Swoon Reads

The best way to explain Swoon Reads is as a public querying platform where readers influence agents on what to publish. The agents behind of this site are from MacMillan Publishing.

Swoon Reads publishes under Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan.

https://www.swoonreads.com/about/

Writers: The platform was initially for YA Manuscripts only but now also accepts NA. The MS must be the writers original work and posted as an exclusive query to Swoon Reads for at least 6 months. One uploaded, it cannot be edited – that would be a new submission.

Readers: Site members read Manuscripts that appeal to them. They can comment to give the writer feedback with ideas for improvement or how much they loved it! Readers rate stories.

My History

Back in January 2014, I uploaded a copy of Drift to Swoon Reads. Drift was first drafted in Dec 2009, so I’d spent about 3 years working on it and thought it was ready to be queried.

The idea of readers choosing my book really appealed. At first, I got lots of positive ratings and excitedly awaited an agent to notice… and, I waited… and, I waited… and, after 6 months I returned to the traditional query trenches.

As you know, Drift has changed a lot in the last 10 years.

  • Was 24 chapters, then 36 chapters, now 30 chapters
  • Prologue cut
  • Merged with book 2
  • Changed character names
  • Given Ana (formerly Annie) a bigger role
  • Added a full mermaid shift
  • Added an epic battle
  • Changed the ending
  • Professional edit (twice) plus the countless self edits
  • Renamed as Ocean Heart

I uploaded Drift to Swoon Reads in January 2013. I got quite a few votes which moved my book into the top three most voted at the time. I thought this was pretty impressive as I didn’t have a huge social circle and my social media was limited to who I knew in real life, and I was too shy to tell them to go read my novel.

Despite the attention I got from readers, the agents never showed any interest. I don’t even know if they read it. But, the books they chose were always well deserving brilliant stories.

Moving on

After 6 months, you are free to leave your book on their site in hopes an agent will stumble across it and fall in love. I saw no harm in doing this.

I then queried and pitched other literary agents and publishers. I entered competitions. I did everything I could think to get my MS in their hands. Until, I realised, I could self publish.

This year, I’ve been working hard towards self publishing and in August, I got a strange message on Tumblr. They claimed to be a publisher that had seen ‘Drift’ on Swoon Reads and were interested.

Hmm…

One reason to Self Publish is there are lots of con artists about. Most reputable agents or publishers are so busy with manuscripts sent directly to them that they are not crawling the web looking for authors. They certainly wouldn’t use another publishers platform to poach authors.

I ignore them but it did remind me that my book is on Swoon Reads. I began to panic about their rules and if it’d affect my self publishing- eek.

They are a publisher that have built a good reputation for themselves so I hoped when I explained the situation they’d take my book down quickly. I explained:

  • Drift was uploaded in 2013
  • I’m self publishing but…
  • It has been edited a lot (characters names and plot changes)
  • Has a new title – Ocean Heart
  • Has a new cover

It was anxious for their reply. When I heard nothing I logged on and found it was gone. I’m no longer an author on Swoon Reads.

Comments

Readers can make comments on stories to encourage you or help the writer develop. Swoon Reads does warn writers to save these before taking an MS down otherwise they’ll be lost. I took screenshots. Here they are:

There will be, but book 2 is from Kiely’s perspective and much darker.

Tarot has done a great job of summarising Mariah (aka Lily) first love. Yes, I’m going to indulge you in a whole series based in the world of shifters.

Thanks Mike – met on WeBook a writing platform that no longer exists but where Drift was first posted online!

Mike, it’s evolved more! It’s got even better! No longer a twinge of magic, there’s even an epic battle.

I love comments like this. 💛

Yay! Thank you x

You’ll be pleased to know that prologue is long gone. Lol 😂

Thank you so much Debbie, I’m glad you loved my twist on magic.

Wow! This makes me want to happy dance.

Hopefully you won’t have to wait much longer as I’m working on Sky Heart (book 2) for 2021.

Thanks Anni. I’m working hard to make sure book 2 is just as awesome.

Do I recommend Swoon Reads?

Yeah. It’s been a positive experience for me. I didn’t get published but I did get useful feedback and encouragement from readers.

