Why are papers rejected and how to get yours accepted

In collaboration with Eileen Fischer and Ahir Gopaldas, we published a paper on Qualitative Market Review that explains some of the key reasons that scholarly articles are rejected and illuminate how to reduce the likelihood of rejection. Our goal in the article was to help interpretive consumer researchers, especially junior scholars, publish more papers in top academic journals. Here I summarize 3 of the key 8 problems we identified, and the potential solutions for them. This set of problems can be a good checklist to go through before submitting a new manuscript to any journal.

Problem 1: the reviewers cannot tell what conversation your paper is joining
Make it clear early on in the manuscript what is the positioning of your paper regarding existing literature. Early on means on the first page - or in the first paragraph if possible!
Here are some articles published on the Journal of Consumer Research that very clearly define what is the conversation they are joining:
Luedicke’s (2015) article joins the theoretical conversation about consumer acculturation.
Epp and Velagaleti’s (2014) case-based research on childcare service consumption contributes to a theoretical conversation on outsourcing care-work.
Moisio and Beruchashvili’s (2010) ethnographic study of support groups contributes to a theoretical conversation on consumer well-being.
Weinberger, Zavisca, and Silva (2017) research on middle-class consumer lifestyle of young adults engages in a conversation on habitus and consumption.

Problem 2: the conversation that your paper is joining does not belong in the journal
Solution: Check the aims and goals of the journal you are targeting. Read the most recent issues, and editorial articles to better understand what conversations the journal (its editorial board, reviewers, and readers) are interested in. Here are the aims and scope for some of the key journals in the field of marketing and consumer research that publish interpretive studies:
Journal of Consumer Research
Journal of Marketing
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Consumption, Markets, and Culture
Journal of Business Research
Journal of Marketing Management
European Journal of Marketing
Journal of Consumer Culture

Problem 3: the paper reviews the conversation without identifying any major gaps, problems or questions
It is not sufficient to argue for the lack of research on a given subject or phenomenon. Connect your empirical questions to gaps in the literature to generate research questions, then clearly state those research questions in your manuscript. Here's how I did that in the paper Selling, Sharing, and everything in between: The Hybrid Economies of Collaborative Networks, published on the Journal of Consumer Research:
I started with phenomenon-based questions:
- Why do hybrid contexts exist?
- How can they be justified and persist?

Upon connecting those to the literature, conversation-based questions were identified:
- What is the nature of cultures of value circulation, and how do they extend our knowledge of shifts between market and gift economies (communal and commercial logics)?
- Can consumers do things other than escape each one of this economies for the other?

Finally, I wrote research questions that are clearly stated in the paper:
RQ1. How do hybrid economies emerge in collaborative consumer–producer networks?
RQ2. What is the role of consumers in shaping and sustaining hybrid economies?