##Advice on Laddering Submissions##
Realize that journals have to avoid the reputation of “publisher of rejected papers,” too. The academic quality of the submitted paper alone is not everything.
The CFR is subject to competitive forces, just like your papers. Although I believe that there many great papers that receive negative referee reports and are as good as published papers in the top journals, you should realize that both your academic paper and our journal need to avoid the “only-rejected” stigma. With more editorial activism, and basic feedback within a week, a submission to the CFR that is not sent to referees can avoid much of the self-fulfilling stigma. Papers that have been rejected multiple times suffer higher thresholds. The threshold is endogenous.
Authors who indicate that they have sent their paper to two or fewer journals before they are submitting to the CFR get better editorial treatment—I can make up my mind more easily and independently. If you have already submitted your paper to the other three journals before the CFR and it was rejected everywhere else, then it is often the case that the profession has already formed its opinion about your paper, usually inferring that the paper has been dinged everywhere else. At this point, it becomes much more difficult for an editor to “shephard” a paper, even if the cause for rejection were redrawing the same referee(s) repeatedly. After a paper has been rejected at the top journals, the journal process becomes relatively dire everywhere. My advice: if you think you have written a great paper, one of your best, try one of the top finance journals, possibly two, but never three, before you submit to the CFR.
The main submission site is https://editorialexpress.com/cfr.