First Line Contest Finalist Sells Her Story

August 7, 2009 | Karin's Blog | 19 comments



by Leigh Court


First off, I want to wish Karin a great big Happy Birthday, and hope she’s relaxing on her day off from blogging! I’ll try to entertain you all while she (hopefully) sips Pina Coladas by the pool…


I’ve admired Karin ever since I started entering her First Line contest a few years ago, but I finally got the chance to meet her face-to-face at the Literacy signing at the RWA Conference in DC last month. She had a cute Sarah Palin look going J You betcha she looked great!


But the real reason for my visit today is to tell you how Karin’s First Line contest helped me sell my sexy Victorian novella, called THE BET, to Red Sage Publishing, and to celebrate its July release in the Secrets Volume 27: Untamed Pleasures anthology!


My first line, “I can make a woman come using just my mouth,” was not the salacious boast it initially appeared to be, but it definitely grabbed Karin’s contest judge’s attention. And that’s what a good first line does, right? It grabs an editor’s or an agent’s or a reader’s attention, and makes them want to keep reading. So I was equally thrilled when the subsequent lines I submitted for that First Line contest enabled me to make it as far as the “Fabulous Fifteen” round.


Getting so far in the contest gave me the confidence I needed to start submitting the story to publishers. Red Sage bought it soon after, and now THE BET is actually in print!


My story was a novella, and ironically, Karin’s contest taught me another valuable lesson. One of the best (and probably hardest) things about novellas is that since the format is so short, every line has to be important to the story, just like in her contest. Every word has to count, and has to move the story forward. But you know what? That lesson applies to single titles as well. Give your story that sense of urgency and action, and you’ll have agents and editors banging at your door J


Karin’s contest is an incredibly valuable tool to help writers hone their skills, and I’m happy to be one of the success stories that shows the First Line contest can lead directly to a sale. If I can do it, you can do it!


On a side note, I was recently interviewed by NBC Nightly News about how romance novels sell hotter than ever in times of recession.  Here’s the link if you want to take a look:  My “sound bite” ran only 8-seconds (so don’t blink!) but they DID show the cover of my book, so I was thrilled!


Thanks for letting me share my excitement with you today, and if you want to read an excerpt of THE BET, please visit my website at!   


Leigh, thank you so much for stopping by today! I’m so excited for you and so very happy my First Line Contest helped you on your road to publication!  I’m adding Secrets Vol 27 to my Amazon order!  I can’t wait to read your story.


Readers, feel free to ask Leigh questions bout Red Sage and her process!





  1. B.E. Sanderson

    Congratulations on your sale and your interview, Leigh. I love Karin’s contests. Too bad I missed the last one due to a family emergency. (I’d do it again, but I’m still pining over the missed opportunity.)

    And in case I didn’t say it before: Happy Birthday, Karin! =o)

  2. Jenna

    Wow, how exciting! I love Karin’s contest, and this gives us all hope 🙂


  3. Julie

    Holy cow! That NBC story was awesome. Such good publicity for romance 🙂 But I would have been an absolute nervous wreck during the interview!

  4. Leigh Court

    Thanks B.E., Jenna & Julie! btw, I WAS an absolute nervous wreck during that NBC interview, but I hope it didn’t come across that way!


  5. Leanne

    Loved that first line!! No wonder the judges perked up 😀 Congrats!

  6. Vicki

    Congrats on the sale and the first line got my attention. 🙂

    Happy Birthday Karin!!!

  7. Edie

    Leigh, you looked great! How cool that they interviewed you. lol And congrats on your sale!

  8. Leigh Court

    Thanks Leanne & Vicki! That “first line” sets up the entire conflict of the story!

    And thanks Edie! That NBC story was definitely one of the highlights of my life 🙂


  9. J. Carson Black

    Leigh, I loved the NBC segment. You did a fantastic job. Congrats on selling The Bet, and congrats on finaling in Karin’s inimitable First Line Contest.

    I know this is a great birthday gift for you, too, Karin. You must have been a midwife in an earlier life. 😉

    Happy Birthday!

  10. Cele

    Congrats Leigh, Karin thank you for believing in writers… yeah I know, Duh! But really you help create reality, realization, and community.

  11. Leigh Court

    Thanks Carson & Cele! Karin certainly has created an online “family” through her First Line contest, and I’m happy to be a part of it!

  12. Fedora

    Wow, congrats, Leigh–that’s fabulous! And sounds like a great read! 🙂

  13. LisaK

    Happy Birthday, Karin! Have a great day (although I think I’m late – that’s the one bad thing when you live in Europe!) and enjoy yourself!

    Leigh, I’ve bought Secrets after I read about it over at RBTB and I absolutely loved The Bet. Really, you make readers care deeply about your characters in an amazingly short time. Soooo good how you create that sexual tension until it explodes. This one was definitely one of my sexiest reads this year!

  14. Leigh Court

    Wow, Lisa, thanks so much for that rave review of The Bet! I’m thrilled you liked the story 🙂 If you were at RBTB on Monday when all four Secrets authors blogged, then you know some of my juciest secrets!

    Here’s another: I have 4 really good girlfriends in England who single-handedly are trying to convert romance readers to Secrets fans 🙂

    And thanks, Fedora, for your feedback! If you want to read an excerpt for The Bet, go to my website at

    And HUGE THANKS to Karin for letting me blog about how her wonderful First Line contest helped me sell The Bet!

    Best to all,

  15. ArkansasCyndi

    What a very cool story. I remember very well your first line. It grabbed my attention IMMEDIATELY! Congrats on the novella AND the very good interview.

  16. Leigh Court

    Thanks so much, Cyndi!


  17. Liz Kreger

    Too cool on your sale, Leigh. And congrats on the interview. Looked great … even if it was short and sweet.

  18. Jill James

    Leigh, congratulations on your book and the interview. You looked so gorgeous. And what a great line you had for the interview as well as the First Line Contest.

    Karin, thanks for all you do for writers and Happy Birthday.

  19. LaDonna

    Leigh, so happy for your success! I love Karin’s First Line Contest, and as a past finalist it helped me in all areas of my writing life. The experience is so worth the effort!

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