1) The paper should be read and commented on by colleagues before submitting.
2) Ideally, the paper has been presented in seminars and conferences.
3) Treat any comment in a seminar or conference like a referee comment, address these comments, and when appropriate email the commenter to explain how you addressed the suggestions.
4) In your paper make it very clear what the new economic insight is and why it is important.
5) Theory papers should:
i) explain why the model is useful;
ii) make clear where the paper deviates from past models;
iii) not merely fit a known fact but offer new testable implications; and
iv) include a discussion of both the strengths and the weaknesses of the approach.
6) Empirical papers should:
i) explain why the finding is important;
ii) clearly differentiate the paper’s approach from past approaches;
iii) not be shackled by past methods (we do X because another did X in the past);
iv) present a clear economic justification for the empirical examination;
v) convince the reader that there has been minimal data mining;
vi) check for robustness and influential observations; and
vii) use state-of-the-art econometrics.
That is from a new paper by Campbell R. Harvey "Reflections on Editing the Journal of Finance, 2006-2012" (December 2012).
Over my six years as editor at the Journal of Finance (2006-2012), I handled approximately 7,500 submissions. Even at the point of my “retirement” on July 1, 2012, I still had more than 500 manuscripts under my control. This paper gives some of the historical background as well as offering some insights about editing, submission strategies for authors, as well as advice for referees.