Fiction Ed’s Blog: Why Some Stories Are Read Before Others

Shutterstock / Luis Carlos Torres ©

Here at “The People’s Friend” we try our level best to ensure that all stories submitted to us are given a fair chance, and that all authors, both new and established, are treated fairly.

Why might some stories be read more quickly than others?

We Have Lots Of A Particular Genre or Story Length In Stock

The story length which we usually have most of in our folders is 1200 words. If you’ve sent in a 1200 word story, it may stay in the reading queue simply because we don’t need stories of that length at the moment.

Likewise, we may have lots of stories of a similar genre, or which touch on the same theme.

The priority is always our reader – we prioritise the stories which are needed most for readers to enjoy in the magazine, the Special and the Annual.

To Give Unpublished Authors A Fair Chance

Prior to our new USM submissions process, we haven’t been able to read USM submissions for over a year, as traditionally, all USM submissions have been made by post.

Any USM submissions sent over the past year are still in the office, awaiting reading. So to give unpublished authors a fair chance, we’re reading USM submissions to our new email address now, which in turn means that when we do get back to the office, we can start reading the postal submissions.

Authors who are yet to be published in the magazine can now submit via our dedicated email address – details available in our Guidelines.

Longer-Length Stories

We publish only one Long Read every second Special – that’s one scheduled every six weeks, which means that every year, we buy at most nine or ten. We don’t keep a big stock of these, so they’re generally bought with a specific issue in mind.

We also feature 4000 word stories in our Specials, but need only one of these per Special, so that’s around 17 per year.

2000 and 3000 word stories are the lengths we use most of, and these stories are most likely to be read first.

Historical Stories

Our readers enjoy historical fiction, and we always have one historical serial in the magazine. In every issue, usually have only one historical story, so that means that stories with a contemporary setting may be read first, as we need many more of these.

Serial Instalments

Serial instalments have a priority reading order, too. Serials in progress, which have had the first instalment approved or which are already in the schedule, take priority.  We can only have one serial of a particular era in progress at any one time.

Stories For The Special

Special stories have a variety of story lengths -some of these are used only once per Special, such as 2,500 and 1500. Like the longer-length stories, we use a limited amount of these per year.

Seasonal Stories

We welcome seasonal stories, and seasons set around particular dates. For practical reasons, if you send in a story for Christmas for example, it’s most welcome, but we’d read stories for Hallowe’en first.

It Missed The Date For That Year

Stories need time to be processed, not only for publication, but to have contracts and payments set up, and to be illustrated, so if you send in a story too close to the date it’s intended for, it may need to wait until the following year.

A Word About The Stories In The Office

USM submissions in our office which have been sent by post since March 2020 will be read in chronological order. Our Mail Team have stored your submissions according to the month they were received, and that’s how we’ll work through them.


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!