Swoon Reads makes connections.
Created by Jean Feiwel, Swoon Reads is a revolutionary vision of a reader-centric community in which it is possible for teens, writers, and publishers to connect in a meaningful way and where everyone has the opportunity to improve through the process. Removing barriers in the traditional publishing process means readers can now search out new books, vote on covers, and help select author tour stops, all while opening the door to honest, immediate feedback for the writer.
Rather than repeat information easily accessible on the publisher's user-friendly site (https://www.swoonreads.com/), I took advantage of an opportunity to obtain a little "insider" information. The responses given by Senior VP and Publisher Jean Feiwel, Director Lauren Scobell, and debut author Kristen Orlando to the questions I posed about life, Swoon Reads, and career tips, will inspire readers of all ages to join the fun.
JEAN FEIWEL, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND PUBLISHER
SH: When you were in middle school or high school, what did you think your future would be like? If you were talking to a teen about their future, what would you most want them to know?
JF: I didn't think about the future much--I spent time in gymnastics, playing guitar, with friends, living in the moment. My parents were from Vienna. Mom was a third-grade teacher in a public school and Dad owned a textile firm. They were art collectors, cultured people and they were Holocaust survivors. I have an older sister and younger brother; our childhood was privileged. My advice: enjoy being a child, find something you enjoy and explore it.
SH: How did you pick your school and major? Did you graduate with a degree in your originally chosen major?
JF: I started at the very new (at the time) Kirkland College in upstate New York for one year. Then, I went to California for a gap year before moving on to Sarah Lawrence College, where they were offering the first Women's History program. I did very well once I was at Sarah Lawrence. I was focused and stimulated. In the end, greater self-confidence was probably the best sort of education I received.
SH: What do you think was most helpful (person, place, time, or thing) to you in achieving both your personal and professional goals?
JF: Sarah Lawrence. I finally felt in control of my life. All the classes, friends, and autonomy; finding my own point of view and philosophy; it was a turning point.
SH: What's the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it? What's the best part of your current job, and what's the hardest part?
JF: I adore working. In my worst job, I did not mesh well with the boss, but you can learn something from any situation. Sometimes you have to figure out you can't fix the problem or wait for it to change, that you may have to take action on your own.
SH: What does your typical work day (or week) look like?
JF: I'm energized by changing tasks, so my day switches between individual meetings and group meetings mostly at my desk, while editorial work and reading happen at home. At the office, it's being available to the people who work for me, managing and motivating staff, acquisitions strategy, looking for trends in publishing.
SH: When was the first time you felt like you were on the right path? How do you deal with doubts, or have you generally been confident you're doing what you were meant to do?
JF: It was the creative work on The Baby-Sitters Club series that gave me lasting impact, a strong sense of confidence. I have been fired, which didn't feel good, but it's good growth--you learn from the mistakes as much as the successes.
SH: What was your favorite childhood book? What do you like to read, watch, and listen to now? Do you have a go-to suggestion book for when someone asks for career or life advice?
JF: Charlotte's Web by E. B. White was my childhood favorite. His sensitivity to animals and kids, deep friendship issues meant a lot to me. Now, it's mostly nonfiction--biographies, memoirs. I'm not big into TV, but will binge watch shows (The Best British Bake-off) and I am a Ryan Gosling fan. I have no real go-to suggestion for career/life advice, although maybe I'd suggest Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point.
SH: Do you have any talents or hobbies to reveal--something that might surprise even your closest friends?
JF: I was on my junior high and high school gymnastics team growing up and was captain the last two years. I like to dance for fun. I'm a Zumba fan.
SH: If you were asked to design a bumper sticker with a motivational phrase, what would it look like and what would it say?
JF: "Leap and the net will appear" in black and white, written in a simple font.
SH: When you need to find a little stress relief, what brings you joy?
JF: Stella, my Bullmastiff, is 150-pounds of pure stress relief. She's our current dog, but we've pretty much always had [big] rescue dogs.
SH: What are you most proud of accomplishing so far?
JF: First would be my daughter. She is my heart. She always has my back and will always give honest feedback.
SH: Do you participate in the reading community that selects the Swoon Reads books? Would you ever participate as a writer?
JF: Yes, I enjoy being a reader. I like being part of the process, but I don't have any desire to write.
SH: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about the publishing industry?
JF: That kids' books are easier to write because they're shorter. Children's books still don't get the respect in the industry that they deserve. People have stopped asking but they used to want to know when I would edit adult books because, clearly, that would be the path that a successful editor would want to pursue.
