My purpose in writing this is to tell those of you who are at the beginning, in the middle, or toward that illusive “First Sale” point in your roller-coaster writing career, that persistence pays off, even if that first sale doesn't happen fast. If you write daily, submit your work, continue to learn and grow in your craft, you WILL make that first sale. I'm living proof.|
Count each baby step--an honorable mention, a good rejection letter, an agent who thinks your writing has promise: They’re important!
Before I sold, when published authors announced new sales, I’d think, big deal, so what? Of course you sold. Because back then I had no idea that the struggle continued beyond the first sale, but now I know better, and so should you . . . if only to soften the sharp blow of reality. Yes, it’s a never-ending roller coaster, and the lows are low, but oh man, the highs are incredible.
Step onto my personal coaster and join me for some ups and downs that will help you appreciate the upward movement of your career.
1987/88—Christmas Break from school. My daughter challenged me to take my plot ideas from my nightstand drawer and write a book.
That day, I began writing AWAKE TO A NEW DAWN—which sold as LADY FAITH eleven years later.
1988—Daughter said send my book to a publisher, and I said, “No way.”
I got 26 rejections that year, from publishers and agents, though one of the publishers didn't publish romance. He liked the book, though.
I started MORE THAN A PROMISE, which will never see the light of day. Hubby had said I should start with an outline, so I did. The rejection said: “It reads like an outline.” It should have said: “It has no plot.” Moral of the story: "Don't let your husband help you write a romance."
1989—I got an agent—bad move agent-wise, and the first of several.
Got five rejections through that agent.
I saw an ad for a Spring into Romance conference in NY. I sent my registration, took a train to NY, got a hotel. At the conference Roberta Gellis told me about Rhode Island Romance Writers and RWA (Romance Writers of America), including the New England Chapter. Who knew?
- Entered my first contest. My combined score: 26 out of a possible hundred. I knew squat. Several other contests were not much better. Yes, I was a contest slut from the very beginning, and oh man did I get horrible scores.
I joined RWA, went to their conference in Boston, and learned I knew nothing about writing. I met people from my local chapters. What a helpful group of women and so advanced in their careers. I had a lot to learn.
Got an Honorable Mention for MORE THAN A PROMISE. Go figure. This is the single early book that was never published.
Entered a few more contests and saw the scores go up as far as maybe 56 out of a possible hundred. I had a POV problem. What the hell was POV?
Kept going to NEC & RIRW meetings and revising my first two manuscripts according to what I’d learn at each—did that a trillion times.
I received a second Honorable Mention
1990—Six rejections that year.
More lousy contest scores.
One more Honorable Mention
1991—Four rejections that year.
Started writing PATIENCE OF A SAINT, which sold eight years later as LADY PATIENCE.
Took two years to write that book. I stopped being obsessive and went for as long as a month or two without writing. Bad habit, induced by discouragement.
Got two honorable mentions for LADY PATIENCE. Maybe the re-writes were helping. I found that encouraging.
Kate Duffy requested LADY PATIENCE for Meteor’s new Historical Line.
1992—Sixteen rejections that year, including one from Nancy Yost, who thought I had potential. Nancy is my current agent and my smartest choice ever.
The Meteor Line folded. In six years, Kate Duffy would actually buy LADY PATIENCE and two other books which would make my first sale. I wonder if she would have bought LADY PATIENCE in 1992, if the line hadn’t gone under? Story of the business.
I began writing ACT OF CHARITY which would sell ten years later as AN UNMISTAKABLE ROGUE.
1993—Seven rejections that year.
Continued working on ACT OF CHARITY. I did not write, daily, weekly or even monthly in the mid 90’s. Try not to get into that slump. It slows you down in more than words on the page.
1994—Four rejections that year.
LADY PATIENCE got a Top Ten Award in a contest.
I began writing THEE, I LOVE, which would sell in five years as part of my first sale.
I became obsessed with writing as I had two more hours in the day to write now that I'd moved closer to my day job and wasn’t commuting. I began writing daily again.
1995—Got my second agent--another bad move.
Six rejections that year.
Continued working on THEE, I LOVE
Started entering more contests
1996—Three rejections that year.
A second place win for ACT OF CHARITY.
A third place win for THEE, I LOVE
A fifth place win for THEE, I LOVE
A Golden Heart Finalist for ACT OF CHARITY, published six years later as AN UNMISTAKABLE ROGUE—I thought I’d sell instantly as a Golden Heart Finalist—Wrong.
