject areas than others, so it's worthwhile to read a little about the journal on its website or in its print manifestation and peruse some of its articles so that you can get a sense of the house style (their formatting guidelines and citation style) and typical subject matter of that journal before deciding to submit your article. Revise your essay in accordance with the house style. Provided your work is good, editors are ten times more likely to accept your essay if it is formatted correctly, as this requires less revision and significantly reduces time to print. Follow the submission rules to the letter and compose a formal email to the editor if the submission process requires direct email: Dear [Title] [Last Name], Attached please find my essay ["Title"] for consideration in an issue of [Journal Title]. Thanks so much for your consideration. Yours, [Your Name] [Contact Info]. Don't describe your essay's thesis or subject in this letter, besides mentioning the title.
Note: Mostly, it is considered inappropriate to submit your article to more than one journal at a time; if you do this, and the journal you want to submit to doesn't expressly say you can't submit an article which is under consideration elsewhere, it is both professional and courteous to inform the editor of the name of the other journal (i.e. to the editor of the Early American Literature Journal, you might state: "This essay on Early American Scriptural marginalia is also under consideration at The William and Mary Quarterly"). Patience is a virtue when submitting to peer-reviewed journals, as editorial staff can receive thousands of submissions at a time, lengthening the response time to anywhere from 3 months to a year. Some journals do reply sooner, and frequently FAQ pages for journals will give authors an idea of average response time. Don't waste your life. Work on other projects while you are waiting to hear back!
III. Editor's Response: Contrary to popular belief, there are actually 4 answers you can receive from an editor of a journal in response to your submitted essay. All of these answers are generally accompanied by feedback from Readers A and B, two anonymous academics who read your paper blind (don't know your name or where you go to school). Try not to take these criticisms to heart; rather, take what is useful from them and improve your work accordingly.
1) Outright Rejection ("means no!"): sometimes editors will be helpful in giving you a clear idea of why they don't want to publish your article through their own and/or readers' feedback (your research is inaccurate, essay not well written or does not conform to house style, or it does not fit with the journal's area). Use this information to improve your article, or, if you disagree with the editor or readers' conclusions on academic or ideological grounds, move on. Find another publisher and repeat Steps I and II.
2) Delayed Consideration: in this case, the editor would like to publish your paper, but the journal is experiencing a backlog or can't make your essay "fit" with the themes of other submissions. You usually have the chance to withdraw your paper from consideration and find another publisher, or you can wait for an opening (can take anywhere from 6 months - 2 years).
3) Conditional Acceptance: in general, both the editor and readers (or at least one of them) approved of your work, but felt that some significant changes to your research or writing were necessary before the journal could formally offer to publish your essay. If you choose to make the changes, print off their list(s) of emendations and check them off one by one as you revise your paper before resubmitting it to the editor.
4) Acceptance: when you get an unqualified acceptance, this means that both the editor and readers strongly approved of your work and found your writing to be of professional calibre. You will need to make changes at the copyediting and proofs stages, possibly even clarifying obscure parts of your writing, addressing citation issues, and perhaps answering theoretical or factual questions raised by editors, but you should be proud of yourself for having edited and revised your paper enough to be outright accepted by a peer-reviewed journal.
IV. Revisions and Proofs: Once your essay has been accepted, you will receive at least one round of revisions via email and one round of further proofs. Often these revisions or proofs will involve specific instructions such as making edits within a textbox in Adobe, etc. Try to follow the proofreader or editor's instructions to the letter, as this will faciliate the publication process. Make sure that you have caught every spelling, punctuation, and factual error possible before submitting the final proof revisions to your editor. Also, your editor will usually request a brief bio, an abstract describing your essay, and searchable keywords summing up the compass of your essay topic. Send all revisions, proofs, and supplementary information by the specified deadline.
V. Update Your CV: Once your article has been published, record your achievement in GSPS as well as your CV! Congratulations!