There is a lot of advice out there on publishing in philosophy (see Aidan McGlynn’s useful compilation). And there are a lot of statistics available online about acceptance rates for various journals (for example, see this page for Philosophers’ Imprint).
Adding to those resources, I thought that it might be useful, especially for younger philosophers, to see some data that treats the individual paper as the unit of analysis (as opposed to, say, journals). What sort of expectations can you have for a specific paper when you decide it’s time to submit? What does the process look like “in the trenches” as you work to push a paper across the finish line?
To help provide some perspective, I reviewed my records and found that I had data on 49 papers recently published in journals. Here are some potentially informative statistics. Make of them what you will!
- In order for a paper to be accepted, on average, I had to submit it to 3.49 (minimum 1, maximum 10) different journals and revise-and-resubmit it 0.94 times (minimum 0, maximum 3). Thus, each acceptance required an average of approximately 4.5 (re-)submissions (SD = 2.3, Median = 4, Mode = 3, minimum = 1, maximum = 10). The per-journal acceptance rate was about 29% (1/3.49).
- During this same time, on average it took approximately 3 months to get a decision on a submission (collapsing across initial submissions and revisions). Thus, on average, it took nearly 14 months (4.5*3) to shepherd a paper from initial submission to acceptance. The minimum time was a couple days, and the maximum time was 4.5 years. (No, “4.5 years” is not a typo.)
- Ten papers (~20%) were accepted at the first journal submitted to. Eleven papers (~22%) were accepted at the second journal . Seven papers (~14%) were accepted at the third journal. Eight papers (~16%) were accepted at the fourth journal. Thirteen papers (~27%) were accepted at the fifth or later journal.
- Based on available information — which is incomplete — the overall acceptance rate at the majority of the journals involved was between 3% and 15%.