SH: Tell me a little about your experience creating Swoon Reads.
JF: Swoon Reads took a lot of hard work, hiring the right people, and a little bit of fairy dust. It's an incredibly satisfying experience to have an idea and see it not just happen, but succeed. There were challenges but with the support at Macmillan, the people involved in all aspects, and how hard everyone has worked because they believe in what we're doing, we are celebrating three years in publishing.
LAUREN SCOBELL, DIRECTOR OF SWOON READS
SH: What's the best part of working for an unconventional publisher? What's the most challenging aspect?
LS: The best part is seeing the fantastic books that are submitted to the site and seeing which ones readers respond to. It's fascinating to see different trends come and go. We've f seen seasons with a lot of spy novels, and others that lean more contemporary. It's always a surprise, and sometimes super-specific (fake relationships are always popular!). Letting readers have a say shakes things up a bit, and we're finding books we wouldn't necessarily find through a traditional publishing model.
The most challenging part is that we really connect with the writers on site and we can't publish them all. When you see a book that just isn't publishable yet, you really wish you could just pick up the phone and say, "Fix this and resubmit!" We've written many blog posts with editorial advice based on books we've read that just need a little more editing. It's always great to see writers continue to submit new manuscripts or edit and re-submit if we haven't chosen their first novel for publication (and many times, we've selected later books they've shared with us). Making that phone call to tell them we'd like to publish their book is always the best part.
SH: Have you been with Swoon Reads for a long time? Have you always had the same job in (or outside) this company?
LS: I started with Swoon Reads just before our first book, A Little Something Different, went on sale in August of 2014. Before that, I worked at Nickelodeon and in the digital advertising world. Working for Swoon Reads has been amazing, and, really, a collective of all the things I loved about my past jobs but with BOOKS, which really is just the very best.
SH: If a teen wanted to work as publicist for, say ... Swoon Reads, what would you suggest they do to achieve that goal?
LS: I don't think there's any one path to make this happen. Read a lot. Publishing people are passionate about books and that's why we do what we do. Try to get some experience through an internship. There are many different aspects to publishing, and sometimes you won't know if you like something until you try it. And absolutely network. The publishing community is the friendliest I've ever encountered. Before I started this job, I met with as many people as I could, and everyone was so helpful and gracious. One even invited me over for milk and cookies. Later, it was one of these contacts I'd met (turned friend over our mutual love of The Vampire Diaries) who told me about this position. There are many points of entry into the business, but talking to people who work in publishing is most helpful. That extra bit of knowledge and insight can give you an edge.
SH: Is there a success story you've most enjoyed telling people about a Swoon Reads author?
LS: The ones that excite me most are authors that we acquire who have submitted previous manuscripts on Swoon Reads that didn't get chosen for publication at first. We try to give a lot of editorial feedback on the blog, and seeing writers learn and get better is the best feeling. We love it when we can finally say, "This is the one!" We've acquired at least six authors that I can think of that tried again, and their persistence paid off.
SH: Do you participate in the reading community on the Swoon Reads site? Would you ever participate as a writer?
LS: We're very active on the blog and on social media, and we do read as well. But we don't share our opinions on specific books publicly, mainly because we don't want to influence the process. We truly want to see what readers are enjoying. Most of our feedback comes through blog posts where we give editorial advice, and oftentimes we will choose what to talk about based on things we are seeing in manuscripts that are on-site that need work. As for submitting our own works, I think many of us at Swoon Reads wish we could (conflict of interest, however). It's a great way to get feedback as a writer, meet a supporting community of readers, and you can get published.
SH: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about the publishing industry?
LS: I think publishing can be a bit mysterious to people, but at the end of the day, we are all book lovers. We are rooting for every writer to succeed, and there are many people that are involved with getting a book to publication. I think the biggest misconception is that we are too big to listen to what readers have to say. We are constantly listening and learning. We're very dedicated and committed, and we care a lot about the books we publish. One of the things Swoon Reads strives to do is pull back the curtains on the publishing industry, so readers can get a look at what goes on behind the scenes. We want to tear down that metaphorical wall and let them publish books with us, and give readers a voice in the publishing world.
SH: Using your knowledge and experience promoting books and reading, do you have any suggestions for librarians who want to engage the widest audience possible?
LS: Librarians themselves are such a great resource for finding books. I love talking to my local librarians and I trust their opinions. I also love any guides they put together based on interest to help me find great reads. I wish there was a secret formula for automatically attracting a wide audience, but it constantly changes. Librarians are the best resource for helping share books by word of mouth.
SH: What does your typical work day (or week) look like?
