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My First Sale by Nora Roberts

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.

Duh.

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.

Nora

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

29 Comments

  1. Angie
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 04:59:03

    Nothing tops the first sale. Nothing. Not even really good sex.

    Um, yeah. Most good sex doesn’t lead to 295 million books in print. Unless it’s the good sex in the book that first sale was for. What a great story :)

    ReplyReply

  2. jmc
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 06:09:03

    See, a post like this is why (IMO) Nora Roberts consistently tops best seller lists: in less than 1,000 words, she told a complete story. I can *see* that kitchen and the fighting kids and the dancing and crying.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyReply

  3. Jaci Burton
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 06:15:31

    But sometimes that first sale leads to really great sex. Heh.

    ReplyReply

  4. bam
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 07:31:52

    You’re wonderful, Miss Nora. Thanks for sharing. :)

    ReplyReply

  5. Keishon
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 08:28:08

    Oh, my, I can’t wait to read more of these stories! Wonderful story Ms. Roberts. One of the other things I read besides the back blurb and the book itself is the acknowledgment page or the About the Author page.

    ReplyReply

  6. TeddyPig
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 08:47:54

    This should be titled A Star Is Born…

    A very bright wonderful star named Nora.

    ReplyReply

  7. Ann(ie)
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 10:39:57

    What a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

    ReplyReply

  8. raine
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 10:44:46

    These stories always leave me a little weepy–in a good way.

    This was great. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyReply

  9. Elizabeth Tippitt-Poe
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 10:50:37

    I cannot wait to for that to happen to me. I wouldn’t even mind the grossly fat tick.
    Liz

    ReplyReply

  10. Elizabeth Tippitt-Poe
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 10:55:16

    It is so good to hear how famous authors started out just like the rest of us. I hope I can share my own first sale story soon.
    Liz

    ReplyReply

  11. Rosie
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 11:01:07

    This is a great addition to the site Ja(y)nes! I’m looking forward to Fridays. Good God I can hear the screaming kids. Thanks Nora.

    ReplyReply

  12. Kristie(J)
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 12:13:12

    What a great idea The first sale – and what a great story!! And what a great author to share the story of the first sale! I loved the crying part – not so much the tick part – ick *g*. Thank you for sharing it!

    ReplyReply

  13. Jennie
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 14:14:53

    I loved this! Thanks for sharing, Nora.

    Great new feature, Ja(y)nes.

    ReplyReply

  14. AAR Rachel
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 19:40:54

    What a great new feature! And a fun story to boot. :)

    ReplyReply

  15. AAR Rachel
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 19:45:20

    OMG – a white kitchen floor and two boys – it’s a wonder you ever wrote anything. I have a fleck floor and only one boy, and it still looks like something dragged itself through my kitchen in its death throws (holding dripping sippy cup) on some days.

    ReplyReply

  16. Jan
    Apr 07, 2007 @ 02:14:21

    This was so much fun! Great new feature Ja(y)nes!

    ReplyReply

  17. Karen Scott
    Apr 07, 2007 @ 03:19:19

    I can’t believe I was only five years old when Nora sold her first book.

    No wonder it feels as if I’ve been reading her all my life!

    What a fantastic idea guys!

    ReplyReply

  18. Nora Roberts
    Apr 07, 2007 @ 06:32:48

    I always regretted not having that tick bronzed. Live and learn.

    I realized I might have added in there somewhere, my boys lived, and stopped trying to kill each other daily a few years later. So for those aspiring writers with kids, there is hope on all levels.

    ReplyReply

  19. Edie Ramer
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 08:33:55

    Thanks for sharing your first sale story, Nora. I loved reading it–and your comments too!

    ReplyReply

  20. Jogirl021365
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 09:13:42

    Nora,

    It was just as I pictured it happening – well, without the tick! I am so glad you received that first call and am thankful for all the calls that followed. Your writing keeps me sane when my family is running around trying to kill each other!! They would appreciate it if you kept on writing a long time!

    ReplyReply

  21. Elizabeth Tippitt-Poe
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 12:32:35

    Nora,
    It was very kind of you to share this story. It has been on my mind for the last several days. I do have a question to ask if you don’t mind.
    How long had you been trying to sell that book before you got the call? Did you, like myself, first get enough rejection letters to repaper your walls?
    Thank you again for your time.
    Liz

    ReplyReply

  22. Nora Roberts
    Apr 14, 2007 @ 05:18:02

    Sorry, I didn’t see this question until today.

    It took me about a year and a half to sell my first book–and I had plenty of rejections.

    ReplyReply

  23. Barbara
    Apr 21, 2007 @ 09:02:13

    Thanks for the story Nora, I loved hearing it, and like many others, thought I was in the Kitchen w/ you. On another note, I so abso love your books, and count the days til they are released, especially the JD Robb in Death! They are abso fabo, and TTT!

    ReplyReply

  24. Kate Sterling
    Apr 21, 2007 @ 13:44:48

    Wonderful story, wonderfully told. :)

    ReplyReply

  25. Chris Tri Stevenson
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 14:37:45

    I was right there in that kitchen with you, Nora. What a moment. You’re right about one thing. The first sale is the one you really, really remember with fondess.

    ReplyReply

  26. Lorrie1969
    Dec 02, 2007 @ 20:35:17

    I’m sooo glad you shared your story, Nora. You are definetly my inspiration! And you have been since I “discovered” you. I’m a good writer…it’s one thing I know I can do well…I hope to one day to be a published writer. To be even one quater as successful as you are would truly be a dream come true! I love hearing about your successes. I also like hearing about your learning experiences as well. Knowing that even the VERY GREAT Nora Roberts got ejection notices will make those that I will surely get a little easier to accept. (I haven’t gotten to the stage where I am sending out any of my work yet…very soon tho!)

    ReplyReply

  27. rose
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 21:49:43

    wow! that was very good, the kitchen story, I’ve always thought you must have very good sex from reading your love scenes.

    ReplyReply

  28. Teresa
    May 01, 2010 @ 09:42:17

    Didn’t even let stepping on a tick stop her. What a gal. Hope you’ve gotten rid of those harvest gold appliances with the royalties of 295 million books lol

    ReplyReply

  29. Lori Campbell
    Nov 01, 2010 @ 11:47:04

    If that first book was “Irish Thoroughbred” then it was a truly awesome day! That book was the first romance novel I ever purchased (I was thirteen) and it hooked me on the genre for a lifetime. :)

    ReplyReply

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