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My First Sale by Shana Abé, It Was Either Write or...

biopagephoto.gifI admit that I never read Shana Abé before the drákon series. Once I had read the Smoke Thief (which is book 1 of the series, the most recent being Abe’s hardcover debut, Queen of Dragons), I had become a hopeless addict. Abe’s blend of history, romance and fantasy was triumphant and exciting. She’s one of Janine’s favorite authors and it’s a thrill to have her first sale story today.


I am a lucky, lucky, lucky girl. I plunged into the novel-writing business without a single clue about what it was really like. Thank God. If I’d bothered to do any real research at all, I’m sure I would have given serious reconsideration to my former career in cocktail waitressing.

But I wanted to write a romance novel, because I loved to read romance novels, and that made plenty enough sense for it all to work out, right? ;-)

My first effort took a third place prize at a local writer’s conference. Elated, I sent it out to agent after agent. The responses were overwhelmingly sincere; I’d had no idea how many ways there were to say “NO.”

So I tried again with a new manuscript, one I thought wickedly clever and only realized after I’d sent it out that I never even actually had the hero and heroine kiss, much less get busy. (Best comment in a refusal letter: “What line are you writing for, anyway?” Me, brow furrowed, reading it aloud: “Line??”)

Then I got serious. Oh, not serious enough to figure out the different guidelines of the different houses–that would involve a scary, scary reality check–but just serious enough to realize I needed to write *historical* romance, with kisses, and sex, and probably a knight or damsel or something. Both would be good.

So I did it. Then I went and did the thing that people have done since the dawn of time to break into the entertainment industry: I shamelessly used a connection. I called an old family friend who also happens to be a super famous writer of medical thrillers, and begged for his help.

Michael Palmer is an angel. He’s also a world-class physician, and a damned good singer. (He’s in a band with Heather Graham and everything!) He very graciously consented to let me use his name in my query letter to his agency. He warned me, however, in his deep, sexy, singer’s voice, that not one person he’d ever recommended had been accepted by them.

I sent in that first book, which I still liked. The agency swiftly and politely turned me down flat.

Went back to Michael. Wondered over the phone if it would be okay to submit a different manuscript (my brand-spankin’ new historical) to his agency. He said, “Well, I don’t think there’s a *law* against it…”

At that time, I was a ridiculously underpaid cubicle slave at what shall remain an unnamed digital publishing company that covered high-tech conferences, which has since folded. My eyes were constantly bloodshot from all the computer work; I learned to loathe the faint, incessant buzz of the fluorescent lights flickering just above my desk. I worked morning, noon and night–and weekends–at that place, so it was no wonder that when The Call came, I was there in my little windowless cell, hunched over my keyboard and pecking away.

I remember I answered my phone absently, perhaps with even a touch of defensive hostility. No one ever called to tell me what a good job I was doing as an editor. Mostly they called to complain about the fact that I had misspelled the name of their wonderful new gizmo, which was usually spelled something like “ONE-derFul! NeW! G*zzzMo!” by some marketing wunderkind amped up on too much caffeine.

The voice that flowed from the other end of the line, however, was buttery and British, and very, very pleasant. As soon as she said my name, I knew there had to be a mistake.

I said, “Excuse me?”

She said again, “Is this Shana Abé?”

My instinct was to deny it. I could pass the call along to my hapless co-editor, who had, frankly, a much higher tolerance for surly marketing wunderkinden than I did.

But instead, I answered cautiously, “Yeeesss?”

She said her name. She said the name of the agency. That’s about all I caught, because it seemed like suddenly the buzzing of the fluorescents overhead had instantly boomed into a sound about as loud as a jet taking off right inside my head, and it was all I could hear besides the frantic, whooshing sound of my own heartbeat.

I know I’m supposed to tell you about my First Sale call, which did indeed come about a month after this one, and my historical romance manuscript became A ROSE IN WINTER, my first published novel. Joyful, joyful, and God bless you, Bantam Books. But for me, this was the call that first changed my life: I got an agent. I GOT AN AGENT.

About a year after that, I quit the slave job. But I notice I’m still really good at spelling stupid gizmo names. Ha!


You can visit Shana at her website for more information about her books and writing process.

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. bettie
    Jan 25, 2008 @ 04:36:45

    Dear Jane,
    The “My First Sale” series is alway interesting and inspiring. And it always shows up on my Google Reader some time after midnight, when I’m struggling with my WIP wondering how to make it work.

    So it’s 1 in the morning. And the WIP is acting squirrelly, and I just want to chuck it. But here is Shana Abe, whose books I simply adore, saying she has known the toil of corporate drudgery, and the hideous buzz of fluorescent lights, and the sting of rejection. And then gone on to write some damn fine books. Awesome. :D

    Dear Shana,
    I really liked The Smoke Thief, I loved The Dream Thief, and I am pretty sure I’ll adore Queen of Dragons, if I can survive the wait to get my hands on the copy I put on order forever ago. Just three more days. Thanks for many hours of great reading, and thanks for your first sale story. :)

  2. Kristen Painter
    Jan 25, 2008 @ 08:21:45

    I ADORE (with something close to the dreaded fangirl passion) Shana’s books.

    They are some of the best books I’ve ever read and I’m constantly insisting other people to read them so they can love them as much as I do. And they do.

  3. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 25, 2008 @ 08:23:26

    Oh man, now that’s a heading that will catch attention.

    It Was Either Write or Be a Cocktail Waitress

    Another great story. Love reading these~Bettie beat me to it. Reading all the first sale stories make for some serious inspiration.

  4. Sherry Thomas
    Jan 25, 2008 @ 09:06:07

    Cool. Someone else who loves The Dream Thief even more than The Smoke Thief–I keep thinking I was the only one. There is just something about Abe’s writing that really lends itself to the dream-like Dream Thief.

    And I <3 Shana Abe, who at RWA last year so graciously pegged my age at 26, after I told her that I have a 10-y-o child (now 11).

    And the photo doesn’t do her delicate beauty justice.

  5. Janine
    Jan 25, 2008 @ 10:44:03

    Great first sale story! Jane is right, Ms. Abe is one of my favorite writers. Her way with language is just gorgeous, and keeps getting better from book to book.

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