Saturday 12 August 2023

Why are stories rejected?

Lucy from The People's Friend has written a blog post about why stories may be rejected. (If you read it before 2.30 on Friday and were confused, you're not alone! I was too. As soon as I queried it with Lucy, the fiction editor, she replied to say she'd amend it to make things clearer.)

On Twitter (or whatever it's called now) TPF added, "Unpublished "Friend" authors receive automatic rejection responses. Published "Friend" authors always receive an email to confirm acceptance or rejection, on all submissions. Please never assume a story has been rejected, unless your assigned editor has confirmed."

Although Lucy's post was, of course, written with The Friend in mind, the information could be applied to any other publication. The word counts, tone, and everything else have to suit the publication, and submissions have to be made in accordance with the guidelines (see my submissions database for help with those). It's not enough to write a brilliant story – it must also be a good fit for that magazine. The best way to find out what the editor is looking for is to read a few current editions.

Don't forget that there are a lot of writers submitting to only a few magazines, and each magazine prints a limited number of stories – however many good ones they're sent.  

(The photo is a metaphor!)


Sheelagh said...

Thanks Patsy, I did indeed read Lucy's post before Fri but obviously not as closely as you did!

Marguerite said...

One to file away. I think I might make TPF my 2024 target. There has been so much good advice on this blog for it these past few weeks. Thank you, Patsy, and all those who have contributed about TPF in particular recently.

Susan Wright said...

I seldom get rejections from TPF.
It's not because they snap up my stories though. It's because they ignore me.
I hardly ever heard from Abbie when she was my assigned editor and now Lucy doesn't respond to my requests for an update.
It's so frustating.
I only have five submissions with them now as Lucy deleted nine of my ancient submissions from her files in May, having informed me of a new rule that said writers could only submit five stories at a time, but I'd really know what's going on with those five.
The oldest was submitted in October 2021, and was apparently sent on to Angela at some stage, but now she's left, so goodness knows what's happened to that one.
Looking on the bright side, I've managed to sell quite a few of those stories Lucy deleted elsewhere, but there's been no updates from Lucy since May.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for including the tweet. Just from Lucy's blog post I thought they weren't going to be sending any more rejections. If that was the case and they had a time period after which we knew stories wouldn't be used it might be better. I've got some which have been waiting two years for a reply and when I ask I just get told 'I'll read them soon'.

Annie Nonny

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Obviously you want your tone and style to match the magazine - and the editor who selects those stories.

Patsy said...

@ Sheelagh – I think maybe we just interpreted it differently.

@ Marguerite – Good luck.

@ Susan – The long waits for replies are very frustrating. I gave up on my stories which had been out for over two years and withdrew them. I didn't want to as they were written especially for The Friend, but I felt it was better than feeling they'd been swallowed by a black hole.

@ Annie – That's how I initially read Lucy's post. I emailed to ask how long we should wait before assuming a story was rejected and she explained that stories will still all either be rejected or accepted, it's just that those writers who don't yet have an assigned editor won't be given a reason for that rejection.

@ Alex – Absolutely!

Sharon boothroyd said...

Susan, no fiction ed has the right to delete your short stories from their database without your permission.
However, I have heard of this happening to another TPF published fiction writer so you are not alone in this situation.
It should be up to the writer to withdraw work, or the fiction ed should ask the writer (in a polite, professional manner) which stories they'd like to withdraw.
It seems a pretty ruthless way to carry on, to me.
I've had stories out at one mag (not TPF) since 2020 and 2021. As I haven't received a yay or a nay, I've been submitting them elsewhere.
I've sold one and some have been placed on a 'selected' list for a competition, and e- published. I've withdrawn these from the mag.
I understand that the market is overcrowded, and fiction eds are bombarded with submissions but I don't see why we should be forced to wait years for decisions on work.
If a story isn't suitable, then a reject could be sent out to us within a month.

Anonymous said...


Thank you Patsy for a very helpful post.

Susan Wright said...

To be fair, Lucy did ask me to choose which five stories I wanted to keep with her before she deleted all the others, Sharon, but there were only so many with her in the first place because I'd been sending one a month and never getting a response.

I totally understand that fiction editors are bombarded with submissions too, but all this waiting is so frustrating.

I've got stories from 2020 onwards out with other magazines as well and I do wish I'd hear about some of them because I could possibly sell them elsewhere as you have if the fiction editors don't want them.

Marian said...

Thank you, Patsy, for the advice. I find posts like Lucy's recent one are useful because they sum up what the magazine is looking for and then I try to keep them in the back of my mind when I set out to write a story, so that I don't get carried away and set off down a wrong path!

Sharon boothroyd said...

