Realities of academic publishing

Source: Wikipedia.

As some of you know, I have been busy for a few months now writing and revising nine academic papers, which together provide what I believe to be an unprecedentedly complete and rigorous formulation of ontological Idealism. The idea is to sharpen my arguments by exposing them to thorough peer-review. Of the nine papers, three have already been accepted for publication (one of which is already published), one is going through a major revision, and other five are still in initial peer review.

I have had mixed experiences with reviewers so far. On the positive side, one of the three accepted papers has been much improved by critical and extremely thoughtful reviews at SAGE Open, a journal I now consider a prime example of high professionalism in publishing. I also had a rejection by Neuroscience of Consciousness that was worth more than an acceptance: although my submission was considered not to match the journal's focus, its editor nonetheless provided me with extraordinarily detailed and insightful feedback, which has been extremely helpful (thank you Anil Seth!).

There have been less fortunate examples, though. Another paper of mine was rejected by AIMS Neuroscience on the basis of a single reviewer report, whose opening paragraph I quote below (Context: the reviewer is answering the editor's invitation for him to review my submission):
Thank you for your invitation. However, I must decline it due to the lack of time. I am currently much occupied with writing my thesis and conducting research in a rural area. Nevertheless, I would like have some comments only for the abstract itself, although it is definitely not suitable to write as such.
Yes, this is a direct quote from the reviewer report on the basis of which my submission was rejected: it was a comment on my paper's abstract alone. The actual paper wasn't even read after two months of review, which the reviewer openly admitted to. So I guess the whole thing speaks for itself. (Note: a revised form of this very paper has now been accepted by another journal.)

There is one journal, however, whose treatment of my submission has made me feel so disrespected that I want to share details with you. The journal is Metaphysica. Before submitting, I contacted the editors with some questions, in order to decide whether I wanted to submit to them at all. Here are the main parts of the exchange that ensued.

On the 15th of August 2016, I wrote:
Dear editors,
This is just a brief question: I have a manuscript that I hope to publish at the latest by January 2017 under a Gold open access license, so to also include it in a book project scheduled for 2017. ... Therefore, my question: how long do you think it would take you to come to a decision, taking into consideration that we are now in the middle of the summer holidays?
Kind regards, Bernardo.
I got the following reply rather promptly, which was encouraging:
The review process starts immediately but during this holiday time it may need 4-6 weeks (usually 3-4 weeks).
I then proceeded to make my submission in the very same day, i.e. still the 15th of August:
This is excellent! Please find attached my submission, in both .docx and .pdf formats, as per the instructions on the website. Please consider this email a formal submission to Metaphysica.
After more than 7 weeks, I had heard nothing back from them, and sent the following email on 5 October 2016:
This is just a quick message to inquire if the review process is going according to plan. It's been over 6 weeks since my original submission, so I thought I'd ping you.
Finally, today (22 October 2016) I got the following message from another editor of the journal (some young postdoc based out of Miami):
Thank you very much for your submission to Metaphysica. I just forwarded your paper to our referees for review. Please note that this may take up to three weeks.
Surprised and disappointed that my submission had apparently been ignored for 9 weeks, despite my upfront emphasis on timing and their promise to complete the entire process in maximum 6 weeks, I replied as follows:
My initial reaction to your email below was one of disbelief. Allow me to explain. I made my original submission to Metaphysica on Monday, Aug 15, 2016 at 8:09 PM. That is over 9 weeks ago. In my interaction with Editor-in-Chief ..., I had been promised review time of 4 to 6 weeks, which largely motivated my submission to the journal. ... To receive an email from Metaphysica now, after 9 weeks since submission, as if I had just submitted my manuscript ... is, to say the least, disorientating and disappointing to me. As a matter of fact, I consider this outright unacceptable editorial practice that comes at a high price to me in the currency I consider most valuable (time). What on Earth has happened here? I look forward to clarifications.
The reply followed quickly:
Some times things are not that fast, I am afraid. It is so specially when reviewers are on holidays. I hope you understand.
And I do, but the problem is that I submitted the paper to this journal largely because they told me, upfront, something very different. You see, when an author submits a manuscript to a journal, he is required to refrain from submitting to any other journal while the manuscript is under review, without any guarantees that it will ultimately be accepted. So making a submission is a major investment of time. Given Metaphysica's initial encouragement of my submission and promise to review in maximum 6 weeks, I felt either neglected or cheated. So I answered:
Normally I'd certainly understand. I just regret having been told something very different in the beginning. At this sta[g]e, however, sticking to Metaphysica is the fastest option for me ..., so let's proceed. I do count though on the 3-week timeframe for a decision.
The email above was sent at 1:12pm CET today, which works out to 7:12am Miami time. Just 13 minutes later, and about 9 hours (over night, Miami time) after I was told the review process would take 3 weeks, I received this from the young postdoc who co-edits this journal:
With regret, I must inform you that your submission cannot be accepted for publication in METAPHYSICA: International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics. Please find below the referee’s report.
Reviewer 1
I recommend rejection because the paper does not present sufficient quality for the journal.
The above is the complete reviewer report. I did not edit or shorten it; this is all there was to it.

Apparently, a complete review of a 9000+ word manuscript had somehow been started and completed overnight! What a sudden jump in efficiency for a journal that sat on my manuscript for 9 weeks. I invite you to ask yourself—on the basis of the factual story I just related above—what has actually happened here and to consider the level of professionalism displayed. Whatever the case, the end result is that submitting to Metaphysica has been a costly waste of time and energy for me. It will delay an entire book project.

Having returned to academic publishing after a several-year absence has been a very mixed experience for me. Those nine papers have been ready for a couple of months now, and could already be publicly available in book format had I chosen not to publish them in academic journals first. Yet, experiences like those I had with Neuroscience of Consciousness (which rejected my paper but added so much value to it!) and SAGE Open motivate me to continue. Others, like those with AIMS Neuroscience and Metaphysica, are profoundly discouraging and make me feel highly cynical about the professionalism of today's academic publishing.

My original intent has been to publish all nine papers in academic journals before collecting them in book format, with an added, overarching storyline to tie them all together. I am uncertain whether I will persist with this plan or simply give up on academic publishing. I guess my decision will ultimately depend on my experience with other journals in the coming few weeks.