Mark Malatesta – The Bestselling Author
Founded in 2011 by Mark Malatesta, The Bestselling Author has helped hundreds of writers get literary agents and/or traditional publishers–including those who’ve appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. His articles have appeared in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents and the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac, and he’s been quoted by outlets including Entrepreneur.com.
Mark Malatesta is the creator of this guide about How to Become a Bestselling Author, and he’s given 100+ keynotes and other presentations both in the United States and abroad. The information and advice Mark shares in articles, talks, and author coaching is informed by his serving as a literary agent, literary agency president, and Marketing & Licensing Manager for a well-known publishing company.
Though every author can’t be a New York Times bestseller, Mark helps authors of all genres–fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books–become the most successful authors they can be. In that sense, every writer can be a “bestselling” author. While Mark specializes in giving books greater bestseller or commercial potential, he works with authors of all types of books. And he works with both established and new authors.
Click here to see Mark Malatesta Reviews.
Lakshmi Subramani Testimonial for Mark Malatesta
Within 4 minutes of sending out my query letter, a top literary called me on the phone. Less than 30 days later I had three major publishers making offers: Penguin, Harper Collins, and Random House. A few days after that, I signed a deal with Random House. Mark, your query letter did that.
Thanks to your tips and tricks, I got the #1 agent on my wish list. He’s done nearly 125 deals in just two years. His literary agency, Writer’s Side, is the fastest growing literary agency in India. And he has a long list of accolades, including being talked about in the New York Times.
My agent talked about the query letter you helped me create for a long, long time. When he first called me on the phone, he hadn’t seen any of my sample chapters. It was just the query letter that did it. Communicating the right thing is so important.
I had been thinking about writing a book for nearly 3 years before finding you online. Because I lost my sight as a teenager, I had long wanted to write a book that would help some of the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from retinal disorders in India.
Instead, you helped me see that my story could be bigger. By focusing on the broader, universal themes of grieving and loss (instead of just blindness and a rare eye disease), my book is now going to reach more people and make more of a difference. I’m also going to sell more books.
Part 2 – L. Subramani Testimonial for Mark Malatesta
You are a wonderful medium helping authors find their voice and elevate their writing from just a hobby to a real business… a source from which they can both learn and earn. Writing should be both, a tremendous door that can open you to a lot of possibilities and a totally different life.
Mark, you are a man of precision and offer so many nuggets of valuable information. You know the publishing industry well, protecting authors from the pitfalls that can cause them to fail. And you summarize important learning lessons in a short amount of time. That’s not easy to do.
Why are some authors successfully published with traditional publishing houses, while others are not? I think it all boils down to one thing, the fact that we all need someone to hold our hand for a time… someone with the kind of credentials that you have.
My advice to authors is to work with you, 1-on-1, so they can go from having just an idea in their mind…to a clear plan of action. Authors are like seeds in the ground and you are helping them turn into flowering trees. I’m really happy to say that I am one of them.
Thank you for your support and encouragement.
Lights Out (Random House)
Lakshmi Subramani, author of Lights Out, hired former literary agent Mark Malatesta to help him revise his book and query letter. That resulted in Lakshmi getting his top choice literary agent, followed by offers from three major book publishers: Penguin, Harper Collins, and Random House. Lakshmi ultimately signed a publishing contract with Random House. During his interview with author coach and consultant Mark Malatesta below, Lakshmi shares advice for authors of all types of books regarding getting a literary agent and becoming a successful author. Lakshmi also shares additional thoughts about his work with Mark Malatesta.
More About Mark Malatesta
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.
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Lakshmi Subramani Interview With Mark Malatesta – Founder, The Bestselling Author
During this 73-minute interview, Lakshmi Subramani, author of Lights Out, published by Random House, talks about how to get a literary agent and become a successful author. Lakshmi got offers from three publishers: Penguin, Harper Collins, and Random House. In this interview, Lakshmi also talks about his work with former literary agent Mark Malatesta, who helped Lakshmi revise his manuscript and query letter.
L A K S H M I . S U B R A M A N I
Mark Malatesta: Lakshmi Subramani is the author of Lights Out, published by Random House. Lakshmi is based in Bangalore and he is one of only two, totally blind, full-time journalists in India, working with the most well-known and well-respected English dailies. As a writer for the newspaper, Lakshmi has covered disability issues, affairs, and technology, among other things.
Lakshmi lost his eyesight due to a progressive, degenerative, retinal disease, called Retinitis Pigmentosa when he was just 17, which is the subject of his book. Despite his loss of his sight, Lakshmi earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Arts and Literature, and a master’s degree from Loyala College, a Jesuit Institution in the south Indian city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras. He then went out to do post-graduate work in journalism and mass communications.
Lights Out has been well-received by readers as well as popular newspapers and blogs, but also by doctors, counselors and not-for-profit organizations. Lakshmi has been interviewed at Radio City in Delhi, a popular FM radio station. He has been invited to speak at events such as the Access Indian Convention, a bi-annual summit of blind persons. And, most recently, he spoke to members of Microsoft. Lakshmi has worked with organizations such as the World Blind Union, and Retina International, and he recently helped set up an association of persons with rare eye diseases, APRED, in India. The website for that is http://ordindia.org.
Lakshmi is passionate about helping others with vision conditions, which are often incurable, to get back on their feet and carry on so they can lead healthy, successful, and dignified lives. He even has a blog dedicated to this, at grapplingwithrp.wordpress.com.
So, welcome Lakshmi, it’s wonderful to have you here today.
L.S.: Hello, Mark, it’s really lovely talking to you once again. The times we’ve spoken earlier resulted in a book deal, and I really hope this interview will be useful to other authors and people in your community.
Mark Malatesta: Excellent, and I just want to say to everybody, on a personal note, I know I read your official bio, but one of the reasons I’ve been looking forward to sharing you with everyone in my community, and helping get the word out, is you’re a wonderful person as much as you’re a wonderful writer. And, beyond that, your story, I hope you take this the right way, is much more inspirational, because of what you had to do to make it as a journalist and writer and get your book published. It annihilates any excuses any of the rest of us can have when we have full vision. It’s really an inspiration.
L.S.: Thank you very much.
Pt 2 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
Mark Malatesta: You’re welcome. Let’s get right into it. I think the most logical place to start is to let you tell everyone a little bit what your book is about. Make sure you also let everyone know how they can learn more about you and your book. I want to make sure people can get online right now and check you and the book out while they’re listening. Where can people find the book and learn more about you? Then, tell us a little bit about the book.
L.S.: I’ll begin with my book. As you said, this book is about the teenage years of my life, when I first learned about Retinitis Pigmentosa, the process of losing sight, and also the impact it had on my family. Also, it was about the social stigma and superstitions that go around in a country like India where people believe an incurable condition can be cured through rituals, etc.
Essentially, it’s about the ups and downs, fears and angst and deeper feelings one would have when something as cataclysmic as loss of sight could happen to someone who had no idea this could happen. So, that’s what the book is about, and you can learn more about it by visiting Amazon.com.
Mark Malatesta: Okay, great. That was an excellent pitch. You’ve been practicing, I think. It’s really concise. Let me say, also, congratulations for getting a deal. I’m only doing these interviews with authors who get not only a literary agent, but a book deal. You and I know, and I think a lot of authors struggling out there know how hard it is to get a literary agent and publisher. I like to start these calls by painting a picture of what it’s like to get a call from the literary agent with the good news. Can you share quickly what it was like for you? Where were you, and what were you doing when you got the news? How did it go?
L.S.: I was thinking, I gave this book to a literary agent, and he wanted to read a few things, and no news from him. So, I thought, Okay, it wasn’t acceptable to any book publisher. Then one day, he called me and tells me, “Guess who bought your book?” I thought he was going to say some name I never heard of, and he said, “Random House India.” I was pinching myself, and I started to walk to calm myself, and couldn’t get myself in control. It wasn’t containable. It was fantastic! Cloud 9 would be the right thing to say.
Mark Malatesta: How did your family react?
L.S.: All of them were happy, especially my mom. You know about moms and what they think of their sons. I told her I was going to publish a book and she said, “Are you kidding?” It was like it set off a buzz in my family. I’m sure all your future authors will experience this, but it sounded special, and I can never forget the day when I learned I got a deal.
Mark Malatesta: I love it. I think you had three major publishers that made offers, didn’t you, which is very unusual?
L.S.: Yes, sorry, I forgot. Yes, there was kind of a bidding war going on between Penguin, and Random House, and another publisher…
Mark Malatesta: It was Harper Collins, wasn’t it?
L.S.: Yes, sorry, and all three were looking at it quite favorably. My literary agent told me it was Random House who offered a very good deal, so I settled on that.
Mark Malatesta: That’s great, and as much as we talk about your book, this call is going to be oriented toward helping other authors who are a few steps behind you. They’re trying, or will be soon, to get a literary agent and publisher. So, I’m giving them advice all the time, but I thought it would be nice to get advice from some of my authors during interviews like this. So, now, I want to go back in time a bit and show people your unique progression from starting out as an author or writer, to the time where we just got to the success story. When did you first get the idea you might be an author?
Pt 3 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
L.S.: That’s something you identify early on. I would say, writing isn’t a career, it’s a calling in life. That happened quite early in my life, and when I told others they thought I was in some phantom world, because in real life a blind person can’t write, period. But then I felt I would end up being a writer and progressed with taking journalistic jobs and writing. I spent a lot of time explaining to people not connected with Retinitis Pigmentosa, or anyone going through it, what it was about, and I realized the amount of ignorance and lack of awareness was amazing. I thought a country like India, which has a lot of human capital, cannot afford not to learn about Retinitis Pigmentosa. That’s when I thought I’d write about that, which led to you, and it was you who told me that I wasn’t a medical expert, and that probably the best idea was to write about my own experience instead, and so that’s how I ended up with the book.
Mark Malatesta: How many people are affected by eye ailments like that in India? I’m sure a lot of people listening are thinking, Wow, why would Random House publish a book like that? How many people can there be?
L.S.: Strangely enough, I must tell you there are no absolute medical statistics available in India, but if I go by all the doctors I’ve spoken to it’s 1 in 300.
Mark Malatesta: Wow.
L.S.: And a lot of them don’t know they have Retinitis Pigmentosa, given the lack of education and medical infrastructure in rural areas. That’s a challenge which, in the health system, counselors and everybody else is facing, because they don’t exactly know exactly what a person with Retinitis Pigmentosa is going through. A lot of calls came from the Counseling Committee, which said that this is a real stimulating experience for them.
Mark Malatesta: Is it worse anywhere else? I don’t think it’s common in the US.
L.S.: It’s not common in the US. I don’t know the exact stats for it. I can tell you India is one of the countries with blind people in the world. I’m sure this Retinitis Pigmentosa causes a great deal to these stats.
Mark Malatesta: Got it. What type of writing did you do before you started the book? We know you’re a journalist, but what did you do prior to writing the book, and what other writing had you done, besides writing for the paper?
L.S.: I recall the conversation I had with you during our first call. I’d never written anything more than 2,000 words prior to my book. That scared me, and you told me not to worry, and that was encouraging to me. To tell you what I wrote, it was news reporting, largely, and news features and interviews, along those lines. Things you read in the paper.
Mark Malatesta: I’m thinking of the younger authors, not by age, but relatively new, and it takes a while to develop your skills as a writer. How do you think some of that writing and reporting helped prepare you and make you a better book writer?
L.S.: A lot of people think because we’re in the business of writing, the progression from an article to a book is easier. I beg to differ. When you write an article, a 400-page one happens in half an hour because the subject is limited, and you’re focused on a few points. When it comes to writing a book, it’s like a marathon versus a 100-meter sprint.
Mark Malatesta: That’s true.
L.S.: If you’re an expert at 100-meter sprints, you’re not necessarily good at a marathon. Yes, you have the essential ingredients to be a writer, but it requires a lot of cultivation.
Pt 4 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
Mark Malatesta: That’s a good point. You develop some of the skill sets, but then it’s a different form, so it’s new. That’s why so many authors I work with in my coaching, people might not understand why someone they would sign up for coaching… If you can write a brilliant novel or nonfiction book that’s worthy of publication, they wonder, Why can’t you write a one pitch letter to pitch the book or a proposal? But they’re completely different things. For me, the first query letter I ever wrote took me about 40 hours because I kept going over it again and again and again, learning how to write a good query letter. Today, I can write one in a few hours.
Mark Malatesta: But boy, it takes practice. Your second book will be a lot faster, right?
L.S.: Hopefully. Writing, as such, is a work in progress for any writer. Writers write about writing, like Stephen King, for example. They keep telling us there’s no magic about writing, it’s all about working on it every day. I guess the more you work, the more it refines itself, and you become a better writer.
Mark Malatesta: Right. How did you get the idea for your book? I know there are a lot of ways to come up with an idea for a book, how did it happen for you?
L.S.: It was sort of a conversation I had with a friend of mine. We go back a long way, and he knew me from college. He was telling me, you talk about Retinitis Pigmentosa, and this condition that slowly makes a person blind, and I talk to a lot of people who draw a blank. They know what blindness is, everyone knows about blindness, but not about a slow blinding condition like what you experienced. That’s when it occurred to me that this is like a close-knit, fit family of doctors, patients, and counselors, and parents and family. The message doesn’t go anywhere at all.
That’s when I realized if I should put my writing to use, it should be for this cause. I know a lot of people who are blind and going through blindness. Strangely, Retinitis Pigmentosa can cause blindness at any point in a person’s life. There are people I know who worked as professors for 20 years, and suddenly experienced blindness. The organizations and universities in India can’t support them. We don’t have technology given to them at the university level, so knowledge is going to waste. I know a lot of people are going through this, and I felt this must be my first book, and that’s when I realized it was my subject.
Mark Malatesta: Did you have to do much research? Again, authors think about this a lot and they have their personal story, and it might have been a little intimidating when you thought, Who am I? I’m not a medical expert. Did you do any research? Was it a factor for you?