Oh ok Susan, I stand corrected!
It's good that Lucy did ask you which ones you wanted to keep at the mag. I think this 5 stories rule doesn't apply to all their fiction writers though,so you could argue whether that's fair.
But hey, it's their subbing rules and I guess we just have to learn to accept it if we want to continue to sub there.
I have sent mine elsewhere and they've found homes. Then I've withdrawn them because I refuse to wait 2 or 3 years for a decision.

Anonymous said...

It’s been good to read everybody’s comments and opinions on TPF recently. TPF is a market I’ve just never been able to break into. My longest rejection was eight days, the shortest thirty-nine minutes. I can understand how they’re unable to offer individual feedback on stories rejected because of time constraints, but it doesn’t really help writers if they don’t know what they’re doing wrong. But because of this blog, hopefully some of these problems have been addressed. Somebody mentioned in a recent post that TPF aren’t keen on twist in the tail stories. I wasn’t aware of this. But I am now, thankfully. Hopefully, 2024 will be the year that I get success with them.

Michael D

Sheelagh said...

@ Michael & yet my very first acceptance in 2022 was a gentle twist in the tail story as I too had never heard that they weren't keen on same -so it's not completely off bounds. If it would help at all to see it you could perhaps get my email from Patsy & I'd email to you

Carrie said...

Thanks for clearing that up with Lucy, Patsy, as it was a confusing post. I feel lucky that I've had a dozen or so acceptances with the Friend, and keep my fingers crossed for more. I do however agree with the wait for a yes or no answer as it doesn't seem at all fair to keep writers waiting for so long.

Sharon boothroyd said...

UPDATE I've just heard that, due to changes at the magazine, the future of fiction in the monthly Your Cat is uncertain.
The former ed doesn't know if fiction will feature or not, so if anyone has any stories earmarked for there, it'd be a good idea to sub them elsewhere now.
I've contacted the current ed, and they haven't replied to my enquiry. I was passed onto the former ed instead, who explained the situation.

Maisie Bishop said...

Thanks for the info about Your Cat @Sharon. I subbed a story to them a month or so ago, so won't hold out too much hope!

Patsy said...

@ Sharon – I totally agree that we shouldn't be waiting years for an answer.

@ Ally – Glad it's of interest.

@ Susan – I'm glad you got some say, but it still seems a bit unfair for an editor to hold onto stories for years before deciding not to read them. It's especially frustrating when we're told that stories of certain lengths and/or certain topics are in demand, so write them specially.

@ Marian – Getting carried away is so easy, isn't it?

Patsy said...

@ Michael – Not knowing why a story was rejected is frustrating, so it's great that Lucy has given some guidance on likely readings.

Re twist in the tail stories – TPF do publish some, but they're very different from twist endings in magazines such as Fiction Feast, where the twist is often the point of the story and they're almost a game where the writer tries to catch the reader out.

Helpful as the comments made on this blog are, it's also a good idea to read a few current copies of any magazine you hope to target. I suggest focussing on one at a time, so you get a real feel for what they want, and don't get the different styles mixed up in your mind.

@ Sheelagh – I've sold them a few too. I think the key, in this particular case, is to have a story which works without the twist, and it's an added bonus – and to be sure the reader will be pleased and not feel they were misled.

@ Carrie – I expect it was a case of Lucy knowing what she meant and not realising that what she'd written could be misinterpreted. That's so easy to do.

@ Sharon – That's a shame, but thanks for the information.

@ Maisie – Oh dear! I hope you can find another home for it if the magazine does discontinue fiction.

Sue McV said...

Just been reading all the comments about long response times etc. On that subject is anyone having any luck with getting a reply from April at Best of Woman's Weekly Fiction? I've tried a follow up email after sending a story a while ago but nothing has come back. Was thinking of writing another for them but don't think I will.

Sheelagh said...

@Sue I had a story accepted by April in mid-March but haven't heard anything since either despite sending a gentle query end of June

Marguerite said...

Sue, I have several I sent to April and now need to do the gentle email reminder. Absolutely nothing - some since March.

Sharon boothroyd said...

Sue, and anyone else who is interested- some writers have heard from April fairly recently (this month) and have had story sales.
Since she posted the updated requirement/ info on here, I bet that April has been overwhelmed with submitted work.
We were promised new official fiction guidelines for BOWW, but there hasn't been any posted on here, have they? Unless I've missed them!

Sheelagh said...

A good post from Lucy in TPF today - Ten Quick Tips for Submission Success. Very positive & informative.

Patsy said...

@ Sue – It's hard to get motivated to write new stories when the older ones haven't been read, isn't it?

@ Sharon – I've not seen any official guidelines for that magazine. I'll share them if/when I do.

@ Sheelagh – Yes, it's very helpful to know what editors are looking for.