Friday, April 9, 2010


Okay, without further ado, here is another awesome guest post, this time by Cole Gibsen of Hair Dye & Samurai.

Please visit her blog and her website: if you would like to find out more about her or her novel.

Her agent, Chris Richman, has agreed to have his name and emails included in the post. He is obviously an awesome agent but that does not mean that any of us should use his willingness to be involved in this post as an excuse to contact him outside the normal channels in any way. He is an agent with Upstart Crow Literary and they are accepting e-queries so simply visit here for details.

I’m not really going to critique her query much because as a novice, un-agented and unpublished author, what the hell do I know that could possibly help such an awesome, experienced and worldly author? If I do have anything to say it will be in red. Cole’s thoughts are in blue.

The query:

Dear Chris,

Your agency appeals to me because of your interest in young adult novels and for the reputation you’ve established for representing authors who have a passion for excellence and commitment.

I wrote the opening line this way, because at the time, Chris was just recently promoted to agent from intern. Being that he had no recent sales I didn’t know too much other than he was looking for “fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously”. So, instead of writing the first line about him, I made it about the agency.

Seventeen-year-old Rileigh Martin thought she was going to the mall to buy a toaster, she didn’t count on the life altering experience that came with it. After thwarting a mugging in the parking lot, Rileigh awakens the spirit of an ancient samurai warrior inside of her. As Rileigh fights to keep the spirit from taking her over completely, the appearance of a mysterious handsome martial arts instructor as well as an unknown enemy only increase her problems.

This entire paragraph about my book is three sentences. I’ve always heard to keep things short and sweet so that’s what I set out to do. Granted, keeping things short doesn’t allow for me to implement any “voice” in my query letter. But then, I, personally, always been a fan of the business letter query letter.

Okay I lied. I know I said I wouldn’t critique her query but I just have to say this: This paragraph is awesome. It’s perfect because it is short and sweet and gets to the point of the plot while including a tiny bit of voice AND giving some hints as to the comedy and romance elements she mentions later.

Remember, the query has only one purpose: to get the agent to read pages. Sure you ultimately want to be offered representation but that decision is based on the pages, not the query. Less is more.

KATANA is a young adult urban fantasy with elements of romance and comedy, complete at 70,000 words.

My adult urban fantasy short story, FED BY FIRE, took second place at the 2007 ARCHON/NASFIC convention.

I have no prior publication experience but was told how important it is to include an author bio. This sentence is it.

I would be happy to submit sample pages of KATANA upon your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Cole Gibsen

I sent this query out 67 times and received 9 partial request, 2 full requests, and 3 offers for representation.

I wonder why (no I don’t).

His reply to her query:

Hi Cole,

Thanks for thinking of me for KATANA. It's crazy--but crazy in an interesting way. I'd like to take a look at the rest of the story. Could you please upload it as a single MS Word document? Thanks!

Chris Richman

At the time Chris was still with Firebrand and he included a link to the Firebrand website where I was able to upload my MS.

His second email:

Hi Cole,

I wanted to shoot you a quick note to let you know that I'm about 90 pages into Katana and I'm enjoying it so far. If it holds up all the way through, the next step on my end would be bringing it to a meeting with the rest of my agency for their thoughts/approval. In the meantime, I was wondering if this story is currently in the hands of other agents and if you have other completed or planned projects? I know you mentioned something called Fed by Fire in your query; could you tell me more about that?


So, I wrote back:


I am so glad you are enjoying KATANA. It was a blast to write. In fact, KATANA was so much fun to write that I have started book two and outlined book three. I currently envision a four book story arc for the series.

To answer your question, KATANA is in the hands of seven other agencies that requested partials.

FED BY FIRE is a short story that won second place in the ARCHON/NASFIC writers contest. It focuses on a young woman, Sierra, a pyrokentic who has difficulties controlling her abilities. Etc. Etc. Etc. (I didn’t actually write ETC, I just don’t want to bore people with the details).

Another idea that I have outlined and begun, BREATHLESS, Etc. Etc. Etc.

Lastly, I have DRAGON HEART DICE, a young adult work in progress. DRAGON HEART DICE is about a group of three boys and one girl who Etc. Etc. Etc.

I will quickly point out that I’m sure all of us novice writers would NOT be bored with these details and would probably gobble them up. That being said this post is long enough already. Please follow Cole’s blog to stay abreast of her projects.

