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. Carrie Lofty’s debut work, What a Scoundrel Wants, featuring a historical within the Robin Hood ouvre is out in stores now.
When my husband moved to Virginia in 2006 for a summer internship, I stayed with our daughters in Wisconsin and actively maintained my blog. What started as a journal in 2005 had ballooned into hundreds of entries on everything from pacifiers to Plato. Early that summer, I read about the RWA national conference in Atlanta and wanted to be there. I made Nationals a benchmark of success…but for what?
Sure, I’d written enough blog entries to complete an epic, so I couldn’t use a lack of free time as my excuse, but I had yet to finish a manuscript. For years, procrastination and perfectionism had thwarted my attempts. That summer marked a turning point. By finishing Serenade some 88 days later, a romance about a widowed violin prodigy and the dishonored composer she loves, I proved my dedication.
I was ready to begin another project when my girls and I rented Disney’s animated Robin Hood. I realized I hadn’t seen Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in quite a while. It’s shlocky as all get out, but I love it–not for Kevin Costner or men in tights or even the delicious Alan Rickman, but because of my obsessive fascination with Christian Slater. It’s embarrassing, really. Girly hormones at their worst. So while watching the film for the first time in years, I got to thinking: Whatever happened to Will Scarlet anyway?
I jumped feet-first into Sherwood lore. With Robin Hood, I returned to my love of legends–that tricky bit of history where fact meets myth. When the resulting manuscript finaled in two contests, I felt I’d chanced upon that elusive “high concept.” Hearts Through History planned to announce their contest winners during an annual breakfast at Nationals. But was this a legitimate way to spend so much money and time?
After Ann Aguirre and I basically dared each other into going, I had a roommate, a pitch appointment, and no more excuses. Making my first solo plane trip since my junior year in England was a major success, no matter the result. Two bags! No stroller!
Then it came time to pitch–my first ever. I’d chosen to pitch to Hilary Sares of Kensington, knowing she’s the kind of gal who takes chances. She sat down at the table, read the 25-word blurb on my business card and said, “I want the full.”
My rough drafts are about as rough as they come, so two months passed before I finally popped it in the mail. Hilary called me two days later. Holy smokes! Props to the postal service! My kids had just started pre-school, so I didn’t have to spend half the conversation bribing them with “Blue’s Clues” videos to keep quiet.
Within one very anxious week, I connected with agent Caren Johnson and signed with her. The deal was done. I’d sold! None of it seemed real, but my husband took me out, my friend bought me champagne, and my college roommate sent me flowers. That’s the stuff of celebration! And in San Francisco this past summer, I wore my first sale ribbon at Nationals–two years on from setting that initial benchmark for success. Needless to say, I was quite proud of my accomplishment.
Now What a Scoundrel Wants is a December 2 Zebra Debut release. Its late 2009 sequel is set in the exotic Kingdom of Castile–now modern day Spain–and I’ll be starting a free online serial of Serenade in January. Although I’ve only just started this journey, I’ve learned that getting serious can be one of the biggest challenges to being published–and it’s the only part of this industry that we can fully control.