Ocean Heart

Drift has evolved and transformed into Ocean Heart. The comments above are by readers of the 2013 version.

These comments make me so happy. Whenever I get nervous about putting Ocean Heart out into the big bad world, these readers sweet words make me feel braver.

Soul Heart Readers

I’ve created a Facebook group for my Street Team, basically my first fans.

They’ll be first to hear how Ocean Heart is coming along, be offered ARCs and to be part of my virtual book tour, plus more…

If this is something you’d like to be part of, come join us in the Soul Heart Readers Facebook Group.

Redfae Bookshop is my Affiliate Bookshop.org shop link.

[kofi]

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Felixstowe Book Festival – The Publishing Industry

This event was hosted by Phoebe Morgan who promised to share her advice on how to get published, attract an agent and attract an editor. It was held at the Sailing Club with stunning views of Felixstowe Ferry.

Introductions

Phoebe Morgan is the best selling author of The Doll House and works at Orion as an Editorial Director. She explained a little about the books she works on (crime, thrillers, women’s fiction and saga). She had created a presentation especially for us.

Before she started, Phoebe went around the room and got each of us to introduce ourselves and what we are writing and hoping to get out of the talk. There was something very endearing about Phoebe. People instantly warmed to her and wanted her to know about their writing. I think it is the way she appreciated and valued every writer in the room.

I shared that I have just finished editing Jewel of the Sea and sent it out to Beta Readers.  I explained that I have queried a lot, been rejected a lot and then edited again and have lost count of the cycle.  I confessed that I am now considering self publishing and believe my query letter and synopsis is not having the right effect on agents.

First Impressions

Phoebe’s talk began talking about bestsellers and popular genres and why these books are doing well. She emphasised why it is so important for writers to know what is trending when they are querying because this links to how it will be pitched to editors and publishing houses.

Phoebe had put together examples of pitches to illustrate how important it is to quickly get agents up to speed on what your novel is about in just one sentence.

Example: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins – Woman sees inciting incident through her train window.

Phoebe told us what genres are trending right now. However, it is best to write the novel you want as these are constantly changing. She talked about why genre fiction is popular and why it is important for us to identify the genre where our novel will be placed. This helps the publishers identify where to market, package, design and price it. She pointed out how we need to be passionate enough about our books to promote it for two years!

Phoebe had collected examples of the first line of successful books and discussed how these sentences grip the reader right from the start. She pointed out how agents are often very busy and if they are not pulled in from the start, they will move on to the next. She pointed out how in a shop, a reader may pick up a book and look at that first line to decide whether to buy it or not.

Example: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins – There is a pile of clothing on the train tracks.

Then, she got us to share the first line of our books and discussed their strengths. She also suggested that some writers should consider starting further into the story where the action starts.

Novel Writing

She went on to talk about how to use suspense and pacing in our novels giving us tips on how to use these to make our novels a page turner. For examples, shorter sentences and chapters can speed up action but you can do the opposite for when you need to pull the reader in for more detail – there needs to be a balance between the two.

Ending a chapter on a cliff hanger can leave a reader needing to read the next chapter, to do this successful you need the reader to care about the character and be worried about them or the invested in the outcome. It helps to make the characters life full of obstacles – if it is too easy, it is boring. Obstacles create conflict.

Phoebe briefly covered different ways to structure your novel and why this is important.

Characters are incredibly important in your novel so Phoebe had collected a few tips to help us. In my notes I jotted down:

  • Not too many – you only need three to five main characters.  If you have more then you can lose the reader as they won’t be able to connect with them.  If you have too many, see if two characters can be merged together to fulfil one role.
  • Zoom in technique – Imagine a lens and zoom in and think of little things that makes the character who they are.
  • Back stories – Make sure you know your characters back stories, even if this doesn’t come into the story it will influence who they are and make them more vivid when you write.
  • Motivations – Understand what drives your characters.  What are their goals and what they want to achieve, etc.
  • Likeable?  – It is not necessary for the reader to like your main character whoever readers do need at least one character they can emphasise with.  

