What It Takes to Be a Published Author

Are you an author looking to publish? Are you specifically looking to publish in a reputable journal? Being a successful author is in the realm of possibility for all. Writing is a skill, and, like other skills, it takes practice, persistence, and patience.
What It Takes to Be a Published Author

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  1. Decide on the proper format your manuscript should follow. Is it research or a quality improvement report, a case report, or a clinical review? There are standard formats for scholarly manuscripts; you can find reporting guidelines on the Equator network.
  2. Identify the audience you wish to reach, then find which journals cater to that audience. Make sure the journals are reputable: check if they are indexed in databases such as PubMed, Medline, etc. The website ThinkCheckSubmit.org offers suggestions for choosing an appropriate and credible journal and take a look at this article for further detail on finding the right journal.
  3. Go to the journals’ websites and review recent articles, noting the level of detail, tone, and style. Review the author guidelines. Send query letters as appropriate (some journals require them, others recommend them, and still others don’t accept them). Once you’ve chosen the journal you will submit to, follow the author guidelines to format your manuscript and the references. Keep to the word limit.
  4. Writing with a colleague or two can be helpful and can keep the manuscript moving forward. However, if you do work with co-authors, agree before you start on the order of authors, who will do what and when, and how you will solve any disputes. Remember that there are guidelines for who can be listed as an author.


  1. Readers need to be engaged and interested from the beginning. An introduction should make the reader to want to continue to read on—tell the reader why the topic is important and include compelling data to support the importance of the issue.
  2. The point of writing is to communicate and inform, so do it in a forthright and logical, step-by-step format with clear and accessible writing. Aim to inform, not to impress. Avoid “pretentious prose” and jargon. Write in active voice rather than passive voice.
  3. Avoid long, wordy sentences and long paragraphs that contain many different ideas. Karen Roush, PhD, RN, FNP, wrote, “An author is like a travel guide taking readers on a journey: You want the trip to be interesting and smooth. Your readers should always know where they are and where they're going. The way to accomplish this is to write good paragraphs, place them in the right order, and connect them with transitional words or statements.”1
  4. Use primary sources as references, and be sure to save your references to refer to for queries by the reviewers or editor. Many journals fact check.
  5. Be sure that the words you write are your own—do not plagiarize or self-plagiarize from other published material, including an artificial intelligence (AI) tool. Most journals run manuscripts through plagiarism software and may report excessive plagiarism as unethical professional conduct. Use quotation marks for exact words (but use them sparingly). Always cite sources whether you are quoting or paraphrasing ideas from others.
  6. Be prepared to write several drafts and have several false starts before you “get in the zone.” Begin anywhere that seems easiest (it doesn’t have to be at the beginning), and just start writing. You can move things around later.
  7. When you have a first draft, ask a few colleagues to read it. Ask them to tell you how to improve it, thereby giving them permission to criticize the work. Revise it and write a second draft. Use spell check. When you’re satisfied you can’t improve it, you're ready to submit.


  1. Most journals use online submission sites; follow the directions carefully.
  2. If not rejected on the initial review, your manuscript will be sent out for peer review, which can take several weeks.
  3. If reviewers feel your manuscript shows promise, the editor will compile and send the reviewer comments and suggestions for revision. There will be anywhere from several comments to many, depending on the article and the journal. These comments are provided to strengthen the article and to ensure its accuracy and appropriateness for the journal. Do not take them personally. Answer each query as instructed—do not send additional information or rewrite unless asked to do so.
  4. There may be more than one round of revisions.
  5. Once a manuscript is accepted, you will be connected with the publishing team who will likely send you some forms to complete along with proofs of your article. Check these proofs over carefully from the very beginning (title, author names and institutions through to the references) and provide your comments promptly.

Good luck!

Writing takes time, often more than most new writers think it will take. Set aside time—each day if possible—and make writing a part of your routine and your professional life.


1. Roush K. Writing Your Manuscript: Structure and Style. Am J Nurs. 2017;117(4):56-61. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000515234.28924.7d

Updated from What It Takes to Be a Published Author by Maureen Shawn Kennedy, https://wkauthorservices.editage.com/resources/author-resource-review/2017/Nov-2017.html

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Go to the profile of Dawn Angel
9 months ago

These tips are extremely useful! Although, the "several weeks" mentioned regarding peer review can end up being several months.

Go to the profile of Maya Workowski
9 months ago

I think also, the publication process can take a very long time and most authors are not expecting that. Especially as a new researcher.