Pt 5 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
L.S.: Definitely. Even if you’re a fiction writer, the facts will speak for themselves. When you talk facts in your book, your book will stand out. And a mixture of facts and experience makes a book more valuable. I spoke to a lot of doctors over time. I didn’t do specific research for the book but spoke to a lot of doctors. I had to first understand what kind of genes go wrong, or how they went wrong. What were the social factors? Most of them spoke about Retinitis Pigmentosa in India and especially Southern India. You come across people marrying their own cousins from the maternal side.
I can marry my mother’s brother’s daughter, and those marriages are very common in India and invariably lead to Retinitis Pigmentosa. One thing I’m trying to do through the book and the organization I’m supporting now is to spread the awareness, to stop people from marrying within close relationships, which could lead to genitive conditions for the offspring. So, research is important, and it depends on how you do it. You can specifically sit down and research and talk to people and collect your information. In my case, since it’s not different from what I experienced in the past, and I had the connectivity with the doctors who have a lot of experience dealing with patients like me, the information fell in place.
Mark Malatesta: Right. I want to fill in any holes about your author education, because this is a big question. I did two recent chat sessions with authors around the world, and one of the big questions you always get, a sweeping question is, “What do I need to do as a writer to become a bestselling author?” I say, “You have to write a great book.” How do you do that? You need a good author education. I don’t mean a degree, like you have, which would be intimidating to some people, but I mean other things like being a discerning reader and reading lots of things and maybe attending writer’s conferences or workshops, etc. Did you do any of that?
L.S.: No, you’re the only person I worked with in terms of getting things straightened out from my end. I guess the bit about writing a book is within the person. I feel you have to dig deep into yourself and honestly ask, “Am I cut out for this?” I have a limited understanding of the publishing industry. Based on what I learned from your website, and talking to others in publishing, either there is a guy who can write something, or there is someone who has something interesting to say. Authors generally fall into one of these categories. If you ask me, I would consider myself a writer, but not necessarily.
If you really want to write a book, the best thing to do is if you have something interesting to offer, for example, it could be a business or professional idea, or self-help, that is another strong motivation for someone to write a book. You have to figure out where you stand. Are you a writer essentially, and once a writer, always a writer? Or are you someone who has something interesting and wants to share it with society?
Once you make up your mind on that, I think the rest will work. After that, you go to writing conferences or author conferences, or read books, and hire a consultant, and all these things happen later. The first thing is, honestly, why do you want to write a book? You have to answer that question. I must tell you, the author questionnaire you sent me before our first conversation caused me to introspect a lot.
Mark Malatesta: Introspect on what?
L.S.: That I should be a writer. I must tell you the process, and you’re ideally a coach. I was listening to a program where they were interviewing coaches from different sports, and essentially all of them were saying one thing, “You help people discover themselves. The best coach is the one who helps an athlete or writer to discover themselves, and their own pluses or minuses.” You’re sort of the best person to do that, and I learned over the years, I worked with you how to do that.
Pt 6 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
Mark Malatesta: I think you were the one who said to me once why some authors succeed and some fail. You said something like, “You’re good, but you’re not God.” It’s true. My secret sauce, and sometimes authors are surprised by this, and a little disappointed by it, is that my talent isn’t to do everything for an author. It’s an ability to recognize good writers and pull the right things out of them, to help them make what they do better.
L.S.: Yes, I definitely endorse that point. I could write as in writing, but a lot of other things about publishing, I learned from you. That’s something people should figure out, why they want to be writers.
Mark Malatesta: What are your best tips for how to write, publish, and promote a book? Let’s start first with your best tip or two for an author about writing a book?
L.S.: Okay, based on whatever limited experience I have, I can tell you, because you’re trying to put me in your seat, I have to be careful…
Mark Malatesta: It’s all good. I’ll qualify it and say you’re in the seat that all those authors want to be in, which is you got a great literary agent, publisher and book deal. You have valuable insight.
L.S.: Yes, true. I’m trying to joke, and sometimes my jokes don’t go well. Yes, there are a couple of things I feel authors should do. When I started, I had a fear, especially after I started talking to you. I realized book publishing isn’t just to show you did something. It’s a business and has to be dealt with that way. That scares some people, and makes some people feel agitated, because, as you always mentioned in your communication, authors aren’t always cut out to be businesspeople.
The thing for us is to learn about the art of publishing a book, and what goes into it, the process involved. I feel one of the main problems authors have is procrastinating. You wait for the perfect moment to sit down and do your work, and you might not feel the idea is perfect, or I don’t have 10,000 followers on my blog, or my author platform isn’t big enough. I must tell you, these aren’t the considerations. When you choose to write a book, I think you must get on with it.
Mark Malatesta: I love that.
