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My First Sale by Darynda Jones

My First Sale by Darynda Jones

Darynda JonesWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between. Darynda Jones sold her debut book, a Golden Heart winning entry, at auction to St. Martin’s Press.   First Grave on the Right is on shelves starting tomorrow.


An interesting thing happened on the road to publication. Life.

While I'd been conjuring tales since before I could actually write, I didn't really know I wanted to be a writer-for-reals until I was in middle school. But by that time, I knew three things about myself that made a writing career seem impossible: I was a horrid speller; I had the attention span of a gnat; I was nowhere near smart enough to pull off a novel, much less (gasp) two!

But with the encouragement of my best friend who also loved to write, I started my first manuscript in high school. We'd sit in a corner booth at the local Tastee Freeze for hours at a time, each writing our respective stories. Mine was post-apocalyptic about a group of teens who bore a remarkable resemblance to the members of Van Halen and were trying to escape the tunnels of a huge government fallout facility decades after World War III had destroyed the surface of the earth. It was a science fiction version of the cult classic The Warriors and destined to be a bestseller.

But after graduation, the real world came crashing through. Marriage, kids, college, career. These things took over my life. Still, the desire to write needled it's way back to the surface. Unable to squelch it any longer, in 2002 I started writing seriously again with one goal in mind: A publishing contract. Unfortunately, I sucked. Thank goodness practice makes perfect and three complete manuscripts and seven years later, I won an RWA Golden Heart, landed an amazing agent and sold to St. Martin's Press in a three-book deal.

Easy-peasy, right?

Well, maybe not. For me, that Golden Heart final changed everything. Admittedly, I'd been entering the Golden Heart for several years, and while I received some pretty good scores (and some not-so-good ones), every year I really thought I had a chance to final. Until 2009. I signed up to enter First Grave on the Right for one reason, and one reason only. I wanted to force myself to finish it. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it would not final. No way. No how. And then I was mad that I'd wasted the entry fee. That money could have been used for something worthwhile, like a workshop! But I grudgingly sent it in and forgot about it completely. No, really. I dismissed it from my mind entirely.

So March 25th rolls around and while I was at work my husband texted me. There was a message on the machine saying I'd finaled in a contest. I texted him back, "What? I haven't entered any contests." "IDK, something about a golden something or other." I froze. Actually, I had to freeze. I was in the middle of state testing with a client and I couldn't make a peep, not a sound, nothing that would distract the student from the test. So, I texted, "Did it say the Golden Heart?" "Yes." I freaked out. On the inside. And texted OMG to my husband over and over. Fortunately, my client was just finishing up the test. She closed the test booklet and I burst into tears, jumped up and hugged her. It was ridiculous. She got upset that I was crying.

Sadly, the manuscript needed tons of work, so after the final, I polished it for about two months before querying. Then I spent about a week doing research and writing my query. When I was satisfied, I queried about twenty agents over a three-day period. Within a week I had an offer of representation. I wrote the agents who'd asked for either a partial or a full, told them about the offer and gave them a few days to get back to me. Before the week was out, I had eight offers of representation from some of the most amazing agents in the business.

I know that sounds wonderful, but it was actually one of the most stressful weeks of my life. I never expected that kind of response and was very torn. I spoke to each of them, many more than once. I emailed them, asked questions, researched some more. After a week that I never want to repeat as long as I live, I accepted an offer of representation from Alexandra Machinist at the Linda Chester Literary Agency. And let me just say, having her in my corner is like having Mike Tyson as a personal bodyguard. I am beyond grateful.

First Grave on the RightThe GH win garnered a lot of interest, so Alexandra began shopping First Grave that August. About a week later, I was in the middle of district meetings and noticed Alexandra had called. We played phone tag for a bit, and when we finally connected, she asked if I was sitting down. Jennifer Enderlin from St. Martin's Press had made an offer for a three-book deal. Yes, THE Jennifer Enderlin. The offer was so much more than either of us had expected the waterworks started all over again.

We had a couple more offers over the next 24 hours and then right before Alexandra sent it to the floor for auction, Jennifer swept in with a pre-empt we simply couldn't refuse.

Whew! And now, book one in the Charley Davidson series, First Grave on the Right, is coming out in hardcover. February 1st, to be exact.

Thank you so much, Jane, for having me! And I would love to give one commenter his or her choice of either the hardback or the audiobook read by the fabulous Lorelei King.

My First Sale by Stephanie Rowe

My First Sale by Stephanie Rowe

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. Stephanie Rowe is a multipublished author whose latest work, Kiss at Your Own Risk, is in stores now.


What do I want to do with my life?

That was the question I asked myself in 1997, when I was looked ahead at my career path and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, what did I want to do?

