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My First Sale by Ann Christopher

Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Friday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Ann Christopher writes contemporar romances for Kensington and Harlequin. Her most recent book, Tender Secrets, is officially released on October 1 but may be in stores now.

***

Dear Jane-’

Here’s my first sale story:

On Monday, I wrote "the end" on the manuscript, stamped it, and sent it off to New York. By Thursday, I had to disconnect the phone because of all the calls from desperate editors begging me to sell the book to them. Some even sent roses, which I thought was a nice touch. On Friday I sold the book, at auction, for six figures. By the end of that first year, the book was on the NYT, displacing Nora Roberts. As a Christmas present to myself for all my hard work, I bought a vacation villa in St. Maarten. It’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Just kidding.

Here’s what really happened:

book review In July my prospective agent told me the excruciating news that the manuscript for TROUBLE was too long by, oh, about 150 pages, and, if I trimmed it, she’d take another look.

I told her I’d be happy to, then got off the phone and cried.

Why, I asked myself, did I need to cut so much out of my beloved book? Each word was precious, wasn’t it? Hadn’t I already labored over the book? Hadn’t I entered all kinds of contests and endured all manner of painful constructive criticism? Hadn’t I gotten rid of all (well, most) of the passive voice? Hadn’t I rewritten the book once to add in the hero’s POV, and then again because I’d started the nasty habit of head-hopping, and then again and again and again? Hadn’t I read craft books and incorporated my new knowledge and polished and edited my little heart out?

Wasn’t that ENOUGH?

What, in the name of God and all that was holy, did these people want from me?

By November, I’d rewritten the %&$$ book AGAIN, and signed with my agent, who sent it out to several editors. I made sure my agent had all my emergency contact numbers and waited for my we-sold-the-book phone call, which I felt certain would come in a day or two, and definitely by the end of the year.

It didn’t.

There was a delay for the holiday season.

Then there was a delay for the post-holiday-I’m digging-myself-out-from-the-pile-of-work-on-my-desk season.

Then there was a delay for the spring break season.

Then there was – a delay. There always is in publishing.

During this period there were a few rejections from some editors who obviously didn’t know what they were doing and would shortly, no doubt, be fired for their gross incompetence.

I worked on my next book, RISK, and tried (with little success) not to drive myself and everyone around me crazy.

Finally, around June or so, I spoke to my agent, who assured me AGAIN that we would hear something SOON because the editorial board (or whoever those mysterious people with my fate in their hands were) would be meeting THIS WEEK.

Yeah. Whatever.

I’d heard that line before and was not going to get my hopes up again.

By then I didn’t even care if I never sold the *&%!! book.

Just kidding.

But guess what? She called again right away, which I thought was odd because I’d just talked to her. Kensington had made an offer! For MY book! And it was not, apparently, a mistake! We were halfway through this conversation when my agent said something about "the second book."

What? WHAT???

"Oh, didn’t I tell you?" she said blithely, the stinker. "They want to buy TWO books."

So of course I got off the phone and cried, this time with relief because I was now a published author, entitled to my special ribbon at Nationals. Just that quick, everything changed. Amazing.

I hope you don’t mind, Jane, but I have a little message for all the writers out there waiting for their call: don’t give up. Don’t stop submitting, don’t stop waiting, and definitely don’t stop submitting. Because this is a slow, changeable, and unpredictable industry on a good day, and your call could be coming at any second-’maybe when you least expect it.

Best,

Ann

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

21 Comments

  1. Willa
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 04:59:49

    Great first sale story and really enjoyed both of Ann’s!

    Jane – the header says Robin Owens first sale! Sucessfully confusing my poor brain cells for a moment there. Need more coffee!

    ReplyReply

  2. nobody
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 06:45:58

    for all the writers out there waiting for their call: don't give up. Don't stop submitting, don't stop waiting, and definitely don't stop submitting. Because this is a slow, changeable, and unpredictable industry on a good day, and your call could be coming at any second-’maybe when you least expect it.

    *sniff*

    Two years ago I signed with an agent (with my ninth novel). The book didn’t sell. I wrote another one, and it’s already gone through the first round of submissions without selling (they don’t “love” it).

    This past Wednesday, September 24, I gave up. I can’t do it again. Can’t write another book that won’t sell.

    But maybe I won’t give up. Thanks for taking the time to encourage other writers, Ann. Love your success story – and your humor!

    ReplyReply

  3. Leah
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 07:32:05

    So of course I got off the phone and cried, this time with relief because I was now a published author, entitled to my special ribbon at Nationals. Just that quick, everything changed. Amazing.

    I must be pms-ing, because the very mention of “got of the phone and cried” had me in tears–kinda like Oprah! Thanks for giving us your story! (And nobody–if you love to write, take a break, maybe, but don’t give up!)

    ReplyReply

  4. Jayne
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 07:51:22

    I think most of the First Sale stories illustrate the point that you must never give up. Through the tears, fears, rewrites and bouncing off the walls with frustration – keep going. Great story Ann!

    ReplyReply

  5. Shiloh Walker
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 08:31:43

    Hey, Ann! Great story. :)

    And nobody-what Leah said. If you love to write, keep writing. It’s usually when you least expect it that something really wonderful happens.

    ReplyReply

  6. Susanna Kearsley
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 08:36:37

    This past Wednesday, September 24, I gave up. I can't do it again. Can't write another book that won't sell.

