Query Letter for At the Pump

I just finished the first draft of a query letter for At the Pump. What did I learn? Next time–do it sooner. Write the first query letter after you finish the first draft. Seriously, by the time I was done with the letter I knew just what to change, what to add, and what to leave the same. And–I’m charged–getting right to those edits as soon as I’m finished here.
I’m posting the query here for a few reasons. First, to communicate to you what my novel is all about. Second, to put a sample query out there for the curious or interested. Lastly, for feedback. Notice anything that might help me improve this letter? Please, please share not just with me, but with anyone who happens across this blog and might be in a quandary over the quagmire of query writing.
So here it is–minus the address and closing:

Dear ________,

Travis Steele would be perfectly content to work the gas pumps at his parents station for the rest of his life, so long as he could have his one burning desire: true love. However, at twenty-four years old, he’s beginning to worry that love is not in the stars for him. This possibility terrifies him.
Veronica Smith does not desire contentment. She craves mystery, honesty, and adventure. True love? She’d scoff at the prediction.
What happens when this unlikely couple becomes entangled in an unusual community, an unsolved crime, and an unexpected attraction? My novel, At the Pump, explores that question, among others.
Situated at a gas station on a long stretch of road between two small towns in Southeastern Oregon, At The Pump is the first in a series of novels about an unusual group of characters scattered across two small towns. Their stories converge at a common point: Steele’s Gas ‘n Go. This novel is an homage to love, its many iterations, and its power to transform.
At The Pump is a love story full of mystery and insight into the predicament of being human. It’s a work of literary fiction written in poetic diction, but with a playful, casual tone. It’s a short novel of approximately 45,000 words.
At The Pump is my first complete novel. I have two more in the works and ideas sketched out for companion novels to At The Pump. I’ve also written a book-length collection of short stories and hundreds of poems. I’ve published one short story and a few poems and am working toward my MFA in Fiction through Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writer’s Workshop. I also publish a blog for writers at lizshine.blogspot.com. Though I love my job teaching English to high schoolers, writing is my life’s work.
Upon your request, I will gladly send a synopsis, sample chapters, or the complete manuscript of At The Pump for your consideration. Thank you for taking the time to read this query.

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3 thoughts on “Query Letter for At the Pump

  1. First, some questions on your query letter:

    Is this to be used as a letter via post? an email inquiry? both?

    If you would be using it via email, what is your subject line?

    Either way, are there particular guidelines required for your query letter?

    The nature of a query letter:

    In essence, a query letter is nothing more than a very targeted advertisement to attempt to sell your story to a publisher.

    Keep in mind that whoever you are sending it to likely sees hundreds of such letters every week. Because of this, they likely discard plenty of query letters after only reading the first paragraph.

    The nature of an advertisement:

    Being a society that is inundated with advertisements, we tend not to notice them unless they stand out from the crowd. So how do you get your advertisement ( query letter ) to stand out?

    Well, if you do what most people do and simply describe the features of what you are selling, you don’t.

    Instead, you should tell the soul of your story in a compelling manner. Get the one reading your query letter to read the entire thing. If you can grab them, they will understand that you can grab those reading your book as well…and that is what makes for a good seller.

    Your query letter:

    Looking over your query letter, ask yourself if the following are really things that would sell your book to you:

    “My novel, At the Pump, explores that question, among others.”

    “…At the Pump is the first in a series of novels about an unusual group of characters scattered across two small towns.”

    “Their stories converge at a common point: Steele’s Gas’n Go.”

    “This novel is an homage to love, its many iterations, and its power to transform.”

    I could go on, but the above examples should be enough to illustrate my point.

    You sound like an average marketer…telling your audience the features of your product.

    Since you do not know whom you are writing to, why not do what you are great at? Take your synopsis, distill it down to a one page story, and make sure it grabs the attention of the reader.

    Don’t bother with asking rhetorical questions, especially ones that you cannot answer quickly or prove. Instead, tell your story and grab their attention.

    Once you have proven that you can grab their attention, include your offer to send them more information and your thank you.

    I would leave out irrelevant information such as:

    * this is your first novel
    * you have more in the works
    * you have written short stories and poems
    * you are working on your MFA
    * you are an English teacher
    * writing is your life’s work
    * etc.

    Your primary goal should be to get them interested in requesting more information from you. Remember, you do not have nearly the credentials of some of your competition and you are trying to sell your book, not yourself. If your book is good, your credentials don’t much matter.

    With your ability to write, I would highly recommend that you write rather than trying to market yourself and your story. It will sell itself if you give it the chance.

    And I do not mean to come off as being disparaging, rude, or otherwise. I would just like to see you succeed in finding a publisher and am fairly certain that unless you already have books published or know someone on the inside, the best way to sell writing is to let the writing sell itself.

    ~T.

    p.s. An excellent, cheap electronic book on marketing is The Golden Book of Proof. I would not recommend it to you if I did not think that it would help you in your goal of getting published. He offers a money back guarantee, so if you don’t like it you can simply request your money back. I found it to be well worth the price and think you will to.

  2. One other quick suggestion that I forgot to include:

    Read this article:
    7 traits of a great copywriter @ copywriting.com.

    You may write for pleasure while I write to sell, but in the end, both cross paths and the ability to do both can really increase your time to do the first.

    He has a few good articles available for free on his site in addition to the ones I linked.

    ~T.

  3. Tony, there are several responses swimming in my mind at the moment. The most pressing is that this comment could not have arrived in my inbox at a worse time. So, for the time being, I’m choosing not to respond to your questions. In other words: “I’ll get back to you.”

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