Swoon Author Samantha Hastings' Publishing Confessional: Lucky Number 4
The Last Word wasn’t the first manuscript that I uploaded on the Swoon Reads website.
Or the second.
Not the third.
But my fourth.
Every author’s journey to being published is different, and I hope my publishing confessional is helpful to those who are still struggling to breakthrough.
The real story starts back in 2012. I quit my part-time librarian job to be a full-time mom and to pursue my dreams of writing. I wrote four and a half manuscripts that year. I sent over one hundred queries. And truthfully, my writing wasn’t ready to be published yet. So, after a brief flirtation with self-publishing, I quit writing.
In April 2016, I gave birth to my daughter, and I loved her from her head to her toes. But I realized as much as I loved being a mom, I needed something where I wasn’t “Mom.” At this same time, I came across two amazing books: Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey and These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas. In the back of these books, there was information about a website called Swoon Reads where you could upload your manuscript and readers could choose it to be published.
I felt hopeful about my writing for the first time in years.
I dusted off an old fantasy manuscript, Sleeping Brat: A Retelling of Sleeping Beauty and I put in on the Swoon Reads site in August 2016. My manuscript trended and people left helpful comments, but it wasn’t chosen. I finished the half manuscript of a historical mystery that I’d written four years before, and I put in on the website. It received more helpful comments, but it wasn’t chosen either.
Undeterred, I decided to fully engage into the Swoon Reads experience. I read every piece of writing advice on the Swoon Reads blog, particularly the open edit letters explaining why manuscripts might not have been chosen. I read other authors' manuscripts and tried to give helpful and positive feedback. I wrote a new manuscript entitled Turns, and I absolutely loved it. I uploaded it in May 2017 and I obsessively watched my manuscript’s progress over the summer. I finally asked my friends and family to read it on the website; for the first time sharing on social media that I was an aspiring author. My book trended and I was sure it was going to be selected.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
I’m not going to lie, I felt devastated. This book that I’d poured my heart and soul into wasn’t enough. I started to think that Swoon Reads wasn’t going to work out for me after all.
Despite not being picked, I really felt like I received excellent feedback from other readers. And if feedback was all I received from posting a manuscript on Swoon Reads, I thought posting a manuscript was worthwhile.
In September 2017, I uploaded The Last Word (the called Unfinished) and on November 20, 2017, I received an email saying that Swoon Reads wanted to speak with me. I was beyond elated. I literally screamed and jumped up and down. I made so much noise that my husband thought I’d injured myself. I emailed back a time for them to call and they offered to purchase my manuscript that afternoon.
So, if your first manuscript isn’t chosen, or your second, or even your third, you haven’t struck out yet. Keep trying. Keep revising and following your dreams with all the tenacity of your heart. For me, four was the lucky number.