Journal editors can be contacted. The trick is to contact them at the appropriate time about the right things.
DO contact the journal editor if you’re not sure whether the journal might be interested in the article you want to write. However, do some homework to make sure that you’re not asking something you could have found out for yourself if you’d taken the time to have a quick look at back copies.
DO contact the journal editor if you’re thinking about a special issue. They will be able to tell you whether they take special issues at all, if they already have enough proposals, and if they are interested, how long it might be before you will see an issue in print, and of course, how to put together a proposal that the Editorial Board can respond to.
DO contact the Editor if you haven’t heard anything about your article for six months or so. A polite note is the best way to get an immediate response.
DO contact the journal Editor if you want to referee articles. They may ask you to register by filling out a form, or they may just take your details and then try you out to see what kind of reviews you write.
DON’T contact the Editor if you only submitted the article a little while ago. A journal Editor I know was recently contacted by someone who was tracking the progress of their article online and wanted to know why it hadn’t been sent out for review: they had submitted it just two weeks earlier. The Editor was furious. So…
DO understand that Editors can’t always do things as quickly as you might want, and that it’s often hard to get referees (it can take three for four invitations to review before someone accepts and this probably means a minimum of a month to sort out, sometimes much longer).
DO remember that journal Editors are volunteers. Editing a journal is not their full time job; they already have one of those and Editing is extra. Don’t treat them like the help.
MAYBE contact the Editor if you want to know the waiting list of articles – if you want to find out how long it might be from acceptance to publication. They may not be able to tell you accurately, or they may not want to. However most of them won’t mind you asking.
Coming next: Some dos and don’ts for journal editors?