Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

My (Third) First Sale by Zoe Archer

Zoe ArcherWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Zoe Archer gave up her pursuit of a Ph.D. in literature to seek her fortunes in fiction writing. She left UC San Diego with a Master’s degree in literature and her books are now sitting on the shelves of bookstores. Her latest story, The Undying Heart, is one half of the book Half Past Dead(affiliate link) which is in stores now.

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Usually, this feature details an author's first sale, but I'm going to deviate from the norm and talk instead about my third sale-’a road as perilous and fraught with reversals of fortune as any first sale.

Like a lot of aspiring authors, I really thought that once I made that all-important first sale, fame and glory would be mine. Okay, maybe not fame and glory, but I did think that the first sale was the toughest, and all sales that followed would be much easier, with multi-book contracts and supportive publishers and a steadily growing fan base. I just needed a foot in the door, and the rest would fall into place.

Following the sale (many years coming) of Lady X's Cowboy, my sale of Love In a Bottle came soon after, thus convincing me that, yes, I was well on my way as a professional writer. I had wanted to be a writer since about the same time I learned how to read, and later even relocated to a very cold part of the country, leaving behind a promising relationship, to get an MFA in Fiction. I got the degree, continued to be in the relationship, came back to California and got to work. Cut to several years later and I did finally make that crucial first and second sale.

Then, a funny thing happened. Reality. In my hubris, I switched agents, thinking I wanted a real power player in my corner. Yet, even with this hot new agent, I couldn't make another sale. My publisher kept turning down proposals, even for completed manuscripts. Eventually I received the horrible news that my publisher no longer felt that they could "grow" me as an author. (I still don't really know what that means.) I sobbed my guts out, thinking that I was done as a romance author.

Then, as my husband dried my tears, I started to think. I'd tried playing by the rules, writing romances that I thought would sell. But what if I wrote the kind of romance I had always wanted to read. Something that wasn't set in a Regency ballroom or had anything to do with English aristocrats of any kind. Something with a ton of adventure, exotic locations, magic and heroes and heroines of common birth but extraordinary courage.

The Blades of the Rose were born.

I got to work. And kept working, writing, even as I continued to suffer more setbacks. The hot agent cut me after trying to sell a few more proposals. So I had no agent and no publisher. The two books I did have published met with great reviews but so-so sales. All I had was an extremely supportive spouse and a manuscript that needed completion.

Half Past Dead Cover ImageI finished the book. I found an incredible agent who believed in me and believed in my paranormal historical adventure romance. She submitted the book to editors. All of them said the same thing: love the writing, but this book is set in Mongolia. No one buys historical romances set in Mongolia. Clearly, I was crazy to have even attempted doing just that.

It looked like my dream series would never make it onto bookstore and library shelves.

Then, one amazing day, my agent called me. An editor over at Kensington loved the book, loved how different it was, and wanted to make an offer. Oh, and the editor wanted to know if I saw the book as part of a series. I sure did! My agent told me to sit my butt down and write up a series proposal immediately. I pounded it out, then my agent sent it off, and we both gnawed at our fingertips in anticipation. She called me again, soon after.

"Sit down," she commanded me.

I sat.

"They want to buy the whole four book series."

I didn't cry, but I felt dizzy, excited, terrified. And happy. Very, very happy. A celebratory meal of sushi followed. Also some celebratory shopping.

So that's how it happened. Those first two sales were wonderful, and a long time coming, but I think that my third (and fourth, fifth and sixth) sales were what truly told me I was now a professional writer. I'd been ambitious, then humbled, then determined. And now I'm awaiting the September launch of the series I have always wanted to write, knowing that, when it comes to dreams, it helps to be a little crazy.

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. Elyssa Papa
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 04:24:43

    Zoe Archer is one of my favorite people in the world. I love this (Third) First Sale. It gives me hope, and right now, that’s what I need.

  2. Kim
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 04:32:44

    Thanks, Zoe, for sharing your story of persistence! I’m glad you believed in yourself to write outside the Regency Aristocracy box!

  3. Danielle
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 06:29:10

    Zoe, I wrote you after I read Lady X’s Cowboy to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Congrats on your new series!

  4. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 07:02:21

    I don’t read a great deal of paranormal, but Mongolia? I’m there.

    Congratulations on finding people who believed in your book as much as you did. It’s an inspiring post!

  5. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 10:33:31

    Now THAT is a cool sale story.

