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My First Sale by Kaylin McFarren

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.

You can visit Kaylin online at or visit her book's website at

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. Ardee-ann
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 05:19:41

    Kaylin, thank you for telling your story both in your novel, which I must now find to read and in your pursuit toward publication. You have a great voice in your writing and I anticipate that it will carry over into your novel. Good luck with “Severed Threads.”



  2. Diana Peterfreund
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 08:52:30

    Oh my goodness! I read this in a contest a few years back and I thought it was GORGEOUS. It wasn’t part of our contest to judge on marketing, but even as I praised the writing and storyline, I remember thinking that it was going to be a hard book to place because it was so cross-genre. I’m glad she founda spot for it!

  3. Rebecca Goings
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 09:45:36

    Congratulations, Kaylin. First sale stories are always so exciting! And I can say from experience, Champagne Books rocks! :D


  4. Kaylin McFarren
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 10:21:33

    Thanks, Ladies! It’s exciting to finally have this book available to readers and to have such a great publisher. :)

  5. Mina Kelly
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 10:27:17

    I have to admit, Flaherty’s Crossing didn’t strike me as my usual cup of tea, but the excerpt on your website is really powerful.

  6. Amy S.
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 12:17:42

    I’m glad you found a great publisher for your book. Thanks for all you are doing for colon cancer research!

  7. Kaylin McFarren
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 15:24:42

    I’ve been told by readers that the story is powerful too. Hope you get a chance to read it. In the meantime, check out my book trailer at
    It might tempt you as well… :)

  8. Victoria Roder
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 16:43:40

    It was fun to hear your publishing story!

  9. Kaylin McFarren
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 16:51:15

    Thanks Becka, Amy and Vicki. You guys are the greatest!! :)

  10. Tami
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 19:30:38

    I love hearing your stories on how things worked out for you!


  11. Linda Rettstatt
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 19:34:48


    This is a great ‘first sale’ story. Yes, persistence does pay off, and this business demands a lot of persistence. I think the stories that have the most impact are those that come straight from our own hearts. Can’t wait to read this one.


  12. Kaylin McFarren
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 20:17:09

    Thanks, Tami and Linda. I can’t wait for you to read this story either… :D

  13. BK
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 01:47:48

    Kailyn, I understand the how hard lives touched by cancer can be. My mother has lung cancer with mets to the brain. It is a very hard disease to deal with and watch our loved ones suffer through. I can’t wait to read Flaherty’s Crossing, I will be starting it today! Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring others to hang in there even when the going gets tough! Much success, BK

  14. Kaylin McFarren
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 09:23:45

    My prayers go out to you, BK. Please know you’re never alone.

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