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Dear Author,

Although most authors use this Q&A page to post questions about how to get a literary agent… you can ask me anything about writing, publishing, and/or marketing your book(s) below. It doesn’t matter what genre your book is (fiction, nonfiction, or children’s books), and it doesn’t matter how far along you are in your process. I’ll do my best to help.

My name is Mark Malatesta and I’ve worked in the publishing industry most of my life. As a literary agent, I secured contracts with publishers such as Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Prentice-Hall. I also served as the Marketing & Licensing manager for the publisher Blue Mountain Arts. Now, I’m helping authors get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals as an author coach.

The only thing I love more than books (aside from my wife and our two cats) is helping authors get their books out into the world in the best way. That’s why you’ll find a treasure trove of valuable information (and inspiration) on my websites, including my answers to the 50 questions (below) I’m most asked by authors. I’m happy to answer your question(s) too.

If you want to post a question, make sure it isn’t answered in the FAQ section below first. I’m not going to answer questions that have already been answered. 

Also, please note that your question/comment will be posted publicly. If you want to remain anonymous, type “Anonymous” in the name field. Either way, your email address will remain private and you’ll receive an email when a reply has been posted (usually within 48 hours). I’ll do whatever I can to point you in the right direction.

I look forward to helping you achieve your publishing goals.

All my best,

Mark

Frequently Asked Questions

PUBLISHING A BOOK

1. What do I need to know about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, and which publishing companies are the best?
2. What size advance payment can I expect from a traditional publisher?

The size of your advance will depend on four things. First, the genre of your book. In general, the bigger and/or more popular the category is, the bigger the advance. Second, if you have an agent, and you have a good agent, you’re more likely to get a bigger advance. That’s one of the things that separates good agents from mediocre agents. And, third, the size of your advance will depend on whether you have just one publisher who wants your book, or more than one. If you have more than one publisher, they might bid against each other. When that happens, the size of your advance could double, triple, or more. Ultimately, publishers consider all the above and base the size of an author’s advance on how many books they believe they’re going to sell during the first year of publication.

3. Is it possible for a writer who's never published anything to get a top literary agent, publisher, and book deal?

Most of the authors I’ve helped get published with major publishers like Random House as a literary agent and, now, as an author coach, were previously unpublished. In many cases, they were self-described nobodies who didn’t think of themselves as writers or authors, but they believed they might have written a good book. You have to start somewhere as an author, so don’t let your fear of not having a bigger platform or publishing history stop you. Having a great book is what matters most. And most successful agents and publishers never tire of discovering the next great book. It never gets old.

4. Does my book need to be finished before I contact agents or publishers?

It will depend on your genre…

Fiction Authors (all genres): You’ll need a completed manuscript (no exceptions), as well as a 1-2 page, double-spaced synopsis. A small number of agents will also ask for a long (5-6 pages, double spaced synopsis) and/or a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, and/or a fiction book proposal.

Nonfiction Authors (all genres, including memoir and narrative nonfiction): You’ll need a partial manuscript (three sample chapters, not necessarily the first three), as well as a complete book proposal with chapter summaries for the entire book (even if the book is already complete).

Picture Book Authors: You’ll need a completed manuscript (no exceptions). A small number of agents will also require you to have a second completed manuscript to submit your work.

5. What do I need to know about copyrighting my book?

LITERARY AGENTS

6. What are literary agents and how do they work?

Read my 9-part Guide to Literary Agents here: http://literary-agents.com/guide-to-literary-agents/. It reveals: what agents are, what they do, and how they work; pros and cons of hiring a book agent; how agents get paid; requirements to be an agent; a brief history of agents; and tips to help you determine whether you should try to get an agent.

7. What's the #1 thing I can do to increase my chance of getting an agent?

Listen to (or read the pdf transcript) of my most popular audio training (67 minutes), 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.

It explains:

* Why you must have an agent and how they really work (some of the things you learn are going to shock you)

* 3 types of literary agents and how you can find the right one for you

* The most important thing that agents and publishers think about when they’re considering your work

* 5 writer scams that could cost you thousands (or tens of thousands of dollars)

* Why you can’t think of yourself as an author (if you want to make a living as one)

* The critical difference between good agents and great agents

* Why you have only 8 seconds (yes, 8 seconds) to get an agent’s attention

* 5 types of authors (and why it’s so important that you know who they are)

* Why many of the things you’ve learned about query letters is completely wrong

* How you can get help from me personally 1-on-1 to get an agent

To access the recording and transcript (no charge), click here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you enter your name and email address, simply click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library” and the training mentioned above is the first recording/transcript on the page.

8. Are agents prejudiced about age, education, location, ethnicity, lifestyle, beliefs, etc.?

Authors sometimes think agents and/or publishers are prejudiced when it’s not that at all. The real problem is that some authors have a narrow focus in their work that isn’t very inclusive or commercial. This is particularly true when it comes to “special interest” authors whose writing explores: race, religion, politics, sexual identify, etc.

