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My First Sale by Lynn Raye Harris

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. Lynn Raye Harris‘ debut novel, Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge (Harlequin Presents) has an official release date of August 1, but look for it in stores now.

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I love First Sale stories.   During the dark, hard times when I slogged through muck and doubt and disbelief I could ever write a story someone would buy, First Sale stories were my hope (yes, the phrase is always capitalized in my mind).   When I wanted to quit, I’d stumble across someone’s First Sale story and the flame of perseverance would rekindle.   To be able to share my own First Sale here with you now is a great joy.

spanishmagnate
To begin properly, I have to say that I read my first romance when I was about twelve years old.   It was a Harlequin Presents, with a dashing alpha male (probably a sheikh) and a virginal heroine.   I was hooked.   I read HPs for several years, then dropped away when I allowed a college professor to convince me they were literary tripe.   I crawled my way back to romance when I was twenty-five by picking up a historical, Virginia Henley’s The Pirate and The Pagan.

And that’s when I knew what I wanted to do.   I wanted to write romance, specifically historical romance.   The year was 1993.   I joined Romance Writers of America, read my Romance Writers’ Report faithfully (which came every other month and wasn’t the glossy magazine it is now), and wrote a very bad medieval romance.

An 800 page medieval romance.   Because I was special, of course.   As soon as an editor or agent read my tome, word count suggestions (snort) would go right out the window.   I would be offered a hardcover contract and shoot to the top of the genre in no time flat.

You’re laughing at me, aren’t you?   And rightly so.   I was clueless, but passionate, and I struggled with the inevitable rejection that followed.   I had some contest success, and even had an agent interested in my work.

Ultimately, however, my book never saw the light of day.   Nor did it deserve to.   I threw myself into another historical romance, a Regency this time.   And another one after that.

Then life intervened and I spent several years living in Europe with my military spouse.   I went back to school, got a Master’s Degree, and read my RWRs wistfully.   I wasn’t destined to be a romance writer, but I somehow couldn’t drop my membership in RWA.   I was like a child with my face pressed to the toy store window.   I could watch other children play but wasn’t allowed inside.

But then I got an idea.   A contemporary idea, oddly enough.   I rediscovered the joy of writing and quickly wrote a new book.   I was too scared to submit it, so I began another book which ultimately became a 2008 Golden Heart ® Finalist.

That book didn’t sell either, but something extraordinary happened in the mean time.   Harlequin Mills & Boon decided to have a writing competition to find new writers for the Presents line.   I’d always loved these books, had begun reading them again, and thought, "Why not give it a try?"

Since the competition only required one chapter and a two-page synopsis, I looked at it like an opportunity to write mini-proposals.   I wrote two, submitting the last one only hours before the competition closed.

A little over a month later, I got a phone call from the UK.   Out of 600+ entries, I had won the competition.   I was too shocked to ask which entry, though I was pretty sure I knew (when I got the email confirmation, it turned out I was right).   My prize?   An editor for a year.

Suddenly, everything changed.   I didn’t have a contract, but I had an editor and the power of a publishing house behind me who wanted me to succeed.   The book wasn’t finished, but I went to work and with my editor’s suggestions completed it in about two months.

What followed were two sets of revisions, but on October 6, 2008, at 7:27 AM, six months after I’d won the contest, I finally got the call I’d always dreamed about.   Fifteen years after joining RWA and beginning my very first novel, I sold in a two-book deal to Harlequin Presents – a line I’d never targeted but had always loved.   I’m on my second contract now, and my third book has just been accepted.

Dreams do come true, and sometimes when and where you least expect them.   Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge is an August release and is available in stores right now.

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

18 Comments

  1. Rob Charron
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 04:47:08

    Hi :)
    Thank you for an inspirational blog post.
    I, too, feel the glass pressed against my forehead as I stare through the window at the published authors. In my mind they are the “real” authors.
    You give me hope to continue writing and submitting.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Love and best wishes from Northern Ontario
    twitter.com/RKCharron
    xoxo

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 06:10:08

    Hot damn. Your first book is in a line you’ve always liked. How cool is that!

    ReplyReply

  3. Leeann Burke
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 07:13:19

    What an honest, straight forward and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it Lynn.

    I agree with Jayne, its pretty cool that the line you love so much is publishing your books.

    Congrats!

    Leeann

    ReplyReply

  4. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 08:27:01

    Great story! Thanks.

    ReplyReply

  5. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 09:31:18

    Hi, y’all! Thanks for the comments!

