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First Sale

My First Sale by Grace Burrowes, Author of The Heir

My First Sale by Grace Burrowes, Author of The Heir

Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Grace Burrowes, The Heir, is in stores now.   You can find out more about Grace and her books at


Grace Burrowes, Author of The HeirFor much of my adulthood, I have been a very busy lady.

When my daughter showed up, I was working full time and going to law school five nights a week. I added single parenting to this schedule, then segued into running my own law practice, and all the time-’each and every day-’I toted around a romance novel wherever I went.

Every night, I had one by my bedside so when Beloved Offspring drifted off to dreamland, I could steal away from the day's frustrations and challenges between the pages of a good read. It is no exaggeration to say Judith Ivory saved my sanity, or Laura Kinsale, Sophia Nash and Mary Balogh ought to be among my daughter's honorary godmothers. Reading was my joy, sometimes it felt like my only joy.

But as offspring are bound to do, my daughter grew up (she is still growing up, but I try not get caught telling her this). I read more than ever. One night I was sitting in the law office after another day of domestic litigation thinking about going home to a place I now shared with dogs, cats and horses, and lo, into my head an Idea poppeth.

What if once upon a Regency time there was handsome, titled swain gone lamentably astray who meets a luscious damsel-?

Oh, what if..! Nobody ever had more fun putting 200,000 words on the screen. (I was mightily bummed when I realized half the MS had to go. I pouted for days.) For the next few years, I was writing sequels and spin-offs and prequels, and generally living for the moment when I could dash home and play "let's pretend" on my computer. And of course, then I'd turn off the computer and start reading another romance novel.

This folly went on unchecked for several years, but then (cue serious music) I turned fifty. "I am in my prime," says me to myself. "Women in their prime should quit dithering around in the privacy of their own messy kitchens and try to get their romance novels published."

I signed up for my local RWA chapter retreat and heard about pitching, synopses, and query letters, oh my, and morale in the Burrowes kitchen took a substantial hit. The next year I was ready though, so ready on the Friday night of the spring retreat I fortified myself with a ritual White Russian-’or was it two?

I was standing in line at the bar trying not to look like I'd rather be anywhere else and I noticed a lady in line next to me sporting a knitting bag.

ARGH! She was an editor. I recalled that much from the kick-off panel discussion. We made eye contact. She smiled. I prayed for the hand of God to pluck me into the sky, but instead I asked if I was allowed to pitch her.

This dear, kind, patient woman (you know her as Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks, Inc.) listened to me mix up my heroines, saw me blush into my White Russian, and generally suffered through the world's most pathetic excuse for a pitch. My dears, it was awful. Horrendous. It should go down in the annals of pitching as the bad example of all bad examples, forevermore.

"There's something in the way you talk about your books-." Said Deb. "Send me partials of your best three manuscripts."

People hate it when I tell them I sold to the first person I pitched to, but it's the God's honest truth. I figure this can only be the karmic pay off for reading thirty-five years of romance novels before my "overnight" pitching success.

What about you? Are you nurturing dreams for "some day," dreams that sustain you and keep you sane and help you cope with today?aten to bring the earl's orderly life crashing down-’and he doesn't know how he's going to protect her from the fallout-


Grace Burrowes is the pen name for a prolific author of historical romances whose manuscripts have so far won, finaled, or garnered honorable mention in Romance Writers of America-run contests in Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, and Florida. Burrowes is a practicing attorney specializing in family law. She lives in rural Maryland and is working on her next book, The Soldier, set to release in July 2011.

My First Sale by Barbara Wallace

My First Sale by Barbara Wallace

Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Barbara Wallace writes romances for Harlequin romance.   As a self published author, Wallace lived in that nether space of being both published for the purpose of contests in local chapters and unpublished for the purposes RWA national.   She finally broke through with a sale to Harlequin.   Her latest release, The Cinderella Bride, is in stores now.


Barbara WallaceIn March, 2009, I got "The Call" from Harlequin Romance.   It was my first sale.   Except it wasn't my first sale.   Except that it was.

Confused?   Welcome to the roller coaster that was my journey to publication.

Let me back up.     I'd always wanted to be a writer, and after falling in love with Silhouette Desire and Bantam Loveswept, I realized those were the kind of books I wanted to write.   In 1994, I signed with an agent — a wonderful woman who, while no longer my agent, is still in the business and doing great things for authors.   Publication, I was certain, was imminent.

Two weeks later, my son was born.   For the next five years, I balanced motherhood and writing, still certain publication lurked right around the corner.   I can't tell you the number of times I came thisclose to selling.   But alas, thanks to lines folding and marketing changes, "the Call" didn't come.

In 2000, my son was entering school, and two new concepts – Print On Demand and E-Publishing had just emerged.   Several of my local colleagues had manuscripts accepted by a small POD publisher and following their leads, I submit too.   Wonder of wonders – they bought my book.   I was published!

But I wasn't.   At least not according to RWA.   Shortly after my sale, RWA created its publisher-recognition policy.   My publisher didn't make the cut.   With good reason.   Shortly after, after battling distribution and financial issues, the publisher folded.   I sold – if I'm lucky – around a dozen books.

Thus began a ten year stay in the Hinterland of Publishing where I was simultaneously recognized as published by local RWA Chapters and considered unpublished by RWA National.   Agents and editors didn't care about my erstwhile publishing credentials, while I was prohibited from entering the chapter contests that might net me better ones.

Fortunately, the one contest I could enter was the Golden Heart.   I entered the contest in 2005 and again in 2007, making the finals both time.   In fact it was winning the GH in 2007 that landed the attention of my editor at Harlequin..   She had requested the full version of my GH book a few months before the finals.   Shortly after I won, she rejected the book. (What – you thought this was the end of the story?).   But, she offered me the chance to work with her on a new project.   Three revision passes later, I finally got "the Call."   Two days before my son's fifteenth birthday.

cinderella brideThat book is THE CINDERELLA BRIDE, available December 10th.   I'm making my son (yes, that same son who was born two weeks after I signed with an agent) drive me to Walmart so I can see my book on the shelves.   I'd hoped to enter it in the First Book category for the Ritas too, but- you guessed it.   RWA changed its rules again.   That sale from 2000 now counts.   Oh well.   Such is life on the writing roller coaster.

By the way, what is the lesson from all these ups and downs?   Simple.   Never, ever give up.   Publication really is around the corner.   It just might take fifteen years to figure out which corner that is.

Comment below for a chance to win your own copy of THE CINDERELLA BRIDE, as well as a copy of FAIRYTALE CHRISTMAS, an anthology I'm in with bestselling author Susan Meier.