Inclusive writing means making the focus of a book the theme(s) that any person (or a lot of people) can relate to. In other words, there are some books written by black authors (for example) that are only (or primarily) going to be read by black authors (instead of a mainstream audience) because they dive so deep into the black experience. Same thing goes with Christian authors. Whenever I’m coaching a Christian author, one of the first questions I ask is, “What’s your goal? Where do you think your book fits on the mainstream/Christian spectrum? Do you want to reach a secular audience or simply “preach to the choir”?”

No matter how inclusive your writing is, it isn’t going to interest everyone. Some agents are very eclectic and open to reading books by any author about anything. Others aren’t, and only look for certain things. Me? I’m one of those open and eclectic people I described a moment ago. I don’t have any agenda with authors except to help them see the range of options and opportunities, based on their beliefs and goals. The clearer you are about your goals, and how your work is going to come across, the easier it will be to get the desired response from literary agents, publishers, and readers.

Other things you might find helpful:

Old authors: Read this article: http://literary-agents.com/old-authors/.

Young authors: Read this article: http://literary-agents.com/young-authors/.

Education: Your education won’t be relevant unless you’re writing a nonfiction book as an expert. In that case, your education might be important. But research and life experience might be acceptable as well. One way or another, as a nonfiction author (not memoir or narrative nonfiction) you’ll need to show agents and published why you’re qualified to write about your topic.

Location: This isn’t usually relevant, but if you’re trying to get a literary agent in the U.S. and you live outside the U.S., make sure you scroll below and read my FAQ section for International Authors.

9. Where can I find the best agents interested in my type of book?

Find literary agents interested in your book using our Directory of Literary Agents (no charge). It’s the most comprehensive (and accurate) list of literary agents in the world (in print or online), and you can access it here: http://literary-agents.com/directory-literary-agents/.

The directory features:

* Detailed profiles/bios for more than 1,300+ agents

* Searchable by book genre/category

* Preferred query method(s)

* AAR membership status

* Personal email addresses

* Mailing addresses

* Agent photos

* Links to agency websites

* Maps to agency offices

10. What do I need to know about the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives)?

Our 5-part article series contains everything you need to know about the Association of Authors’ Representatives: history, mission, Canon of Ethics, requirements to be a member of the AAR, and how to find contact information for active members. Click here to read the article series: http://literary-agents.com/association-of-authors-representatives/.

11. How can I avoid bad literary agents?

Read our guide to finding the best literary agent for you here, which includes an article about how to identify and avoid bad literary agents: http://literary-agents.com/best-literary-agent/.

12. Should I try to find a literary agent where I live?

It’s more important that you find the most established agent with the best track record of sales who believes in you and your book and shares your vision for your writing. Read this article series about finding the right literary agent before deciding who you want to submit your work to: http://literary-agents.com/finding-a-literary-agent/. In particular, make sure you read the section about New York literary agents located here: http://literary-agents.com/finding-a-literary-agent/new-york-literary-agent/.

You should also know that most agents aren’t going to meet with you in person unless they’re already representing you and/or they’ve already gotten you a book deal. One exception is the opportunity to meet with literary agents at a writers’ conference (learn more about writers’ conferences here in this article I published with Writers Digest): http://literary-agents.com/writers-conference-part-01/.

Despite what I just stated above, you can certainly submit your work to agents in your area if there are any. You can search for literary agents by location in my Directory of Literary Agents that you can access here (no charge): http://literary-agents.com/directory-literary-agents/. Once you’re in the directory, after you’ve entered your name and email address, use the drop-down menu and scroll down until you see the location categories.

13. Is the only way to get a literary agent through a referral?
14. How many agents should I query at one time and what do I need to know about simultaneous submissions?

The phrase “simultaneous submissions” can mean two different things. One type of “simultaneous submission” is querying more than one agent at the same agency at the same time. You should never do that because agents don’t want to “compete” with other agents at their agency. Why? No agent wants to spend the weekend reading your manuscript, only to find out Monday morning that you already signed a contract with another agent.

The other type of “simultaneous submission” is querying different agencies at the same time, which you should do. Otherwise it will take you years to get an agent, since some agents take months to respond (or never respond). However, 99% of the time I suggest authors refrain from letting agents know they’re submitting to multiple agencies. It’s essentially none of their business, unless an agent responds positively to your query and asks to see more material but only on an exclusive basis (meaning they won’t look at it unless you say you’re not going to show it to any other agent while they’re considering it). If that happens, you’ll have to decide how you want to handle it based on: how many queries you’ve sent out, who the agent is, exactly what s/he’s said, and whether anyone else is already reading your material.

As long as you’re only querying one person per agency at a time, you can send out as many queries as you want. However, you should only query the very good to great agents before you start querying less successful agents. I always tell my coaching clients that we’re going to send out a small number of queries in the first round (10-40). The general idea is that I like to see my clients get some type of positive response (a request(s) for more material) based on a small first round of submissions, before encouraging them to send out more.

That way, if the query isn’t working (or working as well as I’d like), I can still tweak something before sending out more. That’s why I would never send more than 40 initially. It gives you time to adjust. Another thing that affects my decision about how many queries to send out initially (closer to 10 or closer to 40) is how many agents are interested in your genre. If there are many hundreds of agents in your genre, I’d say you can be more aggressive and send 40. If you’re writing something like Christian Fiction (on the other hand) with a much smaller number of agents to choose from, I’d start with 10.

