My First Sale by Liz Carlyle, a Partnership of Naive Newbies leads to Frontlist Success
I first read Liz Carlyle in 1999 with her release of My False Heart, and I have bought her new, on the release date, ever since. It only took one amazing book for her to win me as a reader. My False Heart was an amazing debut novel. It took chances by featuring a tempermental experienced non-English artist heroine, a brooding unattractive brute of a hero, and a true sense of the historical time period. Since that time, Carlyle has continued to write provocative stories challenging her readers. Her latest release, Never Lie to a Lady, is in stores now and is a USA Today Bestseller.
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My first sale was an almost surreal moment. On the day I got The Call I was actually moving into a new house. After lifting and unloading boxes all day, I had collapsed with exhaustion on the floor of our empty bedroom. Downstairs, a potential tragedy was unfolding. The furniture movers had decided to rip off our banisters in order to get our antique armoire up the steps. I remember just lying there, trying not to listen, while absently studying the carpet color—a strange shade my husband dubbed ‘tobacco-spit brown,’ which matched nothing we owned or would ever wish to own —and wondering how long it would be before we could afford to rip it up and shove it in the nearest dumpster.
Fortunately, we could afford new telephone service. I did not, however, realize Ma Bell had actually turned the thing on. So when the phone rang in the empty room, I was shocked. When I answered it, I was stupefied. The vaguely pleasant but somewhat uncertain voice on the other end of the line informed me in a neatly-clipped New York accent that she had just finished reading my manuscript, and that she was interested—well, she thought perhaps that she might be interested—in buying it. Thought? Perhaps? Was this The Call or not? In my fantasy version, bells had chimed and angels had sung. Uncertainty hadn’t entered the picture.
She soon explained that she was a very new editor, and that I would in fact be her very first manuscript purchase. Ever. So I told her I thought that would probably work well, since this was the first manuscript I’d sold. (I think at the time we were both so naïve we actually believed innocence was a good thing.) So we discussed the particulars of the book, and my willingness to write a second to go with it, and I kept saying “yes, yes, yes,” to everything she asked while I listened to the movers ripping out the old nails and prying up my woodwork.
Eventually, she decided that, yes, she did indeed wish to purchase the manuscript, so we got down to the nitty-gritty. I had already decided that in the unlikely event I should ever sell a book, I would agent myself (saving up for that new carpet!) and when that seemed agreeable to her, we discussed the big topic—money—though in my case, it turned out to be a very small topic. Maybe enough for new carpet provided it sat in the bank and drew interest for a decade or two. But hey, I would have agreed if she’d promised me two percent royalties and her first born son. I hung up the phone and gave a whoop of joy—just as one of the movers collapsed beneath the weight of our armoire while hefting it up the last step. (So far, they haven’t filed any personal injury suits.)
I still have my beloved editor—now a hardened and battle-scarred warrior with many New York Times bestsellers under her belt—and I still have that dreadful brown carpet, too. Since I went under contract, I haven’t had time to go pick out another color.