I wanted to write. I confessed my dream to a friend who’d been in the business. His reply? “It’s so hard to succeed. You’ll never make it. You’re never as good as you think you are. It’s impossible.”

Well, gee, thanks so much for the warning! I know some people believe that warning others off their dreams is an act of mercy so they won’t be disappointed. My belief? Everyone has the right to their dreams, and no one has the right to discourage them or to tell them what their path will be like.

So, I ignored him, and I started to write.

I was working a full time job, so I got up at 3:45 in the morning to write before work. I wrote at lunch. Then I crashed when I got home. I worked all day on the weekends. I queried. I entered contests. I got rejected (over 130 times). I failed to final in contests (over 90 times). I started new books (a lot-)

And then I finaled in the Golden Heart, the biggest contest for unpublished romance authors. Whoohoo! This was it! I was in!

Or not. More rejections. More books. More early mornings.

Then I finalled in the Golden Heart the next year again! This time I got an agent. Whoohoo! We were in!

A year went by. More rejections. But I believed and I kept writing new books. My agent was so loyal and so dedicated, and she believed, too. I gave her my 18th completed manuscript, and she sent off the partial.

An editor called. Raving! “Show me the rest of the book!”

My agent sent it off. We waited. We waited. We waited. And waited- Where was the editor’s excitement? Hadn’t she been thrilled? Don’t torture us!

And then, one day, I was sitting in my cubicle at work, and my agent called. My heart started thumping like crazy. Could this be it? The moment when my life would change forever? I answered the phone.

I heard her cheery voice. “Hello, my dear! I wanted to talk to you about your plans for National.”

“Oh.” Sigh. She wanted to talk about plans for the conference we were both going to in July? The conference where those who’d made their first sale get a pink ribbon on their nametag. “Sure. What’s up?”

“Well,” she says. “I want to know how you feel about wearing a pink ribbon at National.”

Tears welled up, my throat closed and I couldn’t speak. Emotions overwhelmed me. My hands started to shake. After 18 books, 9 partials, and countless rejections-it was real. I’d done it. I had done it! And twenty-five books later, I’m still doing it.

People often respond to my story, because it gives them hope that no matter how hard it feels to accomplish their dreams, they can get there. I’m happy about that, because I want people to never give up. But I also believe that it doesn’t have to be difficult to reach your dreams. You don’t have to endure what I went through. It’s okay for you to decide that you deserve to have your dreams come easily and effortlessly. Take my story as an inspiration that you can get there even if it seems like the road is too arduous, but hold as your model those people who sold their first book and coasted through. They’re the ones who believed in their dreams, and believed that it could happen easily, and then they made those visions their reality.

I used to pride myself on my struggle to get published. I felt that it made me more worthy to have suffered and failed first. Today, I have a different opinion. Today, I open myself to letting my dreams come true effortlessly and easily, to allowing life to simply be easy and fun. I am inspired by those who allow their dreams to unfold the way they want. Those folks get into alignment with their dreams, they find peace with their vision, and they enjoy the journey.

If you’ve been struggling to accomplish something you want, allow yourself to stop fighting so hard. Know that you deserve to have it, and for it to be effortless, easy and fun. Enjoy the ride, and open your heart to success, and then things will start coming your way that you couldn’t see before because you were too stressed or struggling to notice them.   We all deserve to have magic happen in our lives. Believe it, enjoy it and watch the world shift to make way for you.


He needed a killer woman-

Blaine Underhill is one lucky man after having recently escaped a century and a half of imprisonment at the hands of an evil witch. Now he's determined to save his still-enslaved friend, but in order to do so, he'll need the help of one of the world's most lethal women.

She was drop dead gorgeous, literally-

Trinity Harpswell is sick and tired of being a Black Widow. Having managed to go three years without accidentally killing anyone she loves, she's one short week away from freeing herself from this killer curse forever.

When Blaine tracks her down and convinces her to help him, little does Trinity know that the next seven days are going to be murder!

About the Author: Four-time RITA ® Award nominee and Golden Heart ® Award winner Stephanie Rowe is a nationally bestselling author of more than twenty books. A life-long reader, she began crafting stories at age ten, but didn’t realize it was her dream until she was an adult.

Once the light dawned, she immediately left behind “work” as the world defines it and went to “work” as she defines it, which means getting up every morning with a smile in her heart so she can spend the day doing that which makes her spirit sing.

Stephanie believes in learning to listen to your heart in order to figure out what your dreams are, and then opening yourself to the inspiration that will direct you there. She believes we all deserve the right to enjoy life, that the ride should be as easy as we want it to be, and that we all should accept nothing less than making our dreams come true.

Stephanie lives in New England, and spends every day doing her best to fill it with people, observations and activities that uplift her soul, which include writing, tennis, friends, and her amazing family. Visit Stephanie on the web at