L.S.: There is nothing called a perfect moment. You’re here and now, and this is the perfect moment for you to start writing the book, and also looking at publishing it is number one.
Number two, the idea of the author platform is often misunderstood. I think you’re making it clear, but it doesn’t get across well, and so I must make it clear to aspiring authors that it’s definitely a hypothetical presentation that you’re bringing to a publisher.
I’m not belittling it, I’m saying when you say you have 100,000 people in your community, you’re not guaranteeing the entire 100,000 will buy your book. You’re letting the publisher know you’re willing to work with them to promote and sell the book. You don’t have to be that scared. You might think, I only have 1,000 people in my community, what do I do? I’ll tell you that 1,000 is a very good start, even 500, because it has a rippling effect, and once you start…
That’s what’s happening to me, I presented to 5,000 or 6,000 people who are in my community, and I’m getting calls from people not connected to me in any way, thanking and congratulating me for the book from all parts of India. I feel procrastination based on any of these grounds isn’t good for a writer. You may have a good community at a later point in life, but you might not have the same motivation to write the book. Here and now is the best thing and you must start writing.
Pt 7 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
Mark Malatesta: That’s why I love… You talked about the two types of writers a moment ago: those who are writers through and through, writers all their lives, it’s who they are, and then there are those who become writers for a certain moment in time or period of their life to get something out, or to get a book out. Those who are truly writers and love writing, those are the ones I believe in most, because they worry about the platform and other things later, and they’re just figuring out how to be good writers. If you do that first, and figure out why you’re writing, the other stuff will come, but your commitment is there.
L.S.: I was looking for that word: commitment. When you sit down and write, you show your publisher and literary agent, and everyone else, you’re committed.
Mark Malatesta: Right. Let’s talk a bit now about publishing a book. I definitely have my bias. I believe it’s always better to get someone else to pay to publish your book, rather than you pay for it yourself. I always think authors should do everything they can to get a literary agent and real publisher, like Random House, like you did, but every once in a while there are advantages to self-publishing. Why did you decide to go the traditional path?
L.S.: The work I did before I reached out to you was to think about the options I had. I read about self-publishing and a few other e-publishing platforms, and I called a couple of publishers in India. One really scared me. He told me, “I’m ready to publish your book, but you have to buy the first 1,000 copies.” I realized that’s a bad business proposition. Mark, what you told me during our calls, and your blogs, and on your MP3, it stuck early on.
Essentially, you’re getting a stamp of approval from someone like Random House. It’s a mark of credibility, where someone in the industry is buying it, giving you money for it, which means your work is good. You won’t have to convince anyone. It makes an impression and shows your work is credible. It’s a stamp of approval and the reason I decided early on it’s good to go traditional, however difficult it would be, I wouldn’t be frightened by it. I definitely got motivation from you. That’s why I decided it’s a credible platform to start from, with Random House, which would be very different from anyone else.
Mark Malatesta: You’re much more likely to be successful long-term as an author that way, because now you have time and energy to focus on writing more books and promoting your books, rather than spending all your time just trying to sell your books, as a self-publisher.
L.S.: Yes, I definitely agree. I saw a commitment struck with Random House when you strike a deal with publisher. On the other hand, you have to really make sure that the 50,000 people you know in the world are going to buy a copy of your book, which isn’t going to happen.
Mark Malatesta: Right. Let’s talk about book marketing and promotion. Your book has been out a little while now, which is great, because you have a little more perspective and you understand what the publisher’s process was and how they were going to promote it, like the six weeks prior to publication and release, and then the first six weeks after publication. What did they do? You have insight most authors listening don’t have. What would be your top two suggestions for promotion that you haven’t already talked about? You did touch on platform a little bit already.
Pt 8 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
L.S.: Okay, number one, definitely that Random House got back to me, and the first thing they asked is, “Who do you connect with, in terms of talking about promoting the book?” The first thing I did was put them in touch with my close circle of friends and people in good positions who showed interest in my book early on. So, first you should have that immediate connectivity of people who would spread the word, or do a bulk order, anything that will help. The publisher isn’t particular on amount of sales, but they are particular on the people who endorse and support your work.
Secondly, Mark, a lot of platforms I’ve heard you say, even during our calls, the importance of Facebook and Twitter, social media platform. I get it, and it’s the greatest boom we have today. The moment I published, Random House had me in their Facebook friends, and I had them in mine, we promoted each other and spoke a lot about the book. It spread the word quickly.
Number three, it’s important to have a blog of your own…
Mark Malatesta: Yes, a website or blog.