Phoebe then got us to think about one of the characters in our novel and write for five minutes about their backstory.  I chose Luna who is a secondary character but her back story and actions are the catalyst for the entire series.  She is a character I need to know inside and out.  I may one day write a short story about her. 

Roles

She then told us about the steps to getting published. There were twelve steps! I’ve always been focused on ‘getting an agent’ that I have not thought much more about ‘what next’. It turns out there is a lot that happens after you get an agent, and a lot that happens after you an editor and after all that, when you finally get an offer from a publisher, you can say no.

Phoebe went into more detail about what an agent does and how to pitch one. I felt like I knew a lot of this as it is something I’ve done a lot of. Phoebe was able to recommend some good agents and resources like The Writer’s and Artists’ Yearbook.

She then told us what editors look for. It was very insightful to hear this as the agent will be looking for these things in your query. The agent will be trying to figure out whether they can pitch your novel to editors. Here are the main things editors want:

  • A strong, clear, one-sentence hook
  • A good sense of voice – character needs to feel new and unique
  • Fill a spot on their list – keep an eye out for out for wish lists
  • Pleasure to work with – they will check out social media to see if you take writing seriously but this is not a deal breaker.
  • A clear vision – they need to believe in the book and be able to see it doing well.

She ended by warning us that rejection is something almost every published author has experienced. She gave us tips on how to deal with and was very encouraging that a rejection doesn’t mean give up.

Summary

She finished by giving us a list of resources for further information and how to contact her if we have further questions. She also took our emails so she could send us a copy of her presentation.

Phoebe was so lovely, approachable and genuinely wanted to help everyone in the room. Writers who get to work with her are truly blessed.

I did have a damsel in distress moment in the car park where a knight in shinning armour came to my rescue. More about this in my next Felixstowe Book Festival post.

I hope you have found this useful. If you want to connect with Phoebe, you can find her:

Twitter: @Phoebe_A_Morgan

Facebook: @PhoebeMorganAuthor

Instagram: @phoebeannmorgan

And don’t forget you can buy her debut novel The Doll House, or The Girl Next Door.

Learn more about Phoebe Morgan on her website.

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Felixstowe Book Festival – Containment

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Ally plus text

Felixstowe Book Festival! I’m going – are you?

What is Felixstowe Book Festival?

Usually the event is split between two venues (Felixstowe Library and The Orwell Hotel).  Although, these two venues will host most of the events, new venues have been added.  All across town, their are workshops and author talks for anyone introduced in books and writing.  Each event, isn’t that expensive, from free to about £10 – you did need to buy tickets.

I’m going – are you?

So, I’ve been most years to the festival since it started 6 years ago and look forward to going every year.  Each year, the festival gets bigger and better.  I tried to make a spreadsheet of what events are on and where and IT’S MASSIVE!

As of 31st March 2018, the tickets for Felixstowe Book Festival became available to the public to buy.

Highlights from last year:

Alwyn Hamilton at Felixstowe Book Festival 

Alwyn gave some great insight into the traditional publishing route for writers.  She talked about what went into naming her novel, the movie right and so much more.  She was an engaging and likable author who spoke enthusiastically promoting her book.

What you need to know about Children’s Picture Book Publishing

Simon and Dan were like a tag team delivering their well prepared talk.  They shared so much on what goes into publishing a picture book and had prepared a presentation for all the participants (a copy I still have).  This was a great talk for illustrators and writers alike.  These guys had a wealth of knowledge and the time flew by.  We all would have happily spent the day with them absorbing all the information they had to offer.

What’s on offer this year?

Check the programme on the Felixstowe Book Festival website and book tickets.

Here is my attempt of trying to put the activities into a spreadsheet (many of the events fall under more than one category):

  • Green – workshops
  • Purple – fiction talks
  • Brown – history/non-fiction
  • Red – crime fiction/non-fiction
  • Pink – poetry
  • Blue – other events

Felixstowe Book Festival programme

Wednesday, 27 June 2018/Thursday, 28 June 2018/Friday, 29 June 2018

Felixtsowe Book Festival - Weds Thus Fri

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Felixstowe Book Festival - Sat

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Felixstowe Book Festival - Sun