This is the story of my first professional sale.
I’m proof that you don’t need connections or anything but a good story, at least at the short fiction level. I made my 1st sale by sending out short stories to markets that looked good in the market reports and collecting heaps of rejection letters. I didn’t know anybody at the short markets and I didn’t have any special in. I collected more than 90 rejection letters before I had my 1st sale—WebMage to Weird Tales. It came within a few months of my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sales. Respectively, The Wyrm OreBoreUS to TOTU, Soul of the Samurai to a pro rates magazine that paid me promptly and went under before they published the story, and The Sharp End to the Writers of the Future contest.
On the novels front, my path was a bit stranger. I’d had something like 20 short stories bought or published when I joined the Wyrdsmiths and had recently shifted back to writing novels–my first love. Not long after that I was at MiniCon where I met Jim Frenkel—then agent to fellow Wyrdsmiths Lyda, Naomi, and Harry. He said, “You’re a Wyrdsmith? Hi, I’m your agent, what have you got for me to look at?”
A few weeks later I sent him WebMage. He liked it and I signed up with his agency. He sent the book to one editor before he quit the agenting business. At that point he asked Jack Byrne of Sternig-Byrne to look at a few of his clients for possibly representation. I was one of those. I liked Jack’s style and he loved my work and I’ve been with him ever since.
It did take three more years—in which time I wrote three more novels—before WebMage sold to Ace, but that was mostly because WebMage and two of the other three in that group were tied up for a good bit of time in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt at a multi-book hard/soft deal with a publisher who will remain nameless.
2013 update: The editor who tried to put that deal together is currently trying to put together another three book deal with the unpublished books from that original deal. Which goes to show how very strange this industry can be. Will keep my fingers crossed.