Fiction Ed’s Blog: Why Was Your Story Rejected?

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“The People’s Friend” publishes hundreds of short stories every year.

Not every story submitted to us is successful, and time constraints mean we no longer send individual rejection responses to authors as yet unpublished in the magazine.

If you’re unsure why your stories are unsuccessful, here are five common reasons we might reject a submission.

Word Counts

We work to set templates, and stories need to fit our word counts.

These are: 1000, 1200, 1500, 1800, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, and 4000 words, with Long Reads coming in at around 9,500 words.

We allow 10% either way on all word counts.

Reader Appeal

Whatever publication you’re writing for, write for your reader.

The best way to get to know our reader, and the type of fiction we publish, is to read the magazine regularly.

Look at not just the type of stories we use, but the letters page, the ads, the features. The language, and the tone.


Fiction should be feel-good – readers should feel better for having read the story.

“Friend” readers don’t want to feel depressed, saddened, or frightened.

Stories which reflect modern life are welcome, but no swearing, violence, or unpleasantness.

‘Cosy crime’ is popular – think ‘Poirot’, ‘Miss Marple’, ‘Inspector Morse’.

A story about a topic such as the environment is fine, but nothing contentious please – the focus should be on the characters, not the issue.


“Friend” characters should be credible, relatable and engaging.

Strong female characters with traditional values appeal.

Characters should have depth; we need to get to know them.


Perhaps the plotline wasn’t believable, felt too familiar,  or had a downbeat conclusion.

‘Grittier’ themes are fine, as long as they’re handled in a “Friend”-ly way, and feature a positive, uplifting ending.

Stories can also be rejected because they’ve already been published, weren’t typed, or were posted in – submissions should be emailed to your assigned editor.

For unpublished authors, it’s

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!