Today's post was prompted by an email from a Villager asking how common or uncommon it is to make a first sale with your first romance manuscript.
An anonymous survey was sent out to traditionally published authors and I chatted virtually with Seekervillians and Seekers. Here are the results and comments.
That's 21.15% of respondents sold their first manuscript and 78.85 % did not.
How many manuscripts did the respondents write before they sold? Most had completed 2 and many had completed 5. Pie chart should be read in a clockwise manner with 0-1 at the top.
So what happened to that first love??
30 respondents stated that they abandoned their first love. Here are some of the anonymous comments:
"It was written on a typewriter, is horrible, and still hidden under my bed. But it was the first and gave me the incentive to write another one...that was years ago, before I ever found RWA, a critique partner, or had any idea what on earth I was doing. I love that story because it gave me the gift to know I could write a complete book. It was the price I paid to keep going and learn the craft. For this reason, I love that first book. But it'll never see the light of day."
"My first manuscript is hidden in the deep dark recesses of my hard drive, never to see the light of day. I love that story and those characters, but oh, does that manuscript ever showcase the fact that I was a newbie writer with LOTS to learn. "
"It's reposing in a dark, spiderwebby corner of my filing cabinet."
"SHREDDED at ceremonial burning party, then used to start the fire."
And from those who chatted with me online....
Seeker Glynna Kaye:
"I’d written short stories since grade school, but my first true attempt at a full-length novel was an inspirational historical romance. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a market for inspirational fiction. No personal computers or internet. No place to learn HOW to write commercial fiction. So for dozens of stories I never got much beyond opening chapters or muddled middles. I then shifted to writing romantic mysteries (which won a number of unpublished contests). But it wasn’t until I wrote a small-town inspirational romance that I was finally published in 2009—and no, it was NOT my first completed book! Book # 7 (Pine Country Cowboy, Love Inspired) comes out in April 2014, with #8 in November. But…there’s still a special place in my heart for the characters and setting of that first historical romance. I still have my drafts and research notes…so who knows? Maybe someday I’ll write it!"
Love Inspired author Brenda Minton (The Cowboy's Reunited Family, Cooper Creek series, Love Inspired):
"My very first manuscript was written over twenty years ago, after my son Joshua was born. It was his story, a story of how God cared enough to put us where we needed to be, in the right job, in the right country even (Germany) and with the right doctor. It was a story of God's plan, of prayer and of faith. The greatest lesson of the book is something I will never forget. The night before Joshua was born I asked a friend, "How is a 1 pound baby going to live." A few months later when I brought him home she said, "Now you see how a 1 pound baby lives."
The book wasn't published. I don't think it was ever even submitted. I listened to too many voices, put it away and moved on to something else. But the love for the story is definitely still in my heart and maybe someday it will be a book. I think my first sale was the 7th completed and it was the third time submitting it to Love Inspired."
Julie Lessman (Dare to Love Again, Revell Books):
"Ah, my first love … would be A Passion Most Pure, the first manuscript I ever wrote, my first sale, and for me — literally -- a love letter to God. I started writing it at the age of 12 after reading Gone With the Wind, but didn’t finish it until over 40 years later, long after I’d finally given my heart to Christ. One of the reasons this book is so special to me is that the heroine, Faith O’Connor, is my spiritual self, so this story was a way for me to express that intimate relationship I had with my Savior. Secondly, I feel God set me free with this book to be who He has called me to be. You see I was what you might call a literary snob, meaning I looked down on romance novels and wouldn’t be caught dead reading one to save my soul. But after I read a Newsweek cover article in 2001 about how Christian music, movies and books were on the threshold of exploding, something in my spirit said, “now’s the time to finish your book.” In one single thud of my heart, I knew what God was calling me to do — to finish my childhood novel of passion—only this time the “passion” would be for Him."
Melanie Dickerson (The Captive Maiden, Zondervan):
"When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea I would ever write a romance. Like Julie Lessman has said, I was a snob when it came to romance novels. I didn’t read them and I didn’t imagine I would write them. But when I started getting the idea for my second novel, to my horror, I realized it was a romance. And I LOVED it! It didn’t take long for me to realize that romance was my genre, and I’d probably never write anything else ever again.
