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

My First Sale by Jenna Black

Jenna Black is your typical romance writer which means she’s smart (BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University); she’s got a diverse background (ballroom dancer, traveler of seven continents, dog groomer); and she can tell a story. The story that you can buy is Secrets in the Shadows which is Black’s release from Tor in stores right now. Right now, though, you can read her first sale story for free.


After having written for sixteen years, trying the whole time to get a novel published, I had in some ways given up my hope that one day I would actually see my dreams come true. However, even if I couldn't exactly say my hopes were high anymore, I wasn't ready to quit trying. Not by a long shot. (I'm a very stubborn person!) Besides, in the last couple of years, things had been looking up. I'd even managed to sign with an agent, who was very certain that I'd eventually sell.

Still, sixteen years of having my hopes dashed made me into something of a pessimist. When my agent told me that Anna Genoese at Tor was going to pitch my novel to the powers-that-be, I tried for all I was worth not to let my hopes shoot up into the stratosphere. After all, I'd gotten maddeningly close to selling before, only to see my books shot down. However, no amount of logic could keep my hopes truly down to earth.

A couple of weeks went by, and I hadn't heard anything. By now, I was going absolutely nuts. I didn't know exactly when this pitch was going to happen, but it seemed like it should have happened by now. On a Monday morning before I went in to my day job, I broke down and sent my agent an email, asking if she had any idea when I'd hear.

I checked my email one last time before heading off to work, and there was a response from my agent. I didn't think it could possibly be any good news, because I assumed she would call me if anything exciting were happening. So I was totally unprepared when she said that she had called me at work on Friday and left a message that Tor had made an offer.

I think I screamed when I read the email, because my husband came running, thinking I was in dire pain. But I wasn't. I jumped up and down and generally made a fool of myself. Of course, I had to call in to work to check the message, and sure enough, she'd left one. At around 5:15, when I leave work at 5:00. I was far too excited to risk the 45 minute drive to work–"my hands were literally shaking–"so I rewarded myself with a day off and a fancy dinner with my husband.

The book I'd sold, Watchers in the Night, was the eighteenth novel I'd completed. In the next eighteen months, I sold three more books in the same series to Tor, and two books in a new series to Bantam. It was all a surreal–"and almost unbearably exciting–"experience. To this day, I still have trouble believing it really happened.

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. CJ
    May 11, 2007 @ 07:52:22

    I can’t wait to read your book, and also, thanks so much for the great “first sale” story. I, too, have been writing forever, cranking out novels that never get published when it seems like everybody and their sister gets their first novels published after working at it, oh, maybe three or four years, and they’re 25 years old, etc. And I think, what’s wrong with me??? So I loved your story. Good luck and congratulations!

  2. Jenna Black
    May 11, 2007 @ 09:22:22

    Thanks! I consider myself one of the poster-children for “persistence pays.” Believe in yourself, keep writing, and keep improving–no matter how good you already are. Eventually, you’ll get so good that someone just has to buy your book!

  3. Skylar Masey
    May 11, 2007 @ 09:54:28


    What a great post, and totally heartfelt (which is the best kind). Congratulations again, and I can’t wait to read your first 2 Watchers books. I have the first book, but still haven’t gotten my hands on the second. Then there’s the time crunch issue…which you can well understand.

    As for being stubborn, I can concure it takes a certain hardheadedness to keep on when the licks (rejections, bad crits) never seem to end. But you did it! And after 10 years, I managed to sign my first contract too! I got my “we want to buy your book” e-mail and had to get my bf to come and re-read it. I thought I was seeing things too!

    Keep up the fabulous work! And never forget what you’ve been through to get to where you are, because that will only propel you further. Dreams are meant to be lived, and I’m so glad you got to realize yours.

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