Read this article for more information about simultaneous submissions: http://literary-agents.com/finding-a-literary-agent/stop-looking-for-a-literary-agent/.

15. What's the best way to write a query letter?

Visit our query letter website at http://query-letter.com/.

16. If my book is part of a series, should I mention that in my query letter?

Some agents like series and/or sequels. Some don’t. At least not initially. If your books stands alone (meaning a reader would be able to read the second or third book without having read the first book), then you might say that in your query. I like “softening” any talk about series or sequels that way since some literary agents and publishers (surprisingly) believe that standalone books are superior. But, if you’re successful with your first book, agents and publishers are often (not surprisingly) more open to the idea of subsequent books that would appeal to loyal readers familiar with the first book.

17. If I have more than one book, in different genres, should I mention everything in my query?

Don’t do it, unless the genres are closely related. For example, if you’re pitching a young adult novel and you also have a middle grade novel in development, that’s okay to say. What you don’t want to do is seem like a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. In other words, telling agents that you have a thriller you’d like them to consider, but you’ve also written a romance novel, cookbook, self-help book, and children’s picture book isn’t might impress them. It’s more likely going to make it seem that you haven’t yet figured out what you’re best at.

Seemingly focused authors are perceived as more likely to have achieved mastery. So, if and when you get an agent who wants to represent one of your books, you can let him or her know about your other projects, at that time, and see what happens. You can certainly be eclectic and successful in multiple genres, but you don’t need to share that information in your query. And you might end up having more than one agent. Read this article: http://literary-agents.com/literary-agent-menage-a-trois/.

18. What's the best way to write a book synopsis?
19. What's the best way to write a book proposal?
20. What do I need to know about nondisclosure agreements or NDAs?
21. Should I attend a writers' conference and, if I do, how should I pitch agents and/or publishers while I'm there?

Read my 2-part article on how to pitch literary agents at a writers’ conference, originally published in the Guide to Literary Agents (Writers’ Digest Books): http://literary-agents.com/writers-conference-part-01/.

22. Should I query agents via email or postal mail?
23. How should I format my query, synopsis (fiction authors), and sample chapters or manuscript?

Every one of these things has different requirements and you should do your best to make them all look the way agents expect them to look. That way, agents will be able to immerse themselves in your writing, instead of getting hung up on your formatting.

Query formatting tips: http://query-letter.com/how-to-write-a-query-letter/query-letter-format/.

Document formats that agents will accept: http://literary-agents.com/get-a-literary-agent/file-format-submission-guidelines-for-literary-agents/.

Synopsis formatting tips: http://query-letter.com/how-to-write-a-query-letter/query-letter-vs-synopsis/.

Manuscript formatting tips: Your manuscript should have a cover page with the title of your book, your name, and your complete contact information. Each chapter should begin on a new page, about a third of the way down the page, with chapter headers centered. You should have a header with your last name and the title of the book left justified, and the page number right justified beginning on the first page that appears after the cover page. Indent all your paragraphs, although you may or may not decide to ident the first paragraph of each new chapter and scene (after a scene break). Don’t add space between paragraphs unless it’s a scene break. Use Times New Roman font, 12-point. One or two spaces between sentences is okay, although one is now preferred.

24. I am a picture book author but not an illustrator. Can I just submit text or do I need to find or hire an illustrator?

Some agents only accept picture book submissions from authors who are also illustrators (they’ll let you know on their websites if that’s the case), but most agents accept picture books without illustrations. And, unless you’re a professional illustrator and/or working with a professional illustrator, it’s usually best to wait to illustrate the work. In fact, even if you are a professional illustrator and/or working with a professional illustrator, it’s can be best to wait… to illustrate. That’s because your agent and/or publisher will likely want to edit the book and that might change the number and/or type of illustrations you need. Your publisher will also want to lay the book out in a certain way, and that might change the number and/or type of illustrations you need as well. Lastly, your publisher might want to use a different illustrator and/or artist.

25. What are good/bad/typical response times for submissions to agents?
26. What's the best way to interpret literary agent responses and feedback?
27. What should I do if my pitch to agents isn't working, or working well?

Authors can often get a drastically different response by tweaking or changing something in their pitch materials (query letter, synopsis, first 50 pages, etc.). My favorite example of this is one of my coaching clients who’d pitched her #1 “dream agent” three times over the course of two years. She was rejected every time. After I helped her rewrite her query letter, she approached the same agent, a fourth time, and he requested the full manuscript. So, don’t get too discouraged. You might just be a few changes away from getting what you want.

INTERNATIONAL AUTHORS

28. Will literary agents in the U.S. consider books by authors living abroad?

Most literary agents in the U.S. will consider any book if it has appeal for the American market. In other words, the primary focus and value of the work needs to include content that an American reader can relate to. If you do that, you can write about anything, anyone, and anyplace.

29. Can I get a literary agent if my book isn't in English?

If you want to query agents and/or publishers in the U.S., you will almost always need a translation that’s in English so they can read it. If you’re already famous or well-known, and if your book is already selling well abroad, you might get away with doing less translation initially and get help from the publisher with the rest. But probably not agents.

PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED AUTHORS

30. What's the best way to approach agents regarding a book that's already been published?

It’s never too late for a previously published author to get a literary agent, traditional publisher, and book deal. But it can be tricky. Read this article which talks about that, and a few other things you might find interesting and helpful: http://literary-agents.com/its-not-what-you-say/.

If your book is currently under contract with a vanity press (one that you paid), they will probably let you out of their contract (although you might have to pay them a small fee). They usually let authors do this because vanity presses make all (or, most) of their money on authors paying them to publish their work. Look at the fine print in your contract, the publisher’s website, or ask them about it. However, you might want to wait and see if you can get interest from agents first, before you terminate your contract with the vanity press.

Getting out of a contract with a smaller but legitimate press (one that didn’t charge you to publish) is also possible. But you, or your new publisher, might have to pay them significantly more for the privilege.

BOOK GENRES & WORD COUNT

31. What genre does my book fit into?

I often tell my coaching clients they’ll need to call their book different things, depending on who they’re pitching. That’s because some books can be categorized in different ways. And that’s a good thing because it means those authors can pitch their book to more agents. For example, if you’ve written a thriller and you haven’t been able to get an agent that you know represents thrillers, there’s still hope. You can then begin pitching appropriate agents who represent commercial fiction, mainstream fiction, and/or general fiction because some of those agents might be interested in your work. To help you figure out which genre(s) your book fits into, look at our book genres website at http://book-genres.com, which has definitions for every genre that agents represent.

32. What's the best word count for a book in my genre and what can I do if my book is too short or too long?

Authors often get confused about the best word count for their book because they don’t realize that books by first-time authors have stricter requirements. One author I spoke with once told me, “My novel for young readers can be 800 pages because two of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are 800 pages.”  I replied, “She’s famous and can get away with that. Go look at her first book in the series. It’s less than 300 pages.” It is possible to get an agent, publisher, and book deal for a book that’s above or below the normal word count for your genre… but it can be tricky. Read this article which talks about that, and a few other things you might find interesting and helpful: http://literary-agents.com/its-not-what-you-say/.

Typical word count ranges for first-time authors:

Adult Fiction: 80-95,000 words (variations include formula romance which can be shorter; as well as historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy novels, which can be longer)

Nonfiction: 50-90,000 words

Young Adult: 40-80,000 words

Middle Grade: 20-40,000 words

Chapter Book: 10-15,000 words

Early Reader: 2,500 words or less

Picture Book: 1,200 words or less

33. Which genres are best and/or most popular?

WRITING/EDITING A BOOK

34. How can I write a bestseller?

Read this article series talks about what a bestselling author really is and how to become one: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/how-to-become-a-bestselling-author/.

35. How can I make my book "high-concept"?
36. How can I "raise the stakes" in my novel?
37. What's the best way to write a book that will support my business?
38. Should I hire a freelance book editor or ghostwriter?

Editing: I’m a big fan of getting editing support, but it’s not always necessary. You might be further along than you realize, so it could be worthwhile to have someone look briefly at your work before investing the time and money that working with a decent editor will require. Good agents will give you some feedback about how to improve your work as well, if you’re fortunate enough to get agents reading your work. And sometimes that’s all you need.

Ghostwriting: If you don’t want to take the time to write a book, or you don’t feel you have the skill required to do a great job, you can hire a ghostwriter instead who will help you write your book.

MARKETING & PROMOTION

39. How can I improve my "author platform" or "promotional platform"?

Advising authors about how to get more exposure or improve their platform is difficult because the best marketing strategies are going to be different for each person… based on their unique goals, skill sets, personality, lifestyle, and time/money resources. There are literally hundreds of ways to improve your platform and get more exposure, but, to be successful (and happy) you need to find the few strategies that are right for you. This article is a good first step: http://literary-agents.com/author-platform/.

40. What do I need to know about having (or not having) an author website and what makes a good one?

Read this 3-part article with information about what you about having and/or creating an author website: http://literary-agents.com/author-website/.

41. What do literary agents think about social media for authors?

MISCELLANEOUS

42. Will you tell me what you know about a specific agent, publisher, editor, event, website, organization, etc. (or make recommendations or introductions)?

I don’t answer questions on my websites about specific agents, publishers, editors, events, websites, organizations, etc. If I did, I’d be inundated with such requests—and it’s a very subjective process. In other words, what’s right for someone else might not be right for you. However, I’m happy to answer questions like that during an introductory coaching call, during which I’d have sufficient time to make sure my recommendations are good ones, based on your unique situation. Click here to learn more about scheduling an introductory coaching call: http://markmalatesta.com/mark-malatesta-author-coaching/.

43. Will you forward a message or submission to a specific agent, author, or publisher for me?

I’m not able to forward any requests or messages to the literary agents, authors, or anyone else listed or feature on our websites. If I did, I’d be inundated with such requests.

44. Will you be my literary agent?

No. I’m no longer a literary agent. I’m now fully committed to helping authors get literary agents, publishers, and book deals as an author coach.

45. Will you promote something for me on one of your websites, in your newsletter, or on social media?

No. Although I do promote things on my websites, in my newsletter, and on social media but it is always something I initiate. Otherwise, I’d be inundated with such requests.

