My First Sale by Lisa Kleypas, Don’t Sell Yourself Short
I had the opportunity to meet Lisa Kleypas this summer at RWA due the kindness of herself and Sybil of The Good, The Bad, and the Unread. Sybil had arranged for myself and Kristie J to have lunch with Lisa. Lisa took us to the Adolphus Hotel where she had gotten married. During the luncheon and then throughout the conference, I had an opportunity to observe one of the most genuinely kind and un-assuming individuals I have ever had the good fortune to meet. Probably one of the most amazing things about Kleypas is that she really doesn’t realize the magic she has in her head that translates into her books. Her latest release, Mine Till Midnight, features a Rom hero in Regency England. There’s never been a hero quite like Cam.
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The occasion of my first sale was a huge relief, because I discovered early in my life that I was good for nothing except writing. Here are the signs that you are probably destined to become an author:
- You are absent-minded because you live in a fantasy world most of the time.
- You have eye strain from chain-reading (going from book to book the way a chain-smoker goes through cigarettes.)
- When you don't like the way someone else's story has turned out, you rewrite it in your head, i.e. Rhett and Scarlett make up, Laurie marries Jo instead of Amy, and Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson go on a date that ends with a hot make-out scene.
- Exercise? What is that word?
- You are always hunting for tiny pieces of paper to write down ideas that occur to you at the most inconvenient times and places.
- Weird? Me? Not at all. Well, maybe. Just a little. Okay, yes. Probably. All right, definitely. Here's my freak flag, it's flying.
So I always loved writing and reading, wrote my first full-length novel at camp when I was 16, and from then on I wrote a book every summer instead of going for jobs or internships. By the time I was ready to graduate from college, I had no job experience whatsoever, and five unpublished novels under the bed. And I knew if I didn't get a book sold right then, I would have to find a normal nine-to-five job, which would have been okay except I didn't want to do anything except write.
One last shot. Okay. I put my heart and soul into a big, detailed, flowery novel, doing my best imitation of Kathleen Woodiwiss, and sent it to an agent in New York. (I had my parents take my picture with the fedex delivery lady before she put the manuscript in her truck.)
The agent called me three days later and said not only would he represent me, but he could place it at a major publisher for a little less than four thousand dollars.
I was jumping up and down. I was thrilled. Except . . . four thousand dollars for six months of work . . . and that was before the agent's commission. I realized that even if I wrote three books a year, I couldn't afford to get an apartment or health insurance or . . . well, food . . .
I actually turned down the offer and asked the agent to shop the book around for more money. I was dying. I wanted so badly to be published, but I had to make enough to support myself. And then through some miracle, my agent found a publisher who was willing to give me a two-book contract for ten thousand a book.
My career started with "Where Passion Leads," and I wrote three more books for NAL before I finally went to Avon. The main thing I remember about those two years of writing for NAL was the almost feverish sense of joy I felt nearly all the time. I couldn't believe I was getting to do the thing I loved. And gradually I gained the confidence and experience to find my own voice, rather than imitating someone else's. It's been over twenty years, and you know what? . . . I still don't take it for granted. I still have so much to learn. And there are days it still feels like a miracle, being an author.