Mar 15 2010
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. Kaylin McFarren is a debut author and her first book, Flaherty’s Crossing, is in stores now.
My journey to publication has been an enlightening experience, to say the least. Exactly one year ago, I was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on an annual family vacation. While everyone was sunning themselves around the pool, I snuck off to check emails at a local internet café. Lo and behold, I spotted a familiar name in my mailbox: Champagne Books. At this point, I had already received letters from approximately eighteen publishers – kind and complimentary mind you, but still rejections. So you can imagine my state of mind as I sat there on a metal chair determining if I really wanted to open that message and ruin a perfectly good vacation.
I took a deep breath, glanced around at other customers typing away, and then returned by attention to J. Ellen Smith’s letter. I am pleased to offer you a contract- I almost fell off of my seat. Was it really possible that someone saw the potential in my story? Ten minutes later, I was back at the pool with a strawberry Margarita in one hand, a printed out message in the other, and a huge grin on my face.
However, arriving at this point in my journey was an adventure in itself. Sixteen years ago, my world was turned upside down. I lost my beloved father to colon cancer after an intense two and a half year battle. I was angry at him, at God, at the world in general. I needed an outlet and found it by sitting down in front of my computer, releasing emotions that were racing through my head and heart. This therapeutic exercise gradually evolved into a related fictional story about a woman's personal journey to find faith and forgiveness. In the process of writing Flaherty's Crossing and exploring my main character's growth, I found myself learning and growing as well.
I entered this “genre-blending” story in numerous contests, knowing that agents and editors would be involved in final round judging. I was amazed that I won time and time again, but there was never a request for a full manuscript. I set to work creating a great query letter. I requested reviews from my rough-draft manuscript, and participated in pitch sessions at various conferences. Although I eventually received numerous requests for full copies, I learned a very difficult lesson from trying to market a book that is "out of the box"-so to speak. Although Flaherty’s Crossing was truly a labor of love and the agents who read it consistently loved my voice and writing style, they weren't sure how to market it or where it would sit on the shelf.
Now this didn't prevent my manuscript from grabbing the interest of one visionary agent in New York. She complimented me for being original, and absolutely fell in love with this story. However, after being under contract for only six months and having received rejections by eight of the largest publishing houses, she felt that changing the story line completely and emphasizing romance would ultimately be the best solution. Long story short, we parted ways and since I no longer had agent representation, I sought out smaller houses on my own.
In closing, all I can say is-persistence pays off. On February 1st, Champagne Books officially released Flaherty’s Crossing and I’m proud to announce that I’ve chosen to donate all my proceeds to the colon cancer research project at Providence Medical Center in my father’s name. In the meantime, I’m busy writing again and have discovered my passion for creating action-adventure stories. It’s my hope that once Severed Threads is completed, it will touch lives and inspire readers as deeply as Flaherty’s Crossing.