L.S.: Yes, somewhere you keep talking about your book, because it’s not possible all the time to get prime time shows or TV interviews, etc. You get them once in a while, but you definitely need your own platform to talk about your book. You want to make sure those things happen, and three, identify the most important segments of your audience. For example, I connected with what’s called The Association of Ophthalmological, Society of India which is about 17,000 doctors. I spoke to the President and they’re all eye doctors. They read my book and wrote about it in their newsletter that goes to about 17,000 doctors. That’s just the starting point because…
Mark Malatesta: They have patients, right.
L.S.: I guess you don’t require great business acumen for any of these. It’s just intelligent common-sense things you can do to promote your book. I guess we all have it in us, but the first thing that scares you is, okay, Now I have the book and I told Random House my platform is so big, so now it’s time to prove it. That kicks up the adrenaline in you, and ideas flow. These are the immediate things you should look at.
Mark Malatesta: One of the best secrets in what you said is one of the biggest mistakes I see authors make. They’re always focused on their readers, and trying to find more readers when they get on social media, or speak, or network. That’s not the secret to success. The secret in promotion as an author is finding the influencers, like you did.
What are the organizations, who are the people who have huge networks that if you connect with a small number of them, they have the ability to reach major amounts of people? It’s the same thing with social media. When you go on social media, the first thing you should do is not just try and get individual followers and readers. You should go post information about your book, and start talking to people in groups.
L.S.: Yes, it’s important.
Mark Malatesta: That’s really the smarter way to go. That alone, you’re sharing some great things. I always say, website or blog are number one, because that’s the easiest thing to do. You have to work a little in social media to get the numbers up, but it’s definitely the second thing. It really makes a difference.
L.S.: Yes, I agree.
Pt 9 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
Mark Malatesta: Let’s talk about our work together now, so everyone listening can get a better idea of how author coaching works. Of course, all authors and books are different, but I know a lot of people listening right now will learn from your experience, the same as someone might be writing in a different genre than you, but some things you’ve already shared will be helpful for them. Let’s start with what motivated you to work with me in the first place. Some authors reach out to me when they’re frustrated, and others reach out earlier when they’re in the initial stage of starting a project to avoid the frustration. What stage were you at? Explain what you were hoping to accomplish when you set up that first call with me.
L.S.: When we first connected, I had the first draft of my manuscript, but it wasn’t focused. I had about 150 to 200 pages, but I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of material a publisher would be interested in. That was when I started to Google for author coaches. The first blog I remember reading of yours was about naming a book, and how names are important. I realized for the first time if a name won’t be of interest, I’m sure you’re not starting well.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
L.S.: That was when I realized you would be the right person to work with. The first thing I did was go through your site completely, and I downloaded your MP3 on the Seven Mistakes Authors Make. One good thing is you don’t charge much for anything, and put out a lot of free information online, which, by itself, become great tips for people to improve their understanding of publishing, and also improves their writing. I honestly never saw anyone do that, and I’d gone through a couple of other sites, and I realized they functioned more like a secret society guarding information on the Holy Grail, whereas, you were putting everything out for all of us to see. That increased my curiosity.
Mark Malatesta: Right…
L.S.: Honestly, I wanted a professional validation of my work. I remember you mentioning in the free download audio, “Don’t show your manuscript to your mom or friends. Your mom is always going to say it’s great.” I tried it with my friends and they all said it was good, but obviously I wasn’t very happy about it because I wanted a professional opinion. That’s when I set up the first call.
Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, the best part of working with you is the way you make us discover ourselves. It’s more about understanding how good we are as writers. The proof is the questionnaire you sent me before the first call, and a lot of things I had ignored like, what would be the commitment, how long would I take to write my book, or what I wanted from you.
All the specifics were there, and exactly how to work with you, because there’s no fun in signing up with someone without knowing what to ask, or how to approach the subject that matters a great deal to me or an author. The process was something I appreciated. First, I understood what I was doing right and wrong and where I wasn’t sure of myself. That made the whole experience better, and when we had the call, it wasn’t a general exploration of each other, we knew exactly what we wanted to get from each other, and you delivered it. That made the call more satisfying.
Third, and most important, it’s not about the calls I had with you, it’s about the continuous relationship I have with you. It’s been a while since we did a call. I remember after I spoke with you, I did the book, and it’s out, and we still continue to communicate with each other. I think the fact you value that sort of a relationship and look at it as a long-term relationship, I felt, was deeply touching, and the mark of a real professional. Most people just give a handshake and forget about you, but that’s not how you deal with your authors. I must tell you the way you personalize your messages, your information, and give authors what they want makes it all the more worthwhile working with you.
Pt 10 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
Mark Malatesta: I don’t know what to say. Thank you.
If you had to choose two things that came out of our work together that you think most significantly helped you improve the book itself, or just one, what would it be? You talked already how the validation was helpful, and your confidence and your belief and knowledge about the industry. How did the way you looked at your book, and some changes to your book, how did that change during our process for you?
