Matt Levine, author of the dark thriller/horror novel Hollow (not yet published), provided this review of former literary agent Mark Malatesta. Matt worked with Mark to improve his query letter, synopsis, and manuscript, which resulted in literary agency representation with Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. 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 Matt Levine.
Mark Malatesta Review by Matt Levine
“It was a pretty good day to begin with when I got the news that a top agent, Bill Contardi with Brandt & Hochman, wanted to represent me. I had just gotten home from a long bike ride. I was hoping to have good news when I got back—and I did! I was on cloud 9 when it happened because I had tried to get an agent and book deal before, and nothing came through. So I was surprised everything happened so quickly this time, working with Mark. Bill was one of the first agents I queried with my new query letter. He wasn’t the only agent who asked for more material, either. I got many requests, and one of them came in just 15 minutes.
For a long time, for many, many years even before I started putting the finishing touches on my novel, I saw myself as a writer and wanted this to be my life and career. It’s what I’ve always loved. I tried to be confident, but not overly confident. I thought I had a chance to be a writer and hoped that I had the talent for it, but when you send out lots of queries and don’t get anywhere, it definitely affects you. No matter how confident you are, you inevitably start to think that maybe it isn’t going to happen, that maybe you aren’t good enough.
Before I worked with Mark, a few friends of mine in the Twin Cities where I live, who make a living writing, gave me some pointers. It was definitely valuable advice but it wasn’t very in-depth. They said that my query letter should have a little info about my book, and a bio. But I still had questions about how I should talk about my book and I didn’t know exactly what I should include in my bio. I was appreciative, but still lost. I knew that agents got a crazy amount of queries. I also knew that if I didn’t distinguish myself very quickly, they would take a 2-second look and then stop reading.
Mark wrote every single word of the query in a way that would draw an agent’s attention. He made my book sound good but he also made me sound like a great writer, and a marketable writer. I’ve always been bad at marketing myself. I’m terrible at it. Mark knows how to make you and your work seem appealing, special, and unique, without it sounding like bragging. The query is incredibly important because it’s your way to get your foot in the door, like a cover letter if you’re applying for jobs. If you have a bad cover letter then your prospective employer will throw it out and go to the next one because they have hundreds or thousands more.
Mark has so much experience and good advice that it’s obvious he knows what he’s talking about. Just deciding to work with him boosted my confidence. It made me feel like getting an agent and book deal might actually happen. I knew that I was finally doing everything I could to give myself the best chance. Mark then showed me how to get famous authors to say they would allow me to send them a review copy of my manuscript. I was amazed. I even got an invitation to send a copy of my book to Stephen King’s home address. That was amazing because I never thought I’d get anything back!
I know it’s important for authors to demonstrate their ability to promote themselves but, again, I’ve never been great at self-promotion. So I was uncomfortable about writing letters to famous authors for support. But getting all those emails back got me one step closer to being published. And it made me feel like I might actually have a shot at getting an agent. Before working with Mark, I also didn’t know much about writing an attention-grabbing synopsis. I always felt like writing and submitting a synopsis and query required some secret code or hidden language that I didn’t understand.
Mark gave me a list of the most well-known and respected agents who were also the most likely to be interested in my book as well. That was really helpful. Researching agents is normally very time-consuming. It takes forever. Mark gives his coaching clients everything they need about every agent that might be a fit for them, including their individual submission requirements, all in one spreadsheet. Everything I could think of was on that spreadsheet. It saved so much time, an absolute lifesaver.
The training guideline documents that Mark sent me were helpful as well. In a very encouraging way they tell you what to remember when researching agents, submitting queries, and following up. They even include tips to help you stay positive and productive. Mark could have easily left that stuff out about trying to maintain your confidence and keep on trucking when you get rejections.There is even information about the best way to handle it if you get an offer for representation, or if several different agents are offering representation at the same time.You don’t want to burn any bridges with literary agents, so that was really important to learn as well.
At first, sending queries out is exciting but it can quickly become tedious, irritating, and discouraging. The first time around, when I wasn’t working with Mark, it didn’t take long for me to start hating the querying process. Doing it with someone is much more fun. Mark is kind and supportive and, although we’ve never met in person, he recognizes that querying agents can be a stressful and discouraging period for authors. And he was there with me every step of the way, helping me to be patient and keep up my confidence until the right agent came along.
I get the sense that Mark really believes in his clients’ work, cares about them, and really wants to support them and see them be successful. It would be easy for someone in his position to just send out form emails and letters and do the bare minimum. I kind of had the fear that maybe that’s what it would be like working with him. I’m also not rich or wealthy by any means, so it was a big decision. But every single email and phone call boosted my confidence and made it clear that Mark had my back.
A big part of what convinced me to work with Mark was all the testimonials I saw on his website from authors who have found agents. They seemed sincere and varied enough that they were people’s actual stories. And so many of the testimonials that I read said the same thing I’m saying now, which is they weren’t sure at first but they took their passion for writing very seriously and wanted to make this happen and decided to take the plunge and it was better than they hoped it would be.
I read that over and over again on Mark’s website from actual published authors. That convinced me that Mark was legit and that my time with him would be worthwhile. So I signed up for an introductory coaching call. I figured that I could make that expenditure and see what happened. I still wasn’t totally sold but I was optimistic enough and convinced enough to give that call a go. Obviously I didn’t have any lingering doubts or skepticism after that call, and I signed up to do more with him once he said that he thought he might be able to help me get an agent.
Some authors might be more interested in writing and want to focus more on that than the business of getting published. For me, a couple years ago I decided that I wasn’t really happy working jobs that I didn’t care that much about. I wanted to take my writing seriously and make it happen because I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. For other authors who feel the same way, it’s extremely valuable and, in some cases, imperative, to get help from someone who has experience in the industry. If I hadn’t worked with Mark, I honestly think my attempts to get an agent for my book would have ended up on the back burner.
I would have given up on my first book in a way and shifted my attention to the next book. In terms of what is more enjoyable and personally gratifying, writing is hands down more gratifying and rewarding than sending out queries. But getting an agent is pretty fun and gratifying as well. One of my writer friends once said, “If you write books but don’t get people to read them then you’re only doing half the job. If you want to be a writer you need to get published and that’s just how it is.”
That was pretty inspirational and it forced me to take my work more seriously. A work of art doesn’t really come alive until it has an audience. Working with Mark made me feel like what he says about getting published isn’t luck, but a decision, was really true. You still need a little luck, of course, but that statement has a lot of legitimacy to it. There are a lot of things you can do to perfect your submission and work, and put yourself in the best position to make it happen.”
Author of the novel Hollow
(not yet published)
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Do You Want to Be Like Matt Who Provided this Review About Mark Malatesta?
Do you want to get a top literary agent like Bill Contardi with Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc.? 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 Matt Levine.