LS: The best part of working for Swoon Reads is there really isn't a "typical" day. I work on a bit of everything: managing the website and our social channels; editing books; working with authors and all of our different departments, from marketing to publicity to sub-rights. Most people think I read all day at work, and while I do get to read at work at times, there is so much more to it than that. Most of my reading is done in the evenings and on weekends (but can I really call it work if it's fun?). But the unpredictability and ability to work on so many different aspects of the imprint is what makes the job so enjoyable.
KRISTEN ORLANDO, AUTHOR YOU DON'T KNOW MY NAME
SH: What made you want to write for teens more than for any other age?
KO: I think there's a few reasons I love writing for teens. One is that I absolutely love young adult novels myself. It's by far my favorite genre to read. Another is because I just think that time of life is filled with so many emotions, including one that I don't think you always find in adult novels: hopefulness. When you're a teenager, of course you have fears and anxieties, but there is a hopefulness about your future that you never really find again in life. You could be anything, do anything, live anywhere. Your entire life is in front of you, and there is something so exciting about that. I think that's one of the reasons some adults wish they could go back in time and be teenagers again. I think for most, that hopefulness fades once you get into the perils and monotony of every-day adulthood. Another reason I love writing young adult is because honestly ... I still feel like I am seventeen. I truly forget sometimes that I have a mortgage and a husband and real responsibilities. I think I'll always feel seventeen in some way and feel surprised every time I turn a year older.
SH: How did you select Swoon Reads for your manuscript?
KO: I came across an article about Swoon Reads on Mashable and thought, "Wow, what a progressive and awesome idea!" I loved knowing that real readers were going to give real feedback on my manuscript and actually help it get selected. It's like American Idol for authors. Jean Feiwel is such an innovator and has been changing the publishing world for decades, so it's no surprise she's doing it again with Swoon.
SH: Can you describe what the process was like for you? What was the best part of having a community of dedicated readers providing you with feedback?
KO: The process has been amazing. I loved getting direct feedback from readers and having people really champion my book. Getting feedback in real time was awesome, and even if the book wasn't selected, I think the readers' feedback would have definitely found its way into a rewrite. For me, though, the best part of the Swoon Reads community is the friendships that I've created. I kept my writing a total secret from basically everyone, so it was nice to connect with people who shared my passion for reading and writing.
SH: Do you participate in the Swoon Reads community as a reader? Do you have a favorite, go-to genre?
KO: I do, for sure, check out the other manuscripts on Swoon. I seem to go for contemporaries with a twist.
SH: When did you first feel confident you would be able to make your living as a writer? What tips would you give other writers who want to make this their full-time career?
KO: I definitely am a full-time writer, but I do more than write books. In addition to being an author, I started my own marketing and PR company for which I have the privilege of writing every day. It's always been a dream of mine to be an author and to own my own business, and I can't believe I get to do both. The marketing and PR writing helps me flex a different creative muscle and I enjoy being an entrepreneur in addition to being an author. Maybe one day I'll just focus entirely on books, but for now, I feel lucky to be doing both.
The best advice I can give those who want to write full-time is get ready for a lot of hard work and hustle. I wrote my book on nights and weekends while maintaining r a full-time marketing/advertising job at a large agency. I also started my company on the side. I worked like a total crazy person for several years to make these dreams come true. During that time, I gave up a lot--dinners with family and friends, weekend outings, etc. The concept of eating dinner and then sitting down to relax or watch TV or read a book was completely foreign to me (and as much as I try not to overwork myself now, sometimes, it still is). I made all of those sacrifices to get to this point. Achieving your dream, let alone two dreams, doesn't happen without a ton of hard work, long hours, and late nights. Today, I still work really hard, but I have so much freedom. If I want to go to New York City to visit my agent and editor for a couple days, there's no one I have to check with or request vacation time from. If I want to take two hours to go have lunch with a friend, I can do that. I always say that being able to work for yourself is the absolute best because Fridays never really feel like Fridays and Mondays never feel like Mondays. I never get that sense of dread on Sunday night that I have to go to work the next day because a) I was probably already working that weekend and b) I absolutely love what I do. Of course, I have clients to answer to and book deadlines and other stresses, but it's up to me to get it done. Work doesn't fall into a Monday-through-Friday/9-5 box. I guess that's a very long-winded way to say that if you want to write full-time, be it as an author or freelancer or running your own business, get ready to work your ass off. I would never recommend to someone: "Oh, yeah, sure! Just quit your job! You'll be fine!" because writing is a tricky business and not everyone succeeds. Stay at your job, write on nights and weekends, even when you're tired. Just do it! If you don't get an agent or a deal with your first book, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.
