Apr 6 2007
Today is the start of an exciting new series called “My First Sale.” Every Friday morning until we run out of letters, we’ll post an author’s first sale story. If you’ve got one, email it to Jane.
Nora Roberts needs no introduction but I’ll provide one anyway. There are more than 295 million copies of her books in print. Over the past 23 years, she sells an average of 21 books per minute. MINUTE! She’s had more than 138 NYT Bestsellers and has spent 102 weeks at the number one spot. Her current release is the latest entry in the Eve Dallas futuristic police procedure series, Innocent in Death. The next release is her single title contemporary romantic suspense: High Noon coming out in July.
The details of the day I got The Call remain very clear. It was June, 1980. Hot and muggy. I was in the kitchen, which also served as my office in those days. Harvest gold appliances, a peel and press vinyl tile floor (which I’d done myself) in textured white. My little desk with my portable electric typewriter stood against the wall facing the doorway that led to the living room. My boys, then seven and four, were waging war in that living room when my fashionable yellow Princess wall phone rang. I’m pretty sure I yelled at them to knock it off, which they probably did for about five seconds.
The voice on the other end of the line was very British. While my boys went back to the battle, she identified herself as Nancy Jackson, an editor at Silhouette. As if that wasn’t momentous enough–my God, a New York editor with a British accent was on my kitchen phone!–she announced in very chirpy tones that she wanted to buy my book.
I think I said: Huh? And I began to pace around the kitchen while her cheerful and cultured voice buzzed in my ear, and the war in the next room reached fever pitch. My older son was, undoubtedly, pummelling his younger brother. But, you know, priorities. British-accented New York Editor wants to buy my book vs possible ER run. No contest.
I listened, I babbled, and while pacing stepped on a grossly fat tick that must have fallen, sated, off the dog. There was a song in my heart, bloody footprints all over my kitchen floor and screams of vengeance from the next room. Somewhere in there I registered that she intended to pay me for my manuscript. Pay. Me. Money. And the miracle of that concept reminded me that I’d just hired an agent a few days before. (Which is another story.) I managed to relay that information, and Nancy said: Why didn’t you say so before? in a tone decidedly irritated rather than cheerful. She asked for my agent’s name and information. Then hung up without another word. So I stood on bloody feet listening to the dial tone, terrified I’d screwed up and the British-accented New York editor would toss my manuscript back in the slush pile. Or possibly burn it.
I yelled at the kids, washed my disgusting foot, mopped the nasty kitchen floor. When the phone rang again, my brand spanking-new agent (two calls from New York in one day!) told me Silhouette made an offer for my book, and asked if I wanted to take it.
I hung up. And I screamed loudly enough to have my kids stop fighting to stare, with perhaps a little fear, at their wild-eyed, dancing mother. Then I sat down and had a good cry.
Nothing tops the first sale. Nothing. Not even really good sex.