Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Friday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Samantha James writes historical romances for Avon. Her book newest book, Bride of a Wicked Scotsman, is a NYT Bestseller.
I think it goes without saying that every writer is a fervent reader. When I was a kid, my brother passed along Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books and the Doc Savage series. In my teens, I read mysteries—and Gothic romance. I loved Virginia Coffman and Dorothy Eden. It took me a while to discover I wanted to be a writer, though. I was married, with three kids. I was the proverbial soccer – make that volleyball and softball – mom, shuttling kids to and from practices and games.
By the time I hit thirty, I was scrambling to find every historical romance I could lay my hands on. My husband once noted that every book that I read had "duke" in the title – not quite, but close. Kathleen Woodiwiss and Laurie McBain made me want to be a writer.
But I owe it to my big brother with actually giving me the courage to write. We live two thousand miles apart. When he told me he’d been writing short stories, submitting them to big name magazines, risking rejection, the seed was planted. I figured if he could take it, then so could I. I sat down and wrote my tale, replete with a faraway castle, a battle-scarred knight and a feisty heroine. Guy and Kathryn were meant to be. Passion flamed and blood sizzled.
By then I was certain I was on the radar of every publisher in New York. I had a pen name picked out. I’d be the next Kathleen Woodiwiss. Or the next Johanna Lindsay. Fabio would grace my cover . . . (uh-oh, did I really say that? Maybe I should duck and run here). I was counting the dollar signs. And counting the days.
Boy, was I counting the days. And beginning to dread them. Still, I knew I’d done something right. I had an agent, Pat Teal. Nonetheless, I hated going to the mailbox. Nonetheless, I made certain I was at home until five o’clock New York time. I had hope. I had heart.
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A year passed. There was a sliver of interest. But no, no one was buying medievals. The market was glutted with medievals. Glutted, period. There was one editor who liked it, but they had stopped buying historicals since their inventory was full.
Another few months passed. My book had made the rounds with all the major houses. I was a little less dazzled by my brilliance. I figured Pat was about to kiss off my book. Maybe kiss me off, too. Nearly a year and a half later, still no one wanted to touch medievals. I wasn’t quite so certain about Guy and Kathryn’s fate. My agent, bless her heart, kept it in limbo a while longer. In October of 1990, she attended a conference in Seattle. She sat in on a panel with Maggie Crawford. Maggie was at Avon then; she mentioned she liked period books. My agent dashed off a note to tell me she’d shuttled it off to Maggie. Since Avon was the first house to give my book a thanks-but-no-thanks, I figured it was just a matter of time before Avon rejected it a second time. I braced myself, never mind that executive editors had changed in that time.
In January of 1991, I had just stepped out of the shower one day when the phone rang. It was Pat. Wave of shock. Maggie had made an offer. After the agony of waiting a year and a half, Kathryn and Guy finally had a home. My enthusiasm for this book must have shown. My Cherished Enemy sailed through with no revisions.
I’d definitely done something right.