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My First Sale by Gary Morgenstein, Better Late Than Early

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. Gary Morgenstein is a novelist/playwright who sold his first book, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, at the age of 26 to St. Martin’s Press.   With the rights reverted, Morgenstein took the opportunity to rewrite it and re-release it on


Orson Welles once said, "Better late than early." I wonder if that’s true with a writer. I sold my first novel when I was only 26, a wunderkind. I’d written a few books before, getting nowhere. Then I lucked out, landed an agent who sold Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a novel about baseball fan violence, to St. Martin’s Press. (A novel which I have recently completely re-written, modernized to reflect America circa 2009, and republished at

But I had no idea what publishing meant. I didn’t understand marketing or promotion. I didn’t understand the publishing business. Or any business really – at the time I worked as a writer for professional wrestling magazines. The corporate world was a mystery to me. I sure didn’t understand writing and how I ended up writing a published novel.

Jesse's Girl 2Yet that first moment I received a copy of the finished novel was magic. A real book, hardcover and everything. With some guy’s name on the front and side. I remembered looking at the name and thinking, hey, that is me. I wrote this bloody thing. These are my words. That is my picture on the inside jacket cover. Very surreal.

I think the person most excited was my late father. I gave him that first copy, which he carried around to all his jobs; he was a paperhanger. Buckets, ladder, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame, showing off his son the writer (I think it took the sting out of my dropping out of law school a little). Remember the cab driver father in the original movieFame? That was my Dad.

Then came the official pub date in April 1980. I sat by the phone, waiting for the call from "The Tonight Show." Steve Spielberg. Nothing.

Like most authors, I received little PR support from the publisher, which I complained about with the hubris you would expect of a young writer. I insulted the sales people when I called outraged that my novel wasn’t in my local bookstore. I alienated my editor with endless calls. Reviews were tepid and sales even more so. Disillusioning, dispiriting, at times depressing.

But I remember the look on my father’s face when he would tell me about a customer’s reaction to my novel. That made my first sale pretty darn successful.

Dear Author was not provided a copy of the book nor has any relationship with author.

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
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 08:59:14

    That is so sweet about your father being so proud. Thanks for sharing your first sale story.

  2. Janine
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 11:57:58

    This was a different first sale story. Thank you for admitting the mistakes you made. There is a lesson in there for a lot of writers, I’m sure.

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