First Sale Stories:
Or When They Got 'The Call'!
First Sale Stories: Or When They Got 'The Call'!
My road to that first sale was fairly long and rocky. For five years I wrote books
and submitted queries, partials and even full manuscripts to agents and editors,
and of course I have the dozens and dozens of battle wounds from all the kind,
and not-so-kind, rejection letters I received. One house kept my requested full
manuscript for over two years. An editor at a second major house requested two
full manuscripts from me, asked for revisions (which I completed) and emailed me
over the course of nearly two years (again!) telling me to be patient... that the
books were with a senior editor... that I should hear back soon... that she hoped
for a positive result. I waited, and waited, and waited, each passing week eating
away at my confidence and hopes like a disease.
Then I had the good fortune to connect with another editor at the same house who
was kind enough to help me. I found out that both books had been rejected some
time past, and somehow, the message had been lost in translation. All those
endless months of waiting and hoping and dreaming... all those wasted months of
holding off on submitting anywhere else... only to find that there had never been
any hope at all. I was devastated, but thanks to my extremely supportive husband,
kids, and critique group, I managed to hold on to hope by a thin thread.
There was, however, a silver lining to that daunting experience. Despite rejecting
my work, the house in question sent back my books, and they were kind enough
to include a ton of post-it notes marking what they perceived as problem areas. I
read every one of those notes at least a dozen times, and then I went back and
read every single one of those rejection letters and contest entries, and then I
applied all I learned from them. Still, I must confess, I was very close to giving up
when my luck changed.
I researched agents and queried several. There was interest from some agents,
but no real connection. Then, eleven days after submitting my manuscript to the
woman who would become my agent, I received a phone call from her that was so
positive and enthusiastic that at first I thought I must be dreaming. Could an
agent really be saying that she loved my manuscript? Less than three weeks later
she had sold my historical gothic romance, DARK DESIRES, as part of a two book
contract. And thrill upon thrill - there were no revisions.
Funny thing is, after dreaming about it for so many years, I never got "the call".
My agent sent me the most understated email ever, pretty much a one-liner that
said "I have an offer on your book".
First person I called: my husband. And I was hyperventilating so badly that he
couldn't understand what I was trying to tell him. He thought I was having some
life-threatening experience and he almost called an ambulance. Then he was so
excited, he took his whole office out for lunch to celebrate the birth of the
bouncing baby book, while I sat at home and breathed into a paper bag. Of course,
I did get the celebratory dinner and flowers later that night.
I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have my dream come true.
Click here to visit Eve's website. Check out some books by Eve here.
I decided in elementary school that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t get right
down to it.
I went to college, majored in English, wrote for and edited the college magazine, went
to law school--briefly--and went to work for the federal government writing
regulations for the school nutrition programs. (Alas, you don’t get “The Call” when
you’re published in The Federal Register.) I married a law school classmate and
wrote in the evenings. When we had kids, I retired from paid employment, got a
thick pad to muffle the sound of the typewriter, and finished a book or two. About
the time son number two showed up, we bought a personal computer (an IBM XT!).
Yahoo! Revising suddenly got much easier.
I switched to writing picture book texts during naptime, and actually sent them out
to publishers. I got some positive rejections, a revision request, and even one call
from an editor--but not The Call. (I can’t remember what she said, I was
hyperventilating so badly. I suspect she dialed the wrong number.) When the
youngest--our fourth son--was four, I put aside writing for a year until he was in full
time school. That “year” stretched to about eight. I was too busy carpooling. My
writing efforts went to volunteer projects--the annual family newsletter, school
auction programs, swim league guidance, class plays.
When the oldest started applying to college, I looked beyond the sport du jour to an
empty nest and decided it was time to pursue my dream or give it up.
I read all the writing magazines that had been cluttering the house for years. I
slogged through a first draft. I had two friends--a gay college English professor who
had never read a romance in his life and a neighbor, a former professional romance
editor--read the story. Many drafts later, I joined the Romance Writers of America
and stumbled onto the WritingRegency loop when they were looking for manuscripts
to keep the Golden Heart Regency category alive. I edited my manuscript again, got
help from loop mom and published author Susannah Carleton to write my first ever
synopsis, and entered the contest.
The story made it to the final round and one of the judging editors got my contact
information from RWA. I came home from running errands to find Hilary Sares’s
wonderful voice asking me to call her right away. I tried to remain calm--well, at least
coherent--when I called her back. She asked me to FedEx her the complete
manuscript, and we made an appointment to talk the next day at 11 am. I grinned,
danced around the kitchen for a minute, and then ran upstairs to print out a copy
and look up the nearest FedEx office. Then I emailed everyone I could think of for
advice. When Hilary called back the next day to offer me a two book contract, I said
yes, danced around the kitchen a little more--and went off to the dentist to get a
My husband and sons were stunned--something had actually come of all my typing
away at the computer! In February 2005, The Naked Duke was published by
Kensington Publishing Corp. as a Zebra historical romance.
Click here to visit Sally's website. Check here to check out her books.
When I was twelve years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. Motion sickness (never
put me in the back seat of a car, let alone on a roller coaster) killed that career
before it got off the ground -- pun intended. So I turned to my next love, Broadway
theater. There was only one problem: Broadway isn't interested in singers who can't
sing and dancers who can't dance. Scratch that career path. So I went to art school
and over the years have had a fairly successful career as a writer and designer in
the consumer crafts industry, designing craft and needlework projects for kit
manufacturers as well as magazine and book publishers.
Then I got the urge to write.
It all began ten years ago when the characters in a dream I had took over my brain
and refused to leave until I promised to tell their story. That story became my first
romance manuscript. However, if someone had told me it would take a decade to get
published, I'm not sure I would have ever committed that first word to paper. But
once I did, the writing bug took hold and I couldn't stop. So it’s a good thing no one
ever told me the odds against succeeding.
While trying to convince the publishing world that I'd written The Great American
Novel and was the next Nora Roberts, I discovered Romance Writers of America and
learned, much to my chagrin, that I'd actually written The Great American Drivel .
Nora needn't have worried. Point of view? What's that? GMC? Ditto. I have a BFA
in graphic design and illustration. It's been a long time since I took an English
class, and learning how to write term papers doesn't exactly prepare you for writing
fiction. .Undaunted, I worked to hone my craft. I had no choice. Like I said, once
bitten by the writing bug, a writer can't not write (even if we do employ the
My perseverance paid off. After a couple of years and a stack of rejections, I was
lucky enough to find an agent who loves my writing. However, had she known how
long it was going to take to sell the publishing world on my talent, I think she may
have thought twice about signing me on as a client. Most agents would cut a client
loose after a year or two of not being able to sell their work. Mine stuck with me
because she believed in my talent. Knowing how strongly she felt about my writing
has gotten me through many a rejection over the years. When you have someone
who believes in you as much as that, you have a tendency not to give up on your
About five years ago I began entering writing contests. I finaled in approximately a
third of the ones I entered and won approximately a third of those. I’ve been a
Golden Heart finalist three times, a St. Martin’s Malice Domestic finalist, and most
recently, a finalist in Dorchester Publishing’s American Title competition. Over they
years I've had several *near* sales, but either the senior editor who had to approve
the buy didn't like the book or the marketing department didn't think they could sell
the book or the line the book was intended for never materialized. I've had
incredible luck with contests but really crappy Karma when it came to crossing the
As a result of coming in second in the American Title competition, I was recently
offered and accepted a contract with Dorchester Publishing for RESURRECTING
GERTIE, my combo chick lit/hen lit/romantic comedy. The book will be released in
April 2006 as TALK GERTIE TO ME. So now it's finally happened, and I still can't
believe it. I guess reality will settle in when I get that revision letter I've heard
published authors groan about.
