Why Wasn’t Your Story Successful?

Have you submitted a story to the Friend, only to have it returned? Here are some of the most common reasons why a manuscript might not have been successful.


  1. It’s already been published. We like to offer our readers something fresh, so we only buy stories which haven’t appeared anywhere else.
  2. It wasn’t typed. We ask that work isn’t hand-written – please type all submissions on one side of white A4, with page numbers.
  3. The story length wasn’t right. People’s Friend stories are around 1200, 2000, 3000, or 4000 words long. We allow 10% flexibility above and below those lengths.
  4. The storyline wasn’t right. Perhaps it was too predictable? Or contained un-Friend-ly content such as violence or bad language?
  5. It wasn’t suitable for the readership. Whatever publication you’re writing for, the best way to ascertain the type of content that would appeal to the readers is to read the publication.
  6. It didn’t have a feel-good ending. Here at the Friend, we’re not averse to including difficult situations in our fiction, but we do try to resolve the situation positively.
  7. The characters weren’t engaging. Depth of character is important, to let the reader really get to know the characters. What are they interested in? How do they feel? What are their likes and dislikes? We want to get to know them as ‘real’ people.
  8. The storyline wasn’t believable. We do occasionally ask readers to suspend disbelief when we feature ghost stories, but with the exception of these, our fiction has to be credible.
  9. The theme was too familiar. Well-worn themes include widowhood; grandchildren being on laptops and phones 24/7; and working in a charity shop. We’re willing to consider familiar themes if they have a fresh spin, and say something new.
  10. It didn’t have the right tone. We’re looking for stories that are upbeat. That doesn’t mean we don’t feature stories with a reflective or sad element, but the focus should be on moving forward positively. And although many of our readers are retired, they don’t have an ‘old’ mindset.

Moving forward, try to take any feedback on board, and make sure you’ve researched who you’re writing for. And as our Writers of the Week often say – read more, and write more. Good luck!

Our Writing Tools have lots of helpful advice for aspiring authors


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!