Brad Harper, author of the novel A Knife in the Fog, published by Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books, provided this review of former literary agent Mark Malatesta. Brad worked with Mark to improve his book and pitch materials (query letter and synopsis), resulting in representation by Jill Marr with Sandra Dijkstra & Associates Literary Agency and a subsequent two-book deal. Scroll below to learn more. Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews. And click here to learn more about Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author after you read the review about Mark Malatesta below by Brad.
Mark Malatesta Review by Brad Harper
“Mark, the day you said would happen, has happened. My agent, Jill Marr with Sandra Dijkstra & Associates Literary Agency, got multiple publishers interested in my novel, A Knife in the Fog, and I just signed a two-book deal with Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books.
When it was confirmed I had an agent, I opened a bottle of wine, got some nice Irish cheddar cheese, and my wife and I celebrated. I had three bottles of wine set aside: one bottle for when I got the agent, one for when the book sells, and the third one for when the book is published. Each bottle, of course, is a better quality of wine. Life could not be better.
My agent is very easy to work with, quick to respond, and very enthusiastic about my work. We talk a little bit about personal things as well. I don’t feel like I’m having a conversation with my dentist. She did give me some feedback on things that she wanted me to change in my manuscript, before offering me a contract. I think, among other things, she wanted to see how easy I would be to work with.
Mark, before I found your website, I got no response at all from my query letters. No interest. Nothing. Well, I take that back. One agent was interested in my concept, but then she said my story wasn’t exciting enough. She wanted me to mimic the voice of another author. That’s when I decided to get help and stumbled upon your website. As a retired physician, I know there are things you should use consultants for.
I didn’t know how to shape my query and you gave me perspective. Let me use an analogy. When I was in medicine, I would sometimes send a patient to another physician, and there was a standard format to use. I’d make the information concise, relevant, and useful. I only gave the other person what they needed. And I wouldn’t give the same presentation to an otologist that I’d give to, say, an oncologist.
I didn’t know how to do that when writing a query letter. A friend of mine had lent me one of her books about query letters, but I needed help to learn how to be concise and provide agents with information relevant to them. Information that would help them decide, quickly, if my novel was something they’d like to consider further. That’s the help that you provided. You taught me how to think like an agent.
Writing and telling a story is art but, once that story has been told, it’s a product. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, Leonardo da Vinci lived off the proceeds of his work. You can be an artist, but, artists also have to live. So, I had no issues whatsoever in shaping my idea, my concept, into something that would make other people want to read it. They can’t do that unless you get it in their hands though, you know?
I thought about self-publishing my book, but I knew I’d probably just get a couple thousand people at best to read that way. And, most self-published authors spend most of their time marketing, marketing, marketing. That doesn’t get my juices flowing. My dream is to get on an airplane, see somebody reading my book, and hear them tell me how good it is before I tell them I’m the author. It would be one of those fantastic moments that you put a gold frame and then put it into your treasure chest of favorite memories.
One of the most important things you gave me, Mark, was validation. That I wasn’t being totally unrealistic. You showed me the best way to pitch my product, but you also reassured me that I wasn’t wasting my time. You helped me hone my skills, and you were an excellent sounding board – you still are. It’s nice to have somebody to talk to about my writing in ways that I can’t talk to my wife. You’re a professional who knows the business and always gives me reality-based feedback. That’s extremely useful.
I know that I was one of your greener clients, and you were always very accessible. I would send you a little something about what was happening, and you’d always get back within a day or so. And you were always encouraging. I never felt like I was getting an automated or template response. It was always personal, from Mark to Brad, and I always felt like you were in my corner.
I was also impressed that you helped me secure so many testimonials. Eight well-known and bestselling authors agreed to blurb my book. My agent told me right up front, ‘You’ve done your homework; this list of people willing to give you blurbs will get editors’ attention.’ If I was William Faulkner or Stephen King, I wouldn’t need anyone like that, but I’m not William Faulkner or Stephen King!
I’m just a 65-year-old, unpublished author. My agent is taking a risk with me. Agents and publishers can’t afford to lose too many times. You know what you call an agent or publisher who takes on too many unsold or underperforming books? You call them unemployed. Having well-known authors and experts willing to review your work gives you credibility, and it shows agents and publishers that you can help sell books.
The list of agents you compiled for me was also huge. It saved me months of time and made it so that, when I got a rejection, I’d simply say, ‘Okay, batter up, who’s next?’ I didn’t have to go back and start rummaging through those hard-to-navigate-and-often-outdated-and-incomplete directories to try to find more people. That made getting rejections, and getting more submissions out, a lot easier.
Signing up to work with you wasn’t a financial burden for me. I mean, it was a significant investment, but, my wife and I talked it over. I wouldn’t have done it without her support. She saw how important it was to me to try to make it as a writer and said, ‘Well, you know, let’s go for it.’ It was a joint decision, and we decided it was an investment in this new career of mine. So, we did it.
I knew, Mark, after my first coaching call with you, that you could help me, and that I could trust you. You didn’t just give me a sales pitch. You listened. You were thoughtful. And your advice was appropriate. As an author, you can only get things to a certain point on your own, using advice from books and websites. Even great ones like yours. Thank you for everything. We have come a long way, my friend.”
Author of A Knife in the Fog: A Mystery Featuring
Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle
(Prometheus Books/Seventh Street Books)
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Do You Want to Be Like Brad Harper Who Provided this Review About Mark Malatesta?
Do you want to be like Brad and get represented by a top literary agent like Jill Marr with Sandra Dijkstra & Associates Literary Agency? Click here to get instant access to the Free Resources on our websites for authors and click here to find out how you can Schedule an Introductory Coaching Call. Mark Malatesta is founder of The Bestselling Author and Literary Agent Undercover, helping authors of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books) get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals. The above review of Mark Malatesta, Author Coach was provided by author Brad Harper.