COACHING & CRITIQUES

46. Will you review and comment on any of the following: marketability of my book idea, quality of my writing, query letter, synopsis (fiction writers), chapter summaries (nonfiction authors) book proposal (mostly nonfiction authors), website/blog, book cover, book trailer, etc.?

I answer general questions online here (below), no cost. If, however, you want feedback on your book idea(s) and/or sample pages, query letter, synopsis, book proposal, website/blog, etc., you can get that by registering for an introductory coaching call here: http://markmalatesta.com/mark-malatesta-author-coaching/.

47. Can I work with you 1-on-1 to get a literary agent?

Yes. You can register for an introductory coaching call with me here: http://markmalatesta.com/mark-malatesta-author-coaching/.

48. Can you help me get an agent for poetry, short stories, or academic books?

Probably not. Most literary agents won’t represent authors of books for the academic market because they’re not profitable enough to be worth the agents’ time. And it’s extremely difficult to get a literary agent or publisher for a collection of poetry or short stories unless you’re already a well-published and/or award-winning writer. The good news, however, if you write poetry and/or short stories, is that it’s not that hard to start getting standalone poems and/or short stories published. You simply must be patient and persistent submitting your work to journals, anthologies, contests, etc. Poets, of course, often make wonderful essayists, short story writers, and novelists. And short story writers often expand one of their short stories into a novel, while seeking publication and awards for some of their individual stories.

49. Can you help me get an agent for stage, TV, or feature film?

Not exactly. Although some authors I’ve worked with have had their work adapted for TV, stage, and feature film, my main specialty is helping authors get literary agents, publishers, and book deals. That often leads to interest in the other areas, through the author’s agent or publisher. Most agents who represent books help authors with subsidiary rights including TV/film as well as English editions in other countries and international editions in other languages. Agents often partner with another agency (co-agenting or sub-agenting) with another successful agency to handle subsidiary rights.

50. How can I post a question?

Simply scroll below and fill out the form!

comment-or-question

If you want to post a question, make sure it isn’t answered in the FAQ section above first. I’m not going to answer questions that have already been answered. Please note that your question or comment will be posted publicly. If you want to remain anonymous, enter “Anonymous” in the name field. Your email address will remain private and you’ll receive an email notification when a reply has been posted (usually within 48 hours).

4,050 Comments

  1. Avatar

    why is it so difficult for me to sign with a reliable agent with my list of traditionally published books and history of published articles in the past thirty years? Have had a couple of really bad ones and one excellent one but cannot connect with the latter again.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Sylvia,

      They get 10-15K queries a year.

      It’s extremely competitive that way.

      Good news is you’ve done well in the past.

      So you’re more likely than most to have success again.

      If you continue querying…

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    Mark,

    Do indie publishing deals look goid in agent query letters.
    David

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi David,

      I’m happy to help if possible, but I don’t understand your question. Please explain in greater detail here and I”ll get back to you ASAP: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Just self published my 4th book (“CHECKMATE” a grand jury thriller), with a preview/tease of #5 book (“Pattaya M.I.A.”) in the back of #4 book.

    Author Website:

    www.michaelpinchot.com

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Michael,

      Congratulations…

      Are you hoping to get an agent and looking for help, simply celebrating the fact that you new book has been published, or trying to promote it by posting a link to your website?

      If your goal is to get an agent…

      See my Frequently Asked Questions page where you posted your message, located here, to see the resources I offer to help writers get agents: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      And…

      If you haven’t already done so, you should click here to access all the valuable resources we have about getting an agent in our private, members-only area (no charge): https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you’ve entered your name and email address there, you can search for agents by genre in my agent directory. You can also click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library”. Then you’ll see my main audio training (with a text transcript), which reveals the 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.

      You might find that helpful as well.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    LET ME FIRST THANK YOU FOR YOUR HARD WORK AND THE WELL WRITTEN WEBSITE YOU HAVE CREATED. I AM PLEASED TO BELONG.
    I AM A 82-YEAR-OLD WOMEN THAT HAS A PUBLISHED BOOK TITLED, “CAUGHT IN A TANGLED lOOP.”
    I WILL SEND A FREE COPY IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN READING IT. I AM LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT PERSON THAT WILL BE WILLING TO TURN IT INTO A MOVIE.
    THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS.
    I REMAIN SINCERELY YOURS, Audrey Clare
    audreyclare1983@gmaol.com
    6368912018

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Audrey,

      I hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

      Thank you for your kind message, and your generous offer.

      See here: https://literary-agents.com/literary-agents-managers-cinematic-writing/.

      And see my Frequently Asked Questions page where you posted your message, located here, to see the resources and types of support I offer to help writers get agents: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      Also…

      If you haven’t already done so, you should click here to access all the valuable resources we have about getting an agent in our private, members-only area (no charge): https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you’ve entered your name and email address there, you can search for agents by genre in my agent directory. You can also click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library”. Then you’ll see my main audio training (with a text transcript), which reveals the 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.