Click here to visit Lois's website. Check out Lois's books here.
In my writing life, I consider myself a "poster child" for the adage, "Never Give Up." I
wrote my first novel and shared it with my friends when I was in high school, but
many years passed before I thought about writing anything with publication in mind.
In 1984, after reading dozens of romances, I decided to write one of my own. During
twenty years of writing, rewriting, lots of rejections and unkind critiques, there were
numerous times when I was ready to quit, but I didn't. Because I kept writing even
when the hope of selling seemed far away, in July of 2003, I won the Golden Heart
Award presented by Romance Writers of America for my inspirational romance
manuscript, A Place To Call Home. Although I didn't sell that Golden Heart winner,
on February 20, 2004, I got "THE CALL" and sold a different manuscript. The
Heart's Homecoming will be published in August 2005 by Steeple Hill for their Love
Here's how it all happened. Friday morning February 20, 2004, I went to get my
haircut and pay our water bill. When I walked in the door, I saw the light blinking on
the answering machine. I punched the button to play the message. "This is Diane
Dietz from Steeple Hill. Please call me." My heart was racing, and I was thinking this
has got to be THE CALL. (I missed it!!!) Then I thought maybe she's not calling to
buy my book, but I thought surely she wouldn't call unless she's going to buy the
book. (Was I a little neurotic or what?)
My husband was on his business phone, so I couldn't even scream or talk to him.
Instead, I got teary eyed and waited around until he got off the phone. I told him
Diane Dietz called and I think she called to say she wants to buy my book. He said
call her. I said, "I'm afraid. What if she's not calling to buy the book?" He just shook
his head. I told him that I would call when I get myself together. So I took a few
minutes to calm myself down. Then I punched in the number, hands shaking. She
answered and asked me if I was sitting down. I was. She said the words, "I'd like to
offer you a contract on Second Chances." At least I think that's what she said. I had
to be very calm because my husband is on his business line just up the stairs. I told
her that was fabulous. I think she was a little disappointed that I was so calm. I
explained to her that I'd taken plenty of time to calm myself down after I listened to
her message. Anyway, she went into details about money, time lines of revisions,
option book, publication, etc. And she explained some of the revisions they wanted.
After going over all this, I told her I would call her back that afternoon.
After I hung up and my husband wasn't on the phone, I screamed, "THEY WANT TO
BUY MY BOOK." A few minutes later, our younger daughter just happened to call to
talk to her dad about business stuff. I told her that I had sold my book. I called my
mother-in-law. She was thrilled because she knows how long I've been at this. (She
can't understand why they haven't bought my Golden Heart book.) Minutes later,
our older daughter called to say congratulations. Younger daughter called her and
just happened to catch her at lunch. I was so excited I couldn't eat. My stomach was
churning, but I decided I'd better eat something or I'd faint away. So I ate lunch. My
husband asked when I'm going to call back. I say at 2 o'clock. So at 1:58 pm, I called
and accept the offer. We chatted for quite a while about all kinds of stuff.
During the rest of the afternoon, I sent emails to everyone I could think of to let
them know I'd sold. Then I went for my walk so I could burn off some of the
adrenaline. The weather finally turned nice so I could do it at the beach. I was
grinning from ear to ear, but I resisted the urge to go up to complete strangers on
the beach and tell them I'd sold my first book. I came home and did my lower body
workout. Believe me I had lots of energy. Finally I saw the flowers my girls sent
while I was out walking. I couldn't believe they had gotten there so quickly.
My husband and I went out to dinner that night to celebrate. It was a day to
Click here to visit Merrillee's site. Check out her books here.
Twelve years ago I wandered into a local writer's conference. I didn't know a soul,
but I knew when I sat down (mistakenly at the head table!) I was home. This was
on Saturday, June 6, 1992, and it was the first conference of the Central New York
Romance Writers. When two real live New York editors spoke (Catherine Carpenter
and Melissa Senate), I soaked up every word. I took copious notes. I was euphoric,
floating. This was "it". I WAS GOING TO WRITE A BOOK.
After the conference, I couldn't wait to go through all the stuff I got in a big, plastic
bag. I studied every bookmark, every tip sheet, anything and everything they'd
given me. In their speeches, they related what they liked to see in a submission.
Okay, no sweat. I could do this. I told myself I'd have a book out in a year. What
could be so difficult?
Flash forward to January 21, 2004, at approximately 2:15 p.m. I am sitting in my
office at work and my husband, Jim, calls. He tells me that Susan Litman from
Silhouette Special Edition called and wanted me to call her back.
I interrogated Jim: How did she sound? Did she sound happy? What exactly did
she say? Did it sound like a sale? Tell me every word. Don't leave out a thing.
"Chris, will you just call her back?" He laughed his dialogue.
After twelve years, I knew that if I were going to be rejected again, I wouldn't get a
phone call. The rejection would come in the mail like the other fourteen or so
manuscripts had (yes, fourteen). Two beats short of a heart attack, I dialed Susan
Litman. I got her voice mail. Damn! I left a message that I wouldn't move from my
chair until she called me back.
Minutes later she did. "Officer Wenger."
"This is Susan Litman from Silhouette Books." (Heart attack.)
"I have to know, did you move from the chair?"
"Not a muscle."
"I have good news for you..."
In my line of work, which is law enforcement/criminal justice, people get nervous
when they hear screaming, so I burst a couple blood vessels keeping it all in. I
babbled and gushed instead. Twelve years. Twelve years of trying and failing.
Twelve years of rejection and frustration. Twelve years of questioning why me, a
semi-intelligent person with a dual master's degree and a successful thirty-year
couldn't pull together a publishable book.
Why didn't I quit? I did. Approximately 4,380 times. Why did I keep going back to
Pride maybe. Maybe Polish stubbornness. Maybe it was all the money I'd spent on
conferences, books, workshops, computers and the like.
Maybe it was the wonderful people I'd met along the way. Writers, published and
unpublished, who generously shared their time and talent to help me. They
critiqued my work, gave me ideas, gave me suggestions, and recommended writing
books. They also gave brilliant workshops, let themselves be taped so I could learn
while driving my car during a snowstorm or in a traffic jam. They wrote terrific
books that I studied and highlighted and talked to them about later. They were
chapter officers, newsletter editors, and worker bees.
