This Site is Secure

Mark Malatesta – Author Coach – Former Literary Agent

Prior to becoming an author coach, Mark Malatesta was a literary agent and the Marketing & Licensing Manager for Blue Mountain Arts. During his time as a literary agent, Mark got book deals for his clients with books publishers including Andrews McMeel, Ballantine, Entrepreneur, Hyperion, Pocket Books, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and St. Martin’s. Beginning in 2011, as the founder of Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author, Mark has helped 300+ authors of all genres–fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books–get literary agents as an author coach and consultant.

Mark Malatesta’s websites for authors:

Former literary agent Mark Malatesta has given 100+keynotes and talks, in the U.S. and abroad, at writers conferences and other events. He’s written hundreds of articles for authors including in the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac, the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, and a column at

Click here for Reviews of Mark Malatesta.

Mark Malatesta Testimonial by Author Laura Moe

Adams Media/F+W/Merit Press is publishing my book this year in hardcover! Before I started working with Mark, I sent out my own horribly written query letters (about three dozen), and I got only rejections. When I sent out my revised query, I was only able to send it to five agents before I started getting multiple requests (one of them in just a few hours) to send sample chapters or the complete manuscript.

Headshot photo of author wearing pink blouse, smiling and looking over left shoulderThe most valuable part of the coaching process for me was answering all of Mark’s questions in his author questionnaire and on the phone. They made me think about things in my background that never occurred to me to mention in a query letter, things that I was able to use to make myself more credible. My previous queries didn’t have enough information about me, and they didn’t have a tone that accurately reflected my manuscript.

The second most valuable part of the process was avoiding working with an agent who showed early curiosity in my manuscript but may or may not have served my best interests. Most agents are proud to display a catalog of books they have represented, but this particular agent, who requested exclusivity, made vague claims about selling a number of books but no specific titles.

Mark Malatesta Testimonial – Pt 2 – Laura Moe

Green and blue ocean above title of book on coverMark explained there are many out there who hang out their shingles and call themselves agents, but they lack the connections to make many sales and sometimes hold onto manuscripts for a year or longer and do nothing with them. Mark helped me realize the importance of research and working with someone whose sales record is credible and transparent.

My favorite part of the coaching experience was talking to Mark on the phone. He provided interesting insight and we also shared a nice rapport. Mark is open-minded, intelligent, funny, knowledgeable, and quick on his feet. Give him a question or challenge and he only needs a few seconds to come up with an answer or solution.

If you’re the author of a book with commercial potential, and you’re thinking about working with Mark, go for it. I definitely recommend that you have a preliminary conversation with him and get some feedback on your query, synopsis, proposal, and/or sample chapters.

Even if your relationship with Mark doesn’t go beyond the preliminary phone call, you will benefit from it a lot. Mark has already helped me get the attention of several good agents that never would have responded to me before.

Breakfast with Neruda (Adams Media/F+W/Merit Press)

During her interview below with former literary agent Mark Malatesta, author Laura Moe shares advice to help authors of all genres be successful. Laura explains how she went from “sending out her own horribly written query letters (about three dozen), and only getting rejections,” to getting multiple requests from literary agents. Now Laura’s first book, Breakfast with Neruda, is out in hardcover with F+W/Adams Media/Merit Press.

Learn More About Mark Malatesta, Author Coach

Here you can see Mark Malatesta reviews from more authors he has worked with. You can also see reviews of Mark Malatesta from publishing industry professionals he’s met and worked with over the years. These reviews of former literary Mark Malatesta include his time as an author coach and consultant, literary agent, and Marketing & Licensing Manager for the well-known book/gift publisher Blue Mountain Arts.

Mark Malatesta Interview with Laura Moe – Literary Agent Undercover

Author Laura Moe, in the following 73-minute interview (also available as text), discusses how she went getting only rejections to multiple requests from literary agents. In her interview below with author coach and consultant Mark Malatesta, Laura talks about her tips for authors. She also talks about her work with Mark, which resulted in her book, Breakfast with Neruda, being published in hardcover by F+W/Adams Media/Merit Press.

Mark Malatesta: Laura Moe is the author of several young adult novels including Breakfast with Neruda, recently published in hardcover by Merit Press, an imprint of Adams Media, which is now owned by F+W. And, of course, you can a copy of Laura’s book [everywhere books are sold].

Laura Moe is a retired high school teacher, writer, and artist in Washington. She holds a MFA in Creative Nonfiction, and her poetry and prose have been published in several journals and anthologies. She says that she’s possibly the worst bowler on the planet, but that’s okay because she’s a wonderful storyteller.

Breakfast with Neruda is about a teenager named Michael, who ends up doing community service after he tries to blow up his friend’s car with fireworks, the same friend who stole his girl. But being expelled and losing his best friend and girlfriend are the least of Michael’s problems. His mother is a hoarder and he’s stuck living in his car.

Booklist is calling Laura’s debut, “an endearing blend of idealism, empathy, and quirk…”

Kirkus Reviews says, “Laura uses lyrical language to introduce teenagers whose problems go beyond bullying or unrequited love. She treats Michael’s unusual home situation with realistic grace, while the relationship between the two teenagers is organic and interesting. A sensitive, thoughtful novel.”

Again, you can get a copy of Laura’s book, Breakfast with Neruda, [everywhere books are sold]. And you can learn more about Laura at

So welcome, Laura!

L.M.: Thank you very much, Mark, and I’m looking forward to our interview. One thing I do want to mention is recently I’ve transplanted to the State of Washington now. I live in Seattle now.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, everything is changing. You’re no longer teaching, you’re moving the life of a successful author living the dream.

L.M.: Writers on the run.

Mark Malatesta: Okay, let’s have some fun and let’s help some authors. I want to let the world know about you and your book and share some valuable information along the way that will help them. Most of the people listening to this on my list, you know, are aspiring authors, and they’d love to follow in your footsteps and do what you’ve done.

L.M.: Okay.

Mark Malatesta: Let’s start out…is there anything in your bio, or anything I left out that you want to talk about and share about your book? I want to spend time on that as well.

L.M.: As far as the book goes, he’s doing community service, and while he’s there he meets a girl who is also doing community service, and she’s kind of cagey about why she’s there. She discovers he lives in his car, but doesn’t know why because he’s kind of embarrassed about the truth. So, the two of them kind of keep secrets from each other throughout most of the novel. They have to kind of learn to trust each other before they slowly reveal themselves, I guess.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

PART 2 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: My background, I don’t know, and I don’t think you mentioned it, but I do have an MFA. It’s actually in creative nonfiction. But I don’t think people need a degree in order to be able to write.

