Saturday, 19 March 2011

News from People's Friend

Shirley Blair, fiction editor of The People's Friend, emailed the following message for this blog. Thanks for visiting, Shirley, and thanks too for the offer of answering any questions. I'd suggest blog readers post questions for Shirley after this post. Great to hear there will be more PF fiction specials this year!


Hi, Womagwriter. I’ve been dropping in on your blog occasionally, I hope you don’t mind. We’ve made a lot of changes over the last year or so in how we deal with the fiction in The People’s Friend, and I thought that visiting your blog would give me an insight into if or how any of those changes might be affecting you and your followers. And of course, once I’d visited a couple of times I was hooked! What a lively bunch you are!

Something that was a concern from my point of view was the build-up of stories waiting for attention as we adjusted to the changes in our system, but I thought I might use this opportunity, if I may, to assure any writers who were put off by that that we’ve made massive inroads to that backlog and are now looking at turning stories around in 12 to 16 weeks.
I can also tell you that we’re producing more specials than ever this year, including four that are exclusively fiction. The Spring and Summer Fiction Specials for 2011 are well in hand, but that leaves Autumn and Winter Fiction 2011, plus our usual Summer and Holiday Specials. And then it’ll all begin again next year! So, any writers who had given up trying, were put off trying, or had never thought of trying writing for us — now’s your chance! We have excellent guidelines that anyone can have by emailing a request to peoplesfriend@dcthomson.co.uk

Thanks for allowing me to make this visit. Oh, and if anyone has any questions, post them on the blog and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Thanks again for your time.
Shirley E. Blair
Commissioning Fiction Editor, The People’s Friend.

38 comments:

Gail Crane said...

As a writer who has sometimes waited for ages for a decision I was really pleased to hear about faster response times and especially about the extra fiction specials. Great news.
I'd love to take up Shirley's invitation to visit her blog - but I can't see a link anywhere.
Does anyone know the address?

womagwriter said...

Hi Gail - I think Shirley means this blog. Post your questions here.

Kath said...

Thanks Womag.

Hi, Shirley, and thanks for taking the time to do this. I submitted a Christmas story last June but have never heard anything. I hung on because I did hear of people getting acceptances after several months. Do you think I should now assume it never reached you and perhaps send it in again?

Patsy said...

Good to hear about the increase ion specials and that lots of fiction will be needed to fill these.

Diane Fordham said...

That is great news. Thanks for sharing. Happy and successful writing everyone....

Suzanne Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Jones said...

Thank you for sharing this news, Shirley, and thank you, womag, for posting. Fantastic news about the additional fiction specials.

Evelyn said...

Hi Shirley,

thanks for this, it's really helpful and encouraging. Can you tell us if the guidelines have changed at all, please? The guidelines say 1,000 to 4,000 words usually, but is there a preferred length please, ie one that is most convenient for you to accommodate? Do you ever go over the 4,000? I have a 6.5 K story, which is a bit on the long side.

I'd also like to say thanks; the email notification re forthcoming publication worked for me, giving plenty of notice fo I could tell mum, Mum-in-Law, friend etc etc. ;)

x L

Elaine Everest said...

Hi Shirley, firstly I'd like to say thank you for publishing one of the stories from the 'Diamonds and Pearls' anthology. The contributors are working hard to promote the book at present and to see it mentioned in the People's Friend is very exciting.

My question is, do you think that you will ever accept email submissions as does your sister publications, My Weekly and The Weekly News?

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for this great update on People's Friend.

Gail Crane said...

Thanks Womag. Obviously brain not functioning!

Anonymous said...

I am in the same position as Kath (above) - submitted a Christmas story almost a year ago, but have heard nothing since.

Karen said...

Great post, thanks Shirley and Womag :o)

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to know if you'll start accepting submissions via email. It's safer, quicker and easier, and in this day and age it seems daft to still use snail mail!

Evelyn said...

Re email submissions, I too would welcome that because the postage is expensive, both there and back, especially for longer stories. If the postage goes up between submission and rejection, you have to pay to get it back - which is horrible. And what happens to all the unused stamps on return envelopes for acceptances? But I distrust email submissions and like it when there's an automatic acknowledgement by return. That takes the burden from the editor acknowledgeing receipt and reassures the author that it has got there.

I have another question for Shirley. I notice that you use a lot of stock photos to accompany the poetry. I'm a keen photographer and wonder if you accept photographic submissions with poems, for example. Or a selection of photographs for use with other people's poetry.

Shirley Blair said...

