Everything you need to know about article processing charges

Scientific journals have different ways of generating income to cover publishing, editorial, operational, peer-review, and other functional costs. Some journals get subsidies from subscriptions or institutions, and others, such as fully open access journals, charge a special fee for article processing.

The article processing charge (APC), or a publication fee, is a fee authors need to pay to publish in these journals. . In some cases, the author’s institution or the research funder takes care of the cost.

The article processing fees are often expensive and limit open access circulation among less influential scholars, institutions, and students. The APC cost can be over $5,000 depending on the journal, even though actual expenses often rarely surpass the $1,000 mark. A general rule of thumb goes that the higher the journal’s profile, the higher the APC. For well-known journals, it’s mostly the prestige of the publication that impacts the price.

Publication charges apply after the article has been accepted, in contrast to submission fees that are paid before the peer-review process. Even if a publisher doesn’t charge standard fees, some excess fees can be applied after the work exceeds a certain number of pages or publication units. Also, color images included in print journals can influence the price.

In some cases, authors are exempt from article processing charges. This is mainly for authors living in developing countries or writing in a less well-funded research field. Some open-access journal publishers also offer discounts or fee waivers for authors suffering financial hardship.

Article Processing Charge Expenses of Open Access publishing can be covered by the APC
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What Exactly Does the APC Stand For?

The Manchester Metropolitan University Library in the U.K. has defined APCs as “a fee that some open-access journal publishers charge to authors to publish their articles.”

Scientific journals have a few methods to structure their budget. Most fully open access journals try to reduce the cost for readers by imposing costs on authors. Journals that impose costs on authors as a source of income mainly use APCs.

Other subscription-based scientific journals get their funding from reader subscriptions. They also earn money through advertising, sponsoring, internal and external subsidies, donations, and endowments.

Journals That Use APCs

Whether or not a journal will opt for article processing charges depends on the type of journal. Fully open access journals usually require authors to pay APCs. These are journals that publish articles that are immediately and freely available upon publication.

Some hybrid access journals that promote their content using a mixture of open access and traditional subscription-based publishing may also require APCs. This typically applies to authors who apply for the open access publication method. The readers of these journals still pay for access to the journal’s non-open access content.

When Do APC Charges Have to Be Paid?

When a journal accepts an article for publication and successfully completes pre-publication checks, they send the author an invoice upon acceptance. The author typically has up to 30 days to pay the APC price.

How Much Does the Publishing Cost?

APC costs vary by journal title and publisher. The cost typically goes from $160 to up to $5,000. Profit margins for the academic publishing industry can be up to 30%.

Overall, the APC cost has gone up across Europe by almost 50% between 2005 and 2018, and the price keeps rising each year.

Authors belonging to specific research groups or institutions can have full waivers or discounts when it comes to paying APCs. This mainly depends on the institution they belong to. Authors may not be required to pay the APC charge if they come from developing countries. They can also pay for the APCs using their grant funds, central funds from their institution, or a funding agency.

What Does the Fee Cover?

Scientific journal costs related to article production, marketing, technical infrastructure, innovation, customer service, editorial rates, page publishing fees, and similar are all paid with APCs. There’s also so-called prestige pricing, where authors pay higher prices to confer their status. This means that journal quality and competitiveness also impact APC pricing.

Alternative Cost Management Models for Scientific Journals

The current cost management model is based on author fees. Authors pay significant fees upon acceptance. The alternative approach is a process-based charging model, where authors would pay lower fees to publish articles but must make the payment before submitting the paper. This way, all authors would pay a specific amount.

For example, out of 1,000 submissions, only 100 authors accepted for publication pay the APC in the publication model. In the process-based approach, all 1,000 participants would pay a much smaller fee.

This would also mean a fall in submission numbers, leading to decreased costs and less time and effort on reviewing and using costly technologies on behalf of the journal staff. Also, authors would turn to institutions for sponsorship without worrying about being refused for asking for extensive sums.

Institutions can also cover the open access publishing costs by transitioning to a cost-recovery model for open access journals. They can use the savings from their annual tool access subscriptions to pay for annual open access publication costs.

What Does an Article Processing Charge Cover?

In order to keep the journals open access, publishers use the APCs to cover the publishing costs.

Editorial Process Costs

These costs include maintaining the editorial process, enabling efficient peer reviews, processing articles through plagiarism software, proofreading, and investing in English language improvement services. They also cover the costs related to the editing, formatting, and publishing of HTML and PDF versions of the articles.

Investing in the editorial process is crucial because it improves the overall quality of the journal and its publications. Without a robust editorial process, journals risk publishing inferior work that’s not up to standard.

Archiving and Visibility Costs

Archiving the articles requires plenty of storage space. Whether it’s virtual or physical, it doesn’t come for free, and the journal must pay for it. It’s essential to invest in high-security and high-quality platforms that enable long-term article preservation.

Also, it’s essential to work on the visibility of the published articles so the journal expands its reach. Indexing, abstracting, and listing in major databases are excellent ways of doing so, but they require time, money, and effort.

Marketing Costs

Marketing brings income to the journal, but each journal needs a well-maintained marketing campaign for it to work. Often, that involves paying third parties for promotion, paying other platforms for mentions, and so on. A part of the journal’s income goes to promoting the journal through sponsorships of scholarly society events, conferences, and other activities. They also allocate a specific amount for awards to support authors.

Operational Costs

Operational costs often take a good portion of the APCs cost pie chart. These include money transfer fees, accounting and legal fees, taxes, etc. Plus, people involved in creating the journal need to be paid their salaries, so labor costs account for a considerable part of the chart, too. Without a sufficient budget for the operational costs, all other aspects wouldn’t function correctly.

Technical Infrastructure and Innovation

Open access journals are immediately available for readers online. A technical team ensures the online journal system is in place to make that possible. The team is in charge of developing, maintaining, and operating the website and existing systems.

Production of Articles

Article editing and inclusion in the indexing services. The latter is an essential part of raising the visibility of an article. Without it, the authors would have fewer chances of reaching their audience.

Customer Service

Customer service is an essential factor to consider when submitting work for specific journals. Most authors want to have a reliable person to help them prepare the documentation and answer any queries they may have.

Also, customer service is essential to the readers. They may have trouble finding the content online or want information on specific work. Making sure journal staff is there for them means the journal has a loyal audience that would likely recommend them to their peers.

As you can see, APC costs cover many aspects of journal publication.

AKJournals uses the publication fee to cover the expenses related to article publishing, technical infrastructure, operational costs, customer service, and more. The price for publishing with Open Access in the journals of AKJournals varies across different subjects and ranges from zero to 1,100 euros per publication.

Supporting Scientific Journals

Upon acceptance, scientific journal publishers charge authors a fee to cover operational, editorial, marketing, archiving, and customer service costs. This fee is known as the article processing charge, and it’s one of the primary income sources for fully open access and hybrid journals.

Open access scientific journals live and thrive thanks to article processing charges. Supporting scientific journals is essential to ensure their growth and further development of the scientific communities and paying for publication is an excellent way of doing so.