L.S.: As I told you earlier, you first told me the focus of the book should be on me. The “me factor” was something I never had in my book before speaking to you.
Mark Malatesta: I don’t remember that. So, it was going to be more a journalistic reporting of this medical condition, which would have put more pressure on you to be this doctor expert. Is that what it was originally?
L.S.: Yes. I would have been representing something in the book I’m not, and it would have raised a lot of questions about my credibility. Whereas, what you told me, and you’ve gone through this, and that’s where you have to start the book, and I remember we talked about the first chapter, and starting with exactly how you learned you had this condition of Retinitis Pigmentosa. So that was in the first discussion we had about the manuscript.
Mark Malatesta: It was so long ago, but it’s all coming back now. This is great. The other thing, too, is finding you have the right topic when you sit down to write, but the point of view is wrong. Do you remember what we talked about as far as the themes of the book originally? Also, this changed when it went from a serious medical nonfiction academic book to a personal story, we also talked about the range you could have, of this is a book for only people suffering from this disease that will help them, or something bigger. Do you remember that conversation?
L.S.: Exactly, yes. It exactly worked out the way you told me so long ago. At one level it helped me connect with fellow patients, and at the other level, people found it inspirational. Again, that’s a part that’s out of touch to me a lot. I have a close friend of mine whose wife ignored her diabetes, and had a problem with her nervous system, and she’s now in the intensive care unit of a hospital here.
This guy is spending his days with his wife, and I gave him a copy of my book, and he read it, and called me and thanked me, because it sounded like there’s life at the end of the tunnel. Right now, his wife is suffering, and he doesn’t have much positive feelings in himself, and looking at what I went through touched him. Again, it has nothing to do with Retinitis Pigmentosa, but thanks to you the whole prospective of the book changed.
Mark Malatesta: I love talking about this, because it’s such a valuable lesson for everybody. It so often happens, especially when writing a memoir or something auto biographical, and we’re writing from our point of view, and want to be accurate. But we also want to reach as big a market as possible. When your book suddenly goes from, “This isn’t about an eye disease, this is a book of overcoming, of hope and inspiration, and being strong in the face of adversity and loss of something.” Maybe for one person it’s their eyes, and someone else it’s their physical health, or the loss of a child.
Pt 11 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
L.S.: I must give this caution for people who read my book. I wrote the book in its entirety, starting with learning about my condition, until the day I became a journalist. But for some reason, my editor at Random House thought the book should end right where I was losing my sight. A lot of people who read it called me and said, “This is abrupt.”
Mark Malatesta: I was wondering about that, and I was actually going to ask you about it after the interview.
L.S.: It’s interesting, there’s a lesson for authors here. I thought this would be the best platform to discuss this. What happened to the book, the book has two parts to it, and one is the descent into blindness part, and two is the redemption part, the part where a person who lost his sight at 18 finds himself interning as a journalist for a newspaper seven years later.
It’s a great story, but what would have happened if you put the redemption story together with the loss of sight story, it would have overshadowed the information I wanted to share with readers in the section where I talk about my loss of sight. It’s a fantastic idea, although I wasn’t quite happy in the beginning. They split the book into two…
Mark Malatesta: Literally, is it at about the halfway point? So, you basically have another book.
L.S.: Exactly! I shouldn’t be sad at all they did that, because now there’s a sequel to the book.
Mark Malatesta: That’s great.
L.S.: I’ll tell you what made them do this is the way the whole book gripped them, because I had a note from my editor later saying, “This is one of the most gripping books I’ve ever edited.” As I said, it’s easier to talk about blindness in a general sense, but not when you go through that little by little, that the world you’re seeing is going away, and you’re slipping into blindness. How it feels to see something through central vision, and not through side vision. Your peripheral vision is completely gone, and you could identify a contour but not the face.
All these details make the book an experience by itself. When I wrote it, honestly, I never thought about it, probably because I was collecting and writing. So, when she said that, my book would have such an impact on someone. This isn’t an exaggeration, Mark, and I don’t know if you saw the book, but you’re the second person I’ve acknowledged in the Acknowledgements section.
Mark Malatesta: I did, thank you, and I read the whole thing. The second I found out I could get it on Amazon US, I got it on my Kindle and read it immediately. I wouldn’t feel good about doing an interview if I hadn’t done that, so I appreciate it.
L.S.: That’s because of the value that’s come from you. We’ve worked together for two years now, but the value I had from you, it’s the adjustment of the way we look at the industry, and everything else contributed to this book. I owe a lot to you and feel perfectly justified putting your name right on top.
Mark Malatesta: Thank you. I know there are so many scams out there, it’s hard for writers to trust somebody new, especially online where everyone promises they’ll make you rich and famous if you send them a check for $20,000. I’m sure right before you signed up with me, some guy in the US on the other side of the world, you wondered, Is he going to understand my culture and my book? Does he care? Is he any good? What thoughts were going through your head before you signed up?