I couldn't have done it without them. They all collectively helped me achieve my
I did my part. I worked. I studied. I pumped thousands of dollars into the economy.
I kept at it. I didn't give up, and I'm proud of that.
Did things change for me after "the call"?
Within a week of becoming an overnight success, I was asked to critique three
manuscripts, judge a contest because they needed "a pub", asked to be a
moderator at National, and asked to speak at a chapter meeting. I was a whirling,
but that was okay. I'm going to give back and help other writers achieve their
I've also done revisions, joined loops galore, joined PASIC, PAN and something else
that I don't remember. I called Erin at RWA to get a pink first sale ribbon to wear at
National. I got glamoured-up for a professional
photo, hired a website person, did art fact sheets. I received cards, flowers and
gifts. I wrote thank you cards. I toasted myself with enough Blue Nun to float the
QE2. I also started Diet Number 18,326.5 so when I meet Susan Litman she won't
think that Christine Wenger is a writing team.
I want to sell a second book, a third, a seventy-third, but I'm just too damn busy
being a published author.
How old will I be in the next twelve years?
Click here to visit Christine's website. Check out Christine's books here.
Like most of you, I had the lifelong dream of seeing my name on the spine of a
book. I loved reading. I loved writing...but, could I really write an entire book...
and get paid for it?
Come back in time with me to...
1991 -- That’s when I first started looking at the business of romance novels and
I learned about an organization called Romance Writers of America (RWA). I am
distracted by life and procrastinate a bit...take a children’s writing course, read a
lot, work, eat, sleep—the usual stuff—but the dream of being published still
nagged me and I decide to check out the romance genre a little more.
In 1994, I attend a Learning Annex seminar called "HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE
NOVEL," which promises to teach me the secrets of Danielle Steel and Barbara
Cartland. I also attend an all-day workshop presented by the San Diego Chapter
of Romance Writers of America. I leave exhausted, buy more "how to" books, and
begin writing on my own.
January 1995. I realize I CAN'T do this alone and join the San Diego Chapter of
July 1995. Since I have a completed manuscript, I decide to attend the national
RWA writing conference in Honolulu (where I manage to survive scary agent and
I continue to submit proposals to many different publishing houses and learn what
rejection letters are (I prefer to call them decline letters).
I submit, submit, submit. I attend more national and regional conferences, and
complete a second manuscript. I try a few contests and learn how subjective they
can be. I learn there really IS such a thing as a "good rejection letter.” Any
rejection letter that has personal comments either about your writing or the
subject matter is like “gold.” My advice: just put it away for a few days, sulk a
little, then go back to it and look for helpful comments and hints.
December 1997. Magic happens. To help speed the healing from a disappointing
decline of my second manuscript, I rework it and send it off to Hilary Sares, an
editor at Kensington Publishing. I had been researching their Precious Gem
romance line and had heard they were eager for new authors. The Precious Gem
romances were short, contemporaries and were exclusively available in the book
departments of Wal-Mart.
I knew they were non-royalty paying -- that they paid only a flat rate because the
deal with Wal-Mart also prevented what are called returns (these are unsold
books). In this case, a specific amount of books were printed and would never be
returned to the Publisher.
Within a month of my submission, I hear from Hilary Sares. She returned the
proposal -- telling me she liked the story and the characters and wonders if I'm up
to a rewrite. I am...I do...
March 2, 1998. I came home from a frustrating day at work and my dear husband
was sitting on the couch, reading the newspaper—pretty much ignoring my
complaints. Finally he mentioned there was “some kind of message” for me on the
answering machine. As I rewound the tape and hit play, he had snuck up behind
me so he could be nearby when I heard those magical words, “I want to buy your
book.” Believe me, I listened to that message about five times before it really sunk
Click here to visit Janet's website. Check out her books here.
I've been a writer for most of my life, a rejected writer that is. My rejection file is
massive and the biggest names in the agent and publishing world have had the
pleasure of sending me form rejections. However, the people in my head wouldn't
keep talking so the stories just kept on coming.
On August 8, 2003, at nine-thirty in the morning I was up to my elbows in turtle
poop. My husband had taken three of our four children our and I had decided to
tackle the disgusting job of cleaning the aquarium. My three year old watched as
our beloved turtle, Turdie, hissed and snapped his indignation at my attempts.
Then the phone rang.
With cordless receiver tucked under my chin I answered with a curt Hello and
kept on scrubbing away at turtle excrement. The voice on the other end of the
phone, obviously hesitant after my abrupt greeting, asked if this was a good time
to talk. I immediately thought it was some saleswoman bent on bending my ear so
I began to describe the revolting task I was undertaking in the removal of turtle
waste. After a poignant pause, Kathryn Lye from Red Dress Ink introduced
herself and I withdrew my hands from the filthy aquarium and babbled my
The editor proceeded to tell me that she liked my manuscript. I blathered that I
was glad she liked it. Next she said that the other editors at Red Dress Ink also
liked it. I prattled that I was glad they liked it too. There was a brief pause where
I was waiting for the big BUT where she would say, we liked it BUT we don't feel
it's right for RDI. Instead she said that they would like to make me an offer to
purchase Dating Can Be Deadly.
I sputtered, blubbered, rambled and sobbed then apologized for crying and cried
some more. Kathryn kindly assured me that she was used to that kind of
reaction. Next she spilled details and I scribbled as fast as I could. After hanging
up the phone I did a whooping hollering happy dance around the house that
involved much screaming tangled with hysterical laughter. When my three year
old asked what was wrong, I told him that mom just sold a book. His enthusiastic
reaction, "Oh. Can I have some cranberry juice?" I shrieked, "Yes! From now on
you get the real thing! No more generic cranberry juice for you!" He looked at me
like I'd lost my mind. Which, in all fairness, was probably true.
I spent an hour phoning and emailing. Afterward, still with a goofy grin on my
face, I returned to turtle poop detail. In the weeks that have followed I've
scrubbed toilets and cleaned the garage.
In the end, simultaneously, nothing and everything had changed.
Click here to visit Wendy's website. Check out her books here.
I focused on finding an agent not an editor because I feel strongly that a good agent
is necessary to break into the New York publishing market, especially if you are
unpublished. In March 2004, a week after my agent sent out my manuscript to
several editors, Ballantine pre-empted my book and offered a two-book contract.
Needless to say, this was fast. My agent called me on a Tuesday and told me about
the Ballantine offer, they negotiated, and on Thursday we had a deal.
I was at La Bou, a coffee house getting my afternoon iced mocha, when she called
me with the final offer. I stood on the street outside on my cell phone and agreed to
everything my agent said. We'd already talked about the particulars on Tuesday, so I
had a good understanding of the offer and what it meant.
The Call came two years after I made my personal commitment to finish one of my
many books. I sold my fifth book, a romantic suspense.
