Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

My First Sale by Denise Rossetti

Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Denise Rossetti writes erotic romance for Berkley and Ellora’s Cave.   Her latest book, Thief of Light, is in stores now.


I started writing because I was miserable and it helped to take my mind off my troubles. That’s all.

Well, that’s how it started

A good book always reminds me of a magic carpet. As a reader, I leap on board with enthusiasm, but unlike most authors, I’ve never been driven by the innate desire to write. In fact, once I left school, I didn’t write any fiction at all, though I certainly thought about it now and then.

When I hit rock-bottom (I’m fine now, by the way), reading didn’t cut it any longer, but heavens, writing did! The process of creation was so empowering, so astonishingly vivid, that once I started I couldn’t stop. My first attempt was a category romance for the sole reason that they’re short. Even sixty thousand words seemed like Everest of effort-‘which just goes to show how little I knew about myself. Nor did I bother to glance at any of the Harlequin guidelines, despite the fact I’d only read a handful of category romances in my life.

The end result will live forever in the sock drawer, but it placed third in the Clendon Contest (run by the Romance Writers of New Zealand) and earned a very nice rejection from Harlequin. It’s funny now to look back and remember how annoyed and disappointed I was with that wonderful, encouraging two page rejection letter!

I discovered Romance Writers of Australia, a fabulous organization of which I remain a proud member. I found critique partners, entered contests and attended conferences. I gravitated to fantasy and then to erotic fantasy. Gift of the Goddess was a personal challenge, to see if I could move past my inhibitions. No problem, rather to my surprise, though it soon became clear that squashing my inner "good girl’ was the easy part!

giftcover_sm I pitched Gift of the Goddess to Suz Gower from Ellora’s Cave at an Australian conference. Some months of silence later, I took a deep breath and sent a follow-up email. Suz’s response was enthusiastic, but not definite. She’d get back to me in a week, she said. Huh! I still don’t know how I lasted thirteen whole days before I cracked and emailed again, but I did.

When Suz called, I was at work, so I left the office and went outside. My knees shook so hard it’s a miracle I didn’t fall down the stairs. Suz was delightful, but she didn’t say straight out she wanted my book. After some time, it dawned on me that a ten minute discourse on title changes probably meant something good. In the end, I gathered my courage and asked. And hey, I was right!

Even better was the cover-‘the best cover any newbie author ever had, thanks to Syneca, staff artist at Ellora’s Cave. I refer to him simply as Mr Gorgeous and he’s still my screensaver, more than three years later.

That was Call Number One. (I’m kind of double-dipping here.) Call Number Two was from Wendy McCurdy, Executive Editor at Berkley.

Is it any wonder I consider romance writers to be the best, most generous people in the world? Without my knowledge, a fellow author recommended me to both her editor (Wendy) and her agent. This wonderful, discerning woman wasn’t my critique partner or even a close friend, though we’re certainly friendly now! These days, I buy her champagne at every possible opportunity.

flame_411But when Wendy asked if I had anything for her to read, I couldn’t believe my bad luck. The opportunity of a lifetime and I was all written out, having just handed Tailspin over to Ellora’s Cave. In desperation, I sent the first few chapters of Tailspin and an abbreviated proposal for The Flame and the Shadow, not much more than a couple of paragraphs.

Fortunately for me, Wendy must have liked the idea of a dark hero with a sentient shadow, because she rang early in the morning (Australian time) with an offer. What a fabulous feeling it must be to deliver someone their heart’s desire! I suspect editors swap "call stories’ during coffee break. At the very least, they must have a quiet chuckle from time to time.

Wendy was so kind and patient with me, because all I could say was, "Are you sure? Are you really sure?" Duh. What on earth would I have done if she’d admitted she wasn’t?

In a lovely coincidence, it was my wedding anniversary and also a public holiday, so My Beloved and I went out for lunch by the water. I no longer even remember exactly which restaurant. I spent the whole day in a sort of delirium.

thief_412Later, of course, I wrote a proper proposal for the quartet that comprises the Four-Sided Pentacle series. It nearly killed me, planning not being my best thing, but it was totally worth it.

It’s been eight years since I was so unhappy I had to invent an imaginary world to live in. That’s no longer necessary though I’m delighted to say the Muse and I still visit there every day. We do it for pleasure and joy, with a healthy dollop of fun mixed in for good measure.

Best Wishes,


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. Jayne
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 05:09:11

    Wendy was so kind and patient with me, because all I could say was, “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” Duh. What on earth would I have done if she'd admitted she wasn't?

    LOL. I wonder if editors ever mentally say “Yeah, just kidding. I wanted to jerk your chain by calling you and lying about wanting your book. ”

    I’m so glad you’re in a better place now, Denise, and getting lovely covers to boot.

  2. Anne Douglas
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 06:17:24

    I <3 Denise's Gift of the Goddess Series at EC. Everyone go out and buy it today!!

  3. Mel Teshco
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 06:23:00

    Denise, I love your call stories!
    I do believe writing is great therapy, and if you can get paid for it too, then that’s got to be pretty therapeutic too, surely!!? lol

  4. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 06:32:41

    Hi Jayne, I have an incredibly clear mental picture of the eye-rolling going on at the other end of the phone!

