A recent essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education — “The Art of (Successfully) Appealing a Manuscript Rejection” (May 3rd online) — presents strategies for persuading journal editors to reconsider their negative decision concerning your submission.
The essay is a worthwhile effort, but its value is diminished by the self-imposed limitation it appears to operate under: only ethical strategies are explored. What about approaches that might be used by authors who are comfortable with wrongdoing? If journals are going to be truly committed to diversity and inclusion, these scholars should not be left outside the tent of publication. Here are three strategies available to authors who embrace a “by any means necessary” philosophy of achieving tenure and promotion.
The Threat of Scandal
Inform the journal editor that failure to reverse the rejection decision will result in your claiming that a sordid sexual affair took place between the two of you several years ago, an affair that was coerced by the editor and left you with permanent, and extensive, emotional scarring. You describe in detail your plans to “spill the beans” to relevant authorities at the editor’s home institution.
It doesn’t matter if your claim is true or not. Mounting a defense against such an accusation can be costly, consuming the better part of one’s career, and the editor may not want to risk that outcome. HINT: Including a grainy photo of two naked but unidentifiable bodies tussling in bed can enhance the effectiveness of this strategy. The typical editor will not want to go through the humiliating process of proving that none of those dimpled buttocks belong to him or her.
Respond to the rejection letter as if it were an acceptance letter. This is easier than it sounds. First, have a friend who is a skilled forger prepare a fake acceptance letter from the editor on the journal’s letterhead. Then return that document to the editor, indicating your gratitude for the positive decision. Make sure to say how much you’re looking forward to seeing your submission in print.
Most editors are so overwhelmed by the unrelenting burden of managing the review process that they won’t notice the deception, and they’ll end up publishing your manuscript without revision. By the way, this is the strategy that Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon used to get his first paper on “satisficing” published in 1956.
Threatening physical harm to an editor’s family could produce an overreaction, but offering an ambiguous comment about the editor’s pet bichon is a solid bet to hit the “sweet spot” of influence. For example: “I’m so disappointed that my paper was rejected. By the way, I drove by your house yesterday and saw Mr. Fluffy playing in the front yard. Your kids must love him dearly. He’s such an adorable, friendly puppy, and more than eager to accept treats from strangers. Dogs are so vulnerable at that age.”
A bit creepy, you say? Perhaps. But you need to ask yourself: do you want a Nobel Prize or not? It’s your call.