      You might find that helpful as well.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a wonderful weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    I wrote my fist novel at age 82. I paid you $250 for advice. I have since submitted queries for an agent for two years without success. I have resigned myself to believing my writing must not be worthy of publication. Unless I self publish it appears to be a lost cause.
    Signed,
    Discouraged

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Mecole,

      Yes, as you’ve seen, unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to get an agent, as they get 10-15K queries each month. But, as long as there are agents you haven’t queried, if there are any left, there’s still hope. But I also understand you not wanting to continue trying, if that’s the case. It sounds like you’ve sent out a lot of queries already, enough to feel like you gave you book a fair chance. I’m glad you at least did that. If you change your mind, continue querying, and get an offer…I do hope you will let me know.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    As n urban fantasy author, I obviously have a very small list of agents to query. What I am running into makes this process even more aggravating, the database has not been updated for a considerable amount of time. Dead email address, no longer there, and closed to queries is the rule, not the exception.

    I realize this is a massive task, but if the information is not usable, why bother keeping it up?

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Robert,

      It is a massive task, and we do our best. Like most other directories (print and online) we do two major updates per year that take months to complete (one of those is in process now). We also do minor updates throughout the year. And you can/should always check agent websites to verify who’s open at any point in time, etc. as that changes daily. And you shouldn’t query between Nov. 15 through the end of the year because many agents are closed then.

      All my best,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    I need to know if there is a Spanish agent in your web. or someone that can help me with the tools necessary, to write my autobiography
    in Spanish.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Manuel,

      Please see my Frequently Asked Questions page where you posted your message, located here, to see the types of things I help authors with, and the resources I offer to help writers get agents: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      Also…

      If you haven’t already done so, you should click here to access all the valuable resources we have about getting an agent in our private, members-only area (no charge): https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you’ve entered your name and email address there, you can search for agents by genre in my agent directory. You can also click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library”. Then you’ll see my main audio training (with a text transcript), which reveals the 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.

      You might find that helpful as well.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  8. Avatar

    Mark,

    Here’s a little more on NDA/KeepSafe Agreements for authors from the perspective of a retired Judge who has seen plenty…

    The following is NOT intended as legal advice and should not be relied on as such. This is NOT an offer of legal services. This is simply general commentary. Consult your own lawyer.

    PART II

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Dear Anonymous,

      My website/blog has a character limiter (500 characters) that apparently wasn’t working before when you posted your original post, a while back. That one made it through, the entire thing. This new one didn’t. So, if you have an article or blog post, however, that’s longer than 500 characters, that you want to share, that you’ve posted elsewhere, such as on your own website or blog, you can post a link for it on my site instead of the actual info, article, or post. Here’s the link, and have a great rest of your weekend: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    Mark, I value you and what you’re doing. I’m a seasoned author–have published about 80 books, both fiction and nonfiction. My last agent died in 2014 and I haven’t secured another. I wrote a lot while my wife was ill and after she died. I now have four novels, a children’s book, and a couple of plays I need to market. Would you consider helping me? I would be happy to pay more than the standard percentage of royalties if I could get a really good agent.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi John,

      With your background, you should have an easier time than most getting agents reading your material, if you present yourself and your work properly. To that end, please take advantage of the no-cost resources on my websites. See my Frequently Asked Questions page where you posted your message, located here, to see the resources I offer to help writers get agents: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      And, if you’re able, set up a consultation call here:
      https://markmalatesta.com/mark-malatesta-author-coaching/.

      Also…

      If you haven’t already done so, you should click here to access all the valuable resources we have about getting an agent in our private, members-only area (no charge): https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you’ve entered your name and email address there, you can search for agents by genre in my agent directory. You can also click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library”. Then you’ll see my main audio training (with a text transcript), which reveals the 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.

      You might find that helpful as well.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  10. Avatar

    Hi Mark,

    I have finally retired and settled into our retirement town, Kapaa, Kauai.
    The revised manuscript, Proposal, and Query are also completed. From a list of Christian agents from one of your sites, I read all the bios and notes, and selected 28 of 88. I sent out three queries a week ago, and have one request for the Proposal, but nothing more yet.
    Because of the holidays, I will wait until January for more.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Larry,

      Excellent, please continue to keep me posted.

      And…Happy Holidays!!

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  11. Avatar

    Mr. Malatesta: I find your articles helpful. How do I check to see what Authors/Books a prospective agent has represented? If he/she does not publish a list on website, should that raise suspicion?
    Thank you very much.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Staneley,

      On their websites and sometimes at PublishersMarketplace.com (you’ll have to pay/register there to see that info though). And, yes, if an agent doesn’t tell you what s/he’s sold, you have to wonder if it’s anything.

      And…

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  12. Avatar

    Hello Mark,
    My manuscript is based on a true story whilst traveling through the Sahara with the Bedouin. The categories include: daring high adventure, faith and inspiration.
    It is very cinematic and ready for the right top-draw agent and publisher. I write with my British vernacular – and would love a conversation with you if convenient. Thank you! My phone: 970-948-0783

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Kristina,

      You can set up a consultation call here if that’s what you meant:
      https://markmalatesta.com/mark-malatesta-author-coaching/.

      If not, see my Frequently Asked Questions page where you posted your message, located here, to see the many no-cost resources I offer to help writers get agents: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      And…

      If you haven’t already done so, you should click here to access all the valuable resources we have about getting an agent in our private, members-only area (no charge): https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you’ve entered your name and email address there, you can search for agents by genre in my agent directory. You can also click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library”. Then you’ll see my main audio training (with a text transcript), which reveals the 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.

