A Kinda Sorta MSFV Success Story
by Elise Cyr
Four years ago, give or take, I entered my very first Miss Snark’s First Victim contest with my medieval romance Siege of the Heart. As the comments—good and bad—filtered in, I had my first real critique experience. A humbling moment where I realized my words had to stand on their own, regardless of my intentions, hopes or dreams.
It was an eye-opening experience, and a formative one. At the time, I didn’t have beta readers or a crit group or any real support system beyond my husband. But MSFV was there to help me figure out if I was on the right track. I didn’t get any requests but that didn’t matter. The feedback and going through the critique process proved to be more valuable. In the months that followed, I found critique partners online and joined a local writing group—things I had been too afraid to do before.
And I kept writing. I kept revising. And eventually, I was ready to send my work out again. I started querying in 2011, into 2012. Got enough feedback in my rejections to know I was close. Enough full requests to know my writing, my ideas, didn’t suck. Meanwhile the market for non-Regency historicals had tightened up. I didn’t know what to do.
That’s when I started looking into small presses, publishers who would hopefully take a chance on my story in a niche sub-genre. My gamble paid off and I signed with Lyrical Press in April 2013. It was digital-first, and at the time I told myself that was okay. It wasn’t the trade paperback traditional path I had originally envisioned, but my story would get out there. That was the important part, right? Then a few months later, Kensington purchased Lyrical, and I was suddenly a Kensington author. While I firmly believe there’s nothing wrong with going the small press route, the pull of a larger publisher is hard to deny. And in the coming weeks, my book will be available in print form. POD, but at least I’ll be able to hold my book in my hands.
So if my journey tells you anything, I hope it is the following:
Take advantage of the opportunities available to you. Things like MSFV and other online communities. The people willing to read and respond to your words are worth their weight in gold, so treat them well. Also consider professional organizations. Looking back, I wish I had joined my local RWA chapter years before I actually did, but I was scared.
Contests like MSFV are part of a larger process of critique and revision. In other words, be open to the process, not the prize. I’m amazed by the generosity of Authoress and the other commenters to make these critique opportunities available to writers at all different levels. And you can learn just as much from seeing a critique of someone else’s work.
Don’t stop believing in your work. It may take time (ahem, four years for me) to hone your craft and refine your work, but the experience is well worth it. At the same time, Remember that you are not your manuscript. Love it, nurture it, but be able to see it for what it is, and what it needs to become.
Publishing with a small press may feel like a consolation prize when you are aiming for the Big Five after all your hard work. But remember why you started writing for publication in the first place—to share your words with others. And sometimes, things work out for the best, regardless of which path you take.
So, keep writing, keep subbing, keep dreaming. Your words are worth it!