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.
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.
Here’s what really happened:
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.
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.
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.
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."
"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.