I would be happy to discuss any or all of these with you in greater detail.

I look forward to talking with you.

Sincerely, Cole

His reply:

Hi Cole,

I've finished KATANA and discussed it with my colleagues. I really enjoyed the story and especially the voice in the writing. I think you have the makings of a very strong project that, with a little tweaking, could turn into something really great. I'd like to set up a time to talk to you about representation. When would be the best time to reach you? Oh, and I guess having your phone number would help, too.

I look forward to talking to you,

Chris Richman

Chris was the first agent to offer representation, so at this point I just screamed like a fan girl and emailed him my number. I’d been querying this novel and another for over the course of two years and a hundred rejections. This was definitely a dream come true.

This is so amazing that I’m not even afraid to admit it makes my eyes grow slightly moist. I mean I don’t even know Cole personally but I know enough to know that she is an awesome person and a great writer who certainly deserves success. Congratulations are due!

So that’s it for the post and Cole’s correspondence with Chris, at least as far as she shared with me. Please take a moment to thank both of them in the comments.

Otherwise what do you all think? I know I’ll be revising my query to make it much shorter and more concise and then querying Chris someday (if I can ever cut my MS to a reasonable size).


Vicki Rocho said...

Congratulations, Cole! I'd be screaming, too! Thanks for the extended chain of communication. I love seeing all that happens after the query is sent out.

Thanks, for this post, Matthew! Total awesomeness!

Bish Denham said...

Now THAT is a great exchange, a real insight. Thanks for Cole and Chris!

Slamdunk said...

Interesting discussion. I think Cole's paragraph was tight as well. Thanks for sharing the insights.

Jessica Bell said...

That's awesome Cole! I'm praying that one day I can scream like a fan girl! :)

Lindsay said...

Thanks to Cole for sharing the query and congrats on the representation. Here's hoping we all get do do that fan girl/guy (just for you Matthew) scream :)

Creepy Query Girl said...

I totally devoured this post. What a dream come true:) Congratulations!

JE said...

Wow! This is totally awesome. Thank you so much for sharing, Cole. Your query is off the charts - excellent. I wish I could do get my story down to one paragraph and have agents fighting over Seriously though, REALLY good job.



IanBontems said...

It's great to read success stories and this one is really cool. Congrats Cole, and thanks for letting us see the following stages after you sent the query.

Michelle McLean said...

Cole is indeed an awesome person and incredibly talented writer :) Thanks for the post Cole, Chris and Matthew!

Candyland said...

Great post! Love letters that work.

Shelley Sly said...

This is wonderful, Cole! Thank you for sharing. Your concise query and the emails are very helpful, and your book sounds terrific! :)

Thank you, Matthew, for posting this as well.

cool dad said...

My first time here, so what a great post to barge in on. Thanks, and congrats to Cole!

Cole Gibsen said...

Thanks, everyone! It was my pleasure :)

kah said...

Awesome. We always see the query but never the rest of the fun emails. Thanks to Cole and Chris for sharing it with us.

Congrats Cole! :)

Anonymous said...

Awesomeness! Thanks for posting, Matthew.

(Quill, over at Bransford Forums)

Unknown said...

Fantastic post, and this sounds like a great story. Congrats on your success, Cole!

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by but all the credit goes to Cole (okay maybe a little to Chris too).

Quill, you should get a blogger user account or follow using Google friend connect. You don't have to have your own blog to do either (I think).

Hilary Wagner said...

Someone won something most awesome on my blog!!!! Hint, hint... ;)

Talli Roland said...

Thanks to Cole and Chris - and to you for posting this. It's great to get that insight!

Also - I love Cole's title. Brilliant!

Stephanie said...

Great post Matt! I connected with Cole on QT when she was querying and I remember thinking, what a kooky story! But of course, if handled right, something wild can really work, and obviously has.

If anyone's interested, the deets of my recent agent representation are on my blog at

Unknown said...

Thanks for this incredible insight into query journey success. I'm more inspired that you know!

Unknown said...

Great stuff, guys. I love seeing the queries that get it done and having the commentary and aftermath is even better! Thanks so much.

Arlee Bird said...

Thanks-- this is a helpful look into some of the initial parts of the process leading to representation and getting published.. These types of posts are always helpful since each circumstance varies with its own unique qualities.
Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

Amy Jo said...

