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My First Sale by Louisa Edwards, The Book of My Heart...

louisa2Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Louisa Edwards’ debut book, Can’t Stand the Heat, is on shelves tomorrow. (It’s probably in the stores in right now, but it’s official release date is tomorrow. Go forth read, buy & get the urge to cook or eat). You can read an excerpt here. Comment to win a copy of the book & a Can’t Stand the Heat apron.

***

Back when I worked in editorial at a major publishing house, all the assistants used to get together and discuss the elements of a surefire bestseller. For instance, I thought a vampire Navy SEAL romance couldn’t help but do well. Two hot trends for the price of one! It was a joke at the time, but when I got married and moved to Ohio, leaving the world of publishing behind, the idea stuck with me. I laboriously wrote, rewrote, and polished a paranormal romance that, while not purely vamps and SEALs, definitely had its roots in that joke.

The manuscript got me my wonderful agent, Deidre Knight, who promptly told me it wasn’t strong enough to be published. She gave me two options-‘I could go back and work on the stuff I’d always glossed over, like, oh hey, the worldbuilding; or I could set this book aside and write something different.

I knew she was right; if the elements that made my story a paranormal felt forced and unnatural, I probably wasn’t meant to write paranormals, no matter how much I love to read them. And no matter how well they sell.

I floundered. I moped. I read a lot-and as I finished my fifth memoir of a famous chef, I decided to take Deidre’s advice and write something I truly loved and felt connected to: a culinary romance.

Sure, as a subgenre, it’s essentially nonexistent. But I’d already done all this research without even realizing it, just because I enjoyed reading about food, chefs, recipes, and restaurants! And I had a sneaking suspicion I’d like writing about them just as much.

cant stand typeI was right. My chef hero and restaurant critic heroine poured out, snapping at each other and eating fabulous food and having hot sex in the kitchen-‘and the whole time I was thinking: No one but me is ever going to want to read this thing.

It was liberating. I stopped worrying about the market; I ignored the bestseller lists. I added a romantic subplot I knew would be controversial, but it didn’t matter, because I loved it.

And when I finally confessed what I was up to, Deidre sucked in a breath and said, “I know an editor who’s been looking for a chef-based romance for years.”

We packaged the first hundred pages of Can’t Stand the Heat into a proposal and sent it out, first to the publisher I’d once worked for, who didn’t like it, and then to the editor Deidre had mentioned.

She asked for an exclusive until after the editorial meeting the following Monday, and Deidre agreed. That Friday, Deidre called me while I was at the office of the nonprofit where I volunteer. I studiously ignored the proposal because I knew it was too early to have heard anything. We chatted for about ten minutes before she said, with this air of repressed glee, “Oh, by the way. I got an offer from St. Martin’s.”

I screamed. Shrieked, in fact, like a teakettle boiling over. The other women in the office looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I ran outside to avoid scaring the rest of the building into thinking there was a fire or a serial killer on the loose, and paced around trying not to hyperventilate while Deidre filled me in.

Offer. Pre-empt. Multi-book contract. So many pretty, pretty words buzzing in my ears, but all I could think was, "I can’t believe they loved the book I actually loved writing."

I hate the phrase "the book of my heart"-‘it sounds so schmaltzy, like the author didn’t even write the book, just sat at her desk and felt it. Writing is hard work, we all know it. But that phrase, wispy as it is, gets at something true.

A common thread through a lot of the posts in this series is that the Big Break comes when you stop writing to a trend or a market, and start writing for yourself. I’m not saying it’s the only way to get published, but it worked for me. I ditched the conventional wisdom about what editors wanted. And as soon as I stopped worrying about writing something that would sell, I sold.

And I lived happily ever after! (See, I told you there’d be clichés-)

Because Can’t Stand the Heat hits shelves on September 1st, I’m giving away my very last advance reading copy and a Can’t Stand the Heat apron.   Comment below for a chance to win.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

75 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 04:57:15

    but all I could think was, “I can't believe they loved the book I actually loved writing.”

