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My First Sale by Pam Rosenthal

Pam RosenthalWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Pam Rosenthal writes lush historicals and her RITA nominated title, The Slightest Provocation, is being reissued in mass market this month.


It wasn't difficult to find an agent to sell my first romance novel. And I'd already been published in erotica: my comic BDSM novel,  Carrie's Story (w/a Molly Weatherfield) had gone through four printings (and is now in its fourteenth). While as for book reviews and features, I'd published a few of them too, in quite okay venues like and the  San Francisco Chronicle.

So how hard could it be, I thought, to sell a romance?

Live and learn. The rejection letters piled up.

Perhaps it was simply the state of the market almost a decade ago, when no romance publisher wanted to see a historical (The Bookseller's Daughter) set in pre-Revolutionary France. Or my writer's voice, which, now that I'm published, is sometimes called literary, but then only sounded unfamiliar. Not to speak of the explicit sex I was writing in that "literary" voice, during the early days of erotic romance, when no one was quite sure how far to take this heady new freedom.

Whatever the reasons, the publishers seemed pretty much agreed about my book. Rejections ranged from  no to  say what? And back to  no.

Each of which I managed to take as possible, making myself nuts while my husband tried to talk sense to me and my agent remained cool and confident.

Still, I did do one thing right. And as it turned out, what I did was the most important thing I could have done. I kept writing. Not because I was smart or savvy or believed it would amount to anything. I started a new romance novel because writing a romance novel was the most fun I knew how to have.

Just for fun, I decided to change historical periods – from the French Revolution to the English Regency. I always like to write about sex and power, so I imagined a tall, cruel, polished English dandy of a villain. Or perhaps a hero.

Except that I didn't really know much about dandies. But there was a long-unread book on my shelves.  The Dandy:  Brummell to Beerbohm is a brilliant study that (unaccountably, to me) never makes it to the short list of Regency writer must-reads, but was perfect for my purposes. As I read about Brummell's triumphs of wit and style, I felt a thrill of discovery. And the deeper I got into the story of an outsider become consummate insider, the more I identified with him.

And when I thought again about my idea for a new romance novel and its tall, polished dandy hero, I began to wonder if perhaps the dandy couldn't be the  heroineof the novel. A woman from far outside the circles of power who dons a disguise to become not quite a- no,  Almost a Gentleman.

So I wrote it for fun (quite as I'd written the Molly Weatherfield BDSM books) and forgot about selling.

Rejections still trickled in for  The Bookseller's Daughter. But as the months wore on, the rejections became kinder. Some editors seemed to like the sound of my voice. It was time, my agent said, to hit them with something new.

Well, I did have something, I said. Though I added quickly that since  Almost A Gentleman played games with gender and homoeroticism, it might be a little bit outside what even the erotic romance genre could bear. Still, why not send it around? Whatever anyone might think, I was too busy having fun to get too upset.

Which was about two months before the late, great Kate Duffy at Kensington bought  Almost a Gentleman, The Bookseller's Daughter, and the novella that became "A House East of Regent Street."

Slightest ProvocationI got the call from my agent in my cubicle at work. So I couldn't whoop or halloo. But I  could beam and clutch myself and call my husband, who'd had to put up with all my qvetching all those months, but knew better than to say "I told you so." And who immediately made reservations to celebrate at a classy, wonderful little French restaurant. If you're in San Francisco it's called Anjou, and I recommend it.

And with the advance – well, I wish I could say that I ran out and bought everything but the kitchen sink. But what in fact I bought  was the kitchen sink, a big beautiful one instead of the cheapie I was going to settle for. Because we were in the midst of a kitchen renovation at the time, though we hadn't quite figured out how we were going to pay for it.

The kitchen came out great, by the way, and it turns out that a sink is a perfect publication present, because I spend time at it practically every day, reminded each time that I do better on the margins of a genre – as when I wrote what's probably my most intense book, the 2007 RITA ®-nominated  The Slightest Provocation, which has just been reissued in a mass-market edition.

And that I do best of all when I'm having fun.

You can visit Pam at her website or group blog, Hystery Hoydens.   Leave a  comment to win either   the new mass edition or the old trade edition of The Slightest Provocation.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Tweets that mention My First Sale by Pam Rosenthal | Dear Author --
    May 10, 2010 @ 04:10:46

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dearauthor. dearauthor said: New post: My First Sale by Pam Rosenthal […]

  2. Gina
    May 10, 2010 @ 06:05:48

    Followed her website to the excerpt of Carrie’s Story… how the hell have I missed this author! If my husband wasn’t home I’d be charging your entire backlist to his credit card right now – yes, based on that one excerpt! Tomorrow…

  3. Danielle D
    May 10, 2010 @ 06:39:33

    Pam, I really enjoy your books and I have them all on my keeper shelf.

  4. Jacqueline C.
    May 10, 2010 @ 06:49:47

    I’ve never heard of Pam before but I’m definitely going to add her to my wishlist.

  5. Carolyn Jewel
    May 10, 2010 @ 08:07:07

    As ever, thanks for sharing your story, Pam. You are an amazing writer. I’m in awe of your talent. Anyone who hasn’t read Pam yet is in for a treat.

  6. Liz Fichera
    May 10, 2010 @ 08:16:30

    “Keep writing” is great advice. Otherwise, you drive yourself crazy with the waiting.

  7. Nadia Lee
    May 10, 2010 @ 08:17:28

    I really love the new cover for THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION. Very sexy and very eye-catching.

  8. Janine
    May 10, 2010 @ 08:37:48

    Leave me out of the drawing. I just want to say I enjoyed this first sale story and am so glad you persisted in writing. I loved The Slightest Provocation and reviewed it here.

