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First Sale

My First Sale by Phillipa Ashley

My First Sale by Phillipa Ashley

Phillipa AshleyWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between.   Today’s first sale story is from Phillipa Ashley who studied English Language and Literature at Oxford before becoming a freelance copywriter and journalist.  Dating Mr. December (called  Decent Exposure in the UK) was the basis of last year's Lifetime TV Movie "The 12 Men of Christmas." A frequent guest on BBC national, local and independent radio on all matters romantic, she lives with her husband and daughter in Staffordshire, UK. You can visit, follow her on  Twitter or find her on  Facebook.


When I'm asked about my first sale I always feel a bit of a fraud. I've always been a "writer" but until a few years ago, I'd hardly written a word of fiction.

I devoured books at school but I was never a big one for making up "stories." Don't get me wrong, I adored writing but when it came to school essays and exams, I always took the "descriptive" route. Or I'd make up little magazines about places I'd been on holiday and illustrate them myself.

Dating Mr. December by Phillipa Ashley CoverWith the support of a wonderful English Lit teacher, I got a place at Oxford University where I spent three years studying the classics. If I'd ever dreamed of writing my own novel (and I didn't), reading "the greats" intimidated me completely. Why would I write a novel, I reasoned, if I couldn't be Jane Austen?

After I left university, I turned my factual writing into a career and became a freelance copywriter and journalist.

Then, in 2004 I watched a BBC TV miniseries called North & South and my world changed overnight.

I was so inspired by that series I had the irresistible urge to write a modern version of the story. I shared my "fanfic" with an Internet creative writing group where someone told me that I'd written a romance.

That was it. I set about reading hundreds of romances. Soon, I was completely obsessed with writing. I felt that a whole new dimension of my life, hitherto invisible, had suddenly opened up.

I joined the Romantic Novelists Association and devoted myself to learning as much as I could about romance writing. I found I liked writing sexy, funny, fast-paced stories and I didn't have to be Jane Austen to entertain myself and other people.

I started a novel about a London PR girl who "helps" a mountain rescue team raise funds for their new base by persuading them to do a nude calendar. Not everyone wants to be helped-’especially a certain Mr. December.

After a year of rewrites and revisions, I'd finished the book and a writer friend persuaded me to send it a London literary agent.

As soon as I'd sent the email, I regretted it. Maybe, I thought, I'll just be ignored, or get a polite rejection or even a few nuggets of encouragement.

A couple of weeks later, the agent wrote back. She'd been "gloriously entertained," she said (that's a London lit agent for you, bless them) and added: "I'd love to see more."

Luckily for me, she liked the full and sent it to Little Black Dress; a sassy new romance/chick lit imprint that she thought would be perfect for my book.

Then one afternoon, I got The Call with a two book offer. I remember saying: "Can I tell my daughter?"

At which point I burst into tears and so did my agent.

Dating Mr. December (titled Decent Exposure in the UK) went on to win the RNA's New Writers Award and was made into the Lifetime TV movie, "The 12 Men of Christmas," in 2009.

Now Sourcebooks has published it in the USA-the first of four of my contemporary romantic novels. Wish You Were Here will be in stores in Spring 2011!

If my friend hadn't made me send it to my agent, it would still be lying on my computer and I wouldn't be here at Dear Author-

My First Sale by Shana Galen, The Making of a Duchess

My First Sale by Shana Galen, The Making of a Duchess

Shana GalenWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between.   Shana Galen’s latest novel, The Making of a Gentleman, is in stores this week. Shana Galen is the author of five Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne's Bride. Shana is working on the final book in the Brothers of the Revolution series, The Making of a Rogue, which will be in stores in 2011. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I wrote a book about a girl who loved Star Wars. It was a departure for me as I'd been writing Regency historicals, but chick lit had just taken off and several agents told me in no uncertain terms that the historical was dead as dead could be. So I figured why not try a contemporary?

I ended up with a book I called Jedis, Wookies, and Other Men I've Dated (later The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Men I've Dated). At the same time my agent was submitting Jedis, I also managed to final in the Golden Heart (a contest for unpublished authors sponsored by the Romance Writers of America) with an historical I called The Rake (later When Dashing Met Danger). Yes, I knew historicals were deader than a door nail, but I was a glutton for punishment.

The final judge for the Golden Heart was May Chen of Avon Books. Meanwhile, Jedis sat on Erika Tsang's desk, also of Avon.

I was teaching 6th grade English in Houston's inner city at that time. I wasn't supposed to have my cell phone on in the classroom, but I had forgotten to turn it off when I stuck it in my desk that morning. Imagine my surprise when it rang in the middle of 4th period. At first I thought it was one of the kids' phones, and I was giving the whole class my you-are-in-big-trouble-now look. And then some helpful little girl said, "Miss, the ringing is coming from your desk."

Now, I was the one in trouble (kids love to tell you when you've broken the rules, don't they?). I should have ignored the phone, but I decided to go to my desk and turn it off. When I saw my agent's name on the screen, I forgot all about the kids and answered the call. He asked if I was sitting down, and I sat. The kids by now were in heaven-’throwing paper, talking, and getting out of their seats. I didn't care.

Over the din of thirty 12-year-olds, I heard my agent say something to the effect that Avon wanted to offer me two two-book contracts. One for my historicals and one for my chick lits. I was speechless, especially when he told me how much they were willing to pay. It wasn't a lot, but it was more than I'd expected, and it was times four books.

I looked up at my unruly classroom and wondered if I could quit right then.

Making GentlemanFive years later I got another first sale call-’at least it felt like a first sale to me. See, what most people don't realize is that as hard as it is to get published, it's even harder to stay published. In May 2009 I hadn't had a book out since November 2007. Avon and I had parted ways. My agent and I had parted ways. Chick lit had died a bloated, overstocked death. Historicals were still hanging on, and not everyone was claiming they were dead anymore.

I had a new agent and a new historical series. All I needed was a new publisher. After school-’by then I was teaching 7th grade English at a better school and always turned my phone off during class-’I got a call from my new agent. Sourcebooks wanted to buy my three-book historical romance series.

As excited as I was to sell those first books, I was even more excited to sell the Sons of the Revolution series. There's nothing like having something you want taken away to really appreciate it. And there's nothing like having the opportunity to write the book of your heart, knowing it might never sell but writing it anyway because at that point, what did I have to lose?

In June, the first of the Sons of the Revolution series, The Making of a Duchess, was released, and now the second in the series, The Making of a Gentleman, is in stores. Both are faced-paced historical romances. I guess the historical isn't dead after all. I'm sure glad I didn't give up on it!

What about you? Have you ever had a dream and been told it's as good as dead?