Dare to Read

October 3, 2011

Meet Becquer. A Query in Progress – Redux

Filed under: Becquer,Garlic for Breakfast,On Writing,Query — carmenferreiroesteban @ 11:57 am
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

 

It worked!

“What a great blurb!” my agent wrote back to me after I sent her my query for Becquer Eternal, and she requested my full manuscript.

Yes, she was my agent already, but she is representing my YA fantasy and Becquer is an adult paranormal. That is why I needed a killing query.

After a personal introduction, this is the query I sent.

(…)

The novel, tentatively called BECQUER ETERNAL, is the story of a writer desperately looking for an agent while trying to survive her two smarty teenagers. So desperate is she that she signs with Becquer, an impossibly alive XIX century Spanish poet, even though she knows he is an immortal that lives on human blood and that his secretary, and maybe lover, wants her out of the deal.

Here is the blurb I wrote for it:

Meet Becquer.

He’s handsome, well-read, and can get you that book contract you always dreamed.

Never mind that he’s also an immortal and lives on human blood.

What would that matter?

Your relationship is strictly business.

Or so you thought.

Until Becquer’s life is threatened, and you discover that walking away is not an option,

Because he was hurt while protecting your son,

Because you are the only one who can save him now,

Because you care for him.

Welcome to Becquer’s world.

Please, come inside. He’s waiting for you.

(…)

As you can see, it’s a combination of Take 2 and Take 3. It worked, so I’d say it was a good choice.

September 30, 2011

Meet Becquer. A Query in Progress – Take 3

Filed under: Becquer,Fantasy,Garlic for Breakfast,On Publishing,On Writing,Paranormal,Query — carmenferreiroesteban @ 9:02 am
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

Thank you so much to Kay (at http://www.kaysbookshelf.com) for commenting on my previous query.

And now for my take number 3.

BECQUER ETERNAL is the story of a writer desperately looking for an agent while trying to survive her two smarty teenagers. So desperate is she that she signs with Becquer, an impossibly good looking man with a devilish smile, even though she knows he is an immortal that lives on human blood and that his secretary, and maybe lover, wants her out of the deal.

This time we are down to 65 words. I think this one could work as a pitch, an elevator pitch that is, for a real pitch, I’m told, is just one sentence. So I guess I would have to cheat and insert a comma where the period is now.

What do you think?

BTW did you notice I changed the title? Any preferences there?

September 29, 2011

Meet Becquer. A Query in Progress – Take 2

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Here is my second attempt to write the query for my adult paranormal novel, Meet Becquer. This time I got it down to 89 words.

I don’t think this summary works as a query either. More like the copy for a book trailer?

 

Meet Becquer.

He’s handsome, well-read, and can get you that book contract you always dreamed.

Never mind that he’s also an immortal and lives on human blood.

What would that matter?

Your relationship is strictly business.

Or so you thought.

Until Becquer’s life is threatened, and you discover that walking away is not an option.

Because he was hurt while protecting your son.

Because you are the only one who can save him now.

Because you care for him.

Welcome to Becquer’s world.

Please, come inside. He’s waiting for you.

September 28, 2011

Meet Becquer. A Query in Progress

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

To write a query requires summarizing your novel down to two or three informative and engaging paragraphs that not only tell what your book is about, but also capture the mood of your story.

A difficult task I have decided to accomplish in several steps.

So here is my first attempt. From 50,000 words to 356 words. Not bad for a first try.  But I don’t think it works for a query, more like a blurb?

Anyhow, here it is. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Meet Becquer (Previously Garlic for Breakfast)

In the dreams of every woman there is a man. A man who understands her, a man who listens, a man who whispers words of love that sing without music when he makes love to her.

In the dreams of every writer there is an agent. An agent who reads her book carefully and loves it almost as much as she does. An agent who discusses her characters as if they were real, as real as they are for her. An agent who will sell her book and draft a contract she understands at the first read. An agent who will give her the freedom of writing what she wants, then helps her rewrite it until it’s perfect, or as close as perfect as it will ever be.

Carla has met both. In one. His name is Becquer and he’s a poet. Or, more exactly, he was a poet back in 1870, the year he died. Only he didn’t died, just stopped being human.