Mark Malatesta: Oh good, yes, I was going to ask you about that later too.

L.M.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: A lot of people can get intimidated by that stuff, and I don’t know if I can say most but certainly…probably most of the authors that I coach and help be successful, and during my time as a literary agent, didn’t have anything like that at all.

L.M.: Right.

Mark Malatesta: Go ahead.

L.M.: I was just going to say nobody should be intimidated by that because…

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Because I don’t think James Patterson…I don’t think any of the big name writers have the letters behind their names. The key is to just write.

Mark Malatesta: A lot of times you can learn things, it doesn’t matter what kind of art it is–and I’ll restrict it to the arts–whether it’s dance or writing or music, or anything like that, you can create a lot of bad habits, and learn a lot of things that you need to unlearn later too in the system, and from teachers and things like that as well.

L.M.: Right.

Mark Malatesta: So, the balance.

L.M.: Yes, I pretty much use everything in my life in my writing. I have a background, my bachelor’s degree is in art, and I have another degree in library media, and so I have more degrees than a thermometer, but that’s my own choice.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: But many of the writers I know, many successful writers I know, they just started writing and…

Mark Malatesta: It’s funny, what led you to get the MFA in non-fiction, and then you became a novelist?

L.M.: Well, I think of it as like cross training in the genres because I also write poetry. Fiction was always my first love, but I wanted to be able to improve my writing in general. And I really, the biggest thing the MFA helped me with is how to learn how to organize my research and how to take a… Because I had to write a thesis, of course, and how to structure a manuscript, because structure is probably one of the hardest things for me as a writer.

Mark Malatesta: And that all led up to writing a query letter. I know you hate them more than most.

L.M.: I think I told you this before: I’d rather get a root canal than write a query letter.

Mark Malatesta: I think what you said before is you’d rather write another novel.

PART 3 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: I would, yes. It’s easier to write another novel. Many of my friends feel the same way because it’s, I guess it’s the difference between… Well, I always think of the really, really good writers, the writers who can write short stories, because you have to compact, everything is compact, and you have to have it really, really well-placed on the page.

With a novel you can get a little lazy with the writing, so…

Mark Malatesta: You can get lost in there.

L.M.: You can get lost in there, and you’ll be forgiven for having a few long boring passages. But you won’t in a short story. And you really won’t in a query letter.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Right. Right.

L.M.: My original query letters were very long.

Mark Malatesta: I always think of query letters… It’s like, I’ll be sexist here. It’s kind of like a guy and girl in bar. Guy approaches girl. Well, the first few things out of his mouth are like the first couple of sentences out of that query letter. If it’s not good, it’s over.

L.M.: Yes. Yes. Yes, and I think I equated sending query letters out to dating.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: It’s the same type of thing.

Mark Malatesta: So, let’s start at the end, because again, everyone listening to this is primarily focused on what they want to learn from you. So, let’s start at the very end with the goal in mind, and kind of walk everybody through where you were when you got the news that you did indeed have the book deal with the publisher, and it’s a traditional publisher, so that’s kind of big news. I know for many years, you’ve been looking forward to making that happen. So, where were you when you got the news? How did you react? What did you do to celebrate that whole deal?

L.M.: Well, it’s interesting, because it actually happened on my birthday a couple of years ago. I think I was at home, and I was at my desk, and I was actually working on writing and I thought, Well, I’ll check my email. Writers tend to easily get distracted by Facebook and emails.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: I was working on something and clicked on my email. Low and behold, there was an acceptance letter. Well, happy birthday to me! So, we did go out and celebrate:. We had two things to celebrate instead of just one.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Yes, that’s the day I…

Mark Malatesta: It’s kind of like you got cheated, you know.

L.M.: I suppose.

Mark Malatesta: That’s alright, you can…

L.M.: Maybe I did.

Mark Malatesta: It’s like having your birthday on Christmas. It’s not fair.

L.M.: That’s true, because we have a family member who has his birthday Christmas Day. We always try to make sure he’s treated specially.

PART 4 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: Right. Alright, let’s go way back in time and start at the beginning, like way before we ever met and did anything together. If you can even remember, when did you first get the idea that you might write a book, or be an author one day?

L.M.: Even when I was a teenager, I read voraciously as a kid, and I used to write all kinds of terrible stories. And in high school I wrote a three-act play, which was probably abysmal. But the fact is that I did it. Then years ago, I was in college and I had started writing. I wrote a novel and it was terrible, but the fact is I actually wrote it.

It’s funny because when I was moving from Ohio to Washington, I was going through all my boxes and boxes of old papers and manuscripts, and I found that novel that I had written. I had written it on a typewriter, I think. Or maybe, I think it was a dot matrix printer. It was at least 20 years ago, or more than 20 years ago, probably about 25 years ago.

I looked at it again and, you know, the writing itself wasn’t bad. It was probably just, it was one of those things. I don’t think I’d try to publish it now, but the fact that I wrote it proved to myself that I could write a novel. So, I just kept writing them, and I self-published a couple. They’re out there, but I still wanted to get a traditional publisher. I think there’s room for both. I know many writers who have been very successful self-publishing.

There’s a good friend of mine, she’s an editor, and her biggest client is a self-published writer. She keeps my friend busy, because she has such demand from her fan base that she has to keep cranking these things out. But even if you’re self-published, it’s important to have an editor. The biggest difference is if you’re self-published, of course, you have to pay for the editing. My publisher, they provided that service.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Had you hired editors before?

L.M.: I have, I did, yes.

Mark Malatesta: Did you see a difference between the quality between like freelancers that you’ve hired and what you got from the publisher?

L.M.: Well, yes, I had much more intense copyediting from the publisher because they actually go through… There are several stages of editing, which a lot of people don’t realize. There’s the developmental editing, the publisher went through three stages of that. There’s a basic edit, where initially they make suggestions like global editing changes.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Then there’s the developmental editing where they make suggestions where you might want to tighten that scene, or move this dialogue, or delete these lines, or whatever. But the copyediting, that’s a humbling experience because…

Mark Malatesta: You’ve been a high school teacher your whole life. How could you need copy editing, right? That’s what people think, right?