1997—Eighteen rejections that year.
A First place win for AWAKE TO A NEW DAWN, which had become KEEPING FAITH, which would sell as LADY FAITH in one very, very long year.
A Golden Heart Finalist for LADY PATIENCE—I thought surely now, with two Golden Heart Finals, I’d make that first sale—Wrong.
1998—Eight rejections that year.
March—A Golden Heart Finalist for THEE, I LOVE—third GH final—But I was totally jaded and knew I’d never sell.
- April—New England Chapter Conference. Awesome conference, by the way. I pitched to Kate Duffy. She asked to see everything I’d written.
June 23rd at 1:10 pm—THE CALL. Kate Duffy bought LADY PATIENCE, LADY FAITH and THEE, I LOVE. I have never seen my hands shake as much as when I realized I’d made my first sale. I called everyone from the New England Chapter and Rhode Island Romance Writers. They cried with me.
1999—My first three books were released.
I started writing THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN which would not sell for five years.
I started writing A RAKE UNDENIABLE which would sell as AN UNDENIABLE ROGUE in three years.
I got the last of my counted rejections. Now they’re just passes and have become part of the journey
No new sales.
2000—I got my third agent. When she quit the business, she relinquished all rights to the books we sold together. I will always be grateful for that.
I wrote one and a half Victorian Historicals, A PERFECT SCANDAL and its untitled sequel.
2001—A big year. I sold AN UNDENIABLE ROGUE, AN UNFORGETTABLE ROGUE and AN UNMISTAKABLE ROGUE.
I went to Salem Massachusetts for a weekend with friends, saw a shop called The Kitchen Witch, and thought, WHAT IF...that was the name of a Salem TV cooking show and the woman who got the job couldn’t cook? Hmm. The idea for THE KITCHEN WITCH was born.
- My first Victorian Historical, A PERFECT SCANDAL, won the PASIC (Published Authors Special Interest Chapter) contest. It would be released as SCOUNDREL IN DISGUISE five years later.
2002—Two Rogues were released and they were award-winning hits, which I believe was my first BIG break.
2003—Nancy Yost became my agent, my second BIG break. She’s awesome.
Nancy sold THE KITCHEN WITCH, my first single title contemporary, a bewitching romantic comedy, to Berkley, my third BIG break.
- We sold A CHRISTMAS BABY to Kensington, the last of the rogues . . . so far.
AN UNMISTAKABLE ROGUE came out with a larger print run than the first two, already out of print.
2004—THE KITCHEN WITCH became a runaway “smash hit” and later reaped a host of awards.
(As of 2011, it's in its 10th printing.)
We sold MY FAVORITE WITCH to Berkley.
We sold a novella in an anthology called HOT TICKET with Deirdre Martin & Julia London.
THE KITCHEN WITCH & A CHRISTMAS BABY came out in October.
2005—THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN was released in hardbound
THE KITCHEN WITCH & A CHRISTMAS BABY began winning awards & contests.
2006—MY FAVORITE WITCH came out in January and became a National Bestseller.
HOT TICKET, with my first ever novella, came out in trade paperback in May, another bestseller
SCOUNDREL IN DISGUISE came out in hardbound in May
The trade paperback version of THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN came out in June
THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN started winning awards.
April 13th, I retired from my day job to become . . . A FULL-TIME WRITER!
Nancy sold a trilogy of psychic triplet witches to Berkley in what I like to call my first “big girl” deal:
SEX AND THE PSYCHIC WITCH
GONE WITH THE WITCH
NEVER BEEN WITCHED
Luncheon speaker 2007 New England Chapter Conference in April 2007.
THE SCOT, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE second National Bestseller.
A Doubleday Book Club Selection
A Rhapsody Book Club Hot off the Press Selection
Rhapsody Book Club Famous First Line
Topped the Charts at Rhapsody Book Club for four months
2007—SEX AND THE PSYCHIC WITCH, August 2007, Another National Bestseller
New England Conference Luncheon Speaker in May
Sold my first mystery series to Berkley Prime Crime in May
THE SCOT, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE published in large print in July
Five contract deadlines to meet in the next year and a half
2008—GONE WITH THE WITCH, May 2008
2009—FOUR BOOKS BEING RELEASED IN 2009
- First Vintage Magic Mystery, A VEILED DECEPTION, Jan 2009
- Third Triplet, NEVER BEEN WITCHED, February 2009
- Second Vintage Magic Mystery, LARCENY AND LACE, August 2009
- Mass Market Paperback release, HOT TICKET Anthology,
- Sold three more books in the Vintage Magic Mystery series to make
- My total books sold is twenty-five.
