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My First Sale by Allison Brennan

New York Times Bestselling Novelist Allison Brennan made her first sale in 2004 and quickly became one of the genres top selling romantic suspense writers. Since then she has gone on to publish 5 additional romantic suspense books and is contracted by Ballantine to write six more. Fear No Evil was released in March and was the last of a back to back to back 2007 release for three of Brennan’s books: Speak No Evil, See No Evil, and Fear No Evil. You can read more about Brennan’s work at her site.

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I read in the Romance Writers Report (RWA) that it takes on average a little over five years from finishing your first book to selling your first book. So when I made a commitment to myself to finally finish one of over a hundred books I’d started, I didn’t expect a sale overnight. It didn’t happen overnight, but it seemed to happen fast. I’ve only now become somewhat comfortable with being a published author.

Two years after I started seriously writing after years of fooling around, an agent agreed to represent my fifth completed manuscript. On a Thursday, March 4, 2004, she sent seventeen manuscripts to a variety of editors. I figured it would take awhile to hear back.

The next Tuesday morning, I dropped two kids off at school, two kids off at day care, and drove to work. (I have five kids now–#5 was still cooking in the oven, so to speak.) My cell phone rings. A 212 area code. My heart starts beating faster. I had just signed with my agent, I hadn’t talked to her much, and I was nervous as heck that I’d say something really stupid.

But I did answer the phone just as I was pulling into my parking lot at the State Capitol. I didn’t get out of the car, though, when Kim said, “We have a pre-empt offer from Ballantine for two books.”

Afraid of being stupid, I still ask, “What does pre-empt mean?”

Pause. Yes, that was a stupid question. I should have looked it up online. She responds matter-of-factly, “Basically, they’re coming up to the plate with a good offer so that we pull all other submissions and negotiate only with them. But if they want a pre-empt, they’re going to have to put more money on the table.”

Of course, I’m panicking. Wait! I want to say. Don’t scare them. What if they say thanks but no thanks? My heart is pounding, people are walking past my car waving at me as they go into the building and I’m just sitting in my car looking dumbstruck. (Aside: This is why writers need an agent. We’re just so damn grateful that somebody wants to buy our book that we don’t even think that maybe the first offer isn’t their final offer.)

So we talk, she hangs up saying she’s going to ask them to come back with another offer, and I just sit. And sit. I sat there for two days (okay, I think I went into my office and worked, picked the kids up, fed them, but I honestly don’t remember anything.)

That Thursday afternoon I was walking back from La Bou, a coffee house, with my afternoon iced mocha. Spring in Sacramento is wonderful, and I certainly didn’t want to go back into my office. I planned on a walk around Capitol Park with my coffee. My cell phone rings. It’s the 212 area code. I swear, whenever I see 212 I go all fluttery inside. It was my agent with the final offer. “I think you should accept. It’s a great offer and they’re really excited.”

I wanted to say, “THEY are excited? I can hardly hold both my phone and my coffee I’m shaking so hard.”

Instead, I just agreed with everything my agent said and hung up. I stood there on the corner of 11th and O Streets and let the reality sink in. I was going to be a published author. Someone wanted to buy my book. And another book that I hadn’t even written yet.

Then my cell phone rang again. Instantly, I thought, “It’s Kim telling me they changed their mind.”

Instead it was my office calling because someone was looking for me. I looked at the time. What I thought had been a fifteen minute break had turned into an hour and fifteen minutes.

Back to the grindstone. But I was smiling. A lot.

***

If you have a first sale story you would like to share, please email jane at jane @ dearauthor.com

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

14 Comments

  1. Kerry Allen
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 04:57:54

    Hey, I’m impressed you were able to articulate a question, even if you thought it was stupid! Even when I get a request for a partial, I can’t do much more than squeal for a few minutes. (“My query doesn’t suck! SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”) I’ve begun rehearsing my air of appreciative professionalism so I don’t look like a total dork when I get The Call.

    I love these First Sale stories. Keep ‘em coming.

  2. Lucinda Betts
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 09:29:04

    What a great story, Allison! And five kids with all those books?! I don’t know which is more impressive!

    SWAK,
    Lucinda

  3. Jackie
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 10:06:03

    I absolutely love this story — all the more for knowing it’s a true story. Congratulations all over again, Allison!

  4. Allison Brennan
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 12:32:25

    Kerry, I don’t know if I was articulate. :) I think my voice cracked. I also think I asked, “Are you serious?” when she first told me. That was my response, BTW, when my husband asked me to marry him. I thought for sure he was joking.

    Hi Lucinda! I’ve been really lucky in the kid department, though they’re still young. My oldest is 13 . . . going on 18. Responsible, mature, but with a huge attitude. My youngest is nearly 3 and not yet sleeping through the night. He’s lucky he’s really, really cute.

    Hi Jackie! Fancy meeting you here :)

  5. Karen Kish
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 12:51:42

    Anytime a story leaves me smiling – it’s a good story. Like Kerry, I love these first sale stories and the writers who are generous enough to share them. I’m just amazed you can remember the details, Allison. My brain would have overloaded and gone into a continual loop of “Does Not Compute. Does Not Compute.” Thanks for sharing.

    Karen

  6. Allison Brennan
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 19:42:01

    Thanks Karen! It’s amazing what you remember. And forget. Sort of like childbirth.

  7. Susan Hatler
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 20:36:36

    What a great story. I feel like I was present when it all happened now. Thanks for sharing, Allison.

  8. Toni Anderson
    Apr 14, 2007 @ 07:30:34

    Allison, it is a great first sale story!! You are doing so well, it is fabulous. Congratulations :)

  9. Colleen Thompson
    Apr 14, 2007 @ 09:09:49

    I *love* reading first sale stories, and yours is wonderfully exciting! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Edie Ramer - Author
    Apr 15, 2007 @ 11:44:03

    […] Nora Roberts’ first sale on this Dear Author loop. If you look to the left side, you can see Allison Brennan wrote about her first sale […]

  11. Allison Brennan
    Apr 15, 2007 @ 11:53:02

    Hi Susan! You were almost there at the time! How’s the weather in the great north? :) . . . Thanks for the congrats, Toni. I honestly never expected to do so well out of the gate, and I really have to thank my agent for matching me with the perfect editor, and my publisher really getting behind the books. Hi Colleen! I’m sure you have a great story yourself!

  12. Edie Ramer
    Apr 15, 2007 @ 12:02:39

    Allison, I thought I knew your story, but I hadn’t heard all the details. It made me smile to read it. And how great to know that you’re afraid of saying something stupid too. :lol:

  13. Allison Brennan
    Apr 15, 2007 @ 23:56:25

    Edie, not only am I afraid of saying something stupid, I’ve been known to put the foot in the mouth on occasion :)

  14. Kate Sterling
    Apr 21, 2007 @ 13:40:02

    Allison, your story gave me chills. How exciting for you! However, I’ve read your books and know it was totally deserved. Congratulations! :)

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