While getting the Call was fabulous, I didn't really do anything to celebrate. My
agent and editor had to work through the details of the contract and that took time.
In addition, as I've discovered with this business, there's a lot of waiting *g*. It was
the second call that really changed my life.
My agent called me in September and said that my editor wanted to publish my two
books--and a third we hadn't even talked about--in consecutive months. While this
meant pushing back my publication date from 2005 to Spring 2006, it also meant
three books out in one year which would be a fantastic career move. I put together
a quick blurb to connect the three books and talked to my editor and they loved the
When I got my contract in early 2005, that was when I really celebrated. It felt real.
Although I had gone through copyedits on my first book and had already finished
my second book, it didn't feel like I was really published until I received the
contract. That weekend, my husband and I went out for dinner at one of our
favorite restaurants, then to a movie -- which is celebrating since we have five kids
and rarely go out!
I'm sure it'll even feel more real when I hold my book in my hand.
Click here to visit Allison's website. Check out Allison's books here.
In the late 90s I started writing whatever the hell I felt like. That turned out to be
a novel set in Zanzibar in 1872, and it involved a lot of stuff that would now be
termed paranormal. There was a bisexual secondary character who was so
charismatic he threatened to take over the book, a lot of astral traveling,
mineralogy, Spiritualism, and also gritty historical detail about the city at the time,
the slave trade, and some very hot sex. The characters kept insisting upon being
completely humorous, despite my perceived “control” over them. “Stop being funny!!
This is serious stuff!” In other words, I did absolutely everything that was NOT
being bought in the 90s.
In 2005, it’s everything that IS bought and selling like hotcakes.
I also refused to admit that I wrote “romance.” I thought I was writing very
hifalutin literary “aht.” While talking to my friend Karen Templeton, who writes for
Harlequin Silhouette, she told me the three cardinal rules of romance. 1) Is the
main story between the H/H? Check. 2) Is the situation between the H/H the last
thing to be resolved? Check. 3) Is there a HEA? Czech.
Oh my God!! I’m writing a romance!!
So with this in mind, I set out to write a fresh story, keeping all the Romance Rules
foremost in my mind. “I am not going to mess this up! I’m following all the
Romance Rules!” Unfortunately, I still persisted in writing a romance set in the
Niger Delta area of 1897, a time and a setting not only not usually seen in
romance…but never before seen in romance. I toned down the paranormal stuff
(but allowed the character’s own humor to shine through). I titled it The
Hinterlands, because in all of my primary source document reading, that phrase
kept cropping up in letters and dispatches.
So I went through every single agent in the USA who was willing to look at
historical romances. I got a good percentage of bites for fulls (I think about 10%,
in other words 5 out of 50) but ultimately, it was “sorry, tough setting.”
I was on the verge of tears when I remembered there are still some pubs you can
submit to unagented. Somehow I found Medallion Press, who were brand new, but
seemed legit. About two weeks later I got an initial call from their editor, who asked
if I had subbed to anyone else. Feeling like a dork, because I do not do well on the
phone (I’m sure that’s one of the reasons we become writers in the first place), I
told her uh, yeah, a few still have the full. A week after that, I got the REAL call.
“We’d like to buy your book.”
I wish I could say I did something outrageous, but I guess I’m too dignified for that.
(Yeah, right!) I called my little brother, but after my news he insisted on telling me
about his colon examination, so quickly got out of that conversation. I ran down the
street to meet my H driving up in his work truck, and when I told him, he just
smiled, and said something like “I knew you could do it.” Hmm, in retrospect, this
doesn’t sound very exciting at all!
The next day, I called the editor, and she told me that Medallion wants to specialize
in historicals set in unusual locations. Later, Leslie Burbank told me that since
they’d opened their doors my book was exactly the sort of thing they’d been looking
for. She told me they were tired of “the most notorious rake in all of London.”
Since then, I’ve sold my second Abyssinian book to them and all I can say is, I look
forward to a long and prosperous relationship.
Medallion is truly far-seeing and visionary, and I think the future in historicals lies
in exotic settings and time periods that haven’t been done to death before. During
the most recent RT in St. Louis that’s all we heard from pundits who were
simultaneously proclaiming, as always, the death of the historical.
And to think…we knew that before.
Click here to visit Karen's website. Check out Karen's books here.
Getting published with Kensington Brava was something of an accident. For
several years, I had been trying to get published with Harlequin in category
romance. I felt like I was getting closer and closer, even doing revisions and having
the editor call me to discuss them, but in the meantime, everything was at a
standstill. One night I was bored, feeling restless with all the waiting I was doing.
I was online and decided to see what Lori Foster’s upcoming releases were. I saw
the contest she was running where 20 entries would be read by Kate Duffy for
Brava, and thought I would give it a try. I wrote the entry (750 words) over the
next day or so and sent it to Lori before I could change my mind. Lori emailed me
that she loved it, and if I’d written the whole thing, she’d love to read it. Well, of
course I hadn’t written the whole thing- I’d written the first three pages only the
night before! But I buckled down and wrote “Hard Drive” over the next few weeks,
then sent it to Lori.
Lori emailed me and said she loved Hard Drive and to watch my inbox. Feeling
pretty darn excited, I went off shopping at Target. I got home and there was an
email from Kate Duffy asking me to call her. I did, hoping that she was going to
request the whole novella of Hard Drive. Instead, she said she’d read it, loved it,
wanted to buy it. I about died! After babbling incoherently, I then had to cut her
off because I’m my daughter’s Girl Scout leader and I had fifteen 9 year olds waiting
up at school for me. They brought me back to reality pretty quick. ;-)
Click here to visit Erin's website. Check out her book here.
I first heard of Ellora's Cave through my RWA group. I checked out the site and I
couldn't believe the books. Fun, imaginative, written by unbelievably talented
authors. Book after book I'd never heard of and couldn't wait to read. I told my
husband, "I want to be THERE!"
I submitted a partial of Love and Rockets and made a note in my calendar for the
expected response time. Before the time was up, I had a request for the full.
Whoopee! I sent it in and tried not to get too excited because I didn't really think
of myself as an erotic romance writer. A short time later, I checked my email and
there it was....compliment after compliment from the editor about how much she
loved the story and the fateful words, "Want to offer you a contract"!
I read it twice to be sure, shrieked, and got up from my desk to run and tell my
husband the great news. And then I announced to my RWA chapter's email loop
that I'd made my first RWA-recognized sale!
Click here to visit Charlene's website. Check out her books here.
I have had the privilege of having two 'first sale' stories. The first came in 2003. It
was an odd year for me. I had ended my relationship with my second agent and
gone out to sell my latest historical romance on my own with no success. To say I
was frustrated would be an understatement. So I pulled out a story I'd started to
write late in 2002 but set aside. An erotic romance set in Victorian-era Egypt. It was
also a novella. It was completely opposite to everything I had been doing. I finished
it in three days, tweaked it for a while more and sent it off to Red Sage. Within
weeks I had an enthusiastic request for a full and then there was a dead silence.