L.M.: Well, yes. Instead of line by line, it’s almost word by word. It’s very intense. It’s actually more intense than anything I did as a teacher. One of my struggles as a teacher was to try and get the kids to find their own mistakes. I didn’t want to work harder on their writing then they did.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

PART 5 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: Usually, at the beginning of the year, I would warn them. It looked like I took a knife and bled all over their pages with my red marks. It was always humbling for them, too, because they weren’t used to being copyedited. But I would gradually back off, and by the end of the year, I wanted them to find their own mistakes. I would just put notes like at the end of a page, just a question, or suggestions on tightening language, or watch for repetition so they could go back and find their own mistakes.

But initially, yes, it’s very much like being in school when you’re working with a publisher that way. And, for me, I’m a really bad typist because I don’t know how to type and I tend to… I guess I would have awkward spacing sometimes that I didn’t notice.

Another problem for me is I tend to think faster than I finger move, and I had these words, like little simple words like “the” or “and” or “a” and so on. I knew they were supposed to be there, but yes, it’s really hard to copyedit your own work. You know what you’re trying to say, so, even if you don’t hire a copyeditor, before you send any manuscript out or query letter, have someone else read it. They’re going to be able to find the ginormous mistake you made where you forgot a word in a sentence. You can pretty much guarantee if a literary agent or editor is looking at a bad query letter, they’re not going to look at your manuscript.

Mark Malatesta: Right. So, you have the benefit of the MFA degree. For you personally, everybody will be different, what are the one or two or three things that were the most valuable lessons you learned, during the MFA program that might be interesting or helpful for people listening?

L.M.: Well, the big thing is it expanded my reading list. I read tons of stuff that I would not have ordinarily read. I was introduced to many wonderful authors that I would never had…whose work I had not been familiar with. So, it helps expand and gets you out of your comfort zone for reading.

Mark Malatesta: How’s that been helpful for you? A lot of people don’t do that. Why is that so important?

L.M.: If we want to be really good writers, we have to know more than our reader. We have to know more than what we’re going to put on the page. One of the things I found, for instance, I did an article… Well, part of my thesis, for my thesis I did a lot of research on different types of foods. The connection was when we lived overseas. My thesis was a memoir. It’s not totally unpublishable. There’s only one copy of it at the school. I think I have a copy of it somewhere, but I didn’t find it for myself because I’m not even going to try. It needs too much work, and I don’t feel passionate enough about the project to actually go back through and rewrite it. But I did a lot of research. For example, I have a chapter on chocolate, and it might be maybe 15 pages, but I have a whole…For the research I did for that. I have a copy box full of articles that I had used, like books and articles, and it’s in one of those like you get the big boxes of copy paper.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: So, that’s just like one chapter that I used and that’s normal. You have to know a whole lot more than what ends up on the page. But you don’t want to make it look like you’re doing the research because there’s nothing worse than seeing somebody’s research on the page. You want to make it look seamless. It’s the same techniques. My degree is in creative nonfiction, but creative nonfiction uses the storytelling technique to tell a story. It’s nonfiction, but it doesn’t feel laborious to read.

One of the masters at that is Erik Larson. His books read like wonderful mystery novels because he always has two threads and he connects them by the end. But he gives us vivid characters like Devil in the White City. It’s hard to believe this is not a mystery novel the way he sets this up, because he did his research. But you don’t feel like he’s putting footnotes and stuff in there. You get the feeling that you’re in the moment with him, and that’s a really good technique to learn if you’re going to write fiction or nonfiction.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

PART 6 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: So, I guess the first thing is to chop meat. That, and I got out of your comfort zone. Another thing, I had an assignment and it was my first mentor in my MFA, and she had us all make a list of things that bothered us. “What’s something that bothers you?” So, we wrote five things down, and this was when we were in our workshop. Then she goes, “Those are the things you need to write about.”

It’s like, “What, why would we write about things that bother us?” But she’s right. First off, writing is finding out what you don’t know. It’s also finding out why you don’t know it. So, one of the things I had put on my list is I didn’t understand is why so many kids were getting tattoos and piercings. I don’t have a problem that are, but I don’t get it.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: She said, “You need to find out why. You need to explore this.” So I spent most of the semester working on a series of articles on tattoo artists. I even went to a tattoo convention, and a friend came with me. We were the only unmarked people there.

Mark Malatesta: Is that still the case?

L.M.: Actually, by the end of that semester I did end up getting a tattoo. I didn’t really want one, but I thought I can’t not get one now because my piece doesn’t have authenticity unless I’ve actually experienced…

Mark Malatesta: Experienced it.

L.M.: So, I have on one of my earlobes, I have a very small tattoo, on my earlobe. But that’s, I guess you would say, that was immersion journalism.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, right.

L.M.: George Orwell, he immersed himself. He wanted to know what it was like to feel homeless so he did that for… He lived in homeless shelters in London post war because he wanted to know what it felt like. Some people go to extremes.

Mark Malatesta: One way or another, whatever we’re writing, it’s going to be better that way. We have to bring authenticity to it and you’re going to have richer detail if you immersed yourself somehow, whether that’s just research and reading or experiencing it. But that’s part of why they say to write what you know, right?

L.M.: Right yes, yes. You have to have that authenticity. A lot of writers say, if you look at my browsing history, I could be arrested here. Like, right now I’ve been researching, I have a character who’s an oceanographer and I don’t know anything about that, but I’ve been doing a lot of research on that and checking books out of the library, and looking at articles online.

I have to know what drives this character. Why is this character attracted to the ocean? Plus, I’m learning a lot of frightening facts about how the world is screwed because the ocean is almost entirely plastic. Who knows? It may lead to me becoming an activist for cleaning up our water. But you just have to keep learning more in order to make an impact and have your writing fully developed. The MFA kind of forced me to do that.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Some people are going to do that on their own anyway. There are some fine writers out there who do that on their own. They have a passion. Follow your passion. If you’re not passionate about your work, and I’m not talking about romance passion, which is nice to have especially if you’re writing romances. But you have to have passion. Otherwise, I think that’s why I’m not going to return to that first novel I wrote back in the 1900’s because I don’t feel passion for that story.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Right.

PART 7 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: And I think the readers would know that.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, and it’s a good point you bring up. It’s like the beauty of putting yourself… Whether it’s in a class, or an entire MFA program, or working with a coach or editor, whatever is part of that is, you get some of that structure, you’re challenged to do things you wouldn’t do on your own no matter what. Certainly, you’re also going to see some of your gaps. You can have somebody who is super passionate and willing to do the work as a writer, but there are still certain things you just can’t see alone.

