Friday, February 03, 2006

First Sale Stories: Susan Squires, "Sacrament," "Danegeld," "The Companion," "The Hunger"

Lynda: Susan, would you like to tell us about your first sale experience?

Susan: I'd love to. The book I sold first was called Danegeld. It was the second book I'd written (the first was Sacrament, 275,000 words and totally unpublish-able at that point). I had been working on it for four years. I wrote it and then worked it over, learning how to self-edit in a Master's Class for writing at the UCLA extension program. I know--that's way too long to work on a book, but I just wasn't very good at this stuff back then.

I got an agent for it through the "read and critique program" at the San Diego Writer's conference. I thought I had it made when I got an agent. But she couldn't sell it. Seven houses turned it down. Do you think it might have been because it had a male rape before page fifty? Hmmm....

I went on to write another book (published as Body Electric), but I liked Danegeld and didn't want to give up on it. So I joined Romance Writers of America and started entering contests with it. I called it "my summer of contests." I set a budget, and entered contests that allowed me to submit fifty pages. That allowed me to get the male rape in--after all, I wanted to see if that was the problem or not. It won eleven contests that summer, and was requested by two editors at Dorchester.

I got the call in late November. I was at work, and I thought the guy on the phone was a salesman. I didn't recognize his name. I wasn't even polite! Suddenly I realized he'd just said he wanted to buy my book. I took a breath, asked if I could start over, thanked him, and gave him my agent's name. Then I closed the office door and leaped and screamed. That was Chris Keesler, and I loved working for him. He bought Sacrament (which I cut in half and re-wrote), Body Electric, and two others sight unseen. By the time Danegeld won the Golden Heart that year, it was just about to come out on the shelves. I've since gone on to two three-book contracts with Jennifer Enderlin at St.Martin's Press, but I'll never forget the long road to publication for Danegeld and how happy I was to get that call. What can I say? It's all about learning the craft and hanging in there.


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