    Fabulous! It doesn’t get any better than this.

  2. Danielle
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 05:10:50

    Congrats on your first book and I’m going to look for your book this weekend when I go bookshopping.

  3. Pat L.
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 05:13:28

    Love the excerpt. Cannot wait to read it. The cover hooked me quite awhile ago.

  4. srishtee
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 05:21:32

    Yaay!! a cooking book. Mayb because i like food (?) which in itself is funny ( since i’m a vegetarian and most cooking books usually talk about non-veg) yet i try to read all such books! Congratulations on your first book! Looking forward to reading it! I’m hooked already :)

  5. Aimee C
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 05:42:05

    Wow – what a great story! I hope the happily ever after never ends!

  6. Sally
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 05:55:24

    After seeing Julie/Julia, I’m ready to read a good “foodie” book. Love the cover!

  7. Kristen Painter
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 06:28:38

    I love this story! And since I got my hands on an ARC of Can’t Stand The Heat, I can honestly say readers won’t be disappointed. What a way to make a debut, Louisa!

  8. kristie
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 06:41:16

    A great story. Thanks for sharing. Your words are very inspirational.

  9. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 06:46:51

    Congrats! Great story. Love the cover.

  10. Stephanie Draven
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 06:54:40

    Aww, I love posts like this!

  11. Mandy McClanahan
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 06:56:35

    This book sounds like fun!

  12. Arlene
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:00:57

    Congratulations on your sale. Just because it’s not an ‘established’ sub-genre, don’t knock it (obviously). Yeah, I love paranormals, but I don’t want a steady diet of them. Your book sounds like great ‘dish.’

  13. Roxanne St. Claire
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:02:02

    This could be one of my all time favorite covers, evah. It promises sexy and fun (and great food!) and I happen to know it delivers. (I, too, loved the free read!) Great first sale story, Louisa, we’re all in for a treat this week! Congrats on your debut release and great timing ~ foodie books are hot.

  14. Natalie Hart
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:05:08

    I’ve read a bunch of romances, women’s fiction books, and mysteries with chefs as characters and loved every one of them. Food and love, just different sides of hunger. Indeed, I fed my now-husband before I kissed him. Congratulations!

  15. Deidre Knight
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:11:35

    Seriously, guys, this book is FABULOUS! I will never forget what a treat it was to settle in my office corner with my Kindle and just *lose myself*. Honestly, that can be a hard little Houdini trick after you’ve been agenting for a while. It’s hard to lose yourself in a client’s work like you might want to. Not so with this one–I lost myself in the story, the characters, their world.

    I know I sold this one, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I really can’t.

    Oh, and I swore to Louisa that it was NOT ten minutes. I think that time did a distortion trick with her. I don’t actually possess the discipline to sit on news that big for ten minutes. It MIGHT have been five. :) All in the name of the “big surprise” you know. Probably more like three minutes.

    CONGRATS, Louisa!!!! You ARE the book of my heart! LOL! (That changes the cliche around a bit, right? Maybe we should pen a romance about an agent/author or author/editor and at the key moment, that’s what she tells the guy…credits roll.)

  16. Jeannie Lin
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:16:24

    “Book of my heart” – oh heck, I get corny and sentimental in big moments and yours sounds like a HUGE one. Go with it.

    As a foodie and a romance lover, I can’t imagine NOT loving this book. Major congrats and can’t wait to grab a copy.

  17. Lynette
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:18:26

    Okay, as a Food Network addict, I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Congratulations on a wonderful Call story and I hope all your dreams come true.

    Lynette

  18. AnotherLori
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:37:11

    As an aspiring foodie and another Food Network junkie, I’m doing a happy dance for tomorrow’s release date. This has been my anticipated read all summer.

    And love the story. Who wouldn’t want that phone call?

  19. Gennita Low
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:39:38

    Hi Louisa!

