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

My First Sale by Jennifer Ashley, Two Sales Means No More...

Jennifer Ashley, wows readers in two different genres. Not only does she write romances – historical, contemporary and now paranormal, but she also pens historical mystery novels under the name Ashley Gardner. We’re happy to let her tell us all about her favorite dinner and how long it took to break into this business!


jenniferashleywebphoto.jpgMy first sale story is a little odd because I sold two different kinds of books practically on top of each other.

I'd wanted to be a writer from age eight, but when I went to college, I had this notion that I had to go for a "real" job. I majored in biology (so practical) but later switched to English lit (ever more practical). Not content with a B.A., I stayed in school and went for my master's (thus avoiding a "real" job for another year or so).

Armed with an M.A. in English, I found employment as an editor at a medium-sized publisher that published reference books. In five years I worked up to senior editor in charge of several product lines. I was sitting pretty until the company got bought by a NY publisher, and there went my fine job. I took another job, which I hated and quit in eight months.

Now determined to be a full-time writer (published) I wrote novels from dawn to dusk and beyond. We were flat broke and existed on macaroni and cheese, but I have a very understanding, supportive husband. :-)

I'd written about six romances, won contests, and even finaled in the Golden Heart, but got no bites. I wrote Perils of the Heart in early 2001 and sent it to Dorchester's "New Historical Voice" contest. This is before it became "American Title," where the work is critiqued in front of God and everybody. Tired of rejection I decided that Perils was my last shot at publishing romance. If I didn't win the contract, I was switching to mysteries.

perils-of-the-heart.jpgI didn't win the contest. I didn't even final. But I got a letter from Dorchester asking if I'd let them keep Perils and consider it. Fine. I figured they'd stick it in a pile somewhere, and I'd never hear from them again.

About the same time, I got nibble from an agent I'd queried about a historical murder mystery, The Hanover Square Affair. He requested the full, and then signed me! Woo! Double helpings of mac and cheese.

Then, on Feb. 26, 2002, Kate Seaver at Dorchester offered to buy Perils of the Heart.

I'd been at the eye doctor and returned home, pupils dilated, to a phone message. The first play through didn't really sink in. After blinking blindly at the machine it dawned on me that I'd just sold a book!

I couldn't see to write down the phone number. I went through my files with severely blurred vision, trying to find letterhead with the number on it. At last, at last! I punched numbers, praying they were right–and got voice mail.

body-in-berkley-square.jpgWe eventually connected, and I accepted the offer. Almost on top of that, my agent called and said he sold the mystery series to Berkley. Because I accepted Dorchester's offer first, they asked me to take a pseudonym (Ashley Gardner), but that didn't phase me. After years of rejection I was suddenly published in two genres!

The lessons I learned? Never give up, take advantage of opportunities, and don't let rejection stop you cold. And when you go to the eye doctor, pay the extra fee for a laser photo so you don't have to get your eyes dilated. You never know when you'll have to search for the most important phone number of your life.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. ilona andrews
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 07:07:04

    That’s an awesome first sale story. :)

  2. Janine
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 09:35:35

    Now determined to be a full-time writer (published) I wrote novels from dawn to dusk and beyond. We were flat broke and existed on macaroni and cheese, but I have a very understanding, supportive husband. :-)

    That is a very understanding husband. Thanks for sharing your first sale story!

  3. Keishon
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 09:46:03

    I love your mysteries! I still have a few left to read but would like to know if you visit here, can you let us know if you are still writing that series?

  4. Ciar Cullen
    Nov 02, 2007 @ 10:01:46

    What a great story! But give up mac and cheese? Not for a 3-book deal ;o)
    Congrats and continued success!

  5. Jennifer Ashley
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 01:03:25

    I still eat mac & cheese. In fact that was my lunch yesterday. :-)

    Hi Keishon! The mystery series is at six books and on haitus right now. I plan to continue the series, but I’m contracted for six more romances (at both Berkley and Dorchester), plus I’m still working on a series at EC, plus I keep throwing in those darned historical mainstreams. I’m just running out of hours in the day. But hopefully things will calm to a dull roar and I’ll be able to indulge myself with Captain Lacey again. I love that guy!

  6. Jennifer Ashley
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 01:07:05

    Janine says: “That is a very understanding husband. Thanks for sharing your first sale story!”

    Yeah, he is a sweetie. I drag him with me to RT, and he really enjoys it. Probably more than I do–I’m painfully shy and tend to hide in my room.

  7. Jenyfer Matthews
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 03:14:15

    Great story – it really does pay to be persistent and believe in yourself!

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