Wednesday, July 6, 2011

RWA Nationals: The truth about "first sale"

Yesterday Laurie Green asked if I'd post about attending RWA as an author with a first sale. It was a lovely experience, and at least on paper it sounded like a good idea. But I hesitated.

I remember running into fellow Brigade member J.C. Hay in a Murdering Your Inner Critic workshop (okay, wasn't really the title, but that's what I'd have called it). As we were chatting he noticed my pink ribbon. His eyes went wide and he said, "You sold!"

I started bouncing and chirping, "I did, I did!" It was the first moment I really let anyone see my excitement. Why? Shouldn't I be walking on clouds and shouting it from the rooftops? (I think I'm up to my third cliche now, sorry.)

Marcella Burnard, Laurie Green, J.C. Hay
Nationals is an amazing environment when it comes to peer support. A couple thousand women (and a few hardy men) who truly get it. The hopes, the heartbreak, the joy in every tiny step forward…these people KNOW. And they are free with their enthusiasm and warm wishes.

But proud as I was of that ribbon, I didn't talk about it much. For me at least, there was an element of guilt, and I think probably many writers who've sold know what I'm talking about.

Every author knows how hard writers have to work, how we have to persevere through life's ups and downs, how we encounter rejection at every turn. There is bliss in that first sale, and a monumental feeling of accomplishment, but you don't ever stop thinking about your friends, critique partners, and peers who are still clawing their way up that muddy hillside.

You never forget the business of publishing is subjective, and hard as you work there is an element of luck in reaching the right editor with your story -- the editor who will love it enough to piggyback it through the flaming hoops on the path between editorial interest and actual publication.

What I feel more than anything is lucky, and blessed. For selling my book, but also for having the opportunity to share the excitement with the people who really get it. Despite all the discussion of lists, markets, and trends -- despite those high hopes on awards ceremony night -- fiction is not a competition.

When my editor told me the comparables she'd chosen for my book, they were other WRITERS. One writer's success opens the door for another.

* * *

Now, just for fun, if you had to choose a hybrid of two other books or authors that describes your work, who/what would they be?

* * *


  1. Amen, Sharon. "Fiction is not a competition." Our profession is one of the few where the more authors make it to the top, the more their peers benefit and thrive.

    I love seeing those "First Sale" ribbons. Of course, I'd love wearing one even more! Ah, something to look forward to. :)

  2. PS I love the pic of your badge! I need to take one of mine.

  3. Some people act as if you can remove author a and plug in author b into the slot. We are all unique and individual and so are our books. So ditto the "fiction is not a competition." I take the tack that rising waters raises all boats and we have the best chance of reaching readers we've ever had. We live in exciting and great times to be writers. :-)

  4. Well said, Sharon. This is a very difficult business to break into and when you see writers whose work is way good enough to be accepted and yet never is, it makes you realise how much an element of luck is involved. Right day, right editor, right pitch.
    And the work is never done. Even when you've had a book accepted - the question is there - will they take another, can I do better?

    Two books or authors that describe my work? Susan Elizabeth Phillips humor and Emma Holly's sex!

  5. Oops, I didn't answer the question.

    I think mine are Linnea Sinclair meets Nan Ryan. (Does anyone remember Nan Ryan? I was addicted to her Romances.)

  6. "We are all unique and individual," absolutely, Pauline! Each story bears our own unique stamp. Reminds me of something related that Sherrilyn Kenyon said in her speech:

    "I'd rather be a 1st rate version of myself than a 2nd rate version of someone else."

    And I love that "rising water" quote as well.

  7. "Right day, right editor, right pitch.
    And the work is never done."

    So true, Barbara! A whole other blog post - how signing a contract is just the beginning...

  8. I'm not familiar with Nan Ryan, Laurie, but we share Linnea Sinclair (big surprise!). My editor described GP as a combo of Linnea and John Scalzi.


We love to hear from you! Comments must pass moderation to be published. Spam will be deleted.

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation