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first-sale

My First Sale by Barbara Wallace

My First Sale by Barbara Wallace

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. Barbara Wallace writes romances for Harlequin romance.   As a self published author, Wallace lived in that nether space of being both published for the purpose of contests in local chapters and unpublished for the purposes RWA national.   She finally broke through with a sale to Harlequin.   Her latest release, The Cinderella Bride, is in stores now.

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Barbara WallaceIn March, 2009, I got "The Call" from Harlequin Romance.   It was my first sale.   Except it wasn't my first sale.   Except that it was.

Confused?   Welcome to the roller coaster that was my journey to publication.

Let me back up.     I'd always wanted to be a writer, and after falling in love with Silhouette Desire and Bantam Loveswept, I realized those were the kind of books I wanted to write.   In 1994, I signed with an agent — a wonderful woman who, while no longer my agent, is still in the business and doing great things for authors.   Publication, I was certain, was imminent.

Two weeks later, my son was born.   For the next five years, I balanced motherhood and writing, still certain publication lurked right around the corner.   I can't tell you the number of times I came thisclose to selling.   But alas, thanks to lines folding and marketing changes, "the Call" didn't come.

In 2000, my son was entering school, and two new concepts – Print On Demand and E-Publishing had just emerged.   Several of my local colleagues had manuscripts accepted by a small POD publisher and following their leads, I submit too.   Wonder of wonders – they bought my book.   I was published!

But I wasn't.   At least not according to RWA.   Shortly after my sale, RWA created its publisher-recognition policy.   My publisher didn't make the cut.   With good reason.   Shortly after, after battling distribution and financial issues, the publisher folded.   I sold – if I'm lucky – around a dozen books.

Thus began a ten year stay in the Hinterland of Publishing where I was simultaneously recognized as published by local RWA Chapters and considered unpublished by RWA National.   Agents and editors didn't care about my erstwhile publishing credentials, while I was prohibited from entering the chapter contests that might net me better ones.

Fortunately, the one contest I could enter was the Golden Heart.   I entered the contest in 2005 and again in 2007, making the finals both time.   In fact it was winning the GH in 2007 that landed the attention of my editor at Harlequin..   She had requested the full version of my GH book a few months before the finals.   Shortly after I won, she rejected the book. (What – you thought this was the end of the story?).   But, she offered me the chance to work with her on a new project.   Three revision passes later, I finally got "the Call."   Two days before my son's fifteenth birthday.

cinderella brideThat book is THE CINDERELLA BRIDE, available December 10th.   I'm making my son (yes, that same son who was born two weeks after I signed with an agent) drive me to Walmart so I can see my book on the shelves.   I'd hoped to enter it in the First Book category for the Ritas too, but- you guessed it.   RWA changed its rules again.   That sale from 2000 now counts.   Oh well.   Such is life on the writing roller coaster.

By the way, what is the lesson from all these ups and downs?   Simple.   Never, ever give up.   Publication really is around the corner.   It just might take fifteen years to figure out which corner that is.

Comment below for a chance to win your own copy of THE CINDERELLA BRIDE, as well as a copy of FAIRYTALE CHRISTMAS, an anthology I'm in with bestselling author Susan Meier.

My First Sale by Phillipa Ashley

My First Sale by Phillipa Ashley

Phillipa AshleyWelcome to the My First Sale series. Each Monday, Dear Author posts the first sale letter of bestselling authors, debut authors, and authors in between.   Today’s first sale story is from Phillipa Ashley who studied English Language and Literature at Oxford before becoming a freelance copywriter and journalist.  Dating Mr. December (called  Decent Exposure in the UK) was the basis of last year's Lifetime TV Movie "The 12 Men of Christmas." A frequent guest on BBC national, local and independent radio on all matters romantic, she lives with her husband and daughter in Staffordshire, UK. You can visit  http://phillipa-ashley.com/, follow her on  Twitter or find her on  Facebook.

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When I'm asked about my first sale I always feel a bit of a fraud. I've always been a "writer" but until a few years ago, I'd hardly written a word of fiction.

I devoured books at school but I was never a big one for making up "stories." Don't get me wrong, I adored writing but when it came to school essays and exams, I always took the "descriptive" route. Or I'd make up little magazines about places I'd been on holiday and illustrate them myself.

Dating Mr. December by Phillipa Ashley CoverWith the support of a wonderful English Lit teacher, I got a place at Oxford University where I spent three years studying the classics. If I'd ever dreamed of writing my own novel (and I didn't), reading "the greats" intimidated me completely. Why would I write a novel, I reasoned, if I couldn't be Jane Austen?

After I left university, I turned my factual writing into a career and became a freelance copywriter and journalist.

Then, in 2004 I watched a BBC TV miniseries called North & South and my world changed overnight.

I was so inspired by that series I had the irresistible urge to write a modern version of the story. I shared my "fanfic" with an Internet creative writing group where someone told me that I'd written a romance.

That was it. I set about reading hundreds of romances. Soon, I was completely obsessed with writing. I felt that a whole new dimension of my life, hitherto invisible, had suddenly opened up.

I joined the Romantic Novelists Association and devoted myself to learning as much as I could about romance writing. I found I liked writing sexy, funny, fast-paced stories and I didn't have to be Jane Austen to entertain myself and other people.

I started a novel about a London PR girl who "helps" a mountain rescue team raise funds for their new base by persuading them to do a nude calendar. Not everyone wants to be helped-’especially a certain Mr. December.

After a year of rewrites and revisions, I'd finished the book and a writer friend persuaded me to send it a London literary agent.

As soon as I'd sent the email, I regretted it. Maybe, I thought, I'll just be ignored, or get a polite rejection or even a few nuggets of encouragement.

A couple of weeks later, the agent wrote back. She'd been "gloriously entertained," she said (that's a London lit agent for you, bless them) and added: "I'd love to see more."

Luckily for me, she liked the full and sent it to Little Black Dress; a sassy new romance/chick lit imprint that she thought would be perfect for my book.

Then one afternoon, I got The Call with a two book offer. I remember saying: "Can I tell my daughter?"

At which point I burst into tears and so did my agent.

Dating Mr. December (titled Decent Exposure in the UK) went on to win the RNA's New Writers Award and was made into the Lifetime TV movie, "The 12 Men of Christmas," in 2009.

Now Sourcebooks has published it in the USA-the first of four of my contemporary romantic novels. Wish You Were Here will be in stores in Spring 2011!

If my friend hadn't made me send it to my agent, it would still be lying on my computer and I wouldn't be here at Dear Author-