After such high hopes, I began to think, "Well, here we are again".
Then, on Halloween, as I was cleaning my house in preparation for my husband's
return from a business trip, I got an email from the owner of the company in
response to a follow-up I sent her. She said they loved my book and that someone
would be in contact with me shortly. I flipped. What did it mean? There was no
mention of contract, but 'loved' sounded promising. So I waited. And waited. And
waited for eleven more gut-wrenching days until I got a call. The Call.
It was a whirlwind of excitement. And honestly, it was the confidence boost I
needed at the time. I'd been so disappointed by my last experience pitching. I had
felt so close for a while and then I seemed to slip backward. Having a book coming
out and selling another to Red Sage soon after really made me re-evaluate myself as
a writer and believe again.
So in March of 2004, I steeled my nerves and sent out five queries to my personal
top literary agencies. I wanted to publish historical romance with a New York
publisher (actually, I wanted to publish historical romance with Avon, but I never in
a million years thought that was possible). I needed an agent to meet that goal.
Within a month, my current agent and I had agreed to work together. Her
enthusiasm for me and for my work, as well as her staunch belief that I would sell
bolstered my sagging confidence yet again. Meeting her in person in Dallas at RWA
also helped. But I still had this little voice in the back of my head that kept saying,
"Yeah, right." In fact, when she told me she was sending out a second book to Avon
after they passed on our first offering, I actually thought, "Good luck with that."
So there it was, September 21, 2004. I had experienced one of the worst days of my
life the day before when my husband, who was on a dangerous white water rafting
trip, could not be found for a short time. Being a creative sort, I imagined the worst
for several hours. But he made it home and I was figuring that was all the
excitement I needed for the week (and possibly the rest of my life).
Until the phone rang. It was my agent. And she asked me who I'd told her was my
dream publisher. I didn't answer her for a minute because I actually couldn't
breathe and my vision was getting blurry. When I did manage to croak out Avon,
she told me we'd been offered a two-book contract. The rest is a blur or screaming
and crying and my husband and I hugging while I sort of sank down on the floor.
Everything happens for a reason. I think I sold to Red Sage not only because I had
a story worth sharing, but because I needed it at the time. It kept my spirits up at
one of the lowest points for me. It kept me writing. It got me believing in myself
again. If I hadn't had that confidence boost, I don't think I ever would have pursued
an agent again because my prior experiences were not happy ones. I certainly
wouldn't have pursued only my dream agencies (like Irene Goodman, where my
agent works). Without Miriam, I know I wouldn't have tried Avon with the book they
ultimately bought because they rejected that story on query when I submitted on
my own in 2003.
I don't know if anyone else can learn anything from my first sale(s). But hearing my
editor's voice on the other line the first time and especially hearing Miriam's grin as
she told me about Avon are some of the best moments in my life as a writer. And
since this is a difficult business, both before and after you sell, those moments are
Click here to visit Jenna's website. Check out Jenna's books here.
Publication for me started with a contest.
I was selected as one of twenty finalists in the 2004 Lori Foster Brava Novella
contest ten months after I first began writing. Two months after that I found out I’d
won the Reader’s Choice portion of the contest. I was stunned. When Kate Duffy
called the day after my win was announced, I was thrilled.
But the news wasn’t good.
I answered the phone and Kate immediately started out with, “Hi, Sylvia? Kate Duffy.”
I almost fell out of my chair and when I answered in reply, it was obvious I was
expecting good news. Because of my elated tone, Kate, dear sweet Kate, got straight
to the point. While she loved the premise of my story, my writing was “overwritten” or
“too lush”. I was devastated.
Then she said, “The problem isn’t you, it’s me.”
Having gotten that out of the way so I knew where I stood (and God bless her for
that), she said I was an extremely talented writer and she knew of other editors who
would love my work as is. She offered to help me get published by making some
phone calls and putting in a good word. All I had to do was ask. She congratulated
me on winning the Reader’s Choice and pointed out that obviously people liked my
style. She said if she got her hands on me there would have to be some changes.
So I asked, “Can you be more specific about what the problems are?”
Kate offered to edit my three-page entry and fax it back to me within the following
two days, that way I could see what she was talking about. I took her up on her
offer. I also asked, “Are you saying that even if I were willing to make the changes
you’d require, my story still wouldn’t be right for Brava?”
“No,” she replied. “What I’m offering is a discussion. I’m interested in the writer you
can be, not the writer you are now.”
(That is when I fell in love with Kate Duffy.)
She called the next day and faxed over the edits. I looked them over and called her
“I can do this,” I said. And I meant it. The changes were minor. She’d just tightened
it up a bit. “This is do-able.”
“Yes, it’s very do-able,” she agreed. “If you’re willing. I don’t want to ask you to do
anything you’re not comfortable with. If you like your writing the way it is, stick to
your guns. You’re going to be published, with or without me.”
But I knew after talking to Kate that she was the editor for me. So she told me to
pull up the story and start self-editing based on the edits she’d faxed me. And that’s
what I did. I worked my butt off tightening my prose and before the week was up I
sent her a brand-spanking new copy of my ms.
Within hours of receipt Kate called me and said that unlike her previous phone calls,
this call was THE CALL. She said, “A lot of other writers wouldn’t have be willing to
take my advice and you know what? A lot of other writers wouldn’t have made the
sale. You took what I said and ran with it and the end result is a fabulous story.
Write me two more and you’ve got your own anthology.”
My first sale. Yay!!
So what I hope you take away from this CALL story is to keep knocking on the door
and when it cracks open a little, shove your foot in and ask what you can do to be
allowed to come inside.
Click here to visit Sylvia's website. Check out her books here.
Every call story is special, but I think mine is pretty unique. Well, not completely
unique because I share the call part with 3 other wonderful authors. Here is what
I'd been working on a western historical romance and put it aside because westerns
weren't really selling. Besides that, I'd collected a couple of rejections and poor
contest results on the manuscript and I was discouraged.
I started working on another novel, but the characters in my western kept calling to
me. In the summer of 2003, I pulled Trail to Fort Mercy out of my drawer and decided
to revise it. I came up with a whole new beginning and started submitting it to
contests while I reworked the ending. I entered the "Rendezvous With an Editor"
contest sponsored by the VIC-RWA chapter in January of 2004. Unlike most
contests, this one requires you to be present at the conference to win and the prize
is a private interview with the editor judge.
Shortly after I entered the contest my mother died. Because my dad needed quite a
bit of help from me after that, I nearly cancelled my trip to Victoria, but I finally
decided I really needed the break. By the date of the conference, in mid-March, I had
nearly forgotten the contest. I'd collected one more rejection and another poor
contest result. Westerns still weren't selling much and I was seriously thinking I
needed to write in another genre. So, I took off for Victoria, planning to learn as
much as I could about other genres and what my best chances were for writing a
book that would sell.
When I arrived at the conference Friday night, the reception was in full swing and I
was greeted immediately with the news that I was a finalist in the historical category.
