I read somewhere that Debbie Macomber has a mailing list of over 75,000 readers who receive postcard updates of her latest releases. Her first sale, HeartSong, was the first ever romance to be reviewed by Publishers Weekly.
It’s hard to imagine that someone like Ms. Macomber ever worried about being published. But Macomber, like every author and every aspiring author, began with one sale and the story that she tells for us is not that of the sale of her first novel, but rather a different kind of first sale. Her most recent book, 8 Sandpiper Way debuted on No. 8 on the New York Times.
I’m sure all writers remember the sale of their first book. For me, that fateful phone call from New York came on September 29, 1982 (at 4:39 p.m.)–but what I want to tell you about is my very first official sale.
I’d been pounding away at the typewriter for nearly three years, and I’d completed two and a half manuscripts. They were returned so fast that I often tell people they hit me in the back of the head on the way home from the post office.
Although people usually laugh at this, the fact remains that rejection is hard. I couldn’t help wondering if I’d ever sell, if there was the slightest chance I’d ever succeed as a writer. I was a stay-at-home mother with four young kids, and I didn’t know another writer in the whole world. My equipment was a rented typewriter, which I set up on the kitchen table and moved at mealtimes. But despite the hardships, despite the setbacks and disappointments, that dream of selling a book stayed alive in my heart.
I was taking a hundred dollars a month out of our family budget; to say our one-income budget was tight would be an understatement. I felt I had to do something to contribute, so I started writing and submitting articles, anecdotes, even crossword puzzles for kids, anything I felt might supplement our income.
My first sale was an anecdote about our five-year-old son, Dale. He was participating in a Christmas program at our church. His entire role was to step forward and recite his Bible verse, which he did flawlessly-’except that he forgot the reference. In a moment of panic, he looked to me for help. I cupped my hands around my mouth and loudly whispered, "Luke," reminding him that the verse was from the Book of Luke. Dale’s eyes brightened, and with his back held straight, he shouted out, "Luke Skywalker!"
The acceptance notice and the check for $5.00 arrived shortly afterward. That five-dollar check might as well have been for a million. Something I’d written was considered worthy of publication! It validated me as a writer and offered me the hope and encouragement I needed.
I often tell this story at writers’ conferences because I want struggling writers to celebrate the small successes along the way. Each one invigorates you and reminds you that your goal is within reach-’and getting closer every day.