Launched in 2013 as a crowd-sourced, paperback teen romance line, Feiwel and Friends’ Swoon Reads will now publish novels across all YA genres and formats. This pioneering publishing model created an online community, in which writers submit manuscripts directly to the publisher, and readers participate in the publishing process by reading, rating, and commenting on submissions. The manuscripts that achieve the highest ratings by readers and the Swoon Reads editorial board are published in print and e-book editions, with additional community input on cover design and marketing plans. Feiwel and Friends has released 15 Swoon Reads titles to date and has more than 50 novels planned for publication in the coming years, including the line's first non-romance and first hardcover, You Don’t Know My Name, a thriller by Kristen Orlando, due out in January.
The extension of Swoon Reads’ reach into additional YA genres was organic, prompted by community members’ submissions and online responses. “Within seven or eight months of the website launch, we saw the manuscript submissions drifting into other genres,” explained Jean Feiwel, senior v-p and publisher of Feiwel and Friends and Swoon Reads. “We were seeing contemporary fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy, even though our original focus was on romance. We had thought that romance would command the largest response, but we soon realized that it was the YA piece of it that was actually commanding the response, and we listened.”
As the size of the Swoon Reads online community increased – to a current total of 50,000 – so did the number of manuscripts received. “As the site became more well known, we began seeing more submissions,” Feiwel observed. “We had a spike of submissions last month, when we announced to the Swoon Reads community our expansion into all YA genres. We’re getting new manuscripts on a daily basis, while they used to come in at a slow trickle, and that’s very gratifying. We now have close to 500 manuscripts on the site, which is an all-time high for us.”
With the burgeoning volume of submissions, the Swoon Reads editorial board has seen the quality of the submitted fiction rise, which partially drove the decision to switch the imprint’s focus to hardcovers, beginning with Orlando’s You Don’t Know My Name. This debut novel centers on a 17-year-old girl, trained in mortal combat and weaponry, who is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the world’s most top-secret agency – but longs to follow her heart and lead a normal life. “When the manuscript came on-site, I immediately read it and loved it,” Feiwel recalled. “It is such a palpable thriller with lots of twists and turns, and I really responded to it. Kristen Orlando has a strong social media presence and is very engaging and promotable. She has all the right irons in the right places.”
Thus, Feiwel and the Swoon Reads editorial board selected You Don’t Know My Name to introduce Swoon Reads’ broader editorial scope and foray into hardcovers. “The market is always changing, and right now hardcover YA is viable,” said the publisher. “We are moving toward publishing exclusively in hardcover initially, along with a simultaneous e-book, and releasing a paperback edition a year later.”
Feiwel estimated that Swoon Reads will release 20 new titles in 2017 and “30-ish” in 2018, a growth that she finds very satisfying. “I’m pleased that we’re committed to ramping up our publishing program without at all compromising quality,” she added. “Swoon Reads is an imprint that really has my heart.”
You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando. Feiwel and Friends/Swoon Reads, $16.99 Jan. ISBN 978-1-250-08411-8