SH: What is the hardest part of being a writer?
KO: For me, one of the hardest parts of being a writer is getting into the "writing zone." I love writing. It is my passion and feel so fortunate to do it. But, some days, when you're just not feeling inspired, it's hard to get yourself going. Sometimes, I really have to force myself to write. Once I get in the zone, it can be magical. There is no better feeling than when the words are flowing out of you, but it can be hard to get there sometimes.
SH: Are you a great speller and/or a grammar nerd? Or do you like to shock people with poor spelling and bad grammar (thank goodness for spellcheck!)?
KO: I am not a great speller or a grammar nerd. I know, it's surprising because I was an English major and I'm an author and I've literally clocked thousands and thousands of hours writing throughout my career. My family and friends make fun of me all the time when I make a mistake. I get a lot of "English major!" or "Aren't you an author?" comments. Oh, well. I do try.
SH: What's been the most exciting, the most exhausting, and/or the most surreal thing that's happened to you (so far) now that you're an author?
KO: So many things. The most exciting thing, I think, is getting to connect with other authors, especially ones I really admire. I've also loved getting to know the authors in my debut author group. They're all so talented and amazing. The most exhausting, I guess, may be working up against deadlines. The most surreal has been getting to see the manuscript in book form. Even getting to see it in what's called "first pass pages" was a thrill. That's when you get to see how the book will be laid out, the font they've chosen, etc. I got a little teary eyed when that landed on my porch.
SH: If they made your book into a television show, how involved would you want to be?
KO: That would be the coolest thing ever. I would love to be involved if the production company that bought it would allow it. I think that would be a wonderful experience and it's something I've always wanted to do (in addition to writing books). But if they didn't want me to be involved, I'd take a step back and be excited to see it come to life on my TV screen one day.
SH: What's the worst job you've had and what did you learn from it?
KO: Hmmm ... good question! I have never had a job I hated. I was a hostess at a restaurant in high school and that was fun for the most part (except when it was packed and people were yelling at me for a table). I did a ton of babysitting in high school as well and always enjoyed playing with kids. I worked in an optical store one summer and I guess filing patient charts could get boring sometimes, but I enjoyed the people I worked with. And then, as soon as I got to college, I started my writing career. I worked as an intern at the local CBS station in Columbus and then at the Columbus Dispatch. I absolutely loved every second of that and would show up for shifts to which I wasn't assigned. I was the "intern who wouldn't go away." I guess I've been lucky in that I always had jobs I enjoyed, or perhaps I just try to find the bright side of things.
SH: What does your typical work day (or week) look like?
KO: Since I run my own business and write books, my schedule varies a lot. But, a typical work day is: get up in the morning, bring my computer downstairs, and check the client emails I may have missed over night, all during breakfast. I look at my "to do" list for clients and then execute whatever needs to be done. Generally, I'll start writing once the important client work is completed. I seem to write best in the afternoon, so I stick to that schedule. A lot of times, I'll either work on more client work or edit at night. I work a lot, but when you really enjoy what you do, it never really feels like work. I feel very fortunate to work so much.
Now, it's your turn to decide. Do you want to be 1) a community reader, 2) a writer, 3) an editor, 4) a publisher, or 5) all of the above? Swoon Reads is the place to explore that choice--http://www.swoonreads.com.
Orlando, Kristen. You Don't Know My Name. Swoon Reads, 2017. 304p. $16.99. 978-1-250-08411-8. VOYA February 2017. 4Q 4P J S
Jean Feiwel interview conducted by telephone. Lauren Scobell interview conducted by email. Kristen Orlando interview conducted by email.
Stacey Hayman may not be a young adult (librarian) anymore, but she loves to read (just about) all the books written for teens. Reading and reviewing teen and adult books for VOYA, Library journal, and Booklist, Hayman has also been chair of VOYA s Nonfiction Honor List, a member of ALA's Notable Book Council, and AAUP Book Selection Committee. She's also co-authored a book, Better Serving Teens through School Library-Public Library Collaborations (Libraries Unlimited, 2013). When she's not waiting for her next review book to arrive, you might catch her looking for trouble in all the wrong (or right?) places. (Suggestions on where to look next are always welcome!)
Caption: SIMPLE, CLEAN DESIGN ALLOWS FOR INTUITIVE INTERACTION, WHETHER YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER OR ARE AN AVID READER.
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|Publication:||Voice of Youth Advocates|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2017|
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