2010—THREE BOOKS BEING RELEASED IN 2010
- THE NAKED DRAGON, A Works Like Magick Novel, January 2010
- DEATH BY DIAMONDS,
Third Vintage Magic Mystery, April 2010
- BEDEVILED ANGEL, A Works Like Magick Novel, August 2010
- A VEILED DECEPTION, my first Vintage Magick Mystery,
was an RT Book Club Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee
- LARCENY AND LACE, Second Vintage Magic Mystery, went
into a second printing.
- I contracted novellas for two anthologies for
Constable & Robinson Publishing in the UK and Running Press Publishing
in the US:
- THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF SCOTTISH ROMANCE
- THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF
- I contracted a novella for an anthology with HCI
Books, the Chicken Soup for the Soul Publisher for:
- FIND LOVE LIKE A
- Total books sold is twenty-eight.
2011—NINE BOOKS SCHEDULED FOR RELEASE IN 2011
- MAMMOTH BOOK OF SCOTTISH ROMANCE, January 5
- FALL IN LOVE LIKE A ROMANCE WRITER Anthology, February 1
- JACOB'S RETURN (formerly THEE, I LOVE) Amish Historical, Re-issue,
- #1 Kindle Bestseller, Amish Historical Romance
- #1 Lachesis Bestseller, Fictionwise
- Top 100 Kindle Bestsellers, US UK
- VAMPIRE DRAGON, third Works Like Magick Novel, April 5
- SKIRTING THE GRAVE, Fourth Vintage Magic Mystery, July 5
- MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE, Sept 5
- THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN, Amish Historical, Re-issue, TBA
- SCOUNDREL IN DISGUISE, Amish Historical, Re-issue, TBA
- 2011 SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS:
- Uxbridge Free Library, Presenter, March 26th
- Some Enchanted Evening, Presenter, March 27th
- Miami Dade College Arts & Letters Day, Presenter, April 6th
- Keynote & Presenter, The New England Chapter
- Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference, April 30th
- Connecticut Fiction Fest, May 14, Presenter
- Cape Cod Writers Conference, August 15 to 19
- New Jersey Romance Writers
- Put your Heart in a Book Conference, Oct 21 & 22,
- New Hampshire Writers Conference, September
- 2011 News:
- Sold SCOUNDREL IN DISGUISE, A Victorian, to Debut a new line for
- Sold JACOB'S RETURN as an audiobook
- Sold THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN as an audiobook
- Sold SISTERS OF SPIRIT Anthology
2012—BOOKS SCHEDULED FOR 2012
- CLOAKED IN MALICE, Fifth Vintage Magic Mystery, April 2012
- OPERATION PETTICOAT, Sixth Vintage Magic Mystery, TBA 2012
- SCOUNDREL IN DISGUISE, a Victorian, set to Debut TWO O'CLOCK PRESS,
new Classics Line by Lachesis Publishing.
2013--BOOKS SCHEDULED FOR 2013
- SISTERS OF SPIRIT Anthology, PICTURE IT by Annette Blair,
debuting three new writers: Jeanine Spikes, Lynn Jenssen, and
- That's the story of my roller coaster . . . so far . . . .
- An overnight success . . . as you see.
No more 'rejections,' because I hate the 'R' word. I block
any "passes" from my mind and move on.
I sincerely believe that if you write daily, submit your work, continue to learn and grow in your craft, that you WILL make that first sale. Then it’ll be like going from high school to college, or college to the workplace, a different kind of challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. An invigorating challenge. Writing always is, but it's not for the faint of heart.
Grow a thick skin; you’ll need it.
Nevertheless, I wish YOU instant success, a ride straight to the stars, which many have achieved—I was not one of them. If your roller coaster does not fly straight up, then I wish you tenacity, all our support, hours of writing pleasure, and a career that is worthy of your struggle. Never give up ... and pay attention to the signs.
Hugs, and Happy Writing.
Big Breaks/Career Milestones.
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." ~ Neale Donald Walsch