I couldn't believe it. Saturday morning I had a group appointment with the
editor/judge, Hilary Sares of Kensington. Outside of the appointment I chatted with
one of my writing friends, Leanne Shawler, who was also a finalist. She's already read
my manuscript, I said. I wonder if it's even worth pitching? She probably already
hates it. Now, there's a positive attitude, right?
As I really didn't have another project ready to pitch, I went ahead with my pitch of
Trail. I was so nervous I babbled. I'm sure Hilary had no clue what I was saying, but
she stopped me when I managed to get out the word "Abilene". Wait, she says, is this
the book that starts, "Ya!"? Yes it is. You don't need to pitch that, she says, I love
I think at that point my jaw dropped for a few seconds before I broke into a grin. I
attempted to remain calm. I'd be happy to send you the full, I said. She grinned back.
Oh, you WILL be sending it to me, she says.
A couple of hours later at the lunch, the winners were announced. Trail had taken
first place. Alice Valdal took second, Leanne Shawler and Judith Laik tied for third.
As we walked back to our tables, the emcee asked Hilary if she had any comments.
She started as all judges do by saying how wonderful all the entries were and how
tough the choice was. Then, she nearly caused a riot in the room by announcing that
she wanted to talk contract with all 4 of us who placed.
And she did. All four of us ended up with 2 book deals from Kensington. My book,
Trail to Fort Mercy, was re-titled Loving Mercy and released in January 2005 under
the Zebra imprint. The sequel, Loving Miranda is set for release in October of 2005.
Click here to visit Teresa's website. Check out one of Teresa's stories here.
Copyright © 2005 - 2009 by Authors
By the time I got THE CALL, I'd been writing for four years and had pretty much been
rejected by everyone. I had recently acquired an agent (who had previously rejected
me, of course!), and we'd been sending out a chick lit and every editor hated it. I had
another book I'd just finished with a Star Wars theme, and I thought we should shop
that around. What did we have to lose? Just after those submissions went out, I
finaled in the Golden Heart for a Regency historical I'd written. But so what?
Nobody's buying historicals, right?
The day I got THE CALL, I was teaching 6th grade and my students had just finished
the state-wide standardized testing. My agent called and told me I had 3 offers for my
Star Wars book. I didn't believe him. I kept saying, "Why are you lying to me? I don't
believe you!" He finally convinced me it was true and told me he'd call me back
tomorrow after he had all the details for the offers. The next day he called and said
Avon offered to buy 2 historicals and 2 chick lits, including the GH finalist and my
Star Wars book. And the acquiring editor had previously rejected me--of course! So in
one day I went from being a reject to selling 4 books!
Click here to visit Shana's website. Check out books by Shana.
The day I got “the call” started out like any other Wednesday. That sunny, blue-skied
morning in October, 2004, I hugged my daughter before my husband drove her to
school. I attended my weekly critique meeting, a ritual of my past seven years of
seriously honing my writing in pursuit of my dream of becoming a published romance
writer. Buoyed by my three talented critique partners’ criticisms of my work-in-
progress, I arrived home around noon for a quick lunch before I was to pick up my
daughter from school. Sipping a glass of water, I checked my email. Waiting for me
was a message from Wendy Burbank, the acquisitions editor for Medallion Press.
Somehow, I knew it was good news.
I set the glass down with a thud, ignoring the water sloshed onto my desk. My heart
began to pound as I opened the email. My hunch was right. Medallion Press wanted
to buy my medieval historical romance Dance of Desire.
What a rush of emotions I felt in that moment, among them, relief, a fabulous sense of
accomplishment, as well as tremendous excitement. I’d been writing for over ten
years, completed six manuscripts, and finaled in
thirty writing contests, and had too many editor and agent rejection letters filed away
to count. Yet I had refused to quit. Those two-headed dragons of doubt had taunted
that my writing would never sell, but I refused to let disappointments or doubts slay
When I mailed my proposal off to Medallion Press, I hoped it would be the submission
which garnered my first sale. About three months later, on a Sunday morning, I
received an email from Ms. Burbank asking if the manuscript was still available, and if
so, if she could read the full. Then, barely a week later, the email with the formal offer.
Oh, wow! I’d sold Dance of Desire.
I whooped and shot out of my chair. I snatched up the phone and called my husband
at work. My true Knight In Shining Armor, he was thrilled for me. And, when I picked
my daughter up from school, I had wonderful news to tell her: “Guess what? Mom’s
going to be a published author!”
I still get shivers when I think of that day—and when I hold my gorgeous book, which
is printed with two different cover designs thanks to a cover-voting contest Medallion
Press ran on its web site which resulted in a tie. I remember how my story began
with a mere idea, sparked when I was listening to a CD of medieval music. I
remember the long hours I spent honing each sentence, refining each scene,
threading the intricate plot elements through the novel. I remember the rejections
that really hurt. It would have been very easy to quit. Yet I didn’t. Thank goodness.
If I can share one bit of advice, it’s to keep writing and submitting, even when it’s
tough. The dream of becoming a published writer is within reach.
Click here to visit Catherine's website. Check out Catherine's books here.
I've always wondered what it would feel like to get The Call after writing only one
book. Most of us will never know, and perhaps that's how it should be. Many times
those first efforts are best left covered in dust
bunnies under the bed. Certainly that's were my first attempt, a contemporary,
With my next three finished manuscripts (all Regencies), I finaled three times in
RWA's Golden Heart contest, but none of those books sold and eventually my
interests swung back to contemporaries.
I have to admit that I worked on A SUMMER SENTENCE for a number of years,
entering it in contests, revising, and re-entering. I had a number of positive
comments from judges, but I was never quite happy with the manuscript. Then, in
2004, I entered my own chapter's contest, the Laurie, and finaled. The final round
judge was Erin Cartwright Niumata from Avalon Books, and when I won the contest,
she asked for the manuscript. Guess what? After all that time, it still wasn't
I told Erin I could have the manuscript to her in a couple of months, which I did, and
I received The Call from her in October 2004. It was just as wonderful as I had
always imagined it would be. A SUMMER SENTENCE is scheduled for release in
August 2005, and I can hardly wait. I've already completed a sequel, which is on
Erin's desk now, and I've started yet another book in the series.
For some of us, the road to publication is long and sometimes extremely
discouraging. But in retrospect, I see that I had much to learn when I started out. I
still do, of course, and that part of the journey will never end, but the successes
along the way are always joyful.
Wishing those same joys for you.
Click here to vist Carolynn's website. Check out books by Carolynn.
I wrote ten manuscripts in eight years and every single time, I thought the current one
would be THE one. I got an agent with the first version of THE VIRGIN’S PROPOSAL,
and she sent it out. It was rejected by an editor at H/S. Then it won a contest and was
re-requested by H/S. Ultimately, it was rejected again.