    Enjoyed meeting you at RWA (and you were so excited!). Congratulations again and can’t wait to have the book in my hands!

  20. Kate K
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:49:28

    This looks hot! But is it trade or mass market? The Kindle price says 9.99.

  21. Louisa Edwards
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:52:36

    Thank you for all the comments and congrats! I really can’t imagine being more thrilled with life than I am right now, one day away from CStH hitting shelves.

  22. Leslie
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:55:56

    Yes, I am a little bummed that right now, the Kindle version is $3 more than the paperback version! Maybe when it actually comes out, the price will drop. It sounds like a great story. Congratulations, Louisa!

  23. Deidre Knight
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 07:58:52

    RE: KINDLE PRICING!!! :)

    Code red! Code red! (In other words, note my reply)

    That is NOT the intended or correct price. It’s a glitch with Amazon that I’ve been working hard to straighten out for about ten days, but we anticipate having it remedied ASAP!

    So check the Kindle listing again even later today or tomorrow!
    Deidre :)

  24. Patrice
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:04:09

    What a great story – it really puts that whole “write what you love” advice in a crystal clear picture! And as someone who puts the Food Channel on for background instead of music, I will definitely read this book.

    Congratulations Louisa and thanks for the opportunity to win an ARC.

    :)
    Patrice

  25. Angela T.
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:05:18

    Great post! Looking forward to reading your book. Food and romance go well together.

  26. Leslie
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:10:00

    @Deidre, re: Kindle Pricing

    Thanks for the update. I had a feeling there was a glitch (I’ve seen it happen before). I will be checking back and will be downloading a sample the minute it becomes available. Looking forward to it.

    L

  27. Carolyn Jewel
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:17:33

    What a great story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  28. Melanie G.
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:31:03

    You’ve got great timing with this book coming out so soon after Julie & Julia hit screens. I think there’s a real hunger (pun intended) for romances in the cooking world. Sounds like a really fun story, and I can’t wait to read it.

    Fix that Kindle price, and you’ve sold another one!

  29. Christine M.
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:46:54

    That actually sounds like my sort of romance, please count me in!

  30. Jenny
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:48:18

    Your post made me smile. Thanks for sharing!

  31. JulieLeto
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 08:59:31

    Okay, what’s wrong with the Kindle price…because I wanted the book so badly, I pre-ordered for my Kindle without looking!!!

    But I wouldn’t mind winning the apron. :-)

    Louisa, I can’t WAIT for the book and hope it shows up in my Kindle tomorrow, as promised, no matter the price!

  32. JulieLeto
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:01:13

    Yikes! I just saw the $9.99 price. Not a trade, huh? Hope they send me a refund for the difference…or send YOU a larger royalty!!!

  33. Eva / TXBookjunkie
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:01:24

    Congrats, Louisa. I’m looking forward to trying out your first book! A hot man who can cook – yum!

  34. Elyssa Papa
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:20:39

    What a great first sale story. Congrats! I’ll download/pre-order it from Kindle once the price adjusts.

  35. Cathy
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:22:27

    Another foodie here – loved the excerpt, and I’m looking forward to reading this once the Kindle price gets sorted out.

    Cooking-centric romances do seem to be few and far between, so I’m excited to find an author focusing on the culinary world. (Do we get a vampire Navy chef in the next book? :D)

  36. Lynn Raye Harris
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:29:32

    What an awesome story! Anything to do with food has my vote! Congratulations. :)

  37. Janine
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:29:53

    Wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  38. Heike M.
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:39:01

    wow, great that you invented the subgenre culinary romance; I think there already are some books that could be categorized as culinary romances but never are. I’m thinking of Leslie Kelley’s Suite Seduction, a Harlequin Temptation, the heroine is a chef; a historical with a heroine who is a pastry chef (I completely forgot author and title); I’m quite sure there are more, are there some with male chefs?; oh, what about Jennifer Crusies Bet Me, that is quite culinary, too…

  39. Karen
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:41:04

    I am so going to get a copy of this book!!! (And a second for the vampire Navy chef!)

