Guest Post: Sofie Darling, 2016 Manuscript Contest Winner (Romance Category), On Her Publishing Success Story

“The path toward publication is going to look different for every writer, and my journey won’t be the right fit for everyone. But, in retrospect, it’s clear that taking the initiative and entering the WLT’s Manuscript Contest was the jumpstart my career needed.”

-Sofie Darling

Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to have debut romance novelist Sofie Darling write this guest blog post for us about the success she experienced after winning the 2016 Manuscript Contest in the Romance Category. You can purchase her book Three Lessons in Seduction hereThe 2017 Manuscript Contest is now open for submissions! Click here for more details. For the first time, the winners in each category will receive a complimentary registration to our annual Agents & Editors Conference.

Funny enough, my journey to publication started when my friend and critique partner, Kate Ramirez, won WLT’s Manuscript Contest in the romance category in 2015. Her win gave me good incentive to finish the book I was working on and enter the contest the following year, even though I was somewhat hesitant to do so.

I’d entered a contest before—that’s right, one contest—and it didn’t go anywhere. I took this “failure” as confirmation of my deepest fear that my writing wasn’t connecting with anyone, even though my critique partners were telling me differently. But they liked me. What did they know?

Still, I entered the WLT’s Manuscript Contest, and I won . . . to my utter and complete surprise.

In addition to the WLT win, I received a pitch session with the agent who selected my entry as the winner. We had a good chat, and she requested the full manuscript. Ultimately, she passed on it, but she did give me some good advice. In regards to getting the manuscript ready to send to her, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Be ruthless.”

Buoyed with a bit more confidence after the WLT win and full request, I moved past my fear of contests and entered two more. I finaled in both, and in two categories in one. While this led to conversations with editors, I was still having no agent luck. I made it pretty far down the road with another agent, but she, too, passed.

The process of querying agents and either getting rejected or never responded to led me toward a bold decision: I researched every single romance publisher who accepted direct submissions from authors and submitted to all of them. Out of the twelve publishers I queried, I received five requests for more material. Within five months, I had a signed contract with a boutique romance publisher.

I still think about the agent’s words, “Be ruthless.” It applies to the writing, of course—adverbs can be pesky little irritants—but it also applies to the career of the writer. It wasn’t until I decided to take my fate as a writer into my own hands and stop waiting for an agent—any agent, please!—to accept me as a client that I was able to forge the beginnings of a career. Entering contests and submitting directly to publishers was my way of doing this.

The path toward publication is going to look different for every writer, and my journey won’t be the right fit for everyone. But, in retrospect, it’s clear that taking the initiative and entering the WLT’s Manuscript Contest was the jumpstart my career needed. My debut novel, Three Lessons in Seduction, was published on September 27, 2017, just fifteen months after that inspiring win.

Visit Sofie’s website here.

Click here for more information about how to enter the 2017 Manuscript Contest.

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