I asked my agent to send it to a different line at Silhouette and she refused. I disagreed
and sent the book in on my own. In the meantime, it became clear that my former agent
and I had a difference of opinion over my
work because she started to refuse to represent everything I sent her. The last rejection
letter I got from her broke my heart -- and my spirit. I had also called Silhouette that
day, looking for my book, and they couldn't find it. I took that as a strong sign to give up.
On that day, June 23, 2001, I quit writing. I cleared out my hard drive, threw out all my
how-to books, tossed my manuscripts, threw my entire writing life into the trash. It didn’
t matter any more that I had achieved a
lot in my nonfiction career (two books and 2500-odd articles at that point). I had finally
given up on myself. I faxed off a letter severing the relationship with my current agent
and figured that was that.
My husband, bless the man, came in and found me having a damned good pity party in
my office. He encouraged me to put everything back and try again. I sent out ONE query
letter to an agent. A week later, a package came in the mail from Silhouette. It was a
revision letter from Mary Theresa Hussey saying she loved TVP and wanted me to make
some changes. Two weeks later, a different agent (my dream agent, actually) offered me
On Dec. 12, 2001, I sold TVP to Silhouette Romance. I am continually amazed at how my
career has turned on a dime, especially coming up on this, the four-year anniversary of
my “quitting” the business. I've since sold...oh, I think 15 books now. I start to lose
track after a while :-) My seventh (THE DEVIL SERVED TORTELLINI) is on shelves now
with my 8th and 9th (THE ANGEL CRAVED LOBSTER and THE MARINE'S KISS) coming
out in August.
Hold on to that hope -- it’s the strongest rope you can have in this business.
Click here to visit Shirley's website. Check out Shirley's books here.
Tracy Anne Warren
The date was July 22, 2004, the time somewhere around 2:30 pm. I was in my home
office working on my latest manuscript when the phone rang. It was my agent calling
to tell me Ballantine Books had made an offer. Only the offer wasn’t just for the novel
we had submitted but for an entire trilogy!
Luckily, I was already seated or I would probably have toppled over. Ballantine wanted
to buy three books!
They loved two of the secondary characters from the first novel so much that they
thought I should give each of those characters stories of their own. They bought the
second two books blind, based on nothing more from me than a pair of very brief story
blurbs that I dashed off and faxed to my agent AFTER my publisher had already
offered me a three-book contract. Later that evening my agent called back to go over
the specifics of the deal. I sat on the sofa in my family room, hands shaking as I
listened to my dreams literally come true.
Overcome by excitement, I could barely sleep for the next week. The first person I told
about my sale was my sister because she’s always been my biggest fan and supporter,
then I called my mother and my friends and everyone else I could think of. I emailed
the writers’ loops I belong to and my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. In
fact, it was at my chapter’s retreat where I had met and signed with my agent only
three months earlier.
So after five years, four manuscripts, numerous contest entries, finals and wins, and
more rejections than I care to count, I suddenly took a gigantic leap forward from
aspiring writer to multi-published author. Everyday holds some new adventure--there
are so many things about publishing I have yet to learn--but the process is a journey I
happily embrace. How could I not? when I am getting to do what I love best--telling
Click here to visit Tracy's website. Check out Tracy's books here.
After I’d finished my first manuscript, a bookseller cyber-friend recommended I join
RWA. I joined the local chapter, North Texas RWA, and started learning the craft.
I was lucky enough to meet a fantastic critique partner, revised my manuscript, called
BET ON LOVE (later renamed HIGH-STAKES PASSION), a LOT, then eventually entered
it in several contests. After receiving more feedback from contests, I revised the
manuscript even MORE. It still received 2 richly deserved rejections before finally
winning first place in the 2002 Golden Rose Contest!! The final judge was a Silhouette
editor who gave it glowing praise, made several suggestions for revisions, but didn’t ask
for the full.
So I sent her a thank you note thanking her for taking the time to judge, telling her I’d
made all the revisions she suggested and would she mind looking at the first three
chapters again. Enclosed in that thank you note, I sent a query letter, the 2 page
synopsis, and a copy of her glowing praise for the story and characters.
A month later she asked for the full manuscript and a year later… I GOT THE CALL!!
At 4:50pm (yes, I know the exact time), Mavis Allen, an Associate Senior Editor for
Silhouette Romance called me. Well, she emailed me because I was on the other line
with my mother and you just don’t put a mother on hold to answer another call.
This is the note Mavis sent: (Of course, I saved the email)
I have great news for you on the captioned project. Please email me and let me know what
would be a good time to chat next week. I will be out of the office on Monday, but I will be
in the rest of the week.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t about to wait 3 days until she got back on
Tuesday to find out what this good news is.
So, I called. By now it was almost 6 pm in New York. She answered the phone and… I’
m afraid the rest is a bit of a blur. I know she said she loved the book and wanted to
buy it. And she’d call me next week with the details since she was on her way out the
door. Then it was scream time, hyperventilate, and call everyone I ever knew.
Click here to visit Juliet's website. Check out a story by Juliet in this book.
It was June 14, 2004 and I was with my mom at lunch, so I just happened to have
my ringer turned up on my cell phone. I noticed the area code on the caller ID and I
had just read about a fellow chapter mate noticing the same thing and how 212
meant NYC. So I immediately started to panic. When I answered she asked for me
and said that it was Kelly from Avon and that this was, “the call.” She loved my book
and wanted to offer me a 2-book deal.
Holy cow. My hands were shaking like crazy and I mouthed to my mom what was
going on and she started jumping up and down and holding her hand over her
mouth to keep from screaming. I remembered vaguely that I needed to write things
down, so I grabbed an envelope and jotted everything down on the back. I wish I had
been more coherent to hear all the glowing things she said about my writing and the
book, but I was listening for number details so I would have info to give my top
choice agent when I hung up the phone. You see at this point I didn't have an agent.
I'd been trying for a while and had no luck, that’s why I'd started submitting to
So I hung up the phone, jumped around with my mom for a bit and called my agent
choice and left her a voice mail with the details. Then I called a myriad of people –
boyfriend (now husband), critique partners, dad, sister, etc. Then I had to go back to
my day job. ACK! So I reluctantly went back to work, but I was excited and dazed
and shocked. I told all my co-workers and they were all very excited as well. Then
the agent called back and we discussed details, she offered representation, then she
called Kelly back to finalize the details of the offer.
So that day, I had woken up with 5 completed manuscripts and having written for 7
years and yet another frustrating day having not heard anything from NYC and that
night I went to bed as a multi-published author – or at least contracted as such. For
all the difficulties in this business, the highs are pretty stinking high!
Click here to visit Robyn's website. Check out some of Robyn's books here.
I thought it was the air duct suckers. They were supposed to call Sunday night
(Superbowl Sunday) to set a time to come on Monday. Naturally I'd spent the whole
day cleaning (you know how particular those air duct suckers are about the state of a
house). So after a bout of vacuuming and taking the trash out, I checked the phone.
It beeped. It was Cindy Hwang of The Berkley Publishing Group offering me a
contract for HeartMate.