  40. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:41:17

    Thanks for sharing your story Louisa. :) I know first hand how romantic chefs can be, and how much my chef husband and I snap at each other over everything that takes place in the kitchen, but he’s so cleanliness-conscious that I can’t convince him actual SEX in the kitchen is a good idea. You’re fantasy-fulfilling for me here! *lol* I can’t wait to read this book.

  41. KeriM
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 09:57:57

    Great first book story and I would love to have a copy of your fist book. It sounds delicious!

  42. Elie N
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 10:20:18

    I am glad you decided to write what felt right to you. I wonder if you’ll ever change your mind and go back to that paranormal?
    Congrats on your book.

  43. jillyfae
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 10:42:08

    Ooh, this sounds lovely. (And I need a new apron… *laughs* Gave my last one away to a friend of mine who really liked it, and haven’t gotten around to getting a new one yet.) Add me to the list of people excited to see the book soon. :D (And also add me to the people who’d much rather read a good foodie book than a lackluster paranormal… congratulations again.)

  44. Katherine
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 10:50:24

    I must have this book! Any romance that involves food/cooking/food-related-things is an auto add to my buy list.

  45. Kate Pearce
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 10:54:32

    I actually got to read the earlier paranormal and ‘Can’t Stand the Heat’ before they reached an editors hands and let me tell you that the cooking book is totally awesome! -although it might make you a bit hungry :)
    Congrats Louisa!

  46. Edie
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 10:59:19

    I love romances with cooking. And eating. (I made cheesecake this morning. Yum.) Like the others, I think it’s great timing for this to come out, too. I’m eager to read this.

  47. Moth
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 11:22:38

    I love Top Chef and I love chef books.

    I really want to read this!

  48. ms bookjunkie
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 11:22:55

    Sounds like a fun book. Would love the apron!

  49. Karen
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 11:55:38

    Sounds fantastic! Thank you for sharing your story. I’ll keep an eye on that Kindle price.

  50. Julie
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 12:00:28

    Congratulations! It’s always inspiring to read about an author’s first sale. :)

    As an avid reader of paranormal/urban fantasy and a big foodie, I would love a change of pace!

  51. Sabrina
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 12:20:51

    The cover is fab! Congrats on the book and it sounds great!

  52. Rashda
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 12:37:54

    As a book addict and foodie, i’m sooo looking forward to your book.

    Have fun on the book release and enjoy every moment!

  53. Louisa Edwards
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 12:49:24

    Wow, you guys have made my day! I’ll keep everyone posted on the Kindle pricing issue, definitely. In the meantime, I’ll be giving away copies of the book on my tour around the romance blogs, and more swag, too! (I’ve got aprons, spatulas, cookbooks, all kinds of good stuff…)

    I love how many of you are saying you’d buy any book that combines romance and food, and also those of you who are hoping for the vampire Navy chef–LOL, you might have a long wait on that one! I’ll run it by my editor and get back to you. : P

  54. Maria Geraci
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 13:22:27

    As someone who’s read the first draft of this book I can say it’s utterly fabulous. I have no doubt it’s going to hit best seller lists!

  55. Karen
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 14:04:57

    As a lover of food this sounds intriguing to me. I have a friend who is fighting a serious illness and who loves to cook and eat, so, after I devour this, I’m going to recommend it to her.

  56. Jess
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 14:22:10

    I can’t wait to read it. Anyone who is aware of cliches abounding will at least have attempted to minimize them. Whoo-hoo.

  57. Lynz
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 15:18:16

    Food? Romance? Together? The only thing that could improve that combination would be a vampire. :p Your book sounds faaaantastic, Louisa! And now I’m hungry!

  58. Tabitha
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 17:08:52

    I like the title of this book, it’s cute.

