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My First Sale by Susan Crandall

susie-photo-003Welcome to the My First Sale series. Each Friday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Susan Crandall writes romantic suspense. Her newest release, Seeing Red, is in stores now.


Like so many things a person spends every waking hour working toward and every sleeping hour dreaming about, my first sale didn’t come in a thunderbolt from the sky. It arrived like a beautiful, slowly breaking dawn – after a very long cold night.

I had been writing and pursuing publication for nine (count "em nine) years. My first manuscripts were co-written with my sister (one of which was agented but never sold). I’d just finished my first solo women’s fiction novel, BACK ROADS. I’d decided if this book didn’t sell, I was through. (Big talk that would doubtless soon have dissolved into, "Well, just one more book, then I give up." Once it’s in your blood, I don’t think there is any exorcising the need to write.)

The first step was finding an agent. Which for those of you going through the process know is the same challenging path as finding a publisher – query letters, followed by sample chapters, followed by full manuscripts, often followed by rejection letters. Luckily out of the interest I received, I connected with an agent who was totally in love with this book, as well as my writing in general. This, I believe, is key. I truly feel an agent who is luke-warm about your work is worse than no agent at all.

044617857801lzzzzzzzWhen we got publisher interest in the book, it wasn’t what I’d anticipated. Warner Books (which is now Grand Central Publishing) was interested, but wanted revisions – without a contract. There were also other publishers interested, but, after some painful deliberation, I decided to take the risk and go for Warner. They sent a revision letter. Of course, this was my first experience with a revisions requested by an editor. I anticipated things like, "In chapter three you need to do X. On page forty-seven you should change Y." Ha! There was nothing so specific. At least most of the problems they felt the book had were in the last half. And I was able to have a conversation with my soon-to-be editor to discuss it, which helped. I forged ahead and two weeks later, resubmitted the revised manuscript.

Then I waited. (You’ll notice I’ve left out all of the waiting in the above, but believe me there was plenty of it).

And I waited some more.

In October, 2001, while I was touring the Purdue University campus with my daughter (she decided on Indiana University, BTW), I got "the call" from my agent. Followed by "the call" from my new editor. Happy day!

BACK ROADS was published in June 2003. It was a double RITA nominee and won the RITA for Best First Book in 2004. I’ve since published eight novels with the same editor and publisher and received another RITA nomination (ON BLUE FALLS POND). My newest release is a romantic suspense, SEEING RED.

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. Annmarie
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 11:44:29

    Great story!

  2. SonomaLass
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 15:34:50

    Your daughter shows excellent taste — I taught at IU while doing my PhD work there, so I’m definitely biased that way.

    Having your career get going like that right when you’re sending a kid away to college is great timing. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Janine
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 16:33:15

    Thanks for this story. I enjoyed reading it.

  4. Sunita
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 16:46:37

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so impressed that you managed to do successful revisions (based on vague recommendations) in two weeks! I think I need to pin this above my desk …

  5. Susan Crandall
    Feb 07, 2009 @ 19:34:02

    Sorry to be so tardy in showing up. I’ve been away from my computer for two days (remember that daughter going to IU … she now has a house and she and I are laying a tile floor in her kitchen … sometimes it’s easier to pay tuition :-).

    Thanks to everyone here for letting me share my story. And yes, Sunita, anyone who is traveling the frustrating road to publication, do post this and do not ever, ever give up!

    And for Sonomalass .. Go Hoosiers!

  6. Caitlin Hicks
    Jul 29, 2013 @ 18:03:23

    Just wondering who this agent was?
    Dear Susan, thanks for the story of your first agent. Wondering who this person / agency is. Can you share with me?

    Thanks so much,


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