I really don’t remember how I found out about the Swoon Reads YA novel contest – I think perhaps on Twitter. I’d only just started tweeting on a regular basis – it had been an occasional thing before – and trying to get my follower count up, and I came across a tweet about the contest.
It’s a revolving contest – Swoon is an imprint of MacMillan Publishing that targets YA fiction, and the contest is set up as sort of a crowd-sourced slush pile. You submit your manuscript, complete with cover art (or you can select a generic cover from their collection) and then you wait.
You have to agree to let them have your book (and agree to not publish it elsewhere) for six months. During that time, they put it up on their website for free reading via their online reader (it can’t be downloaded, but the reader is very user-friendly and can even be used offline) and their readers give feedback and reviews. At the end of six months, the editors pick the books they deem worthy of a contract, and make an offer.
It sounded great, but…six months! Six months.
That seemed an enormous amount of time to me. Then I reminded myself that it had been nine months since I sat down face-to-face with editors at the New York pitch, and it got me nowhere.
I really had nothing to lose but time, and I’d lost so much of that already, it wasn’t even a commodity anymore.
I emailed my cover artist (who has always done amazing work for me) and she put together a slamming cover that sold the book all by itself. I double and triple checked my manuscript for errors, and then I submitted it and crossed my fingers.
The reviews were all good – but there weren’t a huge amount of them. I was actually kind of disheartened because there were books on the site that had dozens of new reviews on a daily basis. I was nobody, and not getting much attention.
Or so I thought. It turns out that someone had noticed, and more importantly, read. And it was an important someone.