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My First Sale by Portia Da Costa

Prize-winning multi-published British author Portia Da Costa had her first book accepted for publication way back in 1990, and has since gone on to have over 20 titles published and over 100 short stories included in magazines. She's principally known as one of the original Virgin Black Lace pioneers. Her most recent title is a reprint of her 1996 paranormal classic Gothic Blue, and in August her latest new title, the erotic romance contemporary Suite Seventeen hits US bookshelves. Later in 2007, she's contributed Buddies Don't Bite, a paranormal novella, to the Lust Bites vampire anthology and also has a new reprint of Hotbed, another steamy contemporary. You can find out more about Portia and her books at her website and her blog.

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Astonishingly enough, I can't remember the exact date, or time, or circumstances of "The Call–? to tell me I'd made my first sale. All I can remember clearly is a totally amazing feeling!

My first sale story isn't like that of most romance writers. The book I sold wasn't a romance at all. Far from it– It was an erotic novel for men, and I sold it to the Virgin Publishing imprint Nexus, which is what you might call the elder brother of their now famous Black Lace line of erotica for women. Back then, there was no such thing as erotic romance, or even erotica for women. There were some books floating about, including classic titles by Anais Nin and a few collections of short stories, but no dedicated lines of sensual writing especially for women or by women. So if a female author wanted to write hot and sexy, she really had to do it for a male erotic fiction line.

Of course, I didn't start out wanting to write male erotica. My dearest wish was always to write romance, and I'd been submitting manuscripts to Mills and Boon for quite some time. But I kept getting what I call "good–? rejections ie. "We like your writing but this particular novel wasn't quite right for us. We would like to see something else.–? I knew from friends that a writer could go through this process again and again and again and never quite hit the right note. So after about six of these "nice, but no thanks–? letters, I sent one of my manuscripts to a book doctor for a second opinion. She said that my sex scenes were sizzling hot –" and well written – and that I'd probably stand a far better chance of getting published if I concentrated on erotic writing. I was a bit doubtful, to say the least, but once I got my first erotic short story published, I really got a taste for writing sex and I began submitting to British erotica publishers. My first attempt failed, mainly because my novel – called Adventures in the Pleasurezone – was a sci-fi sex romp, and that particular editor didn't want sci-fi. But he did recommend that I send the book to Nexus, and put in a good word for me there. So, I parcelled up Adventures and sent it off, with fingers and toes crossed, and lo and behold a few weeks later, I got a really nice letter from the splendidly named Peter Darvill-Evans at Nexus. [He's a tax inspector now, would you believe? I hope it wasn't me who put him off editing erotica!]

So yes, my "The Call–? wasn't a call, but a letter. And alas, I can't even find that letter now because it's buried deep in the bowels of what I laughingly call my filing system. But I do remember that Peter D-E said the most wonderful, flattering things about my writing. He even went as far as to say it was *better* than a lot of the books they were publishing at the time. Crikey! There were changes needed of course. My original story had some intense scenes of male/male sensuality and even though m/m is a hot ticket now for female readers, it was an absolute no-no for heterosexual male readers at that time. But I didn't care what changes I had to make to my book. I was prepared to take as much direction as was needed.

Knowing I'd had a book accepted for publication induced the most incredibly happy glow inside me. I was living a dream come true and I had a precious secret that I hugged to my heart. I walked around the streets of the little town where I live, thinking "you don't know what I know– I look like an ordinary person– but I'm going to be a published author, with real books written by me on sale in a real bookshop!–?

That first sale was under the fanciful pen name Delaney Silver. Since then I've written lots of books under lots of wildly unlikely pseudonyms, and after the first couple, they've all been either erotica for women, erotic romance, or just plain romance. Being a published author is an up and down business, and sometimes things don't always go the way you want them to – but not once since that first sale have I ever stopped thanking my lucky stars for it. And I still get that happy glow when the editor says 'yes'–

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

19 Comments

  1. WendyPortia
    May 18, 2007 @ 05:38:14

    Hi Jane!