L.M.: Well, you know, and here’s the thing…I have an MFA, and I’ve had the MFA since 2000, but I still go to either a writer’s conference, or I take like a weekend workshop. I still go to classes. I can’t know everything. It’s like you need a reboot, or you need another way of looking at it. Even though I write fiction, I’ll take a poetry workshop because I think it helps me with language. It helps me with craft, and craft is important because I’m getting… I’m going to be doing a conference coming up soon where I’m going to be doing a workshop called Crimes of Syntax and How to Fix Them. Paying attention to our sentences.

A lot of us tend to get a little lazy with that, and maybe the laziness, that’s why we’re not getting a… And it’s extremely important when you’re writing a query letter, of course. Your syntax has to be spot on. So yes, craft is important. I’ll go to workshops on craft. I took an online screenwriting workshop. I don’t necessarily want to write a screenplay, but if my book is ever adapted to screen, I understand now why if I adapt it, or whatever production company hired a screenwriter, my book is going to look different on screen because there’s…

Mark Malatesta: It always makes you a better novelist.

L.M.: Right.

Mark Malatesta: To study screenwriting because it’s just more the skeleton of story, where you can meander in the novel in a way you can’t in film.

L.M.: Yes, because screenwriting is based more on visuals. A lot of people think, “Oh, a screenplay is just a bunch of dialogue.” Well no, a screenplay is a set of directions. It’s also moving forward. There’s a lot you can learn about craft by looking at other genres.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: You know, just studying film, there was a question posed to me the other night. I was at an author event and one of the questions was, “What do you do when you have writer’s block?” I said, “Well, I do something else.” If I’m blocked with writing then I’ll draw because I have that other capability.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: I know some other writers who are also musicians. And sometimes you can hit a wall. I generally don’t have writer’s block, just because I don’t force myself to write. If I have too many distractions, then I don’t force myself, and I don’t punish myself if I skip a day because I know I will go back.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

PART 8 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: Some people are so much better disciplined than I am. They get up at 5:00 in the morning and write for two hours. I can’t do that. I tend to write more sporadically. I can still put out a whole lot of words, but sometimes I need to… I always think of myself as always writing, even if I’m not sitting at my computer, or if I don’t have a pen in my hand. But I’m always thinking about writing.

My characters do things. I’ll hear a bit of dialogue, and think, “That’s something I’ll use.” I always carry a little notebook, or if I don’t have any paper I’ll have my notepad app in my phone. I’m always thinking about it, whether I’m writing or not.

Mark Malatesta: Right. And if you had to choose the one or two most valuable things that you learned about writing from the various editors you’ve worked with, and forget about the copyediting stuff, but like more the developmental side…what are a couple of the most valuable things you’ve learned there that might be helpful to people?

L.M.: One thing is to be able to let go of parts of the story. We all have favorite scenes or favorite lines, but sometimes they get in the way. One of the first conferences, and in fact, it was that first conference I went to, I had an appointment with a literary agent. He looked at an early draft and, in fact, I think it was one of the ones that you had worked with me on, Parallel Lines. He looked, and it was a really early draft of this, and it was a lot longer and his suggestion to me was get rid of… I had two main characters, the 17-year-old kid, and then the teacher character. His advice was to cut back on a lot of what I had done with the teacher’s story.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Focus on Nick, because Nick he said just leaps off the page. And he said it’s…

Mark Malatesta: And for your genre, for your genre, you have to do that.

L.M.: Yes, right. Yes, and he said, “It’s Nick’s story, that’s who you’re going to read this for, not for her. Even though she’s…” This is stuff I needed to know, but the reader didn’t need to know because I had a whole background for her. And it was great advice because I cut about 100 pages out of it, but it was a better novel.

And there are novels out there now that I read that I think, “You know, if you cut 100 pages, this would be a better novel.” But there are many successful writers that [won’t] get heavily edited now because of their name. That was good advice, to be able to let go of something. Right now I’m working on a novel that, well, it’s actually a follow up to Breakfast with Neruda. I’ve been struggling with it because I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Then an editor basically told me what I needed to work on.

This is a habit, a bad habit that I do, and I know this about myself. I always start my stories in the wrong place. I started Breakfast with Neruda in the wrong place. I started Parallel Lines in… I start them in the wrong place, but that’s why you need somebody on the outside to read it and say, “Yes, this is really good, but I think it might be better if you started it here. ” It’s like, ding, the light bulb goes off.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: So, you have to be flexible. Writers generally sense if there’s an issue. Before the publisher signed off on Breakfast with Neruda, the acquisitions editor really liked what she saw, but there were two chapters in there where she said, “If you rewrite these two chapters, I’ll consider it.”

Mark Malatesta: Right.

PART 9 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: So, I did, and later on I resubmitted and then, of course, like a few weeks later on my birthday, they said yes. She suggested it and identified which two chapters, it’s like I sensed there was a problem with it, but I couldn’t figure it out. It took a complete stranger to tell me what was wrong with it.

Mark Malatesta: It’s so huge. I’ve seen, for various reasons, fear or ego or whatever, or even some of my coaching clients like self-destruct and self-sabotage when this happens. They’re so close and they get… Like a literary agent wants to take them on, but the literary agent has some ideas, and those ideas–based on what I can see, I agree with–that it’s going to make the book better.

Sometimes people will walk away from…like that same situation you had, where it’s basically not a guarantee. But if you’re open and you try to work with it, you might actually reach the goal. Some people like you show up and make it happen. Other people are like, “Oh, I decided that literary agent’s not for me because she didn’t understand my vision.” I’m like, “Okay, I hope you get another one.”

L.M.: Well, I do have to tell you that sometimes the writer also has to know when to defend herself because I was…

Mark Malatesta: Absolutely!

L.M.: I was at a pitchfest, and if any of your clients have done a pitch fest, I call it the Circle of Hell because you’re in this room, and there are hundreds of people. It’s like people are babbling. You have these literary agents and editors in a panel, like 20 of them, and you line up and get five minutes to pitch it. So, I sat and…

Mark Malatesta: In front of everyone, right?

L.M.: Yes, you’re just like, boom-boom-boom. You get five minutes and they ring a bell and they literally will pull you up out of your seat if you don’t get up. Oh yes, it’s horrible. But this was probably four years ago, three years ago, I don’t know. It wasn’t too long before I got my offer. But I sat down with this literary agent and I told her about my novel, and she looks at me, and goes, “Well, does he have a superpower?” I was like, “No, his superpower is he survived.” She said, “Well, if you give him a superpower, I’ll take a look at it.’ I thought, “No thank you.”