    Rob, keep going because you never know how you’ll get there. I quit for a while, but ultimately kept writing. And it worked out. :) Perseverance is the key, IMO.

    Hi, Jayne! I can’t think why I never thought to write an HP before the contest, but it’s obviously where I belonged. I’m pretty thrilled to be a Presents author.

    Leeann, glad you liked my story! Sometimes I can’t believe it took 15 years, but it really did. That’s why I believe in never giving up.

    Hi, Jill! Thanks. :)

    ReplyReply

  6. My First Sale | Lynn Raye Harris
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 09:40:30

    [...] over at Dear Author today with a My First Sale interview. Come see what I had to say about my journey to [...]

  7. Heather Brewer
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 11:25:25

    Great Interview Lynn.

    I have to brag on you, I love this book!!! Won an ARC and had the pleasure of reading before it was released. It is awesome and I can’t wait for your next book to come out.

    Do we have a release date yet?

    Congrats Lynn!!

    ReplyReply

  8. AmyW
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 11:28:17

    **waves to Lynn** Hi Lynn, lovely to see your First Sale story at Dear Author! This is Amy from I Heart Presents, btw.

    Hope Jane doesn’t mind me mentioning that there’s a new writing contest for Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern right now. Official announcement is here: http://www.iheartpresents.com/2009/07/the-harlequin-presents-writing-competition-2009-is-now-open/

    So far, 4 new authors (including Lynn) have sold to HP after entering writing contests, both winners and someone who didn’t even place!
    ~Amy

    ReplyReply

  9. Nicole S
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 11:55:51

    I’m glad you won because I read Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge and it was really good. You did a fantastic job on it, can’t wait for more books by you!

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  10. Vicky Dreiling
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 12:04:35

    Love your story, Lynn! I’m so glad you judged me in that contest back in 2008 so we could meet. I’ve got your book on my to buy list!

    ReplyReply

  11. Kris Kennedy
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 13:01:44

    Hey Lynn~
    Mega, monster congrats to you!! I love your story of persistence and hard work.

    I’m headed to a bookstore later this week (please God) so will get yours then. I can’t wait!! Hmmm. There’ll be a couple other of the 2008 Golden Heart finalists’ books available in August too . . .

    :-) Congrats. You deserve.

    ReplyReply

  12. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 13:16:14

    Hi, Heather! Thanks so much. :) You have made my day. Yes, the next book has a US release! CAVELLI’S LOST HEIR is a January 2010 release in the US.

    Hi, Amy! That contest was certainly the best thing that happened to me in my writing career thus far. :) I’m soooo glad HMB decided to have it.

    Nicole! Thank you for the compliments. :) Glad you liked the book!

    Hi, Vicky! You bet — judging you in that contest was the best thing ever! I can’t wait to read your debut now that some smart editor snapped you up!!! Finally, I get the rest of the book. :)

    Kris! See, I should be jealous of you. You actually wrote a publishable (and fabulous!) medieval romance. Me, I have a huge stack of paper collecting dust. *g* It’s quite a debut month (year) for Pixies, isn’t it?

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  13. Annette McCleave
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 14:31:51

    Great story, Lynn!

    I love hearing how contests can sometimes change everything. Of course, yours is also a true story of persistence. I’m really pleased that I was able to get a signed copy of Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge at the RWA conference, and I look forward to reading it as soon as I beat my latest deadline into submission. :-)

    ReplyReply

  14. Janine
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 16:50:19

    Great first sale story. I love the perseverance message.

    ReplyReply

  15. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 18:51:28

    Hi, Annette! Thanks. :) I loved signing a copy of SMRHR for you — I hope you enjoy it! Totally understand the dreadline woes…..

    Hi, Janine! Thank you very much. :)

    ReplyReply

  16. Carolyn Jewel
    Jul 28, 2009 @ 11:47:13

    I love First Sale stories for the same reason you do. Thanks for sharing yours!

    ReplyReply

  17. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jul 28, 2009 @ 15:04:33

    Hi, Carolyn! Glad you liked my story. :)

    ReplyReply

  18. Petit Fours and Hot Tamales » LYNN RAYE HARRIS: Debut Author – Guest Chef
    Feb 13, 2010 @ 18:19:39

    [...] it? LRH: I've been all over talking about my call story! You can read it at I Heart Presents and Dear Author.SPANISH MAGNATE, RED HOT REVENGE, your debut book, is really good. (I'm reading it now.) Love [...]

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