    I’m adding this book to my TBB list. I’m always open for books with cooking, whether the hero or heroine is the chef doesn’t matter to me. Congrats!

  59. Erin Thompson
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 19:46:57

    This books sounds so good! Have heard much buzz about it! Congrats!
    ~Erin

  60. Jax Cassidy
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 20:14:19

    Loved the post and the book!

    I’m a big foodie and this story is smart, fun, and sexy. I loved the chemistry between the characters and with Louisa’s descriptions of mouth-watering cuisine, I was ready to go out for some fine dining… :)

  61. Amy
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 20:27:12

    OMG, I think we may have been seperated at birth! I live and breathe the Food Network… what a refreshingly new idea, I just love it. Much success to you!

  62. Kelly
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 20:31:10

    It sounds wonderful! I’m ready to devour it!! ;)

  63. Debi Murray
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 20:39:31

    OMG, bring on the food inspired books….I cannot live on paranormals alone.

    Sounds like a great book, can’t wait to read it.

  64. bridget3420
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 21:14:26

    Sounds interesting.

  65. Rachael
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 21:44:29

    Can’t wait to read it! Sounds great, and congrats SO MUCH!

  66. Marilyn Brant
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 23:12:46

    Oh, wow!! I can’t believe your release day is finally here! Congrats, Louisa. As a huge fan of food in general (and of heroes and heroines feeding each other delicious things… :), I’ve been looking forward to this series for a long time!

  67. catie james
    Aug 31, 2009 @ 23:29:38

    Ah your story sounds so familiar Louisa! While I adore paranormals & urban fantasy, I just can’t seem to write them – at least w/o something in the narrative feeling “off,” or “forced.” Thank you so much for your post.

    Congratulations on your debut! I hope CAN’T STAND THE HEAT burns up the best seller lists. :)

  68. Kaetrin
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 00:56:04

    What a wonderful story.

    Good luck with the book.

    I love me a good culinary romance and I’m sure many others do too!

  69. Taylor
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 04:39:36

    Great first sale story. Can’t wait to check out the book. Sounds like a fun read.

    I like the cover art concept.

    But I have to ask, am I the ONLY one who thinks that cover model’s anatomy looks a little odd?? It looks as if she has no butt cheeks at all, like a store mannequin or something.

  70. Caitie
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 06:20:27

    Romances that involve food or chefs are some of my favorites:) Congrats on the book, it looks great!

  71. Lenore
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 07:18:07

    Congratulations on your book! I love the First Sale Stories!

  72. Jane
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 07:22:31

    Louisa emailed me this morning to announce the winners:

    Christine M. (commenter #29) as the winner of the ARC and apron.
    And because of the awesome response, Louisa is going to give away three signed finished copies to Leslie (#22), Karen (#55), and Bridget3420 (#64). Please email me with your snail mail (jane at dearauthor.com). Thanks folks!

  73. Leslie
    Sep 01, 2009 @ 07:30:14

    Wow! I’m thrilled! Thanks so much…Jane, I’ll get a message out to you with my address asap.

    Leslie

  74. Leslie
    Sep 03, 2009 @ 06:46:25

    I just wanted to report to everyone that the Kindle price for this book is now down to $6.99, same as the paperback.

    Leslie

  75. Jocelyn
    Sep 14, 2009 @ 19:04:41

    Just finished this book, and I would love this cover even more if the heroine had a bandaid on her ankle like I orignally thought she did (I can’t be the only one with incessently bad judgment in footwear, right? Right. Miranda proved that in the novel).

    I love books on food, and found a lot of familiar things in that book, not just from reading “Kitchen Confidential” and “Heat” but also from having hung out with waiters and chefs back in my customer service hell days. And I loved that the secondary romance was a gay couple, I’ve been waiting for romance to get with the times on that one since I started reading the genre.

    I did have a couple of problems with the book, but I’ll wait for the actual review and keep this comment section spoiler-free. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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