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My First Sale by Gail Carriger

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. Gail Carriger is the author of the Parasol Protectorate series.  You can friend or follow Gail on Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, or Blogspot. Or join The Parasol Protectorate Facebook Group and take over the world one sip of tea at a time. You can also play the  Alexia paper-doll dress up game (beware, though, I’ve wasted many many precious minutes on this game. Blameless, the latest book in the series, is out now.


So I wrote  Soulless on a dare. No really.

I was winching on, as you do, that no one wanted to buy my overwritten overbuilt YA fantasy series (ten years or so of trying).

My then partner, AKA the Louder Half, looked at me and rumbled, “So why don’t you just write something that will sell?”

To which I replied, “I’ll play your silly game.”

At which he explained, “Your problem is that you want to be an artist. What you need to be is an artisan.”

He’s a computer geek, what can I say?

But there was some merit to this idea. So I thought to myself, what’s missing in the book world right now? What do I want to read that I can’t find? What niche can I carve for myself in this troublesome market? I know they say never to write “to the market”, but I was so very tired of playing by all the rules.

So I nosed about. There were plenty of urban fantasy books out there but they were mostly contemporary. Steampunk was just getting popular but it was mostly dark. I enjoy reading about the past but I also dearly love a good laugh. So I dared myself to try to write a steampunk urban fantasy comedy of manners. Why not? I had nothing else to loose.

It took me 6 months to write and then I sent  Soulless out into the slush piles and prepared to collect rejection letters. I did collect them, but mostly from agents.

Much to my shock, just under two months later, I got that fateful 212 phone call that every writer dreams of (212 is the area code for New York City). I was drinking a most excellent latte and correcting term papers at my favorite local cafe. There might have been some rather indelicate sputtering and a certain amount of foam loss as a result of the fact that on the other end of the line was a senior editor from a major publishing house.

I then wandered, in simulated dignity and forgetting all about both exams and latte, through the cafe and out the back where I started gyrating around the parking lot in an excess of excitement.

With possible contract to hand, I queried my first choice agent and she said yes. Contract negotiations commenced. Only then did I find out they wanted a series.

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. Carolyn Jewel
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 12:07:52

    Thanks for sharing your story, Gail! I do love reading about first sales. Props to your Louder Half. I feel I should buy him a coffee or something to thank him for his contribution to my reading pleasure.

  2. katiebabs
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 13:08:14

    And we gladly thank you for taking on that dare. :) *salutes with latte*

  3. Molly O'Keefe
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 14:06:39

    Great story! I love hearing the story that breaks the rules – writing to the lack in market clearly worked. I adore your voice and am glad you took the dare!!

  4. MaryK
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 16:03:06

    Artist . . . Artisan. Cool.

    I’m waiting for book #3 to arrive so I can read book #2. :D

  5. Janine
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 18:11:59

    I almost always enjoy first sale stories and this one was charming. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Kate Pearce
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 18:55:01

    What a great first sale story :) I reckon my kids will have a lot on common with your upbringing story lol, being an expat myself :)

  7. Kathleen Dienne
    Aug 31, 2010 @ 09:07:58

    That’s fantastic :) I admit I read the first one thinking “this reads like a standalone, but I’m awfully glad it’s a series.” Now I see why!

  8. dri
    Sep 03, 2010 @ 05:44:56

    I have indeed gone right out after reading this post and bought the novel. Mind you, I headed out to get the new Pratchett, walked past a stack of books, looked down and went “Hey, I know that name, omg the universe wants me to read this book, I must get it now.”

    And really, this is the first even remotely paranormal thingie I’ve bought since the start of this whole craze. So you are to be congratulated! *lol* It may have been the phrase ‘steampunk urban fantasy comedy of manners’. I may have jolted upright in my seat at that. :p

  9. Gail Carriger – Blameless Tour, Huntington Beach
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 14:33:00

    […] She wrote a book that she wanted to read – a lighthearted steampunk comedy of manners with vampires and werewolves thrown in. She got called within two months, out of the slush pile (the full story of her first sale is here). […]

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