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My First Sale by Sharon Shinn, Every Sale Is Cause for...

sharon-shinn-casual.jpgSharon Shinn is one of our favorite authors here at Dear Author. Given the diversity of our tastes, its amazing that we can come to any agreement but the consensus at Dear Author is that there is magic in Shinn’s pen. This month you can sample a young adult book, General Winston’s Daughter, an anthology piece in Elemental Magic and soon, the fourth book in her Twelve Houses series, Reader and Raelnyx. A reader can’t go wrong with a Sharon Shinn book.


I wrote my first book when I was twenty; I sold my first book when I was thirty-six. Book CoverI had fairly well resigned myself to the notion that I would never be a published author, but I continued to write because there was no other way to get the stories out of my head.

Oh, I made submissions from time to time. One publisher lost a manuscript. Another publisher kept a book for two years before rejecting it. I had the name of the editor there, and every six months or so I would nerve myself to call him and inquire if he’d made a decision. You understand, this was before the days of email or even cell phones, and I worked in an office during the hours New York editors would be at their desks. So any time I wanted to make a long-distance phone call from work, Book CoverI had to record the date, time, and duration of the call, turn in the paperwork to the office manager, and reimburse the company for the cost.

Eventually I realized my best hope was to find an agent, and I mailed out a whole pile of query letters. A few weeks later I was at work when one of them called me at the office. I remember what I was wearing (a white-on-white dress accessorized with a big museum-reproduction pin of a woman in a blue gown). I was conferring with the art director of the magazine where I worked, discussing a layout, when I got paged. And it was a New York agent on the phone! “Um — I can’t talk right now,” I stammered. “Could you possibly call back in five minutes?” He seemed amused. I had to race down two flights of stairs to be in my own office in time to take his call. This turned out to be the man who eventually became, and still is, my agent.

Book CoverIt still took three years before we sold a book, and when we did, we had two offers at once. The first came on December 10th, the next one a few days later. Same book. Almost the same amount of money. I had known that two different publishing houses were considering the manuscript, but each of them had had it for a couple of months before making a decision. Once the offers came in, I was in agony. How could I choose? What if I made a mistake? Keep in mind, neither offer was for more than a few thousand dollars, so the money wasn’t the real issue. Would I pick the right house? Would I sign with an editor whose style was compatible with mine? Would she like the next book I sent her? Would I ever be able to sell a second book?

I seem to have made the right decision — so far, all my books have been published by the same house, and seventeen years later, I’m still with my original agent. But it took me so long to get this far that I never, ever take the magic for granted. Every new sale is a cause for celebration; every new book on the shelves is a source of delight.

Sharon Shinn

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. LinM
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 06:01:55

    But it took me so long to get this far that I never, ever take the magic for granted. Every new sale is a cause for celebration; every new book on the shelves is a source of delight.

    No wonder Sharon Shinn is a favourite at DA – she plucks your heartstrings even with a first sale story.

  2. Jan
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 07:44:28

    And what a first book it was! We all have our different favorites here of Ms. Shinn’s, but The Shape-Changer’s Wife remains one of mine. I can’t believe they made her wait two months!

  3. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 07:55:12

    :) I love Sharon Shinn’s books. The Samaria series is on my keeper shelf in my bedroom.

    Very, very few books make it to the keeper shelf in my bedroom.

  4. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 08:08:26

    Bravo! What an awesome story! And so inspiring. She’s one of my favorite authors of all time, and a charming, witty person to boot.

    Anytime Sharon has a new book out, it is a cause for celebration. She writes with such a deft, elegant and evocative hand. The Shape-Changer’s Wife was the first book of hers I read as well, and it changed the way I looked at fantasy forever.

  5. --Deb
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 09:17:07

    This is so encouraging. I’ve been trying to get a mss of my own accepted somewhere, anywhere, for years now, and the entire process is discouraging. But if Sharon Shinn, who writes so beautifully, can take so long to be noticed, well, I suppose maybe I’m not doing quite so badly as it feels!

