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My First Sale: C.E. Murphy, There I Was, With The Chocolate-Chip...

I first heard of C.E. Murphy when Luna publishing put out Urban Shaman. It was an intriguing (and actually not very romantic which is a huge deal for me) urban fantasy. Over time (cough 3 years cough), Murphy has penned 10 novels and now has a million words in print. Born in Alaska and now living in Ireland, Murphy’s latest book, The Queen’s Bastard, is in bookstores now.


It was only in retrospect I realized how completely absurd I’d been when I got The Call.

I’d queried two publishing houses that took non-agented material, and one had come back quickly, asking for the full manuscript of URBAN SHAMAN. I sent it on, and several weeks later the other also responded, asking for the full. Not wanting to tread on toes, I called House #1 to ask if they minded me submitting the full to another house, and explained to House #2 that I was checking on this and would let them know ASAP if I’d be sending them the full manuscript.

House #2 said they didn’t take multiple submissions on full manuscripts from non-agented writers, and so I thought, “Well, okay,” and didn’t worry about it.

Fast-forward two weeks. I get a phone call at about three in the afternoon my time, which was around 7pm Eastern, and it’s the editor, Mary Theresa Hussey, at House #1 (Luna Books). My heart spasmed once, and then I was cool as a cucumber, man, because I thought she was calling to discuss the whole multiple submission thing. “What on earth,” I said to her, “are you doing at work at 7pm on a Friday?”

“Oh, well,” said she, “the phones have been on the blink all day and the repairman’s just left and I wanted to call you before I went home, and how are you?”

I was great, thanks! I’d just been making chocolate chip cookies, it was a beautiful day, natter natter natter. We had a really nice normal conversation about just this and that and the other thing, and through the whole of it I was utterly calm, because it literally didn’t occur to me she was calling for anything other than to discuss the submission thing.

“Well,” she said eventually, “I hope I’ve got some good news for you. We’d like to make an offer on URBAN SHAMAN and two more books in the series.”

Even now I’m actually laughing out loud thinking about this. My brain just flatlined. BEEEEEEEEEEEP. I remember thinking, “I know you’re supposed to say, “Oh, thank you! I’ll have my agent contact you right away!”” and then frantically call up and find yourself an agent to contact them with. I remember thinking, “How could anybody possibly have the nerve to *say* that when they’ve just offered you a book deal?” And aside from that, all I thought was BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.

I gibbered at poor Ms. Hussey, who was clearly accustomed to people’s brains flatlining, and who kindly told me I should take the weekend to think it over (think it over? what’s to THINK?! …for that matter, what’s *thinking*? BEEEEEEP…).

I got off the phone so excited I couldn’t speak beyond gasps and shrieks, and with my hands shaking so badly my husband had to dial the phone to call my parents so I could shriek at them, too. By Monday I’d gotten the agent I wanted (the fantastic Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency), and I had a real, honest-to-gosh book deal.

It wasn’t until about five months later that it occured to me that they don’t call you to discuss multiple submissions. I was so cool through that whole conversation (well, up until the actual offer), and, I mean, you know, that’s the kind of cool you only dream about being! That’s up there with coming up with the right come-back line at the right time, the perfect zinger, the moment of Awesome…and my moment of Awesome was based entirely in an erroneous assumption. *laughs out loud*

Yeah. That was almost five years ago now, and it’s still got me pink-cheeked and grinning like a fool. One of the best moments in my life ever!

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. Jia
    May 09, 2008 @ 05:17:48

    Luna isn’t defunct, is it? The imprint’s still putting out books, albeit only one title a month these days. Murphy’s latest urban fantasy series, The Negotiator Trilogy, is published under the Luna imprint, for example.

  2. Kmont
    May 09, 2008 @ 06:50:35

    I love reading stuff like this and getting a peek into this part of a writer’s life. Good for you, Ms. Murphy. And let this be a reminder to me to pick up Urban Shaman, something I’ve been wanting to do. ;)

  3. Maya
    May 09, 2008 @ 08:02:36

    never heard of this author before, but what a fab first sale story. and what prodigious output. need a nap just thinking about it.

  4. janicu
    May 09, 2008 @ 08:33:41

    Luna books is defunct? I see that they still publish books… I would be really unhappy if they stopped publishing because I need to read the rest of Michelle Sagara’s Cast series.

  5. janicu
    May 09, 2008 @ 08:34:16

    p.s. Cute first sale story!

  6. Cathy
    May 09, 2008 @ 08:40:15

    What a great story. I hope the cookies turned out well, too. :)

  7. Kimber An
    May 09, 2008 @ 10:29:16

    Very cool story! By the way, I live in Alaska and dream of Ireland.

    You’d gotten the deal on your own. Why did you feel you needed an agent? I’ve read Harlequin contracts are pretty straight forward with no wiggle-room for negotiating anyway.

  8. CE Murphy
    May 09, 2008 @ 10:45:34

    Good heavens, I didn’t realize it was already time for this to go up! *blinkblinkblink*! :)

    Jia, Janicu: Luna is definitely not defunct. :) It originated with an explosion of titles and cut back after that, but it’s still putting out pretty much a book a month. Fear not! More Sagara books (and Gilman books, and others!) are in the works, including more Walker Papers from me starting next fall. :)

    Kmont: yay! glad to remind you to pick up URBAN SHAMAN. And thank you. These kinds of interviews are huge fun to do, I think. :)

    Maya: wah-hah! Now you have heard of me! That makes being invited here to blog well worth it all by itself! :)

    Cathy: The cookies did, indeed, turn out well. Mmmm. Cookies. *eyes the kitchen thoughtfully*

    KimberAn: Aaaah, that’s a million-dollar question. For me, it was a career move: I wanted to be able to get into publishing houses that didn’t take unagented manuscripts, and I wanted a professional to be reading my contracts, because I’m a writer, not an agent. I also think it’s a good idea to have a buffer between yourself and your editor in case of topics of disagreement: that way you can send your agent to be the bad guy, without making your relationship with the editor touchy. Plus, she’s negotiated me more money with every contract, which, y’know, I’d never have the nerve to do myself, so that’s more than paid for her percentage. :) And hello to a fellow Alaskan!

  9. the essential kit » Blog Archive » miss spammity spam spam
    May 09, 2008 @ 11:15:55

    […] completely forgot that I had an interview going up at Dear Author today. It’s my First Sale Story, which I still think is pretty funny. :) (Dear Author also […]

  10. Liviania
    May 09, 2008 @ 12:40:41

    Haha, I love the “BEEEEEEEEEEEP.”

    And ooh, chocolate chip cookies.

  11. Heidi
    May 09, 2008 @ 13:43:38

    Ha Ha! I’ve been a C.E. Murphy fan ever since Urban Shaman and am currently reading House of Cards. In a way I envy those of you that haven’t read her yet – what a treat in store for you. I plan on picking up the Queen’s Bastard this weekend and hope it rains on Sunday so I am FORCED to stay inside and read. Hooray C.E. Murphy!

  12. Gail Dayton
    May 09, 2008 @ 14:51:45

    Hey, Murphy! LOVE your first sale story! **Beam**

    Now I have MORE of your books to catch up on… Oh well.

  13. katieM
    May 09, 2008 @ 17:16:43

    Squeeeeeeee! CE Murphy!!! Gush, gush, gush!

  14. JaimeK
    May 09, 2008 @ 17:32:23

    CE Murphy you rock!!!!

  15. Janine
    May 10, 2008 @ 00:16:11

    Great story! I never get tired of “My First Sale.”

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