How long…?

“When will I hear about my story?” It’s one of the questions we’re asked most often here on the fiction desk. And we understand completely the hecklepins you writers are sitting on as soon as you pop your precious piece of work in the postbox.

I can only speak for “The People’s Friend”, of course, but if I explain our system it might explain some apparently random response times!

When manuscripts come into the “Friend” office, our admin desk logs them in on a database so that we can trace them at any time. Then, they’re distributed around the fiction team, each team member getting their “own” writers’ material and a portion of the unsolicited stories that we still so much welcome.

The team member will read each story, and either return it as being not right for us, or return it requesting a rewrite, or pass it on to me for a second opinion.

And that can be where proceedings stall, because there are three team members giving me material, and just me reading it all at that stage. Plus, I have my own writers submitting stories direct to me. So I can be a log jam at times, especially since the same process happens for all the serial instalments that come in. I also do all the story scheduling for the weekly issues and our specials, plus myriad other officy things and now this blog!so my time isn’t always free for reading.

Add in the fact that team members have holidays, or are off sick And you see how delays can happen.

We also have to take account of seasonal demands, so if I have the winter issues coming up, and come across a summer time story, it’s going to drop back in the queue until it’s more relevant. The same delay happens if I need to stock up on a particular length of story. If I need three-thousand word stories, they jump to the front of my reading queue.

Having said all that, I think we manage to keep the waiting time to around 12 weeks, so we’re not doing too badly. And if you find that you’ve been waiting months and fear that your story has been forgotten or lost, we don’t mind in the slightest dealing with a quick enquiry so that you know whether you can submit it elsewhere.

The exception to all of this is that if you haven’t enclosed an SAE or an email address to hear about your story, you never will unless we want to buy it.

Some writers wonder why we can’t acknowledge every submission by email. Well, in the PF’s case we’re talking hundreds a month, so in my view it’s time that’s better spent reading the material. Postcards? By all means, enclose them and we’ll pop them back to you.

Talk to you again soon!