Generating Income with Your Journal

Whether or not your journal survives in the long-term depends on generating income. You have salaries to pay, initiatives to pay for, and conferences to run—all of these things need your journal to be making money. As we’ve discussed previously, it’s crucial for you to have a strong understanding of your journal’s finances, how your money is being spent, and what your fixed and variable costs are. Generating income is the key to your long term success, so in this article, we’ll go over some different ways for your journal to make money. In particular, we’ll be looking at article processing charges, English editing, and layout services. Importantly, we’ll also cover why generating income can help you with your journal’s reputation.

Why does generating income matter?

There are two answers to this question, though the weight of the answers may differ from person to person. The first answer is the most obvious one: generating income keeps you in business. Obviously the people working for your journal want to get paid. You do too. You want your efforts to yield financial benefits. This is a normal part of businesses, and having a plan for success is crucial. The specific numbers regarding business failure rates will always vary, depending on where you are and what kind of business you have. A good general estimate is that 50% of businesses fail within the first five years of operation. While the statistics vary from site to site, the numbers are not nearly as important as the basic premise: a business can fail if you’re not careful.

How do you ensure success? Plan, plan, plan.

In the same way that not training staff and giving them poor guidance leads to weak results, not planning your business carefully can lead to failure.

As the old adage goes,

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

All journals require some form of investment to start. While you can start a journal from a home office, there are elements that will cost money. Getting work proofread will cost money. Having layout done on manuscript will cost money. If you need to hire people to help because you’re getting busy, this will cost money. Access to several useful tools, from anti-viruses to hosting, costs money. Even your reputation needs money (more on this later). Lets talk about generating income.

Article processing charges (APCs)

We’ve covered the broad importance of article processing charges in another article dealing with competitive pricing. That said, here we’ll be talking about how crucial it is for you to start charging these APCs as soon as possible.

You know what your fixed costs and variable costs are, and you know what you need to make to break even. This is where the article processing charge as the primary source of journal income comes in.

These fees are charged to authors (though are often covered by research institutions or funders) for the publication of a manuscript. What you need to charge will vary based on a number of factors. Some of those factors are costs, and this is why many companies try to cut costs. Cutting costs can feel like a negative thing, but importantly, spending your resources correctly is how your business can achieve success. For some people, this means doing a lot of the work themselves initially. For others, using a journal management system to help them run the day to day business is a great way to save money.

The primary issue with charging APCs is that if you want someone to pay your APC, you need to have a good enough reputation to warrant it.

How to use APCs to improve your reputation

How can generating income affect your reputation? When you generate income, part of the profit you receive can be invested in different outreach programs. This could be in the form of hosting (or participating in) conferences or offering grants or prizes to the community for notable contributions. These can attract valuable work to your journal, but will also help to spread word of mouth. When people are talking about your journal in a positive way this affects your reputation.

Money cannot buy you a good image, but it can help you to create the circumstances where you can generate one for yourself.

Having an English editing department

An English editing department is very important when a journal grows to a certain size. In the early stages, these are not necessarily needed and the work can be outsourced. As the journal, you need to ensure that the quality of the English of a manuscript is good. it needs to clearly communicate what it is about. The English quality could be the responsibility of the authors, or it could be the responsibility of your own freelance English editing department. Editing is a massive industry, and it routinely intersects with journal publishing.

Facilitating English editing services, especially when you are not charging article processing charges, can bring in income. Remember, understanding what the editing market looks like, and what acceptable prices are is very important. Finding a good team of freelance editors that will work for a reasonable rate can be challenging. However, when you find that team and treat them well, you have a reliable way to generate income. Remember that sometimes using a tool like a journal management system can actually save you money while facilitating the editing process.

Performing layout on your manuscripts

Similar to doing English editing, manuscripts need to have proper layout done when they get published. Having sloppy layout can result in a negative impression. Developing a specific format your papers will follow is a good way to ensure that your journal is consistent. But, if you have limited resources, this might need to be handled by either the authors (using a template), or by someone else. If it is someone else, this person will likely want to be paid for their services. Facilitating this service can help your authors.

It is important to make sure that your authors feel like publishing with you is worth their while. It is also important to remember that you are running a for-profit business. There are going to be times where you need to make money. When a journal is very new, it makes sense for these amounts to be “token” amounts. If doing English editing on a paper costs you $50, charging $60-70 might be a good place to start. You might charge more, or less if you want to simply lessen the pain from not getting APCs.

Layout can often be done very quickly with what is sometimes called a layout template. Having this tool can make doing layout very fast. So if you can charge a reasonable sum of money for something that takes very little time, that’s a win.

We’ll be going over layout templates in the future, and talk about their use.

Potential uses for your profits

Journal income can be indirectly converted into reputation.

Making money is critical for success, but that doesn’t mean that the income from your journal can’t be reinvested. By generating income and creating a programs using that money, you can improve your own reputation in the scientific community.

With the profits you earn from your English editing department or layout service, you could do the following:

  • Establish a presence at conferences related to your journal’s topic. This might include covering the cost for promotional materials and a booth.
  • Financially support initiatives related to open access publishing. Open Access Week and Peer Review Week are two examples of such initiatives. There are many to choose from.
  • Offer awards to authors who publish in your journal. This can come in the form of vouchers, cash rewards, or even donations made in their name to charities.

There are many possible ways for you to use your journal’s income after you’ve generated it. Hopefully this article helps you to start improving your cash flow.


D.J. McPhee
12 December 2023Posted inEconomics of Publishing
Post authorD.J. McPhee