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My First Sale by Sandra Hill, I’m in and I’m never...

sandrahillphoto.jpgSandra Hill’s first time traveling romance book was published over 13 years ago before paranormal was even a sub genre. She is a bestselling author of over twenty novels and four anthologies in various genres, including historical, time-travel and contemporary. Hill’s trademark is her humor and you can see it in her titles, Sweeter Savage Love, and in her interview below. Her latest book, Down and Dirty, is out November 2007.


I sold my first book as the result of a contest in which I wasn’t even a finalist.

But before I tell you that story, I must say that I feel a little bit like the girl who arrived at the ball in jeans, instead of a gown. A big faux pas.

When Jane asked me to write a first sale letter, I went to her website to check out what other authors had written about their first sales. Good grief! Is everyone else in the world living an exciting life while I’m out here in the boonies just doing everyday normal things?

It reminds me of the time a few years back when I went on one of those Levy book tours. I was a relatively new author at the time, and there were all these NYT bestsellers. So, we were at this banquet with all the Levy and bookseller and supermarket bigwigs (Levy sells a lot in supermarkets), and the Levy person stood up and said, “Now all the authors are going to step up, one at a time, and tell us about themselves.”

Yikes! I thought.

Then Double yikes! when the other authors started their impromptu spiels.

“I used to work for the CIA.”

“I play in a rock band on the weekends.”

“I’m really a jet pilot who does skydiving for a hobby.”

“I have lived in twenty-seven countries since my father is a famous U.S. diplomat, and I speak twelve languages.”

“I used to be a stuntman in Hollywood.”

“I’m a criminal defense lawyer.”

“I went on an archaeological dig in Egypt for research on my first book.”

“I got bored with being a surgeon and decided to write a book.”

“I was a hooker…”

No, that last one was a lie, but it could have been true. Anyhow, when it came time for me, I was soooo embarrassed. I’m just a former journalist, who is married, has four sons, a big dog, and lives in Central Pennsylvania. What could I say? “I read books for a hobby.” Well, duh! I don’t think so! So, instead, I said something really dumb. “I’m a writer of romantic humor, and my neighbor is Joe Paterno.”

Now, like you, hardly anyone there knew that Joe Paterno is the Penn State football coach. Nor did they care. Afterward, the director of the tour said, “Jeesh, Sandra, couldn’t you think of something better than that?”

I wish!

But I digress.

Book Cover It was about thirteen years. I had an agent, or thought I had. I’d never talked to her, not even on the phone, and I’d been with her for a year. I hadn’t a clue if she’d even sent anything out for me. Turns out she died a short time later. Maybe she never was in her office that entire year. In those days, I didn’t know that it’s better to have no agent than a bad agent.

So, I entered this contest. Colorado Gold, I think it was called. I didn’t even final. But one of the judges, Jessica Wulf, a published author, was so appalled that I didn’t final, she called me and asked if she could talk to her agent about me.

That would be Meredith Bernstein. What do you think I said?

Within a week, I had dropped the silent agent, and Meredith had sold my first book, THE RELUCTANT VIKING. And you know, a lot about this business is a matter of timing, being at the right place at the right time, and just good luck.

I’ve always been an avid reader, and when I started out writing novels I figured I would be writing straight historicals. But then, I read a book by Constance O’Day-Flannery, the time travel that started with the woman in the dentist’s chair who ends up, after an electrical storm, back in the Old West. People think she nuts because she’s wearing what they think is a paper necklace and drooling because of the novocaine.

It was one of those lightbulb moments for me. Humor and romance together? Yes, I could do that, I thought. And the rest is history. Paranormals and humor were just coming into fashion, and I jumped onto that bandwagon.

Everyone says that all they want is a foot in the door. Not me! I said I wanted to get my behind in the door; then they’d never be able to push me back out.

So the key is: luck, timing…and a big back end.

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. Jill Myles
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 05:56:17

    Thank goodness – a normal author! I always wonder at all the surgeons/sky-divers/CIA operatives that are now romance authors. I have a boring career and I hate it when anyone asks me about it, like it has something to do with my writing. The book should be all that counts!

    Congrats to Sandra on such a successful career. :)

  2. LinM
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 06:08:46

    Normal author! Personally, I think that “mother of 4 boys and a dog” is equally as terrifying as “figher pilot and sky diver”. Great story – it is wonderful to read about authors helping other authors; it balances all the media stories about bitter feuds.

  3. Meg
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 06:20:30

    I’ve just made my first sale as well, and wonder how well, “I am a pensioner and I live just down the road from Bindi Irwin” will go down. LOL!

    Great article.

  4. Jayne
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 06:59:40

    I know who Joe Paterno is! Wow, do you still live down the road from him?

  5. CJ Lyons
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 09:28:33

    Hi, Sandra!!! Great story–and go Nittany Lions!!!!

    Love DandD’s cover, what a hunk!

  6. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 09:39:16

    What a fun story! It’s great to hear someone felt so strongly about your work that they helped you out.

  7. Jennifer McKenzie
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 11:35:43

    Thank God!!! I’ve got the big back end. I’m even less “qualified” to stand up and say anything than you are! “Hi I’ve tried my hand at everything from Waitressing to motherhood (Oh, wait! That’s pretty much the same thing!) and I write to keep the dogs in dogfood.”

    Do you think that’ll go over at a fancy banquet?

    Great story!! You’re the third author in a week I’ve heard mention the positive aspects of entering a contest. Awesome.

  8. Barbara Sheridan
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 12:34:16

    I’ve loved Sandra to pieces for ages and not only for her awesome novels (the kind that never make me fail to lapse into I wish I could write like this moments) but because she’s such a lovely person who was incredibly kind and encouraging to me when I was starting out and dreaming of The Call.

    Joe Paterno *boo hiss!*

    Sorry,being from Pittsburgh it’s my civic duty to diss Penn State at every opportunity :P

  9. Jenyfer Matthews
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 15:21:00

    LOL – I was just answering questions for an interview and got the “tell us about yourself” question – to which I never know what to say. I only have two kids, no dog, and don’t even have any famous neighbors…

    Great letter! Love these kinds of stories from “normal” authors :)

    And Jennifer McKenzie, love this insight: “I've tried my hand at everything from Waitressing to motherhood (Oh, wait! That's pretty much the same thing!) TOO TRUE!!!

  10. Sandra Hill
    Oct 22, 2007 @ 09:00:09

    You guys are so funny! You oughta write a romantic humor novel. Waving at CJ and Barbara here. See you at RT, I assume. I, too, love these first sale stories. Keep them coming.

  11. Trish
    Oct 22, 2007 @ 15:50:00

    LOL, Sandra! What people don’t realize is your life is about as boring as a tornado. But for those who are interested, I also sold as a result of a contest. Only in my case the editor who read the finalist entries became my editor after she read my entry. Didn’t buy THAT book, but bought the next one I offered her. Only she called my friend to get my phone number, as she’d lost mine. So the truth is, my friend knew I’d made my first sale before I did. She LOVES to tell that story.

    Trish, who will be happy to tell y’all lots of other little tidbits about Sandra. I spill for chocolate… :)

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