Welcome to the My First Sale series. We used to host this on Fridays but starting now, we will be hosting these stories on Monday to make space for our new Friday Film Review feature.
In the First Sale series, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Ann Aguirre debuted with break out urban fantasy titles, author of Grimspace and Wanderlust. This month, Ann’s serving up Blue Diablo, a little more romance with your heaping of urban fantasy. On sale date is April 7, 2009, but may be in bookstores now.
My First Sale: or How Defenestrating the Rulebook Worked for Me
Before Grimspace, I wrote a number of novels. I wrote to the market. I tried to please. I got a small break when I signed with my first agent, but I was still writing to the market. I tried my hand at contemporary romance, which wasn’t my strong suit. I was so frustrated. Some of the joy went out of writing too. I started to feel like, “What’s the point? Nobody but me will ever read this.”
To counteract that feeling, I went with it. I said to myself, “Okay, if nobody but me will ever read it, then I’ll write for me.” I sat down at the keyboard with a blank mind — no plot, no idea, no characters, and just began to WRITE. It was-magical; I rediscovered the joy. I didn’t think about selling it. I tossed out every rule I had ever heard or read, every consideration about what was hot and what I might sell. The book that emerged was-different, sooo different that my current agent didn’t want it.
My first big break came when I signed with Laura Bradford, who fell in love with Jax. She didn’t rep SF at the time, but she learned the ropes for me. (I thought I’d written a futuristic romance, mind you. Shows what I know.) She signed me on March 29, pitched on April 11 (my husband’s birthday!), and within two weeks, we had a nibble. An editor fell in love with the book and she took it immediately for approval. I was on tenterhooks.
On that fateful day, May 14, my son forgot his lunch and his swimming kit. I hiked over to his school, seven blocks away, so I was sweaty when I got back to my home office. (Walking on a hot day in Mexico City is tough!) There was a cryptic email waiting for me from Laura. “Hiya, pop onto IM when you get a chance, would you?” My first thought was: crap, she wants to let me down easy. I knew, despite the editor’s great love for Jax, our nibble was a long shot. There were other pitches out, but none at the approval stage. So I squared my shoulders, signed on, and typed: “I’m here.”
I waited. It was a sunny day. The sky was heartbreak-blue overhead, sunlight dappling the fine pale whorls in the bark of the Noche Buena tree outside my office window. I know this because I stared at it for ten minutes, waiting. I scuffed my bare feet. Waited. I studied the purple bougainvillea climbing the terracotta garden wall and decided it needed trimming. Fidgeted. I thought stuff like, if this is good news, I’ll light 27 candles for the Virgin Mary, and then become a good Catholic. I’ll give up sex for Lent. Please don’t let this be another rejection. I don’t have any chocolate in the house.
Then Laura’s reply popped up: “We have an offer from Ace.”
Ace. My dream publisher. Their authors include those I’ve venerated over long years of dreaming: Sharon Shinn, Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris. The idea that I would join such august company undid me. When I caught my breath, I yelled until the housekeeper came to see if I was hurt. Through tears, I told her, “Marta, vendÃ mi libro! VendÃ mi libro!!” and then she bounced too.
And that’s how defenestrating the rulebook worked for me.