    Dear Nobody: I just couldn’t let this one pass without wanting to send you a hug and a word of encouragement: Never give up. Ann is absolutely right, this is an industry where everything’s subjective, and it’s all about finding that right editor at the right publishing house at the right moment, and that can take time. Write that eleventh book. Put all your energies there. Read back over the comments, if any, that editors made when they turned down your previous work, and see if there’s anything there you can learn from. Submit your first page to the ‘Dear Author’ first page critique forum — see what your peers have to say and suggest. Just keep writing.

    I know it gets hard, and believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve had books that seemed like they never would sell. But they did.

    The French writer Flaubert once said: “Talent is nothing but long patience”. Take that to heart. Don’t give up.

    ReplyReply

  7. Val Kovalin
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 08:38:52

    What a great story – insightful and funny. What a good thing, Ann, that you went ahead and wrote that second book while waiting because then you had it ready for that two-book deal.

    And, Nobody, you’ve got an agent and you’ve written nine books! That sounds impressive to me. Give yourself a break like Leah said, and then come back to it with a fresh perspective. You just might be on the verge of success. Good luck.

    ReplyReply

  8. MoJo
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 09:01:58

    Nobody: I remember being at the spot you were, some time around 1998, 1999. I’m going to break from the pack here and tell you that for me, not having that pressure and the constant weight of rejection (and, worse, being THISCLOSE and then being rejected) on my shoulders was a gift I gave to myself. My mother had asked me, “Why do you base your goals on decisions someone else has to make?”

    I put it all away. I didn’t write for a long time (years). I found other ways to fulfill my creative need, but I still came back around to writing. It hasn’t been easy; now it’s just different because I decided to go a different way.

    Anyway, all that said, if you’d like a shoulder to lean on, you can lean on mine. :)

    ReplyReply

  9. Jill Sorenson
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 09:16:48

    Hi Ann! Thanks for your story. I’m glad you didn’t give up, because you’re a great writer. I loved Sweeter Than Revenge.

    ReplyReply

  10. Janine
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 10:31:07

    Why, I asked myself, did I need to cut so much out of my beloved book? Each word was precious, wasn't it? Hadn't I already labored over the book? Hadn't I entered all kinds of contests and endured all manner of painful constructive criticism? Hadn't I gotten rid of all (well, most) of the passive voice? Hadn't I rewritten the book once to add in the hero's POV, and then again because I'd started the nasty habit of head-hopping, and then again and again and again? Hadn't I read craft books and incorporated my new knowledge and polished and edited my little heart out?

    Wasn't that ENOUGH?

    What, in the name of God and all that was holy, did these people want from me?

    This part made me laugh out loud! What a great first sale story. Thanks so much for telling it.

    ReplyReply

  11. Jessa Slade
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 10:39:25

    I had to disconnect the phone because of all the calls from desperate editors begging me to sell the book to them.

    Lol! You forgot the part where they hacked into your computer to steal the manuscript :) Thanks for the uplifting reminder of keeping the faith… and starting the next story.

    ReplyReply

  12. Houston A.W. Knight
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 11:26:30

    THANK YOU FOR TELLING THIS. IT’S NICE TO KNOW I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE.

    Hawk

    ReplyReply

  13. Patty L.
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 12:41:11

    What a great first story. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyReply

  14. Devyn Quinn
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 13:45:03

    Thanks for sharing your story. It was terrific. :).

    ReplyReply

  15. Keishon
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 14:27:15

    Ms. Christopher, you’re beautiful! I need to read your books. I know Jane has rec’d your books to me more than once.

    Must echo Jayne: no matter the endeavors in life, we’ve all been faced with challenges but the key is to never give up. Take a break if you have to refresh those batteries but keep on going!

    ReplyReply

  16. Maya
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 14:46:12

    great story. also, nice author pic!

    nobody: i hear you, even though i’m not nearly as far down the road of rejection as you. i salute your ten books.

    ReplyReply

  17. Brie
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 14:48:27

    I love this first sale story. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyReply

  18. BM
    Sep 26, 2008 @ 20:03:29

    Ann, thank you for sharing that wonderful first sale story. And I’ll admit, you got me good with that introduction. I was already sighing and cursing you for your amazing luck (all good, I assure you) and then you had me laughing out loud when you had to tell the truth.

    Great advice! Wishing you much more success.

    ReplyReply

  19. raine
    Sep 27, 2008 @ 00:10:50

    …there were a few rejections from some editors who obviously didn't know what they were doing and would shortly, no doubt, be fired for their gross incompetence.

    I LOVE your attitude, lol.
    And nobody–don’t give up. You are not alone.

    ReplyReply

  20. Mac
    Sep 29, 2008 @ 10:36:08

    This anecdote is so charmingly and funnily written that I think I want to check out Ms. Christopher’s actual book(s?) now.

    ReplyReply

  21. Ann Christopher
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 10:41:52

    Oh, wow! I didn’t know Jane had posted the story already! Thanks for all the comments. :)

    Nobody–PLEASE–can you change your name? You are not nobody. That’s first. Second, please don’t quit. Give yourself a break, take some of the pressure off, and then try again. If I can do it, you can do it. Remember what Thomas Edison said:

    “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

    And also this:

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

    Hang in there!

    Ann

    ReplyReply

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