He’s an  immortal now, a stronger, sense-enhanced creature that lives on human blood.

There are others. Well-known poets and musicians and heroes we have met on the pages of History books. Poets like Lorca who was once his lover and still loves him. Statesmen like Cesare Borgia who hates him and has sworn to destroy him.

And there are humans who know about them. Humans, like Beatriz, Becquer’s secretary and former lover, who covet his gift. Beatriz who has waited a long time for Becquer to make her immortal and does not take lightly to his interest in Carla.

When Carla meets Beatriz and realizes the danger that signing Becquer as her agent poses to her and to her children, she asks Becquer to break their contract. But, by then, it’s too late. Too late for Becquer to escape Beatriz’s murderous scorn, too late for Carla to leave unharmed for he already loves him.

Yes, Carla’s dream has come true. Her dream of finding the perfect lover, the perfect agent, the perfect book contract.

But somehow, along the way, the dream has morphed into a nightmare from which she cannot wake up.

August 2, 2011

Which Flavor is Your Ice Cream? or How to Stop Negative Reviews from Putting You Down

Filed under: Books, Reviews,On Writing,Query,Rejection — carmenferreiroesteban @ 11:24 pm

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

 

 

Being a writer is an ongoing exercise in humility.

Critique partners critique your work. That’s their job.

Agents and publishers randomly reject it. It’s mathematically impossible they accept all the books they receive, yet their rejection still hurts.

Even after your manuscript has been published and magically become a book, you will still sometimes get negative reviews.

The best way of dealing with negative reviews is, of course, not reading them.

Unfortunately that is an advice I seem incapable of following. I do read them and, sometimes, they bother me, even those that let me wondering if the reviewer really read my book.

But last Sunday I had an epiphany of sorts and I have finally found a way to stop the negative reviews from putting me down.

It happened as I was eating a rum and raisins, and tiramisu ice cream while discussing with two friends our favorite movies and directors. Although the three of us tend to like the same movies, I discovered some movies/directors I loved/hated while they hated/loved them. And, in most cases, we were pretty passionate about our particular tastes.

It was, then, the idea came to me that movies/books are like ice cream flavors. One person likes vanilla while other like strawberry and both of them may hate pistachio. That doesn’t mean pistachio is not a great flavor. For someone else.

And if my book flavor is pistachio and you do not like it, I can’t change your mind about it. It’s the way it is. But the fact that you don’t like it won’t bother me anymore because your taste is yours, and does not reflect on the quality of my book.

And many others will like the pistachio flavor of my book. As I do.

July 31, 2011

The Querying Game

Filed under: On Publishing,On Writing,Query — carmenferreiroesteban @ 11:16 pm
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

If you are serious about becoming an author you must be willing to play the querying game. The looking for, and seducing that agent, that publisher you think would be perfect for your story.

And you have to be willing to accept defeat and move on to the next target, taking rejection in stride and giving any suggestion you are offered the utmost consideration.

Querying is painful not only because of the rejection that usually follows but because of the long waiting in between.

I hate waiting. So the minute I send the queries for a finished project, I start a new one. A new project includes reading to get ideas, and, when the idea starts to take shape, reading some more to research the subject, the time period, the geography of the place where the story will take place. I love this part of writing, as I love the writing itself and the editing that comes later.

So today I should be excited because last week I finished and sent my third novel, and I am free to move on. Yet, for all my preaching, the waiting is nagging at me, more than usual. Maybe because this time it is three fold:

1. My publisher at Tanglewood Press has my second novel (The King in the Stone, the sequel to Two Moon Princess) downloaded to her e-reader and has promised me she will read it over the summer.

2. A fantasy and SF publisher in Spain has also promised to read my fourth manuscript this very summer, the one I called Garlic for Breakfast when I first started. He read the first chapter here in my blog (https://carmenferreiroesteban.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/garlic-for-breakfast-2/) and liked it well enough to request the whole manuscript.

3. Finally, I sent the revised version of my third novel, The Revenge of the Wolf King to my dream agent who had asked for me to resend it to her if I considered her suggestions.