Hi, Kath and Anonymous. I confess that I have a pile of Christmas stories that have been for waitng for my attention, but because of the more pressing demand for material for the post-Christmas weekly and other seasonal specials I've been pushing them back. Apologies, and I'll do my best to clear this one remaining area of backlog.
Hi, Evelyn. Our guidelines are largely the same as they ever were, and I do still look for stories of up to 4000 words for the specials. However, due to pressure of space in the weekly my preferred length for that is 3000. 6500? Hmm, tricky! Do you need absolutely all of those words? Would it cut? If you could trim it by 1000 we'd be prepared to take a look for a special. Or, alternatively, could it extend to 10,000 to become a two-part serial? We do feature them in the weekly from time to time. You'd have to put a dramatic "curtain" in the middle to bring the reader back next week, though. See? Lots of options!
Elaine, Evelyn and Anonymous, you're asking about emailing submissions, and actually I think about this all the time. But when a story comes in to the Fiction Team, any one of the four of us might read it, write a comment on the envelope, and pass it around for a second opinion. Then it'll come to me, and seeing a pile of envelopes with dates received, and themes and comments marked on them, enables me to have a clear picture of the comings and goings that I don't think I would achieve with electronic files. I know My Weekly and Weekly News manage it, but we do handle far more material than they do, and there's four of us doing it rather than their one. So please bear with us. I know it's costly, which is why I'm happy for you to forget the sae and having your story returned if you're happy for us to email you the verdict. Just tell us so!
Finally, Evelyn, your question about photographs - we subscribe to an agency that supplies them, so I think the answer is no. But I'll check that with the poetry editor.
Thanks for all your interest!

womagwriter said...

Shirley, thank you so much for those answers! Very much appreciated.

suzy doodling said...

Thanks Shirley for this information. I'm studying the stories published in detail to see where I'm going wrong with mine. The idea of leaving out the sae, and enclosing email address for the verdict sounds better. Thanks womag for sharing this.

Evelyn said...

Thank you Shirley, that's really very helpful.

Kath said...

Thank you very much for that, Shirley.

I tend to forget about the option of having the verdict emailled rather than the story sent back, but will definitely request that next time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Shirley. I do appreciate your taking the time to answer questions here, I didn't know what to do about that Christmas story. I am also encouraged to start submitting again as I hadn't sent in anything in for quite some time.

Thanks Womagwriter too, for providing this helpful platform for magazine related information.

Shirley Blair said...

I'll just add one PS for Annonymous -- never hesitate about querying a story if it seems to be taking an unreasonable length of time and you're worried about where it's got to. It's all part of my job!

Geraldine Ryan said...

What a lovely, accommodating editor!

Karen said...

I didn't know about opting to have the verdict emailed either, so thanks for that information :o)

kayseeley said...

Great news about the additional Fiction Specials and the e-mail option for outcomes. This will save time and postage. Many thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi Shirley,
Many thanks for the info about verdict by email!
My question is - I know your standard rate of pay is £75 - is this whatever the length of story? I've also heard that authors you publish more frequently are 'promoted' to a higher rate of pay - could you confirm if this is correct?

Many thanks,

Sue

Shirley Blair said...

Hi, Anonymous. I replied to this last night but it's not appeared yet, so it's either lost or you'll eventually get this answer twice!
Yes, it's £75 whether your story is 1000 or 4000 words. And while we used to operate an escalating scale with the number of acceptances, that's been suspended now, I'm afraid. I hope it won't put you off trying writing for us!
Thanks for your interest.
Shirley

womagwriter said...

Thanks Shirley - I wasn't aware of the changes to pay rates at PF, so that's good to know (if a bit disappointing).

One more question about story lengths - 1000-4000 words is quite a wide range. Do you have preferred lengths within that range, for stories to fit on one page, two pages, three pages etc, or is any length between those boundaries equally likely to be accepted?

Shirley Blair said...

Hi, Womagwriter. 1000-word stories fit on a page. Anything between that and 3000 gets spread over several pages to balance filler features and advertising in the weekly. We don't work to templates of two or three pages like the other mags. The optimum length for us is probably 2500; that's what we use most of, and it's really satisfying when a writer steps up to the challenge of providing a truly emotionally rewarding story in that number of words.
4000-worders are really destined for our specials where we have the luxury of a bit more available space.
Shirley

Lydia said...

Shirley Blair - you're a star! x

leatrix said...

Wow, what an amazing coup to read some wonderful tips from Shirley Blair regarding short story submissions.

This has inspired me to get on with the work of creating an uplifting and imaginative piece of fiction for People's Friend Magazine.

Many thanks from a grateful writer to be!

Margaret Heard said...

Hi, I'm really quite keen to submit some of my short stories to People's Friend but I not sure what information I should include in my covering letter to the editor. Any advice would be gratefully received.

Margaret Heard.

womagwriter said...

Hi Margaret
The covering letter just needs to include your full contact details. You might want to mention if you've been published before as well. Not everyone bothers with a covering letter - they just put contact details on the cover sheet. Good luck with your submissions!

Margaret Heard said...

Many thanks for responding to my query about covering letters when submitting short stories. Much appreciated.
Margaret

AnnaCu said...

I recently had a 'we suggest you read some copies of our magazine' rejection from PF - Ouch! I really felt I had targeted the magazine specifically. The story's central theme was traditional, family values, and the two main characters were a mature mother and grown up daughter.

I wondered if it was because the setting for the first 800 words was the daughter's workplace - could that be an inappropriate setting for a PF story?

Thanks! Anna

Anonymous said...

As a novice writer of the tradional type story, the PF would seem an obvious choice. However, it would seem that most of their stories are submitted by women and therefore, I would ask the question if they accept stories penned by us males?

womagwriter said...

Hi Anon

Yes, they accept stories written by men. Some men use a female pseudonym, others write under their own names.

It's the quality and suitability of the story that counts, not the age or gender of the writer!

womagwriter said...

Hi Anon

Yes, they accept stories written by men. Some men use a female pseudonym, others write under their own names.

It's the quality and suitability of the story that counts, not the age or gender of the writer!