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: I mean this literary agent clearly…this literary agent and I, she didn’t get my character. I don’t know. We wouldn’t have been able to work together.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, no, that’s really a good point.

L.M.: Yes, but luckily for me the publisher didn’t ask for a superpower, in fact, they thought it was funny when I said that literary agent had. They were amused by that, too. So you have to know your story well enough to know, and you have to be somewhat flexible, but not to the point where you’re going to totally… Yes, because it would make it, it would have made my book a different genre.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: It’s contemporary realistic Young Adult. It would have become a fantasy or urban, I don’t know. I don’t even know what genre the superpower ones are. I don’t write that genre. So, you have to understand your own limitations, but also be flexible to grow.

PART 10 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: Yes, and I mean it’s one of the reasons my approach is the way it is. I always want to try and help my clients get multiple literary agents interested, because then you have options, right? If people are giving you feedback, then you get to see what resonates most with you and you have more of a choice.

One of my other authors I interviewed recently, on a call like this, her situation is the best example of this I’d seen. She had two literary agents offering to represent her memoir. And it was like this woman’s journey adventure book. Well, the author, she’s a journalist and so her memoir was written in more of a journalistic style.

One of the literary agents who wanted to represent her had no issue with that whatsoever, and the other one wanted her to do a total rewrite to make it less journalistic. Well, who do you think she went with?

L.M.: Well yes, the journalist, yes.

Mark Malatesta: Right. There’s no right or wrong with it, but that’s why you do everything you can to make the book as good as you can, make the pitch as good as you can, and don’t just trickle out your queries one at a time. Because if you get that one person who’s not the perfect fit, but they’re the only one at that moment, you have a really difficult decision to make.

L.M.: Yes, yes and yes, you should, yes. You don’t want to limit yourself [and] be asked to do something that it’s probably going to make it a worse book.

Mark Malatesta: Right, and there are ways to increase your chances of not being in that awkward situation.

L.M.: Yes. Yes.

Mark Malatesta: Alright, so we’ve talked about, not directly but through some of the other things we were talking about, like you shared some tips for authors on writing. Let’s jump forward to when you made the decision, because you said you had self-published some things before, and at some point you made the decision to go traditional and try to get a traditional publisher.

So, talk that through a little about your thought process there. A lot of people are undecided and self-publishing can seem so sexy to a lot of people because you just pull the trigger, press a button, and it’s done. What made you decide to go traditional?

L.M.: The thing with self-publishing is, on the surface, it looks like you can just submit your manuscript and design a cover and you’re finished. But actually, there’s a lot more to it. The self-publishers have to be much more, they have to be more involved in their own marketing and that’s…

Mark Malatesta: Because they’re it, you are the marketing.

L.M.: Right, you’re the only one who cares about that manuscript, so you have to be doing all of your own marketing. And you’re going to have to hire an editor, and possibly if you really want to do it right you… Unless you’re an artist, you want to have a cover designer, and you also, you have to go through, and you have to be the one to contact all of the booksellers that are out there to make sure.

And a lot of the bookstores won’t carry self-published titles because most of them are non-returnable and they only keep a book on a shelf for so long. You’re doing most of the legwork and, for me, I mean, I think that’s a great option because there are a lot of people. You can sell your work cheaper, you’re the one in control, and you’re not having to divide it up between a publisher and a printer and all these other channels.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

PART 11 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: So, you can put a lower price on your work. But there’s also, you’re spending a lot more time and it is a business. Writing, the writers, we think about the writing is the art part and publishing is a business, but if you’re a writer you’re both. And personally, I would just rather concentrate on my writing. I don’t want to have to be doing my own marketing. I do some, just because even though I have a publisher and they have a publicity department I still, like locally I set up all the bookstores that I presented to. I still have to do some of that.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: But most of the interviews I’ve had, they’ve set up for me. They’ve done a lot of tweeting and Facebook and other kind of marketing. They have access to review channels that I don’t have access to.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: And many reviewers won’t review self-published material. They will only work through an established publisher. So, it just kind of depends on what you want to do. There are many, it’s so much easier though to self-publish. You have minimal amount of money involved. You could do it for free if you wanted to, but you’re not going to get as good a result. You’re better off hiring a few people, if that’s going to be your career.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, that’s a good point.

L.M.: It’s more 24/7, and for me writing occupies my time, probably, so that is my career. So, for me I just made the choice that I really wanted to be with a traditional publisher and there are some differences. I mean the chief difference is it kind of gives you street cred because strangers believe in your novel. Your friends and family are all going to tell you you’re wonderful, but this is kind of nice because I’ve got people behind me, and so it kind of makes you feel a little bit better.

And there’s a real kick when they send you a cover design and you get little surprises every day. Of course, the biggest surprise I didn’t know about was the author is the one in charge of handling permissions if you quote other material. The author pays for those permissions if the permission grantor requests it. And because well, for example, my initial draft, the one that they accepted, I had actually had a couple of complete Pablo Neruda poems, but it would have cost me, I think it was about $2,200 if I wanted to use complete poems from the Neruda Society in Spain.

Mark Malatesta: Wow!

L.M.: Yes, and I thought well, It’s called “Breakfast with Neruda,” I’ve got to use some lines. And so I ended up, we settled for, I think I paid like $180 for I think four lines.

Mark Malatesta: Per stanza.

L.M.: Yes, I had an epigraph in there, and then I have a couple of other lines quoted throughout the text.

Mark Malatesta: That’s funny.

PART 12 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: This is why it’s like now I know why when you open up a book and the epigraph is usually an old dead guy, because then you don’t have to pay for the old dead guy. But I’d have to rewrite the book if I called it Breakfast with Shakespeare. It’s like, well, I don’t want to have to rewrite the book, and so I guess I’ll pay for it. But yes, and I really have to credit the woman from the University of Texas. She was really helpful in helping me negotiate with the Neruda Society with the poems that I used from 100 Love Sonnets.

I can mention the book, and I mention the book that I quoted from, but just mentioning or using somebody’s name you don’t have to pay for that. But if you’re using material… It’s what they call “fair use” and you can use it up to a certain amount of words…

Mark Malatesta: It all depends. I always tell people it’s completely situational, and those kinds of laws are very fuzzy and gray. You better talk to a lawyer, or again it’s one of the benefits of having a publisher, or a good literary agent, you can run those things by that person and they probably know more than you do.

L.M.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: But it changes.

L.M.: And if you’re self-publishing, make sure you are getting permission.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Right. Yes.