      You might find that helpful as well.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  13. Avatar

    Hi again Mark! One more question for you. When we are doing the “word count” for our genre-mine being self-help so 50-90,000 words, does that include EVERY word in the book? For example, my book will include a workbook section coinciding with each chapter. Do I count those words as well?

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Yes. 🙂

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  14. Avatar

    Hi Mark! As far as font size, font type and spacing requirements for a self-help book, where can I find that?
    I want to have everything formatted correctly for the self-help genre! Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Renee,

      Times New Roman, 12-point, double-spaced. 🙂

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  15. Avatar

    Hi Mark,

    Many agents ask for a chapter outline.
    1. Is it necessary to double space the chapter outline as well?
    2. Where should I add chapter outline? (In the beginning before sample chapters or after sample chapters and synopsis)

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Z.K.,

      You can go either way, if the agent doesn’t specify a preference. And it’s usually best to include the requested items in the order they’re listed by the agent.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good rest of your weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  16. Avatar

    Hi Mark, One year after my book was published, I earned out my $3,000 advance, plus about $200 in royalties. Does this say anything about the success of my book from my publishers perspective? Can I at least assume it wasn’t a failure for my publisher? Or is that impossible to determine? Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Dan,

      Since I’ve heard it said that 80% of books published by traditional publishers don’t earn out their advances, you’re doing well. 😉

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good rest of your weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  17. Avatar

    If I can carve my name into the industry trunk with some sharp and short stories, can I get away with longer word counts in novels?

    The first instalment of my series (sci-fi/fantasy with a twist of horror) is 207 k words and cannot be trimmed down. But I’ve got some great horror novellas loaded and ready to fire out to agents.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Brandon,

      That won’t make a difference, unfortunately…and any book can be made shorter or divided into two or three shorter works. I would try to do that, since it will be much easier to do that than get an agent for a novella.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a great rest of your day,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  18. Avatar

    Been there, done that: Deborah Rogers, London, Elaine Markson, Clyde Taylor, + 2, NY. Sold best seller. 6-figures.
    Film agents, 2, LA. Scripts optioned.
    I know the older agents & many agencies, but not looked for one for 25 years & much has changed. I have an important new non-fiction script for a major publisher & fine Query letter, but need counsel strictly on who it should go to. It’s a political/industrial/national scandal + a love story when I & a beautiful stranger were trapped in the 9/11 rubble.
    Can you help on that? Can you reply directly to my email?

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi Anonymous,

      You can set up a consultation call here if you’re interested: https://markmalatesta.com/mark-malatesta-author-coaching/.

      However, I’d talk with you about more than just the types of agents who should pitch.

      There are many more things you’ll want to consider that will increase your chances of getting the outcome you want.

      If you’re open and coachable.

      I’ve coached newbies but also NY Times bestsellers.

      I’ll be able to get a better sense of what you might need, specifically, to increase your odds, prior to the call, if you set one up, through my author questionnaire, your pitch materials, etc.

      If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good weekend,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
  19. Avatar

    Mark,

    On NDAs… As a Ret. Judge who would actually decide these matters, let me weigh in. The following is NOT intended as legal advice and should not be relied on as such. This is NOT an offer of legal services. This is simply general commentary. Consult your own lawyer.

    PART 1

    1st, Get real about what is truly “unique” and protectable. Most “unique” ideas/plots just AREN’T and would not be protected in any event. Research your idea/plot line/twist/approach to see if someone else independently arrived at the same great “Aha !” moment you did, here or abroad. Better to be disappointed up front than after you’ve poured your heart, money and soul into that new “wheel” inspiration. For those that ARE, you should absolutely go to a LAWYER B/4 submitting OR talking about your work with ANYONE. Make a copy of whatever you intend to submit/release and give it to your LAWYER FIRST to keep sealed in secret. This will be important to show lack of OTHER access to your “unique” work. LAWYERS are then ONLY folks you can talk to who MUST keep your great idea secret… not your Mom, priest, shrink, doctor, agent, publisher, coach, or anyone else.

    2nd, REGISTER a copyright for the work. Common law copyrights are harder to enforce.

    3rd, Have your LAWYER draft a good NDA to accompany all your submissions. To be ENFORCEABLE, NDAs must be “reasonable” in geographic scope and duration and should reference ALL hands that might come into contact with your work. Only a lawyer will know precisely what/who that is, depending.

    4th, Include artful reference to the fact that you have taken these steps to protect your work in your first query or a cover letter submitted with the work to discourage a rogue, with access to your “unique” work from becoming tempted to capitalize on your efforts. This is called “notice” when you get to court. Include an NDA when you send your work. If you are as great and “unique” a writer as you think you are, you should be able to find a way to work your “notice” into a query letter without turning off a potential agent/publisher. Use humor, use subtlety, use a “unique” approach but DO discourage.

    Paying lawyers to sue for your rights is exponentially more expensive than preventing the offense in the first place. Just because it happens to be “custom” in the industry not to sign NDAs does NOT mean that if you truly have something worth protecting, you shouldn’t insist. DO NOT RELY ON “CUSTOM” and anecdotal reporting.