That first romance turned out to be The Healer’s Apprentice, my first published novel. How I loved that story, how I loved the characters, and how I loved the romance! I finished the first draft in about five months, and then I worked on revising that story, off and on while I wrote two more books, for three years before it found a publisher. Then my editor took me through at least three more rounds of edits. I knew that story inside and out, and I never got tired of it. For me it was pure romance magic, and I haven’t written anything but romance since. I’m just a romantic and I’m only half alive when I’m not writing romance. It’s best not to deny it. Something that powerful is bound to have serious repercussions if you try to suppress it."
Myra Johnson, (When the Clouds Roll By, Till We Meet Again Series Abingdon Press):
"The real very first romance manuscript I ever wrote would take me back to high school, and I can promise you it will never see the light of day! I'm not sure anymore which manuscript counts as the first romance I actually wrote with the hope of publication, but One Imperfect Christmas and Autumn Rains were definitely two of the earliest attempts. Both underwent several critiques and rewrites, only to be met with numerous rejections. Then Autumn Rains won the 2005 RWA Golden Heart, and in 2008 One Imperfect Christmas won the Winter Rose. Shortly afterward, One Imperfect Christmas sold to Abingdon Press. One month later, Heartsong Presents bought Autumn Rains, which was nominated for a Carol Award the year after publication. So obviously all the effort that went into critiques, edits, and revision paid off! "
Marin Thomas, (Her Secret Cowboy, The Cash Brothers Series, Harlequin American):
"Chance of a Lifetime was my first completed manuscript. The contemporary romance took place in rural America—the heroine was a pig farmer, the hero a big-city mechanic and the book was full of quirky secondary characters. I submitted the manuscript to several New York publishers and most of the rejection letters stated that readers wouldn’t be able to relate to a heroine who was a pig farmer. Not long after that small-press publishers began popping up and I was able to sell the book to Amber Quill Press. I moved on to writing my second manuscript and that was rejected by all the major publishers, too. I finally sold my third manuscript, The Cowboy and the Bride, to the Harlequin American Romance line in 2004. It wasn’t until years later that I convinced my editor to take a chance on that second book I had written. After major revisions Rodeo Daddy (Rodeo Rebels series) was published in 2011."
Sandra Leesmith (Love's Refuge):
"My first book ever written was actually the third one I sold. And the first book I sold was actually the third one I had written. I started writing one summer while camping in our motor home. I was assigned to write by my professor from ASU who was working with the teachers in my district on teaching writing skills to students. He told us if we were going to teach it, we should try it. When we asked what should we write, he said "Write what you love to read." At the time I was reading all of Janet Dailey's Harlequins she was writing set in each state as she traveled in her RV. So I thought, "I can do that." We were in Utah on the Navajo Reservation and that inspired me to write what became Dream Song, published by Warner. I plan on self-publishing that book this year as I have the rights back."
Ruth Logan Herne (The Lawman's Holiday Wish, Love Inspired):
"My first romance was when I was sixteen years old and wrote a very tragic tale of an unwed teen and the decisions she faced. It was melodramatic, filled with angst and woe and it got an A+ and a note from my teacher, who said: "Keep on writing because you CAN!" Those words meant the world to me! I'd already had a freshman composition accepted into an anthology while attending a different school, but having this teacher praise my overly dramatic, only-a-teen can ooze this much drama kind of story, kept me nurturing the dream of being a writer for decades before it became a reality. I've always wondered if teachers know what a wonderful, residual affect they can have on a student's life.
My first sale was book number 9, although it gathered dust for nearly 3 years...."
What have you concluded from our data? My conclusion is that everyone's journey is different, so don't stop writing!
Thank you, to all the traditionally published authors (52) who took my anonymous survey on their first love, and a big thank you to the authors who emailed me their responses. There were so many nice authors who took the survey that I picked four winners from the hat: Terri Reed, Val Hansen, Jane Myers Perrine & Kathleen Y’Barbo-Turner. Drop an email to our firstname.lastname@example.org address to claim your Godiva chocolate prize!
Seekervillians! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic! What ever happened to that first romance manuscript? Your first love. Readers, tell us about the first romance book you ever read.
Today I'm giving away a book bag from The Glendale Chocolate Affaire, filled with books, to one Seekerville commenter! Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.