This sale was to Berkley's Magical Love line and the first futuristic they have
purchased and they were trying me out. Cindy said that she'd been looking for a
futuristic for the line for a while but hadn't seen anything she wanted before
This particular offer happened this way. Wisconsin's Romance Writer's chapter of
RWA weren't getting enough entries in the paranormal category of their contest, so
they advertised on the FF&P loop. A lot of us entered. I won. (I didn't think I would, I
thought I'd take 3rd.) This contest is interesting because it only asks for the 1st 10
pages, no synopsis. I reviewed and revised my ms. and sent it to Cindy at Berkley
with big permanent marker letters on it "Awarded 1st Place by Cindy Hwang in the
Wisconsin Fabulous Five Contest".
This was in May 2000. I did a follow up letter in November. (Having revised the ms.
for Hardshell and submitted it there and to Dorchester -- AND having looked at the
ms. I sent to Hwang and found out that in the last 3rd of the book the hero's name
was capitalized every time **wince**). I got the letter back and found out Berkley had
been gobbled up by Putnam/Penquin (ok, I should have known this before, but I
didn't). I sent an express letter (mucho dough) mid-December. I tracked it and the
p.o. said they couldn't deliver it, would make a second attempt and then return it in 5
days. It didn't come back. I was convinced my ms. got lost in the move.
Click here to visit Robin's website. Check out some of her books here.
I wrote my first book in fourth grade. It was an autobiography, written on a lined
notepad with a construction paper cover stapled to it, and illustrated in crayon. Little
did I know that was the beginning of a lifelong obsession.
When I was a freshman in college, I wrote my very first novel, a very odd--and now
that I look back on it, not all that good--science fiction novel with a premise
reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat." I made a few efforts to sell it, meanwhile
writing short stories off and on, as the muse hit me. I dreamed of starting off on the
road to stardom at a young age, being some kind of a phenom . . .
Then, in 1989, I went to an intensive science fiction writers workshop called Clarion
West. This is a six-week, total-immersion workshop, where you live in a dorm and
have a different published author or editor teacher each week. After this workshop, I
decided to get serious about writing. It was, after all, my dream.
The years went by. Fourteen of them, to be exact, in which I wrote seven
sci-fi/fantasy novels. The rejections piled up. Many of them were personalized, but
after the first handful of those, the novelty wore off and personalized rejections were
just as demoralizing as form letters. Unlike many writers who tell stories like this, I
never really considered quitting. I wanted it too damn much. Quitting was always
something I'd have to think about doing "someday," but I never let someday be today.
In the spring of 2003, I went to another intense, life-altering sci-fi/fantasy writer's
workshop. One of our assignments in this workshop was to write a mystery short
story--forcing us to try a different genre. Also during the workshop, the teachers,
who were both multi-genre authors, sang the praises of Romance Writers of America
as an organization. These two teachers (Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn
Rusch) pounded a message into me--if I worked hard enough and produced good
enough work, I would sell eventually. Period.
I took their teachings to heart. I tried writing other genres, just to see what I did
best. I switched to writing romances, which in the end seemed to be a better fit for
me, and I started writing every single day. In 2004, I wrote seven novels--as many as
I'd written in the previous 14 years. And one of those novels tempted an agent into
offering me representation.
Skip forward to spring 2005. My agent wrote me to say that the editor at Tor wanted
to buy my book but had to pitch it to her superiors first. There followed a few weeks
of nail-biting tension that just about drove me insane. I'd gotten this close before
and failed to sell. Was history repeating itself? Finally, on one Monday morning, I
wrote my agent an email asking if she had any idea when I would hear from Tor.
She wrote back quickly, something to the effect of "Oh, I guess you didn't get my
message on Friday--they want to buy your book." My screams scared my poor
husband and dog to death. There were plenty of tears. I called my boss and told her
I wasn't coming to work--I had a 45-minute commute, and didn't trust myself behind
There's something to be said for achieving a goal after such a long struggle. I'm sure
it was vastly more satisfying that way than if that long-ago editor had bought my first
novel. But it was a long, bumpy, painful road. And am I ever glad I stuck it out!
Click here to visit Jenna's website. Check out some of Jenna's books with a click
I wrote for two years before signing with my agent, Deidre Knight. Within months we
almost sold me to a top NY publisher. I was devastated when the deal didn't go
through, and nearly stopped writing. However, I decided to give it another shot and
wrote The Stone Prince. We shopped that book and rejections like I wouldn't sell that
book, either. Man, I was so bummed!
Then Harlequin decided to launch the HQN single title line and called my agent,
asking if a particular client of hers would be interested in writing for them. This
author couldn't, but Deidre said, "Have I got the author for you," and sent them The
Stone Prince. Within weeks, we had an offer.
Mine isn't a "The Call" story, though. It's a "The Fax" story. Phones were down at
HQN, so Tracy Farrell (my editor) was reduced to faxing my agent - who was out of
town. When Deidre returned, she read the fax and called Tracy, but Tracy was out of
town. What followed was a two week, tortuous wait for the deal to be cemented. It's
been a roller costar ride of excitement ever since, with eleven sales to my credit!
Click here to visit Gena's website. Check out her books here.
I started writing my first book around 1990 and finished in 1993. (My working title
was "When a Heart Surrenders" - feeling queasy yet?) I was, of course, working
full-time, and since I was writing a historical, lots of research needed to be done. I'd
spend hours on the weekend at the University of Delaware studying books and
taking notes on the regency period. Finally finished, I sent it off to a Pocket editor I
met at Nationals. I received a lovely rejection letter from her and decided to get on
with my life. You know, new job, husband, etc.
Fast forward to 2007, I happened to mention to my sister-in-law that once upon a
time, I had written a book. "Can I read it?" Um, well, it's on a bunch of old disks,
don't know if it's all there, blah, blah, blah. But I did get around to telling her I
would get around to it. One day, my husband loaded the disks from 1993 on our
computer, and it was all there, but still needed a lot of work. As I worked through
it, I thought, this isn't half-bad. (Title switched to "Lover Spy" then "To Catch a
Spy") After several months of rewriting, I presented it to her for Christmas 2007.
End of story right?
Little did I know, she would like it. (Check) She gave it to a friend of hers who
works for Kensington. She liked it. (Check). Her friend gave it to an editor at
Kensington. She liked it. (Check) Well, I knew for sure that the editor liked it when
we played phone tag for a few days last August. Angst! Finally, after work one day
last summer, sitting in the sweltering heat of the car, we talked and she made me a
2-book offer, and I wrote all the details on the back of an envelope. I drove him in a
numbing euphoria and called everyone I knew to give them the good news.
So, I actually got to sell my very first ms, which I discovered after reading it many
years later, was a good story and lots of fun. (Final title: "The Notorious
Bridegroom" - debuting in August 2009.) I hope to be able to continue to write
historicals that have "heart, heat, and humor."
Click here to visit Kit's website. Check out her book here.