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My First Sale by Sharon Ashwood

SAfull-72smWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Sharon Ashwood writes paranormal romances.  ┬áHer second book, Scorched (excerpt), is available beginning December 1, 2009.

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I’ll say this up front: I didn’t expect any of this. I do not seriously plan to win the lottery. I did not seriously expect to become published. Both, in my opinion, had similar odds.

Like most authors, I’ve written since I was a kid. The requisite number of truly bad manuscripts lurk in my closet (not as dramatic as skeletons, but scary in their own way), and I dreamed a lot of pleasant pipe dreams along the way. Author swanning through the foyer of the Met, signing autographs and showing off couture. Author pondering Roman ruins by moonlight, thinking literary thoughts. Author pondering a second Mediterranean villa. I had little notion of what a book contract really meant. (Hint: tons of work).

I did some freelancing for a local arts paper, which in the course of an article led me to the Romance Writers of America. I wasn’t writing romance at the time, but I joined the RWA primarily because they could answer one important question for me: What do you do with the manuscript once it’s finished? In all the years I’d been writing, I’d never made it to that next vital step. Before long, I had a critique group and started entering contests. I was so thrilled to find captive readers (mwa-ha-ha!), I didn’t think much further than getting a nice contest score.

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It never occurred to me that I might win.

Cue the dramatic music, part one: I won my chapter contest and, as part of the prize, sent the entry and a few other partials (including what would become my first paranormal romance, RAVENOUS) to a New York editor-‘and then forgot about it. I was busy with other things. Ladies and gentlemen, be careful where you send that manuscript. It could start to have adventures of its own.

Cue the dramatic music, part two: Imagine my astonishment when the editor phoned and said that (a) she’d like to offer me a contract and (b) did I have an agent? My immediate emotional response, rather than bluebirds and rainbows, was blind, abject panic. Whaddyoumeancontract???? Followed closely by: Is this a joke?

Yep, I was caught with my authorial pants down. I wasn’t even sure what an agent did. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. The numbers that the editor rattled off at me meant nothing. Fortunately, I knew enough to disengage and regroup. I could deal with the details once I’d stopped hyperventilating.

There was a long list of things I needed to do. Web site? Cover quotes? A marketing plan? Publicity? Book signings? Innocent lamb that I was, I had always assumed there were staff, kind of like angels on high, who swooped in and did that stuff. Nope. With the grand prize of seeing my name in print came my own little business empire, and all those tasks were Up To Me. Terrifying? Yes. Empowering? Surprisingly, yes.

And here I am. Along the way, I learned the necessity of positive thinking. We always prepare for failure, but rarely prepare for success. Take it from me: nothing is impossible. The universe sometimes has a great sense of humour. Know what you want, and be ready to embrace it.

I’m celebrating the second book of my Dark Forgotten series, SCORCHED (Signet Eclipse, December 1, 2009), and I’ll give away a copy to one commenter.

Plus, check out my "send an ecard, help an animal" page (http://www.sharonashwood.com/gvac.php) where you can send free ecards and help abandoned animals receive veterinary care!

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

18 Comments

  1. Carolyn
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 06:24:30

    Oh, I like this first story!

    Apply, forget about it and win the lottery. Can’t beat that with a stick, lol.

  2. Edie
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 06:58:00

    Lucky!

  3. Diane M.
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 07:07:17

    I love first sale stories.

  4. Susan Laura
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 08:22:15

    Great story, Sharon. And I love the e-cards you created to help your local animal rescue group.

  5. Sara Thacker
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 09:29:40

    Very cool first sale story. Good for you. You are right, getting a contract is kind of like winning the lottery.

  6. Rebecca
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 10:37:09

    Thanks for posting this first-sale story. Honestly, sometimes I dread reading these… they can be somewhat depressing. But this one was nice. Like roses and puppies. Granted, I’ve read enough of them to know that this is not the rule. But it’s nice to think about getting published in a happy light today.

    It’s interesting that you talk about winning the lottery. I just wrote a blog (as in, just before I clicked on this link, which was the first on my RSS feed) about the odds of winning the Golden Heart vs. the odds of winning the lottery. I saw this great TV show called Corner Gas where one of the main characters is given a lottery ticket. And, being kind of a goofus, he starts to worry about the pressure of not winning the lottery. So one of his friends tries to cheer him up by saying, “Don’t worry, Hank. You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning.” To which Hank worriedly replies, “Great! Now I have to worry about not getting struck by lightning, too. Thanks a lot!”

    So while I’m not really worried about not winning the lottery, or not getting struck by lightning… I often worry about not getting published. So thanks so much, DA and Sharon, for the uplifting story this morning. Lord knows, I needed it!

    Peace,
    Rebecca

  7. Gina
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 12:54:54

    I love that reminder to prepare for success. So often we wait for the other shoe to drop but who says that has to be a bad thing? I like to tell my kids they can be anything they want if they are willing to work at it, I hold their hands when things don’t go as planned and taught them the art of Plan B (C, D, E, etc) but do they know what to do when success happens? Do I?

    Thanks for the great reminder in positive thinking!

  8. RKCharron
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 17:18:03

    Hi Sharon :)
    Thank you very much for sharing. I really enjoy reading about authors receiving “The Call”. It reaffirmed my own determination to be published.
    Congratulations on SCORCHED being released tomorrow!
    All the best,
    RKCharron
    :)
    PS – Sharon is on Twitter! She’s @SharonAshwood

  9. Janine
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 17:35:38

    Great story. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. StephS
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 20:42:39

    Love the story! Really love the cover on your book! :-)

  11. Sharon Ashwood
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 22:03:59

    Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

    I know getting published seems impossible and there’s no magic formula for getting a contract. However, I applaud all you who are entering contests (and I know how much work the GH is! I felt like I needed a holiday after that puppy was in the mail!). Most authors I know of who have been recently published made the initial connection with their editor or agent via a contest. So, while it seems like a lot of work and expense, it’s worth it. Keep trying!

  12. Sharon Ashwood
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 22:04:46

    @Susan Laura: Thanks! It’s a cause very dear to me.

  13. Donna S
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 22:29:25

    Great story.. Thanks for sharing and cant wait to read Scorched!!

  14. catie james
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 03:46:38

    Heheh, I love that you imagined a staff of “angels” just waiting to take over. I imagine there are plenty times when many authors wish they could hand off all that responsibility to someone else. Congratulations on SCORCHED’s release Sharon. RAVENOUS is burning a hole in my “Books I Want to Read So Badly I Would Have Them Finished as of Yesterday” pile as we “speak.” :)

  15. Laurie EC
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:16:17

    Whenever I’ve pondered impossible odds, my mom always says “*Someone* gets these things. It might as well be you.” In other words, what is there to lose? Thanks for your inspiring story; can’t wait to read _Scorched_.

  16. Niveau
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 02:56:23

    I love first sale stories, and this one’s so cute! ^^ It’s nice to see that you can still get published, even if you don’t know everything about the business.

  17. Sharon Ashwood
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 21:49:36

    Yup, Niveau, I’m the poster child for complete cluelessness!

    Thanks for commenting!

  18. Ruth (CO)
    Dec 03, 2009 @ 09:51:06

    This makes for a nice Christmas story. Congratulations.

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