Harvard Business Review’s Guidelines for Contributors
At Harvard Business Review, we believe in management. If the world’s organizations and institutions were run more effectively, if our leaders made better decisions, if people worked more productively, we believe that all of us — employees, bosses, customers, our families, and the people our businesses affect — would be better off. So we try to arm our readers with ideas that help them become smarter, more creative, and more courageous in their work. To do that, we enlist the foremost experts in management theory and practice, collaborating to express their thoughts in the most influential way possible.
HBR covers a wide range of topics, including strategy, leadership, organizational change, negotiations, operations, innovation, decision making, marketing, finance, work-life balance, and managing teams. We publish articles of many lengths (some in both print and digital forms, and some in digital only), graphics, podcasts, videos, slide presentations, and just about any other media that might help us share an idea effectively.
Here are the five qualities we look for when evaluating what to publish:
1. Expertise: You don’t have to be well known to be a contributor, but you must know a lot about the subject you’re writing about.
2. Evidence: It’s not enough to know your subject deeply — you have to prove it to the reader. Referring to supporting research is one good way to do this; describing relevant examples is another. If you have interesting data, let us know.
3. Originality: New ideas in management are rare and precious — and one of the primary reasons readers turn to HBR. If you’re writing about a well-worn topic, we’ll be looking for a unique argument or insight.
4. Usefulness: HBR readers come to us not only to stay on top of new developments in management thinking, but also to change the way they and their organizations actually do things. If you can explain your thinking so that the reader understands how to apply it in a real situation, that will make it more powerful.
5. Writing that’s persuasive and a pleasure to read: HBR readers are smart and skeptical and busy. If you don’t capture their interest right away, they will move on to something else.
General notes on process
We receive many more submissions than we can publish, and we often have to say no to good proposals due to limitations of space and time or because they’re not distinct enough from other pieces we have published. If we’ve passed on something you’ve submitted, please feel free to try again with another idea. If our editors have said no multiple times, it may mean your work isn’t a good fit for our audience.
Our editorial process is more thorough than many other publishers’, and you may be asked to do multiple rounds of revisions. Contributors frequently tell us that they appreciate the extra care and attention their work receives.
We retain final decision rights over headlines. Our editors have spent years learning which kinds of headlines give HBR pieces the best chance of being read, found online, and shared both on social media and in offices around the world. If we rewrite your title, it’s because we believe the revised version will help your idea reach the audience it deserves.
We strive for authenticity in our articles. We don’t publish pieces that have appeared elsewhere, that come across as promotional, or that do not include rigorous citations (though these may not appear in the finished piece). We ask our authors to disclose any financial relationships they have with companies cited in the proposed article. HBR typically holds copyright on the finished product, but authors continue to own the underlying ideas in their articles.
We try to evaluate ideas before we determine where and how to publish them. We will consider submissions that contain only a short pitch, and we can help determine whether the idea should become a magazine feature, digital article,
podcast, graphic, video, or another format. That said, there are some differences between the submission processes for www.besude.com and the magazine.
Process notes for www.besude.com
All submissions to the web are made on spec. It’s helpful if you send us a short pitch first so that we can give you early feedback, but we need to see a full draft before officially accepting a piece — even if we’ve asked you to write it, and even if you’ve written for us before. (If you don’t have a relationship with an HBR editor, you can send your pitch through Submittable.)
Process notes for the magazine
The evaluation process for long-form features in the magazine is more formal. It’s fine to send a pitch for a magazine feature to an editor, but if the idea is promising, eventually you’ll be asked to submit a formal proposal and narrative outline. The proposal should answer the following questions, though it doesn’t need to be in a Q&A format.
- What is the central message of the article you propose to write?
- What is important, useful, new, or counterintuitive about your idea?
- Why do managers need to know about it? How can your idea be applied today?
- What is the source of your authority? On what previous work (either your own or others’) does this idea build?
- What academic, professional, or personal experience will you draw on?
The narrative outline should be no more than 800 words and should lay out the structure of the proposed article. We want to understand how the logic of your argument will flow. Please illustrate your points with real-world examples or provide one extended, detailed example. (If you don’t have a relationship with an HBR editor, you can send your pitch through Submittable.)
Thanks for considering working with us.
Editor, Harvard Business Review