Very cool! Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on seeing your dream become a reality!

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone and for the well wishes to Cole - she really deserves it!

Don't forget to follow my blog and come back the other days of the week for some funnier stuff. Mostly I share the queries I sent out about a year ago which were ... so bad that now all I can do is laugh at them. Check the archives if you want to read some that have already been posted.

Eventually I'll get to posting my own queries that found success, or at least partial MS requests but for now it's just rejections and guest bloggers.

Lola Sharp said...

Thanks (and CONGRATS) to Cole and Chris, for being so willing to share their correspondence.

Great post.

I'm here from my friend Summer's blog.

Happy Weekend,

Eric said...

This is an awesome post. I've been an acquaintance of Cole's for a little while (we're on the same blog chain, I follow hers religiously, etc) and I've always enjoyed her writing. This glimpse into how she got the deal though, is especially cool. Thank you Cole, Chris, and of course you Matthew for sharing this conversation with all of us out here in writer-land.

Casey Something said...

What a great thing you're doing here, Matthew. Thank you, and thanks to Cole and Chris for sharing their correspondence.

Tahereh said...

wow what an inspiring post.

thanks so much for sharing!!

Bethany Wiggins said...

I love Cole. She's the best. Thanks for sharing this!

Lacey J Edwards said...

Wow! Thank you both so much for sharing this! We as aspiring authors, don't get a lot of glimpses into the process of finding an agent. Great query!

Robyn Campbell said...

Thanks for following me back. I love your blog. I actually found it from facebook and Cole's query post. But after snoopin' around, I decided you had a very cool blog. So I joined as a follower. Have a sweet weekend. Happy writing. Oh, and I learned something today about my own query that I will be sending out in about a week. Thanks! =)

Matthew MacNish said...

You bet Robyn, no problem, and thanks to everyone for stopping by, but especially to Cole! You rock girl!

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

Hooray for Cole! ...and for the great things in her future.

Cole Gibsen said...

Aw! *blushes* You guys are all the best!

Blanche King said...

That's very interesting. I think I just realized something about my own manuscript. Thank you for sharing.

lisa and laura said...

Fabulous query, Cole! Reading success stories like this NEVER gets old. Can't wait to buy her book! Only a matter of time I'm sure. Thanks Matthew!

Matthew MacNish said...

Glad to have helped Blanche.

Thanks so much for stopping by Lisa and Laura, you guys are the sickest sisters in the blogosphere!


Thanks for posting this, Matt. Her query really had all the key elements: conflict, out-of-the-ordinary event, relatable heroine. Kudos to her!

Holly Lefevre said...

This is great (I saw you over at Slum Dunks). I love seeing the interaction between an agent and potential client. The whole process sis long and fascinating to me still.

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Suzette Saxton said...

You weren't kidding, this is query gold! Thanks to everyone for sharing!

Valerie Ipson said...

Thanks everybody for sharing. It's not often we get to see inside the whole author query/agent correspondence world--speaking here as an "as yet" unpublished author.

Matthew MacNish said...

I loved that you wrote "as yet" Valerie. It's that kind of confidence and determination that will find you published in the long run.

Thanks for stopping by everyone!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Matthew! Thank you for Cole's sneak peak into her process with Chris! It's so wonderful to hear the success of others! :)

Guinevere said...

Thanks for sharing this! It's really helpful to read some of the "what came after" a request for a full, en route to representation -- I haven't really seen that before!

Tracy said...

I'm a little late to the party, but thanks for sharing this, Cole!

It's kind of nice to get an idea what happens when things go right!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks so much for sharing this part of your journey. Seeing the exact communications was really enlightening. Thank you and congratulations on your success!

Kay said...

Hey Matthew! I was wondering if you were going to any writers conferences this summer. I think it would be a great way to promote your awesome blog as well as your novel.

Just curious. Hope all is well

Tory said...

I love this post, espcecially because I recently queried Chris Richman with my first YA novel. I'd love for you to check out my blog, Head in the Clouds. Thanks for sharing Cole's query letter and response from super agent, Chris Richman. It's a great example for aspiring writers to follow.

MBW aka Olleymae said...

Matthew, Thanks so much for these interviews. It was really inspiring to read her correspondence w/ Chris and think, "Hey, real people can do this!!!"