    :o)

    So cool I might even forget about how you and Robin are always taunting me about chocolate…oh, wait. No I won’t. ;)

  6. Janet W
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 10:46:18

    Raising a cup of chocolate to your success! And serious shattering snaps that you can write the books you want, set in the location that speaks to you!! Full speed ahead: September will be here before you know it.

  7. SonomaLass
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 11:23:31

    I am really excited about this series. I love Zoe’s writing voice ( Lady X’s Cowboy is a favorite of mine), and this blend of magic, steam technology, romance and adventure is all my favorite things rolled up in one — like a big box of assorted chocolates!

    Three cheers for supportive spouses, too.

  8. Susan/DC
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 11:55:05

    It’s a little unfair to categorize the first two books as standard Regency aristos, since the first was a Georgian and the second a Victorian, and the latter most definitely had non-aristocratic H/H. I loved both books, so I want people to know that right from the start you were coloring (at least somewhat) outside the lines.

    I’m not a fan of paranormals as a whole, but I believe that a good author can make almost any genre work, so I look forward to reading the first of the new series. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you continue to work your magic and that I follow you down the paranormal road (while hoping that somewhere in the future there are more of your lovely historicals).

  9. Zoe Archer
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 12:24:29

    Thanks for all the great comments! I’m glad to see people are just as excited as I am for something different.

    @Susan/DC: It’s true that I never wrote a standard Regency-set historical, and fortunately publishers have been moving into other time periods such as Georgian and Victorian, but the more I began to think about what I really wanted to write, the more I began casting my gaze outside of England. Maybe someday I will return to straight historical romance, but for now, I’m having a blast with the paranormal elements. (No vampires were written during the making of this series.)

  10. Gina
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 14:30:41

    Congrats Zoe! This is a great story. Looking forward to reading your new books when they’re out! Mongolia – Dare I hope for non-Caucasian (ie Mongolian) heroes/ heroines?
    –(Gina from BodiceRippers)

  11. D.L.
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 15:10:01

    This was really uplifting. It’s inspirational to see the hard work and tears that go with being a published author. (And that being original and doing what you love does work out!)

  12. Zoe Archer
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 16:22:45

    @Gina: In the first book, WARRIOR, both the hero and heroine are British. Same with the second book, SCOUNDREL. However, in the third book, REBEL, the hero is Native Canadian–and not mixed-race, either. I love all my heroes, but my absolute favorite hero of the whole series has to be Catullus Graves, the hero of the fourth book, STRANGER. He’s British, but he’s also Black–more importantly, he’s the Blades’ scientific genius, and makes all of their diabolical inventions. Plus, Catullus is very particular about his clothes and is addicted to buying waistcoats.

    So, long answer shorter, I eventually get to branch out and include non-Caucasian protagonists. Yay for diversity!

  13. Janine
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 22:39:13

    Awesome story. It must have taken a lot of determination to keep going in the face of all those setbacks. The supportive husband is worth keeping.

  14. Pam P
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 23:44:57

    Hi Zoe. I really liked your first two books and have been waiting for a new story from you. Love paranormals as much as historicals, so I’m excited to see this new series from you, and the different setting. Good you had support and kept at writing.

  15. Anthea Lawson
    Mar 02, 2010 @ 01:55:01

    I’m so pleased for you, Zoe! Thanks for the straight scoop. It’s true, that first publishing contract can be the start of a very rocky road. Your perseverance inspires. :)

    Very much looking forward to your September release. May the Blade of the Rose Series find and delight many many happy readers!

  16. Susan/DC
    Mar 02, 2010 @ 15:57:08

    I will definitely read the fourth book. How can I resist a hero named Catullus? Not only was he a marvelous poet (and quite appropriate that a romance hero be his namesake since he often wrote about love), but one of our cats is Catullus. He’s a big bruiser, a sweetheart, and I love that when I tell him he’s a Good Cat it has a double meaning. Now you just need to have a heroine named Isabella (Catullus’ sister), who is named after a hurricane and is clearly a good role model for a strong heroine.

  17. Zoe Archer
    Mar 02, 2010 @ 16:12:50

    Just chiming in again to thank everyone for their words of encouragement and interest in the series!

    @Susan/DC: Catullus’ heroine is actually named Gemma, but I’ll keep Isabella handy for future books. Isn’t Catullus a great name?

  18. Linda Banche
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 11:44:44

    I loved both “Lady X’s Cowboy” and “Love In a Bottle.” I’m glad you’re back

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