    Thanks ever so much for posting my first sale story… I didn’t realise it would be appearing so soon. What a lovely surprise. :)

    love

    WendyPortia

  2. Kristen
    May 18, 2007 @ 07:01:15

    Hi Wendy! I love reading call stories. Even if there’s no real call involved. lol

  3. Jayne
    May 18, 2007 @ 07:22:07

    I really like the cover art examples you used Jane. The cover gods have showered WendyPortia with luv.

  4. Jennifer McKenzie
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:13:16

    This is awesome Portia! I had no idea how much you’d gone through to make it.
    Terrific!

  5. Gwen Hayes
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:33:45

    How inspiring! Do you still hug your little secret to yourself-or does your little town know they have a published goddess in their midst?

  6. Tara Marie
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:34:39

    What a great “first sale” story, persistence pays off.

    Wendy (Portia) is one of my favorite erotic romance authors. I have order Suite Seventeen penciled in for May 21st, right smack in the middle of T-Ball schedules and piano lessons. :D

  7. Jane
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:39:02

    When I first read Ilona Andrews’ struggle to get published (which was what inspired this series), I thought that these stories were so inspiring and kind of exemplary of life in general. Sometimes our successes are the result of long, arduous work filled with near constant disappointments. Sometimes are successes are the result of being in the right place, the right time.

    But all the success stories are uplifting and Wendy(Portia)’s story is just a great example of that.

  8. Rhonda Stapleton
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:44:10

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Oh, and LOOOOOVE your covers…*swoon* they’re so beautiful!!

  9. WendyPortia
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:50:07

    Hi again…

    Yeah, I’m so glad the book doctor recommended I focus on erotica… Maybe I would have eventually made it in category romance, maybe not. Half a dozen rejections took some teeth-gritting in order to keep going *but* I constantly hear stories of people who’ve had twice that number, but have gone on to be wonderfully successful and huge names in the genre. I have had a couple of slightly sweeter romances published, under a different name, but it’s a tough discipline and I’ve nothing but admiration for those who have the talent and persistence to succeed in it.

  10. WendyPortia
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:52:19

    No, Gwen, I don’t think there are all that many people in my home town who know about my ‘fame’… My books aren’t the sort to be stocked in our local library and there are no bookshops in my small town either. Plenty of friends know… but it’s not general knowledge.

  11. WendyPortia
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:53:53

    Re. covers… yes, I’ve been very lucky over the years, and especially since the Black Lace cover makeover… All the BL authors are getting gorgeous covers now. I adore the new look!

  12. WendyPortia
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:55:18

    I hope S17 lives up to your expectations, Tara Marie! And I hope you enjoy meeting Clever Bobby and Maria again… as well as the new hero and heroine, Annie and Valentino. It was a blast to write… :)

  13. WendyPortia
    May 18, 2007 @ 08:56:18

    Mmmm… that should be hero and heroine, Valentino and Annie! Sorry for the confusion there. Got a bit over excited…

  14. Celia Kyle
    May 18, 2007 @ 09:17:40

    Love hearing these “first sale” stories and your persistence surely paid off. Thanks for sharing this Portia. It’s given me a little hope. Knowing that even amazing writers like you were rejected at one point makes me feel a smidge better. LOL

    Celia

  15. Lillian Feisty
    May 18, 2007 @ 09:28:23

    I really enjoyed reading this, Portia! I love first sale stories!

  16. Saskia Walker
    May 19, 2007 @ 02:13:22

    I love your story, Wendy, and I’m so glad it then coincided with the rise of erotica for women, resulting in so many great Portia books for us fans. :)

    Tara Marie, I’ve had the pleasure of reading S17 already, you are in for a real treat! ;)

  17. The Stalker on Saturday « miladyinsanity
    May 19, 2007 @ 11:50:32

    […] da Costa’s First Sale Story is up on DearAuthor. She’s visiting in August, so stay […]

  18. Nikki Magennis
    May 22, 2007 @ 02:40:05

    Hey Wendy! It’s lovely to hear how you got started. And look at you now! It’s inspiring how dedicated you are.

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