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. Christine Wells writes historical romances for Berkley. Her book, Dangerous Duke, is in stores now.
I was about to put my quest for publication on hold for a while when I got the call. Not give up, no, that didn’t enter my head. But at six months pregnant with my second child and vilely ill with morning-noon-and-night sickness, I was tempted to slow down a little.
My husband pointed out that even women with full-time jobs took maternity leave. I knew that. I agreed. It’s just that fiction-writing is no ordinary job.
It’s an obsession.
Despite promising to take a break, I hadn’t actually done anything about stopping . . . yet. Just one more revision of the old story. Oh, I’ve got this great idea for a new one. I won a couple of contests, so I entered more. Editors judging contests requested full manuscripts. And so it went.
I don’t know if I would ever have hit the pause button, but an email from a New York editor at 4am (Australian time) put paid to the notion, once and for all.
Such a small collection of words to change a person’s life. The email said something like: Read SCANDAL’S DAUGHTER, thought it was terrific. Want to buy it. And some grumbling about the time difference because the editor didn’t know when to call.
There followed much silent happy dancing by a crazy pregnant woman in the pre-dawn light and louder celebrations with husband and a bewildered three year old a bit later on. But it wasn’t over. I didn’t have an agent and there was no way I was going to negotiate a deal without one. I still had work to do.
I emailed the editor back, thanked her for the offer and said I was talking with an agent and could I get her to call? I spent the next 24 hours emailing and calling back and forth with literary agents I’d already researched and queried but hadn’t heard from yet. At the end of that day, I had an agent.
The next day was a Friday in the middle of summer, so we didn’t have much time. My agent sent the manuscript to a selection of editors, asking them to read it over the weekend. To the astonishment of someone inured to the snail-like pace of publishing, all of them came back with an answer on Monday. We finally sold SCANDAL’S DAUGHTER to Berkley six nail-biting days after I received that first email.
Baby Wells was born to even more joy a couple of months later. He arrived three weeks early and we hadn’t agreed on a first name for him yet. In the hospital the next morning with Baby still in the preemie ward, my husband suggested "Adrian’. Despite my concern for our newborn, I smiled because I’d been reading a Madeline Hunter novel with a hero by that name when I went into labor. I didn’t explain why I smiled and I won’t tell my poor son he’s named after a romantic hero, but it all seemed to fit. Adrian, it was.
I never did get that maternity leave, but all the hard work and sleepless nights was worth it when I saw my first book in print. It’s amazing what can happen in a week.