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My First Sale by Ann Aguirre

ann-smWelcome 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 045146264501lzzzzzzzmy 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, vendí mi libro! Vendí mi libro!!” and then she bounced too.

And that’s how defenestrating the rulebook worked for me.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Tae
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 05:45:46

    Great story Ann. I fell in love with Jax too and have both books sitting on my self. They were definitely keepers, and I’ll be bringing them home with me when I move back to America from Korea. I look forward to anything and everything you write in the future.

  2. katiebabs
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 06:29:29

    What a lovely story! :D

  3. Amy Ruttan
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 06:39:26

    Great story Ann, and Grimspace was amazing. :)

  4. LauraJane
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 06:59:37

    Great story, Ann. Thank you for sharing. I read Grimspace earlier this month and absolutely fell in love. I ran out to buy Wanderlust before I even finished Grimspace.

  5. Ciar Cullen
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 07:36:26

    So inspiring! I really enjoyed both Grimspace and Wanderlust. And I guess it just goes to show…something. Anyway, your story made me happy!

  6. Juliana Stone
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 07:40:37

    Great Story Ann! I can so visualize you waiting, impatiently by your computer for Miss Laura! Your Jax series is such a wonderful debut, and well, Blue Diablo sounds just as amazing! Kudos, and much continued success!

  7. Larissa Ione
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 08:34:07

    Awesome story, Ann! We started out in much the same way, and it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you sit down and write to please yourself instead of writing what you think the market wants. Congrats!!! Your enthusiasm and heart show in your writing, which you know I love!

  8. Maya M.
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 09:19:20

    was worried when no first sale story popped up on friday that all other authors felt it was too personal a question!

    count me in as one of the people who loved ‘grimspace’. and bonus points for working ‘defenstration’ into the title!

  9. MaryK
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 09:55:05

    I remember reading an excerpt on Ann’s website before Grimspace was published and putting her on my list of authors to watch for. I’m so glad she found a more adventurous agent.

  10. Jessa Slade
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:35:01

    Jax is an awesome heroine. She plays the role that usually goes to the guys, and does it even better. I’ve been looking forward to Blue Diablo. Good luck on this next series!

  11. Meggrs
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:43:44

    Loved Grimspace and Wanderlust–and may I add that Ann is also gracious and friendly in person, and has done a great job of marketing herself and her books/characters that obviously mean so much to her.

    I’ve been UF’d-out, but I will definitely pick up Blue Diablo. Thanks for your first sale story, Ann!

  12. Janine
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:55:48

    Great story — thanks so much! I really enjoyed Grimspace as well and have Wanderlust TBR. I love the point you make about writing to please yourself. I have a theory that when the author is deeply engaged that enthusiasm can carry across to readers. Also, it makes the writing process a lot more fun.

  13. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 30, 2009 @ 20:27:11

    How gratifying it must be to defenestrate the rulebook rather than have the rulebook defenestrate the work! I can’t imagine . . .

    You’re a fabulous writer, Ann. Hell, even this account was beautifully written. Thank you for taking the time, and much continued success.

  14. Patricia Briggs
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 20:12:03

    Just wait until you read Blue Diablo — really, really terrific book :)

  15. Ann Aguirre
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 21:47:02

    I am totally undone by the wonderfulness in this thread. My hands are trembling and I am all choked up. Thanks so much.

  16. Kat
    Mar 31, 2009 @ 21:51:01

    I’m rereading Grimspace now–it’s one of the few books where I read every word each time I read it. Also, I love the way you tried to bargain with the Virgin Mary.

  17. Kasey Mackenzie
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 15:39:07

    Ann–wow. It’s amazing how much your own last paragraph mirrors my own experience/thoughts upon my first sale. Well, other than the housekeeper and screaming in Spanish thing! *grin* Congratulations, thanks for sharing, and I can’t wait to check out your books!

  18. Maria Geraci
    Apr 02, 2009 @ 20:14:00

    Ann, what an awesome first sale story! I totally agree with your philosophy. You have to write for yourself. If you don’t love your story, how can anyone else?

    Felicidades, chica!

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