Monday, 27 April 2015

An Editor Can't Publish What You Don't Submit

Following on from last week’s post about gender submissions (where a publication only publishes material written by one gender because they only receive submissions from that gender), here’s another interesting observation from Shirley Blair, Fiction Editor at The People’s Friend.

In her post of 24th April 2015, called Find the Gap ( Shirley discusses some of the questions she was asked at a recent fiction writing workshop:

“Why don’t you include ‘techno’ stories?” someone asked. “Doesn’t the Friend like stories about mobile phones, etc?”

The question allowed me to make the point that we can only publish what you writers send me!

It’s one of those vicious circles. There haven’t been any stories about, say, mobile phones or Facebook in the Friend lately because it happens that writers haven’t written us any. So, when a new writer looks at our pages to see what subjects we prefer, they think, Oh, they never feature stories about mobile phones… They must not like them.

And that’s how we end up seeing an ever-decreasing selection of tried and tested storylines and themes coming in.

So, as well as studying the magazine to assess the style and tone that we do prefer in our short stories, sometimes it’s worth thinking about what you don’t see, too; find that gap and yours might be the very story I need to fill it.

It’s a point worth bearing in mind, whether you write fiction or non-fiction. Just because you don’t see a certain topic being discussed, it doesn’t necessarily mean the magazine isn’t interested in it. As Shirley says, if people don’t submit material on that subject she can’t publish it! 

Of course, the topic still needs to be relevant to the magazine’s readership. And in this example, it is. Many of The People’s Friend’s readership use mobile phones. In fact, occasionally you’ll see adverts in the magazine for an easy-to-use mobile phone. So, as Shirley says, analysing a publication for it’s style and readership is important, but don’t be put off writing about a topic because you don’t see it mentioned in the magazine. It could be that no-one’s submitted anything on that subject before.

Good luck.

PS - Just bear in mind that after this recent post, Shirley will probably be deluged with mobile phone and Facebook stories!


  1. It's a tricky balance, isn't it? We have to send stuff that's a bit like the stories they've used, or ours won't fit, but we can't send anything too much like stories they've used - because they don't want to keep publishing the same thing.

    1. Isn't it just, Patsy? I always smile when people ask agents what they want to see, and they often turn round and say, "I don't know, but I shall when I see it!"