What Is A ‘Ret’ Letter?

Here on the Fiction Desk, we receive lots of manuscripts every day, and we read – and reply to – every one. So, what happens when a story is unsuccessful?

If you’re what’s called a ‘known author’, with one of the team assigned to you as your Editor, you’ll receive an individual response, usually by email.

Time constraints mean it’s not possible to give an individual response to the hundreds of other unsuccessful manuscripts. So, when we return your manuscript, we include one of our ‘Rets’ (Returns letters). These are standard letters, tailored to explain why your story wasn’t quite right for the “Friend”.

What’s The Purpose of a Ret?

We understand how disheartening receiving a rejection letter can be. So, we aim to provide constructive guidance for moving your story-writing forward, whilst giving clear advice on why your story wasn’t quite right.

The Most Common Rets

Our Standard Ret letter will direct you to our guidelines – www.thepeoplesfriend.co.uk – and suggest checking in on our Fiction website posts regularly.

The Rets covering specific areas include:

*your story has already been published – we only buy unpublished work

*it’s too short, or too long our standard story lengths are 1200, 2000, 3000, and 4000 words, with long reads 9,500

*the storyline is familiar, difficult to follow, far-fetched or implausible

*the conclusion is unsatisfactory or predictable

*it was too ‘downbeat’ – we’re not averse to including challenging characters or situations, but the resolution should be positive

*the central character wasn’t engaging, relatable, or developed

*the content wasn’t suitable for “Friend” readers – anything involving an unpleasant tone, bad language, violence or intimacy is a definite ‘no’.

If You Receive A Ret

Keep positive, and keep reading the magazine! That’s the best way to get to know what we’re looking for. Even successful “Friend” authors occasionally have a story declined, so don’t give up!


Pick up more great advice from the Fiction Team.

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!