  6. Janine
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 09:17:58

    I’m a huge fan of Shinn’s and always have the most difficult time choosing a favorite among her books, but I especially love the Samaria series, Heart of Gold, The Safe-Keeper’s Secret and Dark Moon Defender.

  7. vanessa jaye
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 10:38:45

    The Shape-changer’s Wife is also a favourite of mine. I got if from the library, then went out to buy a keeper copy.

  8. raine
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 10:58:08

    Also a Shinn fan, and this is very inspiring.
    (This lady couldn’t sell?! Ack!!)

  9. Leeann Burke
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 11:24:27

    Her story was truly inspiring. Now I’ll have to go and hound my local bookstore into carrying her books. So I can get a copy. Can anyone tell which is the first book?

  10. Janine
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 11:39:14

    Leeann, The Shape Changer’s Wife is Shinn’s first published novel. Archangel, the first book in her Samaria series, was her second published novel and, judging by the number of Amazon reviews,I think that it may be her most popular book. I reviewed it here.

  11. Anji
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 11:48:53

    What an amazing and inspiring story.

    Any recommendations for new-to Sharon Shinn readers? What book would be a good starting point?

  12. Janine
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 12:01:30

    Anji — I personally started with Archangel, and it was a great introduction to Shinn for me.

  13. Jan
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 12:08:12

    I think it depends if you’re more of a sf/fantasy or a romance reader Anji. The Shape-Changer’s Wife is for fantasy readers, and is a literate book that was nominated for at least one award in that field. Archangel is a strong romance and is the favorite among fans of that genre. Both are marvelous books in their own way.

    And I’ll edit myself and add that if you love science fiction, Heart of Gold is a great choice for you.

  14. Sharon Shinn
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 12:24:52

    Hi everybody! Glad you found the story inspiring. The only thing that EVER makes it worthwhile to go through a difficult time is being able to say to other people, “See, I made it! You can too!” So good luck to anyone still trying to sell those manuscripts. My advice always is: Keep writing, and keep trying.

    I agree with others that Archangel is a good book of mine to start with. Seems to be the favorite of most of my readers! If you’re not comfortable with fantasy, Summers at Castle Auburn is a pretty easy read — it plays more like a fairy tale. So does Shape-Changer’s Wife. And I’m having LOTS of fun with the current series, which started with Mystic & Rider. So I might suggest that one too.

    Thanks to everyone who called me one of your favorite writers! I’m still just always delighted to hear that anyone has ever read one of my books. :-)


  15. Ann Aguirre
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 12:26:37

    If you want to get sucked into a brilliant and delicious series, start with Archangel.

    If you want more of a taste, start with The Shape-Changer’s Wife. This book, along with The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs, totally realigned my thoughts on what a fantasy novel could be. I thought they always had to be Tolkienesque, group of heroes on a quest, sort of thing. But these are, dare I say it? Fantasy novels for women. Not women’s fantasies, mind you — that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.

    I’d also add that I loved Wrapt in Crystal. Soooooo good.

    But it would be hard for you to pick up a Sharon Shinn book and not immediately fall in love. It just might be a little confusing if you picked up a second or third book in a series.

  16. Janine
    Oct 26, 2007 @ 12:39:54

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks so much for sharing your first sale story with us and for stopping by.

  17. Laura Florand
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 11:59:14

    There IS magic in her pen, you are all right. Thank you for sharing this interview with us! I love Sharon Shinn’s work.

  18. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:41:46

    OK. I just ordered Archangel and The Shape-shifter’s Wife. I love how you are expanding my reading-base. I’d never even heard of Sharon Shinn before today.

  19. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:46:04

    Michelle, I envy you for having Archangel ahead of you! Such a great book!

  20. Michelle
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:12:17

    I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, it’s a slow day at work for me. :)

  21. Janine
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:31:32

    LOL. I’m having a busy day, but I’m procrastinating on everything I have to do.

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