L.M.: Because they will come after people.

Mark Malatesta: You might think, “Oh, I’m going to use this title for my book and it doesn’t matter that somebody else has used that book title,” and most of the time that’s true…

L.M.: But titles aren’t copyrighted.

Mark Malatesta: Right, but if somebody has a trademark associated with that, now you’re in big trouble.

L.M.: Oh, okay.

Mark Malatesta: Right, it changes. One of my authors, she had a book, and this went through the literary agent and the publisher. The publisher sold her on the idea of using a certain book title for her book and she did. Later she went out and she’s starting to do events that are using that same title of her book and she had to stop. She got a Cease & Desist because there’s another woman doing events using that name. So, it can get complicated, and yes, if you’re doing it on your own you better have a lawyer, that’s for sure.

L.M.: Yes. Well, it’s unfortunate, and too bad names aren’t copyrighted because there’s another Laura Moe out there who is actually a successful rock star…

Mark Malatesta: I saw her online.

L.M.: You know people think it’s like this rock star wrote a novel. I don’t know, but it would be funny if it gets made into a movie, maybe they’ll get the other Laura Moe to do the music… Who knows?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: But yes, she’s got… Go ahead.

Mark Malatesta: Go ahead.

L.M.: I was just going to say, if I wanted to get a web page I think she’s already got

PART 13 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: Right. So, let’s talk about the stuff we did together, and we’ll keep it simple. But you and I worked on a couple of different projects, a couple of queries, getting a lot of submissions out, got a lot of literary agents interested. You ended up with a good publisher.

But let’s talk about a few of those things just so people can understand. How would you describe as, almost like a before and after picture, like the query letters you had written vs what they looked like when we were done with them together.

L.M.: Oh boy, there was so much that was different. I did the same mistakes I did with my manuscripts. I had this long, drawn-out backstory before I finally got to the point of what I was querying this literary agent. It would take up to three paragraphs before the literary agent knew why I was even… So it’s like, I’m one of these people who can’t really tell a two line joke, I guess I have to do the setup.

You showed me how I didn’t need all this extraneous stuff. It’s like the literary agent, you know. Having been a literary agent, you said literary agents get hundreds of these a day, they’re not going to read it.

Mark Malatesta: Right, we can’t assume they’re going to read the whole letter, just the first couple sentences.

L.M.: Right. Yes, and I think my original query letter, I think was also more than a page. I put too much stuff in it, more stuff than what I needed. I probably made my, my initial queries were probably more like a short synopsis, which that’s a whole different ball of wax.

Mark Malatesta: Right, but that’s all, to defend you on that, that’s all the typical model, and that’s what most people do. It’s like really 80% of the query is like a synopsis of the book, and then a couple of sentences about yourself.

My model is totally different. There are a couple of reasons. One is if you talk too much about what’s happening in the book then literary agents think they understand it all, and they can request more, or reject you more times than not on the basis of that. Whereas, if you have a shorter teaser, kind of like the movie trailer style, or the flap copy style that’s very short, and then they might get a little annoyed that you didn’t tell them more, but there’s not enough there for them to reject you, and they’re more likely to ask for more.

But the other huge benefit of doing it that way is we get to do other things in the query. We get to sell you more, we get to put your book in context, and maybe do some compare/contrast with other things in the market, and display your knowledge of the market things like that. And you score points for all that stuff too. So, I like getting all that in there, having a lot of elements, but not spending as much time on that summary.

L.M.: Yes, one of the interesting things that I kind of learned from the screenwriting thing is the Five-Fingered Pitch. I thought, you know, that’s kind of really what you have to do in your query letter, is that five fingered pitch. What’s it about? What’s the genre? What’s the catch? Like writing a log line.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: And that’s kind of, working with you, I don’t think we called it a log line, but basically when I read about that in the screenwriting course, I thought, “Yes, that’s kind of what I had to learn how to do, is write a log line.” It’s to take the story up and the essence of it.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, and for some stories it’s easier to do that. I have a lady right now, and I can’t remember how old she is, and age isn’t usually relevant, but she’s a very senior lady and that’s relevant to her stuff. She’s in her 70s and she took a year and went on this adventure to the Arctic Circle and I’m like…

L.M.: Wow!

Mark Malatesta: That’s like Eat, Pray, Love meets The Bucket List.

L.M.: Yes, that’s wonderful.

PART 14 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: And that’s a log line, it’s like a really concise way of communicating what something is and everybody gets it, but it’s hard to do that with some books.

L.M.: Yes, I think with fiction it’s a little harder unless you have… Yes, for me it was harder.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: You kind of made me do all this torturous work to go through and figure out what my book was about. “What’s it about?” “Well, if you have three hours, I’ll tell you.”

Mark Malatesta: Then you get more and more concise with it.

L.M.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: What was it like for you? I don’t know, it must have been nice to get the multiple requests from literary agents. How did that feel? And the whole literary agent research process, and some of the tools I gave you with that? And the literary agent list, and some of the guidelines? Talk about that for a minute so people can get that.

L.M.: Well, it helped me narrow down before I even sent… It helped me not query every literary agent out there. So, you look at their web pages in the–what is it, the Literary Agent Marketplace–and you look at their listings. I think the important thing is it helped me figure out which literary agent, or literary agents, I could probably establish a relationship with.

The thing about the literary agent is it has to be somebody who is in your corner, and if they don’t like your work they’re not going to be… Just like writing, if you’re not passionate about the story, you’re not going to do a good job on it. If the literary agent is not passionate about your work, he or she is not going to do a good job for you either.

Mark Malatesta: And capable, they have to be capable. I’m getting more spoiled now, like, the people I work with when I started doing this, it was like, well you know how hard it is to get a literary agent, and if you get someone a literary agent you kind of feel lucky. And now I’m like, I’m raising that bar because I’ve seen some authors where they’re too sloppy in their literary agent research, and now I’m really on people about this.

They get sucked into things like a literary agent saying how passionate they are about developing authors, and they say all the right things, but then the author doesn’t pay enough attention to how long this person has been a literary agent. What have they sold? Are they really any good?

Then you put that person, that crappy literary agent in your first round of queries, and they offer to represent you, and now you’re in big trouble because you might have gotten a super literary agent. But now you have an offer from a crummy one, and do you burn that bridge and walk away and hold out, hoping you get something better. Or do you go with that person and wonder what could have been?

L.M.: Yes, I remember when I was working with you and I had one literary agent where they gave me an offer, but you were leery about it and said, “I think this literary agent is a dog,” and you used that term.

Mark Malatesta: I didn’t remember that.

PART 15 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: There wasn’t any transparency. On the website, this literary agent did not have any listings of who or what books they represented.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: There was no information. You said “You know what? I think this is a dog.”

Mark Malatesta: And that’s bad no matter what, because either they haven’t sold anything, or maybe they have, but they’re not smart enough to put that on their website.

L.M.: Right.

Mark Malatesta: That’s not very good, either.

L.M.: No, it’s not very good. So, I guess I did a little bit more digging around and found out, yes this literary agent there was some bad… There is a website out there where people voice, it’s almost like Yelp for literary agents, but I forget the name.

Mark Malatesta: Yes right, right.

L.M.: But it’s like, okay, yes, I started reading some of these people who said yes, this literary agent signed me on, and 6, 7, 12 months have gone by, and I’ve not heard a thing and she won’t return my calls. It’s like, okay I’m not going to go with her then. I don’t think I would have had the insight had I not worked with you on that. You were really good about helping me identify who is credible and how to look for transparency.

Mark Malatesta: Right, and whether somebody is a member of the [Agent Assocation] or not, that’s helpful, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

L.M.: What do other literary agents think of these literary agents? Paying attention to how other literary agents react to a literary agent at a conference when a person is speaking. Because they all have relationships with each other, especially in New York.

Mark Malatesta: Right. So, remind me, because I don’t remember this and it’s been a while. What did you try before you worked with me in the coaching stuff? Did you send out queries before? I think you did, right?

L.M.: I did, and a lot of times they were never answered.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: I think probably because they were too long, or I got the standard rejections. I have to say, even when I was getting rejections after working with you my rejections were great!

Mark Malatesta: I keep hearing that.

L.M.: They were!

Mark Malatesta: I never expected to hear that, but it’s like, “Even if I get a rejection they seem to be faster and more thoughtful and nicer.”

L.M.: Yes, I figured out, there are different levels of rejection. The worst is when you never hear from them, but then there’s also the standard rejection. Then you get rejections where you know at least they read your letter. After I worked with you, most of the letters I sent out, and you’re still going to have a percentage that they get lost in someone’s spam folder or the literary agent…

Mark Malatesta: Or they don’t respond at all.

L.M.: I found a lot of those that I never got responses on were those literary agents who left agenting.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Right.

PART 16 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: So, they come and go. But the ones that did respond, most of them wanted a chapter, or 30 pages, or complete manuscripts. So, I had reached the gold level of rejection.

Mark Malatesta: I have to write an article about that, that’s great. The different levels of rejection letters, that’s funny.

L.M.: Yes, I think I have blog post on that, the elevated levels of rejection. So, you get more attention that way when you look like you know what you’re talking about. It’s the same thing as you show up to a job interview and you’re wearing like a work shirt and jeans with holes in them, which is probably what I’ve been doing with my other ones. But now I’m showing up in a well-tailored suit and they’re going to give me at least a second or third interview.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Oh yes, we’re not going to hire that skank.

Mark Malatesta: Is that all in your article?

L.M.: I don’t know.

Mark Malatesta: Okay.

L.M.: I don’t think that part of it is.

Mark Malatesta: Alright, let’s see, what have we not talked about yet? Let me ask you this, I’m just curious. I get some interesting answers from people on this, so it’s a very open-ended question.

What are the one or two things you’re most proud of as an author at this point?

L.M.: Well, I guess, it’s really cool to see your name out there. And I really enjoy it when a kid, someone who has read my book or maybe not read my book, but looked at my blog posts and comes up and says, “You know, I really appreciate what you said to me about writing.” The other night I was at an author event and I got a nice tweet from a young lady who was there, and she said she like took to heart a lot of the stuff the other authors and I said. She was really appreciative of that.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: To me it’s like fostering new writers. I guess you’d say that’s sort of my platform, which is another thing I had no idea of was, was platforms.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: And so, encouraging young writers, I guess I’m really proud of being able to be in a position to do that. Not only because I have a teaching background, but I have writing knowledge I can share.

Mark Malatesta: So that’s fun and unexpected. Most people would think, oh, they’re getting paid, or people just loving reading my stuff, but a nice, unexpected layer there.

L.M.: Oh yes, I guess, I guess, I will get paid for this eventually.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: I don’t know.

PART 17 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: Have you heard anything yet about… Because one of the other benefits of working with a traditional publisher is potentially something happening with foreign rights, or editions, or translations, or movie rights, or anything like that. Has anything like that started happening yet? I know it’s probably still early.

L.M.: Well, Merit is a fairly small publisher, so I still retain the film rights.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, you did, okay.

L.M.: Yes, because they’re small, and they don’t have a foreign rights. I’m actually in a position where I probably should get a film agent.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Because like you said, some writers have more than one literary agent.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, and I’ll follow up with you about that.

L.M.: Yes, because there are some literary agents who don’t do any of that stuff.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: So, I’m probably better off doing it that way because…

Mark Malatesta: A lot of literary agents and publishers will pair up with what they call a sub-agent or co-agent that handles that because they don’t.

L.M.: Right. Yes, and I noticed within some agencies they have like some literary agents who only handle this, and some literary agents only do that.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Right.

L.M.: It’s kind of an interesting business.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: There are a lot of layers to publishing.

Mark Malatesta: Let me ask you this, the whole idea of investing in yourself, a lot of authors don’t do that. They don’t understand that. There’s a whole range, a spectrum, because if you simply buy a book on craft or something like that, that’s investing in yourself as an author. Then there are classes, there are workshops, there are conferences where like you with the MFA there was work hiring editors and working with a coach or consultant like me.

What got you to the point where you decided that was a good idea? I don’t just mean with me, but in general, why do you think it’s beneficial or necessary for authors to invest in themselves that way? Instead of just being like the idea of, oh, well I’m just creative and a good writer, and if I just do that it will happen.

L.M.: Because you only get better when you invest in yourself. You could be okay or good enough on your own. But do you just want to be good enough or do you want to be the best you can be?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: So that’s a question you have to ask yourself, How can I be better? Yes, I’m good now, but I’m not the best. I mean you can be the best you can be. But every workshop, even though I have taken a lot of them, I always learn something at every workshop I go to or every conference or every course that I’ve taken. I learn something that I can take away and make myself a better writer and it plants a seed.

Mark Malatesta: It might just be one or two things that come out of that whole hour or three hours, but those things can be transformative.