    Thanks for the kind thoughts. As a kind of lovely bonus, writing has done so much more than simply tide me over a bad patch – the connections have been amazing and continue to give me so much joy. Fabulous friends (readers as well as writers), the opportunity to travel and to teach – oh, and to prop up the bar with the similarly obsessed. What’s not to love? *smile*

  5. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 06:36:59

    Mel, you got that right. Years ago, I knew a (male) senior manager who was an inveterate boob-starer – couldn’t look a woman in the eye, the creep. I stewed over it for a while – then I put him in a book (unpublished). I made him fat and venal and I killed him off sloooowly. Aaah… Instant catharsis. *evil chuckle*

  6. AQ
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 07:53:18

    @Denise Rossetti:

    Ha! I had a boob starer too. I became a cock starer until he stopped doing it.

    Congratulations on your success and overcoming adversity!

  7. Jennifer Leeland
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 08:31:00

    I have always been a fan! How cool (and not surprising) that someone recommended you to Berkeley!
    “Strongman” is one of my favorites stories!

  8. Heather C Brown
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 09:52:49

    Gift of the Goddess was the first ebook I bought…now I’m an addict. Ha!
    Love your work.
    I started in mystery and also took that frightening step into erotic romance and being a grandmother thought that perhaps I’d missed the boat.
    Thankfully I caught the tide.
    I think I would buy champagne too for someone who helped me into such a great publisher as Berkley.
    Those are great stories, thank you for sharing them.

  9. Kate Pearce
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 12:25:04

    A wonderful story from an author who writes wonderful books-thanks for sharing!

  10. VampFanGirl
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 12:40:09

    Denise! I loved your First Sale story. I was smiling the entire time. :)

    Congratualtions again on becoming an author and for writing such fabulous erotic fantasy romance novels. The success you’ve achieved couldn’t have happened to a more wonderful person.

    And for anyone who hasn’t read Denise Rossetti: What are you waiting for?!

    Hugs, VFG

  11. Janine
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 13:08:36

    Neat story! Like Jayne, I am glad you are in a happier place now.

  12. Estara
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 16:20:28

    @Anne Douglas:

    I <3 Denise's Gift of the Goddess Series at EC. Everyone go out and buy it today!!

    Seconding that!!

  13. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 18:52:11

    AQ – you’re a braver woman than I am! I didn’t want to encourage him, especially as he was senior and pretty ruthless. Discovered later he only did it to subordinate women. Hah! Total lowlife. I was sooo glad I killed him. Made me grin every time I saw him thereafter. heh heh

  14. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 19:01:32

    Jennifer, Anne, Kate and Estara –
    Thank you for the kind words. *beams* You’ve made my day!

    The series at Ellora’s Cave is called Phoenix Rising. There are three books in it thus far and I’m working on a fourth.

    There are excerpts at Ellora’s Cave and different ones on my website, so you can really decide if the inside of my head is a place you want to visit! *g*

  15. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 19:03:14

    Oooh, Heather! Are you saying I created a monster?? *grin* I’ve always wanted to do that! And guess what? It’s never too late.

  16. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 19:07:12

    Hey there, VFG! *waves* First Sale stories are almost always ‘feel good’, aren’t they? Totally inspirational. I know I had it easy comared with so many others and I’m grateful, believe me.

    And thanks for the kind words! *smile*

  17. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 19:09:00

    Thanks Janine. And yes, I’m fine. I’d led a pretty charmed life up until to that point, so I guess I was due. In any case, there’s nothing like down to make you appreciate up.

  18. Edie
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 21:03:59

    Oh the timing.. Flame and the Shadow just got delivered to my doorstep today!
    Longtime fan of the Phoenix Rising series, and can’t wait to start this one!

    Many thanks for sharing your stories! Both the calls – and the fiction! ;)

  19. Little Lamb Lost
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 23:13:41

    You know I am a longtime fan of your books. What lovely first sale stories you have. And how wonderful to have come out of a low patch to rise so far…Phoenix Rising, indeed.

  20. Sharon Archer
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 23:26:16

    Fun blog, Denise! I love your double-dipping call story! Congratulations on your fantastic successes.

  21. Janine
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 00:00:21

    In any case, there's nothing like down to make you appreciate up.

    Isn’t that the truth!

  22. Christina Phillips
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 04:39:39

    Love you call stories, Denise! I’m still giggling over your response when your Berkley editor called with an offer. And you know, like Heather, I think Gift of the Goddess was the first e-book I bought as well!

  23. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 06:53:18

    Hey there, Edie. Good to hear from you. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed you enjoy The Flame and the Shadow. Talk about a serendipitous delivery! (If that’s word? I think it is, but possibly not spelled correctly. Nice word though. But I digress.)

    Thanks for taking a chance on the Four-Sided Pentacle series!

  24. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 06:56:05

    Hi Little Lamb! Nice to hear from you. Do you know I never thought of Phoenix Rising in quite that context? Kinda freaky how appropriate it is. *cue spooky music*

  25. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 07:01:03

    Aw thanks, Sharon. *smile*

    BTW, have to say your latest cover is lovely. That girl is exquisite.

  26. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 07:02:42

    Hi Christina! It gives me such a glow to know I started you on the slippery path to ebook perdition. Go me! *evil chuckle*

  27. RD
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 21:15:28

    The series at Ellora's Cave is called Phoenix Rising. There are three books in it thus far and I'm working on a fourth.


    I never pass up a chance to recommend your books.

  28. Denise Rossetti
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 17:17:23

    Thanks, RD. Nothing is better promotion than word of mouth IMO. I really appreciate your support. *smile*

%d bloggers like this: