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.
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.
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.