Welcome 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. Her second book, Scorched (excerpt), is available beginning December 1, 2009.
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.
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!