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. 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.
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.
I 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.
"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.