Pt 12 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
L.S.: That’s why I said it’s a fantastic idea to first go through your website in full. There is a lot of information you can apply to your writing and approach to publishing which would give wonderful results. As I said, the first and most valuable information I got from reading your site is to treat my venture as an entrepreneurial venture, not just a vanity venture.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
L.S.: I remember you using the word vanity somewhere in the MP3. Yes, that’s important, and a phenomenal change of perspective I’d say.
Mark Malatesta: The website created a lot of trust for you?
L.S.: Absolutely. I keep forgetting this in my answers, but I most definitely must mention the query letter part. How could I forget it, because it got me my literary agent? I was on my computer diligently taking notes on what you said. I composed the letter, and a few days later exactly at 1:30, I felt satisfied and sent the letter to the literary agent. At 1:35 a.m. I get a call from him. He didn’t introduce himself, he just said, “That was fantastic. The idea is so good.” I thought,What’s he talking about? Then I realized it was a literary agent!
Mark Malatesta: He called you at 1:30 in the morning?
Mark Malatesta: That’s a good query.
L.S.: Yes, and that was the first time… See, I’m very convinced after reading your blog and listening to your MP3, but that was the first time I realized I must absolutely put my trust in your professional opinion.
Mark Malatesta: I love it. I do have to warn everyone though…I’ve only had about four or five clients get a response from a literary agent within five minutes or less. I don’t want anyone expecting if they work with me, and you probably won’t get the first literary agent you query to respond at all, let alone in five minutes. You did an extraordinary job, but it’s rare. Most people have to send out a couple or many of rounds of submissions before that happens.
L.S.: See, you give the ideas, and we apply them. And so how we apply everything matters a lot, and so I guess they have to take the framework you’re giving, be it the query letter, or writing a chapter or the first 50 pages of your book, etc. and convert it in the way they’d like their book to be. It’s a combination of effort not just… As I said, you do your job extremely well in terms of making us learn about ourselves and the industry. Yes, it’s a combination, a partnership, and so yes, that’s a caveat I wanted to give to the listeners.
Mark Malatesta: Excellent. We’re almost out of time. Do you have any final thought or wisdom for everyone listening?
Pt 13 – L. Subramani Interview with Mark Malatesta
L.S.: One thing, I’ll sign off by saying, Mark always says there is a lot of bonding that needs to happen between a literary agent and an author. That turns out to be a very important part of the success story. I’d go a step further and say someone like Mark, with the experience and understanding of the industry he brings, it’s more worthwhile to have a wonderful bond with him.
I’m sure we, from different parts of the world, using the Internet to connect, and it works.
So, the author and author-coach relationship isn’t any different from the author and author-agent relationship. I wish all of you a great time ahead and pray and hope you all get your books out and see a lot of success.
Mark Malatesta: I so appreciate that. I don’t remember if you were one of these, but I often get from my clients saying, “Why don’t you become a literary agent?” I don’t do that anymore, and trust me, you don’t want me as your literary agent, because I don’t want to be one anymore, so it would never work. But I’m a great coach, and what you want is a literary agent who has the same relationship with you that I do. Then you also want an editor at your publishing house that you have a similar relationship with. You want a whole team of people like that. So, that’s really what it’s about, and trusting yourself as an author, and you can have that if you do all the right things.
It’s what I like to picture for people. Yes, literary agents and publishers come and go in your career as an author. I’m not going anywhere, but you really do need a team of people. Thank you so much, Lakshmi, for doing this. I love promoting my authors, and I can tell when someone has taken the time to share information or give advice that in a way will help everyone listening. It wasn’t self-indulgent, just telling your story. It was obvious you wanted to help everyone listening. I know your advice will benefit a lot of people. Thank you for being here.
L.S.: I must thank you, Mark, for this wonderful time, because every time I speak with you, there’s something constructive happening. I told you the last few times I spoke I had a book, and I look forward to working with you more. More importantly, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for me to talk to people in the US and other parts of the world, because this kind of opportunity doesn’t happen through the regular publishing world. It’s a fantastic call, and worthwhile talking to you and interesting, Mark. I really appreciate you choosing me to do this call, so thank you.
Lakshmi Subramani, author of Lights Out (Random House), provided this interview and review of Mark Malatesta. Lakshmi worked with the former literary agent turned author coach and consultant, which led to Lakshmi getting offers from three major book publishers: Penguin, Harper Collins, and Random House.
More About Mark Malatesta – Founder, The Bestselling Author
Mark Malatesta is the creator and curator of the popular How to Get a Literary Agent Guide at GetaLiteraryAgent.com, 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.