Mark Malatesta Reviews – Former Literary Agent
This Mark Malatesta review was supplied by Soo Peer, author of The Essential Diversity Mindset: How to Cultivate a More Inclusive Culture and Environment (Red Wheel/Weiser). Mark worked with Soo as as author coach to improve her author platform, manuscript, book proposal, and query letter.
The review of Mark Malatesta below is followed by an interview in which Soo shares her best advice for authors. Soo was offered representation by literary agent Jeff Herman, who’s made nearly one thousand book deals, including many bestsellers. In addition to talking about the best way to write, publish, and promote a book, Soo talks below about what working with Mark in author coaching is like.
Author Coach Mark Malatesta Review – Soo Peer
Jeff Herman offered me representation, and I signed a contract with Red Wheel/Weiser this afternoon! My husband and I just got back from celebrating in Mexico. The timing of the offer was perfect, the weirdest thing. We were leaving for Mexico one day after I got the agent contract. Before we left, I spoke with my agent and signed the papers.
I was on my way to Pilates when I parked my car and saw the email on my phone, saying he wanted to set up a call. It was an out of body experience. I was like, “This can’t be happening.” It was exciting but hard to believe. When I got home, I looked at the email again and asked my husband, “Does this mean he wants to represent me? I have no clue.” I was cautious and felt like the agent must have made a mistake since I’d gotten a lot of rejections. I tried to contain my excitement because I didn’t want to be disappointed.
Other agents had asked to read my proposal, but they kept saying I didn’t have a big enough platform or that my book didn’t fit what they were looking for. Some agents wanted me to make the book more of a business book, while others wanted me to make it more of a memoir. One of my friends wanted me to change the book as well. But, you said, “Just keep going. We’ll probably find someone who will like it just the way it is.” I was ready to rewrite the book or quit, but you kept me going.
Pt 2 – Soo Peer – Mark Malatesta Reviews
Jeff saw the value of my book the way it was meant to be. I really appreciated that. He also said the proposal was well done, very professional. He really liked it. He realized how much hard work went into it and didn’t see much that needed to change. Another thing he loved was the way the manuscript was presented, the introduction you helped me revise. You switched the sequence of things around and you took a line from the middle of the content and made it the new opening line.
I had a query letter before I met you, but it was nothing like yours. The old query wasn’t as captivating or attention-grabbing. Yours really told agents what they needed to hear, which I would not have known how to do. You said everything about me and my book in a much more powerful way. I also didn’t have a platform when we met, but you helped me with that, too. At first, I thought, “That’s impossible,” but it was fascinating seeing it come together.
I’ve been really impressed by your strategic process, your ability to see the big picture, and the way you execute everything. You also have a human side, you really care. You go out of your way, far beyond what you need to do for your clients, and you’re prompt. I know how busy you are, but you’re always there. We only had a one-year contract, but you didn’t care about that. Your commitment, professionalism, and responsiveness are things I’ve rarely experienced in my thirty years in the corporate world.
Pt 3 – Soo Peer – Mark Malatesta Reviews
I don’t remember how I found you. I think it was LinkedIn. The testimonials on your website sounded too good to be true, but something pulled me toward you. I thought, “You know what? One coaching session isn’t going to break my bank.” It wasn’t a lot of money considering how much material you reviewed. I remember saying to my husband, “He’s asking for all this information for only a one-hour session, and it’s [not that much]. That’s amazing.” It made me feel like you were really devoted.
After our first coaching call, I was sold on you, but I was also concerned because signing up for your bigger coaching program wasn’t cheap. It was a significant investment, and, even though I had a great call with you, I didn’t know if I could trust you. You just never know. So, there was a lot of worry. I thought, “Oh, my goodness. I don’t know this person. I could lose all that money and make nothing.”
But then I reached out to one of the authors who gave you a testimonial – I forget her name now – and she said, “You need to invest in yourself. He’s the best.” That really helped, but I was still afraid to mention it to my husband. So, I talked to our son instead. I said, “Do you think this is going to be worthwhile?” He said, “Yes, you deserve it.” I was turning 65, so I then told my husband YOU were going to be my birthday gift!
Pt 4 – Soo Peer – Mark Malatesta Reviews
I had wanted to share my message with the world for a long time, but I don’t know how I would have done it without your help or the list of agents you gave me. You made it easy to see their interests and all the information about them I needed. That list is fabulous. I used to do searches on the Internet, and I used to visit sites like Publishers Marketplace and QueryTracker, but they didn’t make it easy for me to see everything I needed.
Another good thing is you give your clients realistic expectations. You don’t just say, “Oh, you’re going to make it, no problem.” You really prepare people for it to be tough. You make sure authors know getting an agent is hard work, it might take a long time, and, that a lot of times, authors won’t get agents. By doing that, you increase the probability of your clients getting agents by pushing harder than planned.
Without you, there’s no way I would have gotten representation. Not even close. When I started, I was wondering if I was just an amateur who needed to forget my belief that my story might be shared in our divisive world. I’m so grateful you held my hand. It’s been an amazing process, and it’s been an honor getting to know you. I’m looking forward to staying in touch as we go forward.
Thank you and thank you!!
SOO PEER is the author of The Essential Diversity Mindset: How to Cultivate a More Inclusive Culture and Environment (Red Wheel/Weiser), foreword by Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and senior member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board
Soo Peer Interview with Former Literary Agent Mark Malatesta
During this 59-minute interview with Mark Malatesta, nonfiction author Soo Peer talks about how she got her book, The Essential Diversity Mindset, published by Red Wheel/Weiser. In this interview (available as audio and text), Soo also explains what other authors can do to improve their chances of getting a literary agent and publisher.
S O O . P E E R
Mark Malatesta: Soo Bong Peer is a writer and consultant with a keen interest in diversity and race relations. Having experienced firsthand the wide polarities in cultures, people, social statuses, and political regimes, Soo has always pondered the question, “Why does our perception of differences outweigh our perception of similarities?”
The most important lesson Soo learned through her journey of living in the diverse cultures of South Korea, Mexico, England, Japan, and the United States is that it is through our humanity that we connect. No matter how different people might look or speak, we all have the same basic human needs and desires―regardless of culture, race, or socioeconomic class. Seeing and connecting beyond external differences is the foundation for building a world of pervasive diversity.
Soo earned an MBA from Darden School of Business, University of Virginia; a master’s degree in biochemistry from Boston University Medical Center; and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from College of Notre Dame of Maryland. In addition, she has a Leadership Coaching Certification from Georgetown University and is International Coach Federation certified.
Companies Soo has been affiliated with as an employee, strategy consultant, or executive coach include GlobalOne (Alliance of Sprint, Deutsche Telecom, and France Telecom); Mars; ExxonMobil; IBM; CNN/Turner; MetLife HealthCare; and Ogilvy & Mather.
Married for thirty-seven years with two grown children, Soo and her husband live in Park City, Utah. She is the author of The Essential Diversity Mindset, a nonfiction book that reveals how to cultivate a more inclusive culture and environment. The Essential Diversity Mindset is published by Career Press, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, and it includes a foreword by Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and senior member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
In our divided climate with heightened concerns and emotions over inclusion, racism, and activism, The Essential Diversity Mindset offers a transformative approach to diversity―as a mindset, not as a formula. Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (not enforcements, compliances, or statistics) drive diversity outcomes.
Marshall Goldsmith, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Triggers, Mojo, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There says: “The Essential Diversity Mindset is an incredible guide to understanding racism, unconscious bias, and other toxic mindsets that pervade our society, and teaches us how we can create businesses that celebrate diversity, connection, openness and inclusion. With engaging storytelling and actionable practices to implement in your business, Soo’s new book is the one that needed to be written for our society.”
Dennis Kennedy, Founder and Chair, National Diversity Council, says, “The Essential Diversity Mindset delves into the psychology of diversity and inclusion as a transformative approach to human connection and the dismantling of systemic biases. This book resonated with my drive to increase equitable best-practices in workplaces and communities, which spearheaded the launch of the National Diversity Council. I highly recommend this book that will change your perspective on race, ethnicity, and diversity beyond America’s mental constructs.”
Soo and I worked together to help her get an offer for representation from literary agent Jeff Herman, who’s made nearly one-thousand book deals, including many bestsellers.
To learn more about Soo, visit soopeerassociates.com.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 2
S.P.: Thank you, Mark, for your wonderful introduction of me as well as my book. We really appreciate it and I’m excited to be here.
Mark Malatesta: Thank you. My absolute pleasure. You always bring the good energy and so I’m really looking forward to this. I’ll just add for everyone listening, you and I were chatting before we came live here. You’re getting even more reviews and all kinds of speaking, articles, podcasts, and all kinds of things. I’m glad you’re out there doing the promotion. We’ll talk more about that later in the call. I’m excited it’s all happening.
Mark Malatesta: Let’s dive right in. Now, I know I told people a little bit or quite a bit about what the book is and further illustrated that through those couple reviews I shared. But why don’t you take a few minutes and tell everybody more about it, what the book covers and how it can have a positive impact on people. And if you want to, weave in a little bit of your story which is equally interesting and a part of the book. It’s not just a how-to book, but [it’s about] your experiences and story. I’m sure people would love to hear a little bit about both.
S.P.: Sure. Yes, I’ll add a little more to what you already talked about and thank you. So, the overarching theme of my book is that diversity is a mindset and not a formula. Based on my various experiences that included growing up in different parts of the world, working globally in business with some of the fortune 500 corporations, and negotiating diversity as an Asian minority in America for the past 50 years.
My book reflects my view of looking at diversity with a different lens. I see diversity as an amalgam of human dynamics and human psychology. Our emotions and behaviors could use diversity outcomes not the matrix. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my journey is that human connections are the driving force for building healthy diversity where all our differences can come together in a harmonious way.
Throughout the book, personal and human stories across time, place, and culture portray what connects and divides us. My book shows that regardless of who we are on this planet, we are far more similar than different and that we share and connect through our common human essence. I learned that when we embrace our similarities, we open the human space with connection and when we focus on our differences, we create division.
The countless people I encountered through my journey told me this and I’m very grateful to all of them. My book also explores in depth the reasons why America’s racial divide is widening. For decades, America has invested so much time, money, and effort to advance diversity and inclusion. We all should ask, “Why are we still so divided?” This is the first book to suggest that America’s pervasive racial labeling and grouping is a key systemic bias that has contributed to our divide.
Six years of America’s well-intentioned race-based diversity framework has conditioned us to see others primarily based on race or skin color. I talk a lot in my book about the many downsides of labeling including erecting artificial barriers that prevent people from coming together and feeling connected with each other. My book also speaks about the need for bold leadership and how each of us can make the personal shift to create a more connecting and inclusive space where we can all live and work.
We are all navigating our challenging diversity climate today. My hope is that my book provides readers with an opportunity to take a pause and reflect on, and extend empathy for, the human complexities and circumstances that underlie our racial tension. I hope that sums up my book and the potential readers will be interested in getting a copy.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 3
Mark Malatesta: What’s so interesting about you to me is that you’ve worked in so many different types of places with different cultures and even big business and things like that. So, you’ve seen so many nuances that other people who are maybe experts in this area just aren’t seeing as much. I really like that.
S.P.: Yes, it’s really human dynamics and how we feel about it that drives the diversity climate. Through my career and through my living here as a minority as well, I saw so much resentment and unvoiced anger. It’s just being percolated under for years and it’s just coming out more and more today, I believe.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, we can have that debate. It sure seems to me like in some ways, the world is moving forward in some of these areas, but then it just takes…something happens in history or in politics to remind us that, no, there are still deep issues. But they are just under the surface and, once in a while, they pop their ugly heads out.
S.P.: America is changing. It’s becoming so multiracial, and you can use the same system or mandate in changing times. So, I think that’s another huge issue.
Mark Malatesta: Thinking of your personal story that you get into somewhat in your book, I mean, your journey, and you have different anecdotes and things like that… What are some of the most interesting things you share about your own personal journey that somebody might want to read about in there?
S.P.: I was exposed to very diverse, I mean, diversity in everything–people, cultures, time, and mindsets–and two most contrasting things that really gave me a lifelong lens has been that when I left for Korea in 1967. The country was extremely homogenous, and it was also very poor. However, even in a homogenous country there are many biases and prejudices. So, it’s not about racial grouping or different races. Then my parents moved to Mexico City. That’s why we left Korea. When I got to Mexico, of course it was completely a different world: language-wise, culture-wise, and people-wise.
But I went to America in high school for four years there and that was a real melting pot. At that time, the school was the only English-speaking school. We had students from all over the world. We had all kinds of different languages, cultures, mindsets, and races. There, being different was the norm with a pervading acceptance. We really didn’t see each other, the differences about each other. The only thing that distinguished us was our names.
Then, I came to America for college after four years. When my parents moved to London, I shuttled between London and Baltimore for four years. The first thing I felt was how pervasively people were labeled based on race and skin color. I thought, How can they separate people just based on our worth of superficial element? That was also the first time I felt my skin color.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.P.: Through the years in America, regardless of what I did or how I felt about myself, I was labeled as so many things like Asian immigrant, South Korean American minority, Asian-American minority, etc. None of these labels defined me just like everyone else on this planet are far more than my labels, and I realized these labels made me feel constricted, alienated, and not belonged. Through the years, many minorities have encountered and felt the same sentiment. Also, it gave me an insight into about labeling.
Labeling is not just about how we see others. It’s about how we see ourselves. If we define ourselves with a label, we really limit our lives. We live in a small way and when we actually define ourselves as an individual beyond a label, we expand our possibilities. We expand our lives. So, I think the biggest insight and lesson I learned through my journey is that how we see others and ourselves can create immensely different human space.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 4
Mark Malatesta: Right. I love…you didn’t say it this way…but the self-help thread of kind of that. It’s going to be easier to get people to pay attention so they can realize some of the labels they have put on themselves or that other people have put on them are limiting them and as a gateway to kind of expanding their awareness for the labels they are putting on others, right?
S.P.: You’re absolutely right. Self-empowerment, building a sense of self-empowerment is very important for anybody to live in this atmosphere of defining people based on a small one characteristic of human that we have to spread ourselves, expand ourselves beyond what we think we are. I think labeling limits so much about personal growth and expansion.
Mark Malatesta: Right. It’s funny. I think a lot of labels in publishing too, right, as far as genres go and things like that. That can be helpful at times and that could be difficult at times. So, not everything fits into a box.
S.P.: Right, and one more thing about labeling: It’s not just about race. We label everything, everybody. People have to just really realize, that’s not me. I’m bigger than that.
Mark Malatesta: Right. I like that. Let’s shift into, we’ll kind of start at the end and then go back to the beginning, meaning, let’s talk a little bit about kind of how you got the news. You can tell your story however you want to. But like the piece where you started getting maybe serious interest from a literary agent and how that kind of blossomed into the book deal and if you’ve done anything to celebrate since then.
Some people, it’s anticlimactic. By the time they get there, they are exhausted and just like relieved to be at the end. But relive that a little bit for a couple of minutes because that’s what everybody’s visualization here is…listening to something like this. They want to be you in that sense. Then we’ll go back and talk about your advice for writers and kind of how you got where you are.
S.P.: Sure. I was very naive thinking about writing a book and being published. I didn’t know anything about the publishing world. I didn’t even know I needed to get a literary agent to get to publisher. I thought with an interesting and relevant content, I would get a publisher easily.
Mark Malatesta: You just call Random House and tell them about it.
S.P.: Yes, I have great content. So, thinking back for the first two years, I worked on my manuscript. I was getting really excited. This is going to really resonate with people. I got a couple editors here and there to help with my writing since English is my second language. Then, I learned that I needed to get a literary agent if I wanted to take the traditional publishing route. While talking to people, I got some information here and there.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 5
S.P.: So, I searched the internet for nonfiction literary agents. I spent a lot of time researching the names of literaryagents in my genre which is nonfiction and researching them. I sent out cold emails after emails. I only got some interest but no signing of a contract. After three years of hard attempts, I was getting so discouraged. I was ready to quit. Then I thought, Gosh, I put all this time and effort into devoting my book, I should not give up. That’s when I found you, Mark, on the Internet.
I did not know anything about you. However, after one introductory consulting call with you, I just knew I could trust you. So, working with you truly gave me a strategic and thorough roadmap. In hindsight, it was also another beginning of hard work, but this time, it was a productive one.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.P.: After about a year working with you and after many cold emails that I sent out to the literary agents using your list that you provided, I finally landed on one literary agent. It was unreal, but then in a few months, it turned out that he had a cancer. You could imagine. After all that work.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.P.: However, luckily, there was another literary agent who was interested in my manuscript after I signed on with my first literary agent. I thought, Maybe he might still be interested. So, I sent an email to him to see whether he would still take me. Believe it or not, he was still interested. That person was Jeff Herman. He became my literary agent, and he found a publisher for my book in a short time.
Mark Malatesta: Remind me, the first literary agent, had that literary agent send anything out to publishers already?
Mark Malatesta: That’s what I thought.
S.P.: He was starting to send out to big-name publishers, but it only lasted, at the most, a couple of months and we did not get any.
Mark Malatesta: Right. That’s why I want to bring that up. It’s always a bit of a miracle to me when somebody gets aliterary agent. It’s just so hard. You know. Yes, as of today, I have helped [hundreds of] people make it, but I don’t take any of it for granted because there are plenty who don’t make it, right? But you’re a miracle of miracles because I told you, “Listen, you’ve already had a literary agent and that literary agent has shopped the book. It’s virtually impossible to get another literary agent to take it on when they know another literary agent has already tried to sell it and wasn’t able to. That’s about the hardest thing there is.”
But fortunately, you know…
S.P.: You have a good memory. I remember our conversation and I thought, Yeah, who is going to take me on?
Mark Malatesta: Right, damaged goods.
S.P.: One more thing about getting a publisher. Of course, it was like a dream but, also, I realized very shortly after, it takes a lot of work. It’s not the end of the road. Getting a publisher just gave me another journey that required a lot of challenges and work.
Mark Malatesta: You mean the promotion and all that?
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 6
S.P.: Yes. The biggest challenge right away was my publisher wanted me to help with getting endorsements before the book went into printing. You can imagine. I don’t know that many people. I just started sending out cold emails after emails and I got very lucky to get five endorsements. I don’t know any of these people. They were interested including Marshall Goldsmith and Dennis Kennedy. I was also very lucky to get a foreword from Clarence Page. So, it was just a lot of work and just still going out cold not knowing anybody, that was tough but I persevered.
Mark Malatesta: I’m glad you shared that because I want people to be heartened. It’s like, yes, anybody can do that. Not that it’s easy. It’s hard. Most people you contact are going to ignore you or say no, but here you are. You’re contacting people completely cold and getting responses, but I had you do some of that before you even went out to literary agents.
S.P.: Yes, for the book proposal. I was going to talk about that later, but I will talk about that now. You helped me with my book proposal so much. One of the brilliant ideas you came up with to attract literary agents was to get testimonials from corporate leaders. I thought, How can I do that? So, I just sent out emails after emails to these corporate leaders. It’s easy to get their names on LinkedIn but it’s not easy to get their emails.
You also helped me to revise the content of the letter, thanking them for their work. It was brilliant what you did. I was able to get, I think, at least 12, 13 testimonials including Arianna Huffington who suggested I write articles for her Thrive Global. That was really worth it.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, and all those things helped with the literary agents because, people listening, I don’t know if they know this, but nonfiction authors in particular, especially if you have prescriptive nonfiction like yours… It’s not a memoir. It’s more prescriptive than anything else, well, then half the literary agent and publisher consideration is who you are. Not just as a credible expert but as someone who seems like she has a lot of connections and clout and the ability to get that book in front of a lot of eyeballs to help sell books. You’re a safer investment that way.
S.P.: Yes. That was your brilliant idea.
Mark Malatesta: The idea is easy. You’re the one who did all the work, but thank you.
S.P.: I also learned literary agents get, you know that better right, how many emails they get a week or something like that.
Mark Malatesta: The most successful ones, they get about 10,000-15,000 submissions a year, so it’s a little daunting. I tell people, don’t think about the numbers. You’ll get depressed and quit. Just keep doing everything you can to give yourself the best chance. That’s the best way to go about it. Because you can see if you do that, you might actually get through. Have you done anything to celebrate? Fine if you haven’t. Some people do. Some people don’t.
S.P.: Of course. My husband and I had a nice cocktail, nice wine to celebrate but quickly, my publisher put me to work for the endorsements and so that created more stress.
Mark Malatesta: But that’s the best kind of stress to have. We’re always going to have stress. We might as well have success to go with it, right?
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 7
S.P.: Right. That took a while. Then, they also wanted me to think about getting a publicist. With my limited budget, I had a publicist, I think, about 2.5 months and she was worth it. She brought in over 7-8 podcasts, and she also placed my different articles in various publications. I’ll talk about that. Article writing is really time consuming, but my publisher wanted me to keep writing articles to be in front of my audience.
Since I got my publisher, it has been work, work, work, and then my publisher’s marketing department was really helpful in getting some speaking engagements for me. I just did a big virtual engagement, virtual talk, to NIH, and there were over 300 people. So, I was really nervous. I practiced and practiced the presentation for at least a couple of months and then they also were helpful to coordinate my talk at SunTrust. Now, it’s still true with the merger with another bank and then I have two more speaking engagement coming up in September.
So, it’s been work, nonstop working. Promoting, promoting the book just nonstop. You were very helpful with revising my website. That has been very helpful and social media, increasing social media presence is really critical. For me, I focused on LinkedIn. Even though I have a small presence on Facebook and Twitter. I rarely use it because I know the primary target audience for my book is more businesspeople.
So, I focused on LinkedIn. I usually go where I started my book idea. A friend of mine told me you need to increase your social media presence. At that time, I only had about 250 contacts on LinkedIn. I’ve worked on it and worked on it. Today, I have over 3,000 and it’s a lot of work. So, we celebrated for a few hours and then it’s been nonstop work for the book.
Mark Malatesta: And I like what you were telling me before we came on here to do this. You told me you were getting some good book sales from businesses and things like that too, which is always nice. You can get something like that through the publisher. That’s not you kind of going and trying to do door-to-door.
S.P.: Right, and with the speaking engagements, they buy books in exchange for my speaking.
Mark Malatesta: Right. When did you first get the idea that you might actually write a book? I’m especially impressed with people when English is their second language, or they speak more than one language. My wife gets mad at me sometimes because she is originally from Sweden, and I correct her English sometimes. I’m like, “Listen, you speak two languages. I only speak one.” I’m just so impressed that you’re able to do it because I know that’s not easy. When did you think you would write a book?
S.P.: I never thought about being an author because my 30 years of corporate business work around the world, really. I enjoyed it but through my career, through living in America, I’ve been witnessing our divide getting wide or getting worse. I was concerned about not only our generation. There are children. I think the reason I wanted to share my thoughts was because I do not agree with the way the diversity framework has been instituted for the past 60 years. I think we needed it in the 1960s when minority population was just a small amount and there are blatant prejudices and discriminations.
Life has changed but our system has not changed. So, I look at diversity from a very different angle. The reason I wanted to write was to share that diversity can be looked at a different light and to share for people to take a pause and to reflect on where we are and see whether we can make some shift so we can have a better world. So, that was the beginning and I believe I started thinking about it and started putting notes about the book about five years ago. It took five years.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 8
Mark Malatesta: I always like when an author has written a book that’s mission-based, meaningful for them, a little or a lot. It’s not just pure entertainment, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t have that kind of judgment. I appreciate everything, but you have a little extra advantage if something is mission-based for you that way because then you’re going to have a little more commitment probably to grind through and have the guts to kind of do the stuff you need to do, build a platform, and all of that to make it happen. It’s good.
S.P.: Talking about author platform, that was a new word I learned.
Mark Malatesta: Right, I’m just tossing that word around like everyone knows what it is, right?
S.P.: So many literary agents rejected me because I didn’t have a [bigger] author platform. I said, “What is that?” For a first-time writer, it was really difficult. You and I worked hard to build my platform using my background, using my personal experiences and I, in hindsight, we all have platforms. We just have to package it right so we can appeal to the literary agents and then publishers.
Mark Malatesta: Right, and there are always ways to make [your platform] bigger, which you did a lot, but it’s tough. The most recent one I saw, well, the craziest one I’ve seen a few times from one literary agent who rejects people says, “Well, I really like your nonfiction book, but unfortunately, I’m only taking on nonfiction authors these days who have at least 500,000 followers.” It’s like, “What? 500,000, that’s like your minimum? Holy smokes.”
Others will say, “Well, if you don’t have that, you must regularly be on TV or radio or things like that or have a foreword by a celebrity or something.” Most of us don’t have means to that but then there are these other things you can chip away and do like get people willing to accept a copy of your book. And you can try to reach out to [prospective] promotional partners that might have you as a speaker, accept articles…or try to get a few articles published…and all of a sudden it starts looking plausible like there is a bigger, better platform.
If you do have things in your background like you did, in corporate and things like that that are relevant, then we make sure we maximize those too, communicate all that.
S.P.: Yes, it was daunting when they talk about hundreds of thousands of followers and TV and radio appearances and articles. I don’t have any of those.
Mark Malatesta: Right. You’d written a few articles before the book. I like that because that makes it less intimidating for the people listening who haven’t done a ton of writing before, deciding they are going to write a book. So, that’s empowering for them.
Let’s jump ahead a little bit. Let’s get into the part where we’re going to share your best advice for authors on how to write a book and get a literary agent or publisher, why you chose to go traditional instead of self-publishing or something like that, and then promoting a book.
Let’s start with writing a book. What are 1-3 suggestions you have for authors listening whether they are writing a nonfiction book like yours or any type of writing suggestions. Like, what are some things you’ve learned through your journey that might be helpful to them.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 9
S.P.: I actually wrote them down. I think regardless of what authors are after, the first thing is they have to be passionate about sharing their ideas and message. They must believe in their message. The other thing that is really important, it’s such a hard journey, ups and downs. You have to persevere. Unless you persevere, it will be easy to give up because it’s also a very lonely journey. It’s not like you’re working with other people. You’re alone.
Mark Malatesta: Yes.
S.P.: I guess it’s the same thing. Authors have to learn to negotiate countless rejections from literary agents and publishers. They have to be able to [inaudible] with a conviction that there will be someone who will be interested in their book. What I also did a lot through the process was to meditate and breathe. That helped.
Mark Malatesta: Right and it seems so basic. Okay, breathing, yep, but not really. It’s funny, a lot of times, doing these interviews, I’ll ask, “What’s your best advice for writing a book?” and a lot of times, people go inner. They say, “It’s about self-esteem.” I’m expecting them to give writing tips like actual craft tips. No. So much of it, they revert to this because they realize how important this part is.
S.P.: Yes. Once the authors start developing their book, it’s really important to have a good framework, meaning a well thought out overall outline and how each segment will fit into the large picture. That’s work in itself.
Mark Malatesta: Yes. You in business, though. I would expect–I would never assume but I would expect–someone with business background to be more of a planner and a plotter that way. The benefit obviously of that is it helps you make sure you’re more on target and it’s more efficient. And you have less revisions to do because you kind of know where you’re going before you even start going there.
It’s like a roadmap but, at the same time, I’m sure there are little surprises that came up for you along the way where you have a little inspiration or make some shifts. You’re totally sticking with that. I love the idea of planning as much as we can.
S.P.: Yes, definitely, because also what was challenging is that we all have main themes that are interweaved through the book. So, how do you put them all together in an interesting way but in a relevant way? I think it’s just having that idea of how each segment will fit in. It makes a very efficient way to start writing ideas. The other thing I’m sure most people do carry a note to record their thoughts whenever it comes to mind.
Oftentimes, as I am about to go to bed, an idea will pop in my head, and I’ll write it down. Sometimes, they are the best ones. For me, it was also important that a good editor, not just for grammar but to give feedback in terms of the overall structure and the content.
Mark Malatesta: Especially if your book is like yours, in which you’re juggling two things. The big part of the book is your personal story and experiences. Then there’s all the actionable advice and things people need to learn. So, there are a lot of ways you can organize that and ways it could have gone sideways or not been as good.
S.P.: Yes, for sure.
Mark Malatesta: Let’s talk a little bit about your decision when you decided you were going to go after literary agents. Well, you started out from the very beginning. Your goal you said earlier was, “Of course, I’m going to go after a traditional publisher.” But did you even think at that point or prior to that about self-publishing or paying a vanity publisher? Or you just knew right away you would go after a traditional publisher? And why did you decide to go in that direction vs the other options?
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 10
S.P.: I decided to go after traditional publishers. Well, first, I had to learn the different types of publishing. Then I realized traditional publishing was the route I wanted to take. Because, first, my book is nonfiction, and the subject is on diversity. My primary target audience would be different people. So, I needed to have credibility to approach to them.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, more so in your case than others. That makes sense.
S.P.: Yes, and I didn’t have an author platform. So I thought, I’m just going to spend so much effort and time. I’m going to pursue it. If I don’t get traditional, I’m just not going to pursue it. However, I do believe there is a bias that traditional publishing carries more credibility and I think it’s real.
Mark Malatesta: Those darn labels again.
S.P.: Yes, but no author should be discouraged and if they really want… They should also consider self-publishing. For me, if I was going to take a stab at [publishing], I was just going to go for traditional publishing realizing how difficult it could have been.
Mark Malatesta: Right, and it just gives you the best chance of reaching the most people with your work. Right behind that, usually for most authors, of secondary interest, surprising maybe to some people, but money is like not usually first on the list. It’s like, “Hey, I want I want to share my work with as many people as possible.” And then, “Yes, if I can make money too while I’m doing that, yes, thank you.”
Mark Malatesta: It’s not usually the main driver.
S.P.: I think if authors, I mean, I didn’t start out to write a book to make money. It wasn’t my mission, my message. I think that maybe gives more chance to be persevering. I don’t know.
Mark Malatesta: Absolutely. I believe that. When I started this business [in 2011], I had no idea if it would work. It’s the same kind of investment. It’s like, oh man, spending six months trying to figure it out. Okay, create a website, create all this content for this site. I don’t really see anybody else doing this, but I think it might work and it might help people. It might be fun. Maybe it will turn into something where I don’t have to go take some other job. You sure don’t know in the beginning. You can’t bank on that.
S.P.: Right. No, you can’t bank on that.
Mark Malatesta: It’s a big maybe, a leap of faith.
Mark Malatesta: What about the promotion stuff? You might not have much to say about this because we talked about it earlier, but any additional thoughts for authors regarding how they should think about promoting themselves or their work maybe before they even start writing the book or while their writing their book or once they start writing? You’ve made it clear the promotion never ends.
S.P.: No, it doesn’t, but I think the authors have to really sit back and think about why they are so different. Why would people think they would buy them and the book?
Mark Malatesta: I like that.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 11
S.P.: It’s packaging oneself. We’re not lying or anything, but it’s just marketing work, right? What are your strengths and why do you think you are the best person to write this book? What is the content? I think it’s really important and depending on, I think having a website is very important. It’s like nowadays, it’s a business card. People will usually go in your website to kind of screen you.
Mark Malatesta: Right, if you’re a nonfiction author. If you’re fiction author, you don’t have to worry about it, but as a nonfiction author, yes, prior to going to literary agents, I’m like begging, pleading, pushing all my nonfiction authors to get a website up if they don’t have one. It’s the whole game, right? We’re trying to convince literary agents you’re somebody and you’re a promoter. You’re going to promote the baloney out of your book and then [literary agents] look and go, “Oh, but you don’t have a website.” Well, they won that argument, right?
S.P.: Right, exactly. That’s almost mandatory and then building a social media presence whether it’s nonfiction or fiction.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, it’s never too soon to start with that.
S.P.: Right, and have a good message about your book and have time for article writing. It’s really critical. Obviously, it’s time-consuming. For fiction, I don’t know much about fiction. You are the expert, but still promoting the ideas of the book, I think, is critically important.
Mark Malatesta: I like going a little deeper into what you were talking about, the differentiation, really choosing or really knowing yourself and your content, like what do you have that’s really special to offer? The part of that argument we haven’t talked about yet or that discussion is that, well, the only way you can really do that to the best of your ability is to be fully aware of everything else out there that’s a little bit like yours. Otherwise, you can’t be effective, doing that.
S.P.: Right, exactly. Yes, comparison or competitiveness work. It’s critical. You’re right.
Mark Malatesta: A lot of us hide from that because we’re scared. We don’t want to look. I know this from authors, and I was aware of it when I started this [business]. We don’t want to look. We keep our heads down. We tell ourselves, “Oh, I don’t want to be influenced by what somebody else is doing,” but we’re really just maybe scared that other people are doing things the same as us or better than us.
It’s really uncomfortable to look at all that, but you have to. It’s challenging but then you start becoming more aware of some of the things you’re doing that are valuable that you’re offering, and then you can get better at communicating those things. Sometimes, that even affects your work where you say, “Wow, I realize that I do this thing that most people don’t do. Maybe I should put more of that in my book.”
S.P.: Yes, absolutely. It’s critical because otherwise you’re walking in the dark. Knowing what’s out there, it’s kind of scary, but you have to know to differentiate yourself in not only who you are but also the message and the content. I think it gives actually more ammunition to authors to find their niche.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.P.: Another thing I still find sometimes challenging is when people ask, “So, what’s your book about?” There are so many things that I can say, but just telling it a few sentences, that’s critical.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 12
Mark Malatesta: Right. I like that. Alright, let’s do this. You’ve already talked a little bit about our work together. I’ll get you going a few more things to that just so people can have a sense of how it works. I like to do this in a way where I’m looking at it more generally. So, why should an author consider bringing one or more people into their circle whether it’s an editor or someone like a coach like me?
I don’t care who it is. I’m just a huge advocate for kind of getting other people involved not only to help with the isolation but to see those things you can’t see because none of us can see everything. It takes teamwork. I told you when we were working together, it’s a very collaborative thing. I’ll be very strongminded about my ideas but then I wait and listen. I only mainly want us to do the things that resonate with you that you understand, that make sense, that feel good to you too. That’s important.
Mark Malatesta: I’m not fishing for anything particular here, but what are two or three maybe of the things that you found the most valuable during our work together that maybe we haven’t talked about yet or as much as maybe you could to help people understand some of those things?
S.P.: Of course. First thing I want to tell you is that I wish I had found you in the earlier stage of developing my book. You would have saved me so much time and frustration. I am completely convinced that without your help, my book would not have been published. I didn’t know the maze of the publishing world. You gave me a strategic and thorough roadmap to follow, and most of it I wasn’t aware of.
So, just giving me that roadmap and being there, you were there all the time, always, when I needed you. You also gave me so much confidence through the process of ups and downs. After so many emails I sent out, I was so discouraged and you gave me the reality check that always, this is not an easy road. You either persevere or you’re just not going to get it.
Mark Malatesta: Right. It sounds terrible, but it’s kind of what it is. It’s like that’s normal. If you keep going, you might make it. If you don’t keep going, it ain’t happening. That’s just the truth. And knowing and believing like you did. Like, you’re good enough or you might be good enough, so you better keep going.
S.P.: Yes, and the first time I spoke with you, the reason I wanted to speak with you, I didn’t know about you. I found you on the Internet. I wanted to get your insight whether my book could have a chance to be published. You were very optimistic, not saying, “Yes, you will,” because you were very realistic. You said, “Yes, I think it has a good chance.”
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.P.: That gave me a real confidence and through all the hard work that we did together, I had the conviction that yes, we’re going to have it published. I will have my book published. Also, what was the most appreciated of you to me was that I felt I could trust you and you helped me with my confidence. So, thank you, Mark.
Mark Malatesta Review and Interview with Soo Peer – Pt. 13
Mark Malatesta: My absolute pleasure. That goes both ways. I think one of the main reasons I’m able to do this and not have my head explode or burn out is that I’m a writer, too. I think that helps me hang in there with people longer…and as long as they’re not quitting, I’m not going to quit on them. I know it’s hard but I’m so grateful. I told you this before. I’m so grateful for you not quitting and trying to stay positive and productive.
I know for you and probably a lot of my clients, well, some of them tell me that they are cussing me out behind the scenes because they are frustrated, but they love me too. They keep going. They know it’s hard, right? I’m grateful when people hold it together enough to just keep going because, as you can see, you can make the difference. We sure aren’t going to pretend it’s easy.
S.P.: No, and talking about you not quitting, even after our contract was over, I thought, I don’t want to waste your time, but you were there. It was amazing. You never quit. You really live your words, “I don’t quit on you.”
Mark Malatesta: Thank you. I look at it and say, “Well, that’s the least I can do. Somebody is in the trenches, and I got enough people who just quit and bail. So, I’m just so grateful if somebody is still going even if it’s past the time it takes. Sometimes, it takes longer.”
S.P.: Of course.
Mark Malatesta: Once you’re in the trenches and you’re just querying and waiting, querying and waiting, it’s not that hard for someone like me to linger in the background. Usually, if something comes up, maybe it’s good news. That’s the stuff I certainly want to be there for so we can do a call like this when you have success.
S.P.: Thank you. Yes. I mean, I used to ask you, “Do you ever sleep?”
Mark Malatesta: [Laughter] I think that’s about it, except I always try to ask an open-ended question because sometimes, my questions lead to good things, but then you might have something else. Did you have anything else in mind that you thought might be helpful or interesting for authors to think about or do or consider that could be helpful for them?
S.P.: No, you did ask a lot of good questions. You covered it all. One thing I really want to tell the future author or authors is to persevere through their self-doubt, countless rejections, and discouragement. Believe in your message through it all. Think about that. You have to persevere. Of course, you have to have a good roadmap, just like you gave me.
Save as much time you can by investing in people like you who can guide them through. But at the end of the day, it’s really about persevering through the whole process. That takes courage and endurance. That’s what I want to tell people. Just stick to it. Just be there. Know it’s going to happen.
Mark Malatesta: Right. I love that. Thank you again for doing this. All your positive energy and everything you brought for authors. I know what you shared is going to help people and not just intellectually but to inspire people too. The heart is there and your perseverance message. Lord knows, everybody needs more of that. Thank you.
S.P.: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be interviewed by you.
Mark Malatesta: My pleasure.
S.P.: I hope my sharing has been helpful. Thank you again.
This interview and review of Mark Malatesta were provided by Soo Peer, author of The Essential Diversity Mindset, published by Red Wheel/Weiser. Soo worked with Mark to improve her author platform, manuscript, book proposal, and query letter.
Mark Malatesta is the creator of the well-known Directory of Literary Agents and this guide on How to Get a Literary Agent. His articles have appeared in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents and the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac. He has spoken at 100+ writers conferences and events. And he answers author questions (no cost) at Ask a Literary Agent.
As founder of The Bestselling Author and Literary Agent Undercover, Mark has helped hundreds of authors get literary agents. His writers have gotten book deals with traditional publishers such as Random House, Harper Collins, and Thomas Nelson. They’ve been on the New York Times bestseller list; had their books optioned for TV, stage, and feature film; won countless awards; and had their work licensed in more than 40 countries.
Writers of all Book Genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books) have used Mark’s Literary Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get the Best Literary Agents at the Top Literary Agencies on his List of Literary Agents.
Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta.
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