PART 18 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

L.M.: Yes, then you can go back and inject that into your work and it’s like, okay. Yes, I guess I’ve always enjoyed being a student, so I think that it’s important to be able to do that. And working with somebody like you, it’s a whole side of the business that I had no idea about. And I feel better informed. I think it helped give me more confidence approaching literary agents and editors at conferences because I understood their job better.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: And not to waste their time.

Mark Malatesta: One more thing, I call it my skepticism question… I don’t remember what it was for you and we may have talked about it or maybe not. You know what it’s like out there on the Internet and online, and even in person. A lot of people make big promises but don’t do what they say they’re going to do, or they’re no good at what they do.

Did you have any reservations or concerns before you signed up to work with me? And be brutally honest here because this is not a question I used to ask people, but now I do, because I had someone volunteer this once. It annoyed me at first when they told me these things but then I realized they got over themselves, and they worked with me anyway. That’s normal and other people can relate to that.

So if you have any of that, talk that through like what you were thinking or feeling and what made you get over the hump to work with me in the end.

L.M.: I don’t remember why I or how. I might have gotten an email from you, or from your friend, and I forget what his name is, your mystery writer friend. I don’t know.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, Jim Brown.

L.M.: Jim Brown, yes!

Mark Malatesta: Oh, okay.

L.M.: I think he had, was it a clip of him talking about working with you…

Mark Malatesta: Okay.

L.M.: And then you had like a free, like an hour long session or something.

Mark Malatesta: The audio recording?

L.M.: The audio recording, and I listened to that and I thought, well, maybe. Then you and I had a phone conversation, this is before I even signed on, and I think what it was is that given your experience, your background, and I felt like you just seemed trustworthy. I kind of went with my gut on this.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: But there was something trustworthy about you and we kind of shared a connection. It’s like you have a chemistry with somebody and that’s kind of…

Mark Malatesta: Or not.

L.M.: I felt like we had… Yes, and I think the same thing applies when you’re finding a literary agent. You have to have chemistry with that person.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: Otherwise, it’s not going to work.

Mark Malatesta: Yes.

L.M.: It’s friendship. It’s a relationship. So, I think because we had some chemistry, I thought Yes, I can work with this person.

PART 19 – Laure Moe Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: It’s weird, I’ve had a few people, because I do, and I don’t remember how we talked before we started working together, because the only thing I do, unless there’s some freak thing, I just do like the paid introductory coaching call for an hour thing. I don’t remember if that’s what it was or we had a…

L.M.: It might have been, yes. Yes, it was just a short, it wasn’t real expensive.

Mark Malatesta: Okay, yes but I’ve had situations where, and I honor this too, it’s like my business is doing good, but I’ve had a few people that I’ve done over the years those introductory coaching calls with, and the person wanted to do more with me, but I didn’t want to do more with them. It wasn’t right. Like the chemistry wasn’t there that way, and so I look for that too.

I mean I want to work with people that I believe are talented, but also they have to be really coachable, they have to be willing to do the work, they have to be someone who is not going to be like a drama queen and it has to be kind of fun. I mean, I know that’s a lot of requirements but I mean, that’s what I try to bring to the table.

L.M.: Well, you can’t help somebody who’s not going to take, who’s not going to take any of your advice.

Mark Malatesta: No.

L.M.: I’ve had students before who they didn’t do the work and it’s like, well I can’t help you unless you do some of the work. I’m not going to write your essay for you. I’m not going to write your story for you. You have to meet me halfway.

Mark Malatesta: And then there are ones who might be willing to do the work, but they make it so hard. It’s like you had to, you probably had these students right? Like you can get them there but you have to use 10 times the amount of energy to move them an inch, right?

L.M.: Yes, yes, you dom and you have to use… In a way it was probably good, somewhat good for me to figure this out, but it’s like I had to use psychology strategies to be able to help these people.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

L.M.: But yes, it was sometimes pulling teeth to get somebody to finally understand what I was talking about.

Mark Malatesta: Right, and you have to when you’re a high school teacher because you don’t get to pick your students, but I can be a little pickier.

L.M.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: To some extent, right?

L.M.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: Alright let’s see, do you have any final thoughts or advice or ideas for everyone listening, parting thoughts?

L.M.: Well, I guess, the biggest advice is to just keep writing. Yes, you’re going to hear how hard it is, but rejection is part of the process. And you have to learn how to not take it personally when you get a rejection. It’s really hard, and I think poets probably feel it maybe even more so because poetry, the nature of poetry is so much more personal. But you just have to…

Mark Malatesta: Yes, it’s so subjective, right?

L.M.: Yes! And you have to tell people, you know, you have to get elephant hide every time. Expect rejection. That’s what you have to do. Then when you do get an acceptance it’s like, oh, it’s a nice little bonus, but expect rejection.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Well, thank you a million for taking time out to do this and showing up with the intention, and good advice, to actually help everyone listening. That’s very much appreciated.

L.M.: I enjoyed talking to you Mark.

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. We’ll reconnect after this call because I want to talk to you about your film stuff and international rights and all that.

L.M.: Okay.

Laura Moe, author of Breakfast with Neruda (F+W/Adams Media/Merit Press), provided this interview and review of Mark Malatesta. Laura worked with the former literary agent turned author coach and consultant, which led to Laura’s book being published in hardcover.

Former Literary Agent Mark Malatesta, Literary Agent Undercover

Mark Malatesta is the creator and curator of the popular How to Get a Literary Agent Guide at, as well as The Directory of Literary Agents. He is the host of Ask a Literary Agent, and he is the founder of The Bestselling Author and Literary Agent Undercover.

Mark has helped hundreds of authors get book deals with traditional publishers such as Random House, Harper Collins, and Thomas Nelson. His writers have been on the New York Times bestseller list, had their books optioned for TV and feature film, won countless awards, and had their work licensed in more than 40 countries.

Writers of all Book Genres have used Mark’s Literary Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get Top Literary Agents at the Best Literary Agencies on his popular List of Book Agents. Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta.

About Mark Malatesta

Head shot of former literary agent Mark Malatesta, founder of Literary Agent Undercover MARK MALATESTA is a former literary agent turned author coach. Mark now helps authors of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children's books) get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals through his company Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author. Mark's authors have gotten six-figure book deals, been on the NYT bestseller list, and published with houses such as Random House, Scholastic, and Thomas Nelson. Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta and click here for Reviews of Mark Malatesta.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

News and updates to get a top literary agent, publisher, and book deal.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Question or Comment?