  9. Vicky Dreiling
    May 10, 2010 @ 08:57:22

    What a wonderful, inspiring story, Pam. I hope to see you at the RWA conference if you’re attending. Cheers!

  10. Ridley
    May 10, 2010 @ 09:38:51

    I love that you bought a sink. Not the first thing that comes to mind when I think “celebratory splurge item.”

    I’ve been meaning to read The Slightest Provocation after absolutely loving The Edge of Impropriety so please enter me in the drawing!

  11. Rene
    May 10, 2010 @ 10:54:48

    Please enter me in the drawing! Meanwhile, your other books sound fantastic. Looking forward to reading about the cross-dressing dandy!

  12. Juliette
    May 10, 2010 @ 11:33:45

    I’m new to this book drawing thing, but I love the idea of trying a new author.

  13. runner10
    May 10, 2010 @ 11:40:15

    Sounds like a great book. I will definitely check you out.

  14. Kate Pearce
    May 10, 2010 @ 11:40:18

    I’m a big fan of yours, Pam, both for your beautiful writing and your charming personality. I remember meeting you at Starbucks at RWA and having a little squee over you both as Pam and Molly, both of whom I’ve blogged with. Keep up the good work!

  15. RebeccaJ
    May 10, 2010 @ 11:50:22

    “So how hard could it be, I thought, to sell a romance?”

    LOL! I had a good laugh when I read that line, Pam, because I said the same (incredibly stupid) naive thing:)

    Congratulations on your first novel sale. I can just imagine you at work getting the wonderful news and not being able to jump up and down screaming with joy! It’s stories like yours that give me hope that some day I’ll experience my first sale.

  16. Julie M.
    May 10, 2010 @ 15:08:33

    Great first sale story. It sounds like I’ve been missing an awesome writer. I’ll be checking out your books.

  17. tae
    May 10, 2010 @ 19:29:04

    I’ve seen the name, but never read anything by Pam. However, Almost a Gentleman sounds way too intriguing for me not to hunt it down and read it

  18. Mariska
    May 10, 2010 @ 20:17:21

    Pam is a new for me author. i would really like to read one of her books :)

  19. GSM
    May 10, 2010 @ 20:44:18

    What a great story. I look forward to reading this book. Thanks.

  20. MaryK
    May 10, 2010 @ 22:16:48

    I have this book so I don’t need to be in the drawing. I just want to verbally admire your first sale story. :)

    I’ve peeked at Molly’s books and they’re very well written and effective though too hardcore for me. I play in the shallow end of the pool. ;)

  21. Lucy
    May 10, 2010 @ 22:23:59

    I love your writing style and I couldn’t believe you had so much trouble being published.

    The new cover might be more sexy but I actually prefer the old one. It went better with your writing style.

  22. Anthea Lawson
    May 10, 2010 @ 22:24:57

    Thanks for sharing your story, Pam! Readers are lucky that you’ve found your place and prospered there at the edge of the genre. We’re all richer for it.

    No need to enter me in the drawing – I have and LOVE all of Pam’s books. For anyone who hasn’t read her yet — DO IT! The Edge of Impropriety is also a fine, fine read. Ok, all of them are, but that one got Pam a RITA last year. :D

  23. SonomaLass
    May 10, 2010 @ 23:21:05

    I’m another reader who loves all of Pam’s books. Almost a Gentleman is one of my very favorite books of all time, but I can only pick it as a favorite because cross-dressing heroines are my specialty. So don’t enter me in the drawing either — I just wanted to say thanks for sticking with it, Pam, and to encourage others to try her books.

  24. cdouglas
    May 11, 2010 @ 06:02:55

    Oh, I’ve really wanted to read The Slightest Provocation! I loved The Edge of Impropiety when I read it after it won the RITA. The writing just knocked me out and I’ve been meaning to read her other books. This was a great first sale story.

  25. Virginia C
    May 11, 2010 @ 17:32:14

    Hi,Pam! I think you have captured our fascination with Historical Romance with this wise turn of phrase: “explicit sex written in a literary voice”. Ummmh-HmmmH ; )

  26. Kaetrin
    May 11, 2010 @ 21:08:42

    Great story. Thx for sharing!

  27. Estara
    May 12, 2010 @ 06:22:18


    You can visit Pam at her website or group blog, Hystery Hoydens.

    By the way, I really liked The Edge of Impropriety and shall glom onto the backlist now.

  28. Pam Rosenthal
    May 12, 2010 @ 12:22:49

    So so sorry I didn´t reply, guys! I´m on vacation in Mexico and thought the entry went up today (WEDNESDAY!)

    Thanks so much for the lovely comments, everybody. Hasta luego!

    Andplease let me know who won the drawing, Jane. I´ll be in touch!

    Sorry again,

  29. Rosa
    May 12, 2010 @ 21:22:32

    Pam, I just want to say, I got The Slightest Provocation at the library after they talked about it at Smart Bitches, and since then I’ve read every one of your books. I love, love, love The Bookseller’s Daughter and have gotten several friends to read it in the last few weeks.

  30. Winner of Pam Rosenthal Book | Dear Author
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:45:39

    […] jane at   For those who might be interested in Pam’s First Sale story, you can check it out here. Share Contests/Giveaways giveaway, Pam Rosenthal Poll: Do You Skim/Skip Sex […]

  31. Still trucking… | Passions and Provocations
    May 14, 2010 @ 19:34:31

    […] meanwhile, here are some nice links, both to the Dear Author blog. One about my first sale, and one about a subject very dear to my heart — a (mostly) reader discussion about whether […]

  32. Contest and Auction News… | Passions and Provocations
    May 18, 2010 @ 08:33:31

    […] to Liz Fichera, who recently won a copy of The Slightest Provocation, for her comments on my First Sale essay at the wonderful romance blog […]

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