Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shelley Gray’s Sales Story for A Texan’s Promise

This weekend while I meet with dozens of aspiring authors at ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and attend the conference in Indianapolis Thursday through Monday, I thought it would be fun and beneficial to invite some of my talented authors to share their experiences and inspiration with you.

Shelley Sabga

Today’s guest blogger is Shelley Sabga, who writes Amish novels under the nom de plume of Shelley Shepard Gray. Shelley has enjoyed great success writing about the Amish and visits Amish communities in Adams and Holmes Counties in Ohio several times a year.
A busy wife and mother of two, she spends her days writing and keeping track of her teenagers. Her two dogs keep her company while she writes in her basement in southern Ohio. Please visit her website at to find out her latest news, or become her friend on FaceBook.

There are some things I never tire of. Things like a hot cup of coffee, talking to my children, or sitting on our back deck with my husband. And, of course, I really love getting a phone call from my agent.

See, usually the only time Mary Sue calls me instead of sending an email is when she’s sold one of my books. I’ve been with her for eleven years, and every time I see Mary Sue’s name on my Caller ID, I get a little thrill. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have received quite a few of those lucky phone calls.

But earlier this year, I had one of my favorite calls from her ever. Mary Sue called to tell me that she’d sold A Texan’s Promise.

A Texan’s Promise is a historical romance set in Texas right after the Civil War. It’s the story of Clayton Proffitt, my Best Hero Ever, and Vanessa, the woman he takes to Colorado when she’s in danger. They leave on horseback in the middle of the night, and every time I think about their story I sigh.

I wrote A Texan’s Promise on weekends and in the evenings for fun. Ever since my dad made me watch Gunfight at the OK Corral with him, I’ve loved westerns. My dad passed away years ago, so writing westerns and thinking about my home state of Texas makes me think—for just a little while—that he’s nearby.

Now here’s some more information about A Texan’s Promise: I loved it. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t sell it.

Oh, it came close to being sold several times. It came really close. Editors asked me to change sections of it. Over five years, I rewrote it, made it tighter, made it better, and then was disappointed again. Three times it went all the way to different publishers’ editorial boards.

But it never quite got the okay. It was always a little too romantic. Or a little too historical. Or a little too . . . (insert adjective here). You name it.

Every few months, I’d get a call from Mary Sue, telling me I’d sold another book. Hooray! Then she’d tell me the bad news. After much deliberation, yet another publishing house had decided to pass on A Texan’s Promise. But she wasn’t giving up.

However, I kind of did. I’ve been around long enough to know that not all books I write will sell, or that all proposals I submit will be accepted. And that’s okay. So, with regret, I put my hopes for this book away. Now, I didn’t think writing it was a wasted effort. I’d enjoyed writing the book, and I’d learned a whole lot of interesting trivia about guns, horses, and Civil War veterans. I’d also learned a lot about myself and about rejection with this book. There’s something to be said for that.

Then one day I received an email from my agent, saying there was a chance that Abingdon Press would take a look at it. I actually told her that it had been rejected by them. But then Mary Sue reminded me that when Abingdon had rejected the book, they weren’t in the market for historicals. But now they were. So off it went again. To say I wasn’t hopeful about a positive outcome was something of an understatement. Besides, I was under contract for a few other things. I had books to write, not dreams to fulfill!

Then, one Friday night, my cell phone rang. I was actually in a room at a bed and breakfast with my critique partners, having a writer’s retreat. I almost didn’t take the phone call. But, of course, there was no way I was ever going to ignore Mary Sue!

And that’s when she told me that she’d sold A Texan’s Promise. The folks at Abingdon Press liked the book!

To say I was happy is kind of an understatement. I hung up the phone, gave a little shout, told my critique partners and smiled. I was stunned.

Yes, God is good. He gave me the ability to write, and the ability to dream too. He gave me wonderful people in my life to support me and to work with. And He gave me Mary Sue, the agent who truly never stops believing in me.

So though A Texan’s Promise is officially the thirtieth book of mine Mary Sue has sold, it is truly one of my very favorite books, and it has one of my very favorite “sales” stories. The book was inspired from time spent with my dad, was written just for the simple joy of putting my imagination to paper, and was sold in spite of myself.

I’m forever grateful. And I’m thrilled to be a part of the Abingdon Press family of authors.

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The Rest of the Story

What Shelley doesn’t know is that I fell in love with A Texan’s Promise from the moment I read the first page. I had to finish it, even though we weren’t in the market for historical fiction. So I set it in my precious little stack of manuscripts I wanted to publish someday and acted like a squeaky door in Pub Board, reminding everyone that historical romances, especially those set in the West, were hot. Finally, they listened, and the rest is history. I still sigh when I think of Clayton Proffitt, a true American hero. If only all men were as good and true as Clay.

* * *

Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!


  1. Wonderful story. I love all things Civil War, so I'll have to look for that one.

  2. I'll keep this title in my book and watch for it. Patience has got to be the most difficult emotion to master, probably why it is a virtue.

  3. Kathleen, I met Shelley for the first time at ACFW. Abingdon Press invited all of our authors to dinner at P.F. Chang's, and we were having more fun than a bride's party who sat behind us! Shelley is one of the sweetest, kindest women I've ever met. I'm thrilled she's working on this new series with us.

    Sally, so true about patience. Every time I ask God, "Why is it taking so long?" He reminds me of Moses. Do I REALLY have to wait until I'm 80- something? :)

  4. Oh, Barbara, what a chuckle!! Do I relate to that question: "Do I REALLY have to wait until I'm 80-something?" Patience really is the toughest lesson God teaches us on so many levels, not just writing and being published.