And so now I wait. But, even as I wait, there are things I could be doing about my finished manuscripts. For instance, if the Spanish publisher likes my novel, I’d have to translate it into Spanish. So maybe, I should make the translation my next project. But my third novel is screaming for a sequel. And there is a character in Garlic for Breakfast whose story I think needs telling.

So as you see, I’m a little confused on which way to go. Not a good way to start the week.

If only I knew who will answer first.

If only I knew who will say yes.

May 31, 2011

Three Steps to Query

Filed under: On Publishing,On Writing,Query — carmenferreiroesteban @ 8:29 am
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by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

A query letter is a business letter. It tells the agent/editor (referred from now on as the ‘Agent’ and assumed to be a ‘she’) how awesome, unique and marketable your manuscript is, how perfectly qualified you’re to write it and, once it has been published, to market your book. Preferably, it does so without adjectives or adverbs. Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that a good writer has no need for them.

A query is the key that will open the door to the Agent’s heart. It must be professional and to the point, yet, at the same time, “as individual as the book it describes and the author it introduces.” (Arthur A. Levine).

Simply put, a query letter consists of three parts: the hook/the book/and the cook.

The hook introduces the story. It states, in one sentence, what the book is about in an enticing way that will force the Agent to read on.

If your mind goes blank when trying to summarize your four hundred pages manuscript in about 20-30 words, try answering the following questions: Who is your protagonist? What does he/she want? Who/what is the antagonist/reason he/she can’t have what he/she wants?, then write the answers in a single sentence.

After a lot of thinking this was my first hook for my YA novel Requiem for a King: Princess Ines wants to keep Nowan alive, but both, her father and Richard, the king’s bastard son, hate Nowan and want him dead.

This is the skeleton of my story, but as is, it is not a terribly appealing hook. Probably your first attempt isn’t either. But now that it’s written, it’s easier to flesh it out.

After several revisions, my hook became: Princess Ines’s love for Nowan, her whipping boy, is put to the test when he is accused of killing the queen and sentenced to death by the king who hates him.

Better? I hope so.

As you see, I have simplified, eliminating Richard, who is a secondary character, and adding the enticing incident that puts Nowan in danger.

Next in the query, comes the ‘book’. The book is usually two or three paragraphs long and may include, among others, the character’s motivations, the story arc, and the setting. It is not a chapter by chapter synopsis and need not include a list of characters, not all the subplots. It is more like the blurb you find on the jacket of a book, a taste of the story to pique the reader’s interest.

Most agents, but not all, say they don’t want to know the ending at this point. But they all agree they want to know the word number, and genre of your manuscript.

The ‘cook’ part of the query letter includes information about you. Make it short and to the point, mention only those credentials that make you the right person to write this story, and, if you have any, list your publications and/or platform.

If you have done your homework, you may want to personalize your query by adding a sentence, here or at the beginning of the letter, explaining why you chose that particular Agent. Did you meet her at a conference? Found out her preferences at her website/blog/interview? Does she represent your favorite author? Agents are human, and will be flattered if they see you took the time to learn about them.

Now that you have written the perfect query, I suggest you leave it for a day or two, or even a week, and read it again as if you were reading it for the first time. And while you do, ask yourself, would I want to read this book?

I also recommend you pass the query to another writer. And, remember, you are not asking for validation here, but for a brutally honest critique.

In my case, I posted my query in the Query Critique forum at the online Children Writers’s conference (WriteOnCon.com). As the critiques started to come, I realized my perfect query was nothing but perfect. So, I rewrote it again and again. And again.

I queried agents with my sixth version and, so far, I got four requests for a full ms and one for a partial. A great success considering that from my previous queries I had received only rejections.

Which brings me to my next piece of advice: Make a list of agents that represent your genre and send the query to ten agents at a time. If you get no positive answer rewrite the query.

And don’t forget that the query is just your calling card. It’s the strength of your story that will get you an agent or/and a book contract. So before you start querying, edit your manuscript to perfection. You must write a powerful story that resonates with your readers, with characters so memorable they stay in the readers’ mind after they close the book. To achieve this, you must pour your soul into the story and that requires courage.

As for the query, that is just plain, old fashioned, hard work.

Good luck!

Note: An edited version of this post appeared in the magazine of the NJ SCBWI (Sprouts (2011/2)