8 Lessons Learned From Subbing to Swoon Reads

 This is a reposting of an article I wrote for the YA Buccaneers, a blog run by a group of wonderful YA authors — one that has since dropped anchor because those authors have become all sorts of busy with authorly things. Since the Buccaneers are no more, I wanted to save this material and keep it available, as I think it’s helpful to those who are considering submitting their manuscripts to Swoon Reads (my publisher). I’m reposting as is, with only a few supplemental additions, which I’ve marked with asterisks.

First, some background information on Swoon Reads, borrowed from the Swoon Reads “FAQ” page:

“Swoon Reads publishes young adult and new adult romance novels. Writers can submit their original, unpublished manuscript to the Swoon Reads website, and readers who sign up can rate and comment on manuscripts to help us [editors] choose which titles we want to publish. Swoon Reads is an imprint of Macmillan publishing under Feiwel & Friends and was founded by Jean Feiwel.”

I submitted my contemporary YA romance, Kissing Max Holden, to Swoon Reads in early October (*2015). Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

1. Submit for the right reasons.

I spent months exploring Swoon Reads and thinking about whether I wanted to upload my swooniest manuscript, Kissing Max Holden, to the site. Factors that led me to believe Swoon Reads is an opportunity worth pursuing:

  • The untraditional path to publication Swoon Reads offers is very cool. They get readers involved and consider their opinions when deciding whether to acquire stories. (*Though, Swoon Reads is not a popularity contest. The Swoon Team is looking for quality manuscripts that fit in among their list. While ratings and comments are important, they aren’t all that matters.)
  • Swoon Reads members leave reflective comments on submitted manuscripts, Swoon Reads authors, editors, and publicists blog about the writing and publication processes, and readers share the stories they love via social media. All of this fosters a community that is helpful, warm, and enthusiastic. (*I continue to experience this sense of encouraging community, more than eighteen months after selling Kissing Max Holden!)
  • I’ve read a few Swoon Reads stories and they’re wonderful. Unique concepts, lovely prose, compelling relationships, and characters who leap off the page. The quality is extraordinary.
  • I truly believe my story is a great fit for Swoon Reads. I’m a romance girl through and through (Kissing Max Holden is proof!), and I’m all for an imprint that celebrates swoon.

2. Submitting to Swoon Reads is fairly simple.

You’ll need an original YA or NA manuscript of at least 45,000 words, formatted to the Swoon Reads specifications. Swoon Reads focuses on romance of all sorts, so bring on the swoon no matter what genre you write. (*Now, Swoon Reads focuses on all YA, whether it includes romance or not! If you write fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, etc, keep Swoon Reads in mind.)

3. Entice Swoon Reads members/potential readers with an appealing cover.

It’s okay to use the default cover provided by Swoon Reads, but I recommend creating a cover image that captures the tone of your story. I made Kissing Max Holden’s cover using a free stock image and the photo editing site Pic Monkey.

Cover(*This homemade cover will always hold a special place in my heart, but I love the final cover designed by Swoon Reads so much more!)

4. It’s important to nail down your manuscript’s genre.

Swoon Reads categorizes stories so it’s easy for readers to find what they’re interested in. Once you’ve chosen a genre (contemporary, adventure, historical, paranormal, etc.) you can get even more specific. For example, under the “Contemporary” heading, you’ll find these subtopics: Beach/Summer, Holiday, School, Family, Issue, Friendship, Mystery.

5. Snag readers with irresistible story descriptions.

If you submit to Swoon Reads, you’ll need a short pitch, as well as longer query-like summary. For me, this was the hardest part of the submission process! I tend to be wordy, and it was a challenge to pare my pitch and summary down while ensuring they grabbed the attention of potential readers.

6. Promote, promote, promote.

Swoon Reads is all about reader feedback, which means you’ve got to attract, you know, readers. After I submitted Kissing Max Holden, I had to get brave and spread the word. (Why is it SO scary to share our work with the world?!) Here’s what’s worked for me in the way of promotion:

  • I’ve posted my story’s cover on all of my social media platforms, and I’ve shared about how Swoon Reads works, which has people excited. Even those who don’t normally read YA romance seem to be eager to be part of the publishing process; lots of my family members and friends have created Swoon Reads accounts because they want to help give writers a shot at a book deal.
  • I’ve created graphics with Kissing Max Holden teasers to post on Instagram and Twitter and, since my story’s main character is an aspiring pastry chef, I’ve shared photos of my own baked goods along with the story’s link.
  • I’ve talked about the Swoon Reads process on my blog, and I’ve shared the story’s first chapter with an accompanying link, so those who’d like to read more can.
  • For me, the biggest help in spreading the word about Kissing Max Holden has been the people who’ve read and enjoyed the story. I feel so lucky to have had readers and fellow writers recommend Kissing Max Holden to their friends and followers via social media.

7. Engaging with readers can be fun.

I think we’ve all heard some version of this very important publishing advice: Don’t respond to reviews! Except at Swoon Reads, writers are encouraged to reply to the comments left on their stories. This, at first, made me very nervous. (What if someone hated my story and listed all the reasons why they thought it was terrible? I’d have to come up with a gracious response while simultaneously sobbing and eating a gallon of ice cream.) But here’s the thing: Swoon Reads members are awesome, and they love stories, and they want to help writers improve. Have all the comments my story’s received been glowing accolades? Not exactly. But every single one has been thoughtful and kind and enthusiastic, and it’s a pleasure to respond with my heartfelt thanks.

8. Enjoy the process.

There’s no guarantee that any one book submitted to Swoon Reads will be published by the imprint. Kissing Max Holden might catch the team’s collective eye, or it could be passed over. No matter the outcome, I’m so glad I posted my story on the site. I’ve fallen in love with its characters all over again, I’ve interacted with some incredible readers, and I’ve learned so much. So far, the experience has been amazing. (*My experience continues to be amazing. I’m so proud to be a Swoon Reads author!)

Upperman - Kissing Max Holden HI RES

Preorder Kissing Max Holden from…

Amazon

Indie Bound
Barnes & Noble
BAM!
Target
Powell’s


Kissing Max Holden on Goodreads
Kissing Max Holden at Swoon Reads

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