September 26, 2023

An introduction to Author Experience (AX)

min read

Author Experience (AX) is a multifaceted concept crucial for publishers aiming to enhance their engagement with authors. Unlike traditional customer relationships, authors occupy a unique and central position in the publishing lifecycle as both the suppliers and consumers of content.

In essence, AX is a measure of how authors perceive and engage with a publisher's brand throughout their publishing journey. Every interaction and touchpoint from initial submission to final publication forms a part of AX—this includes calls for papers, the submission process, editorial communications, Open Access payments (where relevant), eligibility checks for institutional agreements, and post-publication interactions. It encapsulates all author interactions with the brand, offering insights into authors' sentiments and their likelihood to publish again, contribute as peer reviewers, and become advocates for a publisher by recommending them to other authors.

Given the broad scope of this concept, numerous factors can contribute to creating a positive AX. From clear community and friction-free submission processes to fast publication turnaround times, there are many ways publishers can enhance their workflows to foster and ensure positive AX.

Meeting—and exceeding—authors’ expectations from a publishing experience can result in valuable short- and long-term outcomes for publishers, including increased submissions, returning/repeat authors, revenue growth, and more.

AX is a vital aspect of the evolving scholarly publishing landscape, emphasizing the importance and central role of authors. By embracing strategies to create and maintain positive AX, publishers can foster positive relationships with their community and position themselves for sustained success.

The Publisherspeak 2023 breakout session for this theme was chaired by Patricia Kershaw (American Society of Civil Engineers). Contributors to this breakout session include Angie Anderson (GeoScienceWorld), Natacha Carter (Taylor & Francis), Chirag Patel (Cactus Global), Carrie Farnham (American Psychiatric Association), Shari Leventhal (American Society of Nephrology), Samantha Bridges (National Academy of Sciences), Katherine Schminky (National Academy of Sciences), and Simone Taylor (American Psychiatric Association).

Challenge identified

At Publisherspeak 2023, the group handling this theme identified 3 core challenges pertaining to Author Experience:

  1. Multiple technologies and disparate systems create confusion for authors
  2. Good copyediting requires changes which authors resist
  3. Reduce time to first decision (publisher vs author priorities)

Out of these 3 challenges, “Multiple technologies and disparate systems create confusion for the author” was selected as the top challenge to focus on, and the group built their Solution Canvas to address this challenge.

Strategic solutions for enhanced AX

Ensuring clarity and simplicity in the publishing process is critical for cultivating a positive Author Experience (AX). The complexity arising from multiple technologies and disparate systems can often frustrate and possibly confuse authors, resulting in a less-than-ideal experience with a publisher. Recognizing this challenge, the group at Publisherspeak brainstormed and collaborated to identify strategies to streamline the entire publishing journey, from submission to publication. This initiative is rooted in the belief that simplifying the pathway from submission to publication provides a cohesive, seamless publishing experience that leads to positive AX. The group’s Solution Canvas also highlights the numerous benefits for the stakeholders impacted by this challenge.

The Solution Canvas above outlines a streamlined external portal with a guided submission process and AI-driven decision support. Tools integrated in the submission portal would capture metadata, alert authors, reviewers, and editors when action is needed, identify potential reviewers, and format papers to the publisher’s specifications. This portal ensures seamless interaction for authors, reviewers, and editors, eliminating the need for multiple systems. 

The outcomes of the solutions devised by the group are extensive, ranging from repeat authors and increased submission speed to improved metadata quality and broader reviewer pools. Stakeholders benefit from increased revenue, reduced costs, and a focus on strategic goals, fostering employee retention and operational improvements. These solutions not only have the potential to resolve the existing challenge impacting AX but also propel the publishing workflow toward efficiency, increased author satisfaction, and broader, positive impact on the scholarly publishing landscape.

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