    When it is YOUR work that has been poached, the fact that “most” work isn’t poached or that “most” agents wouldn’t “risk it” is no comfort at all. Those who poach usually have more resources than first time authors and they damn well know it. They BETyou can’t/won’t come after them… and what writer has the time to sue and needs the headache ?

    Finally, to test whether your work is really “unique” and/or might find an audience or be received well by an agent/publisher once submitted… Do your OWN pre-market focus group testing WITH NDAs in place for all beta readers BEFORE submitting your first query. Assemble a group of folks from family or close friends that are REPRESENTATIVE of your target audience once published. Trust but verify ! Make ALL of those folks sign an NDA/keep safe agreement with you. THEN and ONLY THEN, discuss your work for feedback and provide chapters, outlines, etc. for their preliminary review.

    It doesn’t matter that this group is not comprised of literary “professionals”. What matters, is that they are REAL people who actually READ and buy the kind of books you are trying to write. If your “genius” idea/plot/twist/approach doesn’t strike a chord with those folks, it likely won’t be “saleable” which is what the “professionals” are looking for. No matter WHAT someone tells you, EVERYBODY is in it to get PAID ! Otherwise, they would all write their “masterpieces” in ocean sand or on the back of a napkin.

    If the feedback is great however, you now have a powerful argument as to why you need and are requesting an NDA. Example : “Twenty-five randomly chosen, avid science-fiction readers, who read, on average, five books in the genre a year, have reviewed this submission under the enclosed NDA and raved about the completely new perspective you will find on these pages… blah, blah, blah” . This is the : “everybody else already did, so if you don’t intend to steal my idea, what’s YOUR problem ?” appeal.

    Don’t forget, agents and publishers are just “real people” too, who may or may not (depending) have slightly more knowledge as to whether something has been tried before and how to physically get a book to the public.

    Good Luck !

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Thank you for your very thoughtful post…

      It was kind of you to share it, and I’m sure many authors will find it helpful.

      Have a great weekend, and Thanksgiving!

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Thanks Mark,

        I started out just wanting to find out how a beautiful, hardcover book by a well-known author ends up being my stress relief, sleep bonanza at my neighborhood Dollar Store. As I’m sure you can guess, that took me down a fascinating rabbit hole I am still exploring… and may ultimately write about.(lol)

        Reply
        • Mark Malatesta

          🙂

          – Mark

          Mark Malatesta
          https://markmalatesta.com
          The Bestselling Author
          https://thebestsellingauthor.com
          Literary Agent Undercover
          https://literary-agents.com

          Reply
      • Avatar

        Thanks Mark…

        Have never had any response to ANY feedback I have offered to ANY web-site I was amazed and delighted to find that you actually cared and responded to my post. I came across your site when doing VERY preliminary research on new resources for would be authors. Have to say… how extremely impressed I have been as I poke around on your site.

        Reply
        • Mark Malatesta

          My pleasure, and yes…

          As you know…

          We live in a world where many people don’t bother saying or doing anything that doesn’t directly impact their bottom line, but I appreciate you having taken the time, and I’m glad you’re finding my website helpful.

          Have a great week,

          – Mark

          Mark Malatesta
          https://markmalatesta.com
          The Bestselling Author
          https://thebestsellingauthor.com
          Literary Agent Undercover
          https://literary-agents.com

          Reply
          • Avatar

            How do I marking my book about the bond between my Son and me. He was a brilliant writer who died. I wish to promote this book about the journey through Love and Grief, along with the Veil between two Souls throughtout many lifetimes. also need a littery agent to promote his screen play to Hollywood, and his recent play
            in 2017 he had a play off broadway. Won an award in 2016 for the screen play I wish to pormote?.

          • Mark Malatesta

            Hi Dee,

            If your goal is to get an agent…

            See my Frequently Asked Questions page where you posted your message, located here, to see a lot of resources (no cost) to help you get an agent: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

            And…

            If you haven’t already done so, you should click here to access all the valuable resources we have about getting an agent in our private, members-only area (no charge): https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you’ve entered your name and email address there, you can search for agents by genre in my agent directory. You can also click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library”. Then you’ll see my main audio training (with a text transcript), which reveals the 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.

            You might find that helpful as well.

            If you want help with anything else, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

            I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

            Have a good weekend,

            – Mark

            Mark Malatesta
            https://markmalatesta.com
            The Bestselling Author
            https://thebestsellingauthor.com
            Literary Agent Undercover
            https://literary-agents.com

  20. Avatar

    Sir:
    I apologize, I thought that my question was correct and did not see it on your list.

    So I will try to be clearer this time.

    I would like you to represent me as a Literary agent or publisher.

    Reply
    • Mark Malatesta

      Hi David,

      I’m honored you think enough of me to ask, but I’m no longer an agent and I’m not a publisher.

      I only help authors get agents now…

      If you want help with anything along those lines, you can post more questions online here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.

      I’ll do what I can to point you in the right direction.

      Have a good rest of your week,

      – Mark

      Mark Malatesta
      https://markmalatesta.com
      The Bestselling Author
      https://thebestsellingauthor.com
      Literary Agent Undercover
      https://literary-agents.com

      Reply

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