Paulla Schreiner, author of the novel Rough Ride (not yet published), provided this review of former literary agent Mark Malatesta. Paulla worked with Mark, resulting in her being offered representation by Bob Diforio, a top literary agent. 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 Paulla.
Mark Malatesta Review by Paulla Schreiner
From wallflower to prom queen—two agents offered to represent me!
There had been a whole string of days where I didn’t hear from any agents. I was out in the dark, deep space. Then literary agent Bob Diforio forwarded a note to me from one his readers that said, “I read the first half of the book on my way to the UK, and I read the second half on my way back. It was un-putdownable. This is a great project.” Bob then said, “I’d like to represent you,” and he asked if we could set up a call.
My heart stopped.
I thought I misread the email! I looked again and showed it to my husband. He said, “No, I think he really means it.”
I remembered I had several other agents who’d requested full manuscripts. So, I told them what was happening, and a second agent said she’d love to represent me! She called me at home. I was panicking because I didn’t know what to say. She was charming and said she was sorry she hadn’t gotten back to me sooner.
I had my phone call with Bob, and he was gracious and professional. He also sent an author agreement. You looked it over and suggested an important change and, when I asked Bob about it, he wrote back and said it was fine.
My husband and I opened a bottle of Schramsberg Reserve Champagne to celebrate. It’s a California winery that’s been in business forever and been served at the White House for the last 40 years for state dinners. We polished that little puppy off, and we’re going out with friends this weekend to celebrate more.
When I got my agent, what flashed through my mind was when I first decided I wanted to write seriously. I was still teaching at the time, and the only place I could set up an office was in an old storage area in our basement. So, we set up two boxes and a board. The make-shift desk had an opening where my knees would fit. My daughter was small enough she’d sit under my desk. I’d pass down white paper for her to color on, and I’d write my stories.
Getting an agent didn’t come quickly or easily, but you were a knowledgeable mentor and friend who stayed the course with me. I would write to you if a full or partial was rejected. You’d say, “That’s okay. All you need is one. All you need is one.” It got to be a mantra, and it was helpful because you never let me get depressed or down.
I always had faith in you and there’s something about your demeanor that says, “I know what I’m doing. Just shut up and do what I say.” Laughter. I’m a former teacher, so I know sometimes it’s like that.
Self-publishing was just not my dream. I knew I wanted to publish traditionally. Before I found you on the Internet, I was focusing on trying to find an agent using Query Tracker. Query Tracker had a lot of information but required a lot of research time. It’s sort of grab bag. I mean, it’s good, but time-consuming to sort through all the different agents.
I was also part of a couple of helpful critique groups. I kept trying to gin up interest with agents through queries and conferences, but it was a bit of a slog. I sent out, oh, gosh, about, 50+ queries doing that, and I didn’t get any offers. Meanwhile, I took workshops and read a lot of writing newsletters which is how I found you. When I did, I said a small prayer, “If this is supposed to work, help me out here.” I got in contact with you and registered for an introductory coaching call.
By the time I filled out that long questionnaire you required before the call, you knew more about me than my own mother. You’ve got to be pretty committed just to fill that damn thing out. I could tell from the questionnaire that you were serious. You also reviewed a sample of my writing. You’re very thorough and answering all your questions helped me clarify what I was doing and why.
It was terrifying when I got on the phone with you the first time. I had that little voice in the back of my head saying, “The first thing out of his mouth is going to be, `I’m not sure you’re ready yet.’” It was scary, but once I got over my nerves, it was really helpful. You validated my ability and said you thought I had a good shot at eventually finding an agent. You didn’t pressure me to sign up and do more coaching with you.
You were always rooting me on, like you were in my corner and would help me in any way you could. It was encouraging. I knew that what I’d tried before hadn’t been working. My old approach was sort of wild shotgun approach. If there was a squirrel in the woods, I wasn’t hitting it. You were focused, and I had faith you could direct me down the road to success.
When you told me to contact well-known authors about getting blurbs for my book, I thought you were crazy. My brain went tilt, and I said, “Why would I be writing to authors, and why would they write back? I’ve not published anything yet. I don’t even have an agent. I don’t have a whisper of a hope.” But you said, “Trust me.” I did. And I was thrilled I got two authors to say yes and one gave me a definite maybe.
The next big whoop-dee-doodle was how many queries you wanted me to send out. I went, “Uh, excuse me? I mean, nobody does that.” I about choked on my tongue. I wondered, is that even ethical to send out so many? You talked me down off of that ledge, and I began sending out lots of queries with mixed results.
Every time I sent out a bunch of queries, I got several rejections but also requests for a full or requests for partials. Most of them didn’t pan out, but getting those requests kept my boat afloat. It’s bloody hard work, sending out that many queries. Days sitting in your chair going blurry-eyed because not every agency wants the same thing. It takes precision and persistence. If you don’t have those two things, you’re not going to finish.
The way you helped me organize submissions was amazingly helpful too. You had me send out big bunches of queries in chunks, then I could take a break and wait eight weeks before sending out the next bunch. Once I got a bunch out, I said, “Oh, thank God.” I could take a break to focus on my writing and hit it again eight weeks later. You can do anything short-term as long as you know there’s an end in sight.
It was much easier than if somebody had told me, “Okay, Paulla. You’re going to send out hundreds of queries all at once and maybe get an agent.” I would’ve shot ‘em, you know? But, this way, it was like the old story of how you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. If you look at the whole kit and caboodle, it’s mindboggling. Your way, doing it in blocks, is much more manageable mentally.
I was stunned at what a good job you did with my query as well. You took all my various bits and pieces and made me sound like a superstar. Your version made my initial query look like it was written by a junior high student. It was pretty pathetic, even though I worked on my version at conferences and with the help of critique groups.
I had rewritten that thing I don’t know how many times and, of course, every new workshop I went to had a new approach about how to do it. I’d try and still had no luck. But you took everything and polished it in a way that made me look great. I was damned impressed with myself in that query! I really appreciated that because, obviously, the query got my foot in the door to a lot of agencies.
You know what you’re doing and if authors will listen to you and do it your way, it can work. I had faith in your system and felt confident in you. I never once thought you weren’t cheering me on. I really thank you for that. When you’re a writer sending out all those queries and getting rejections, it’s everything to know somebody besides your friends and immediately family is rooting for you.
Your system works. I didn’t have any problem shutting up and doing what you said. Well, maybe a bit in the beginning when you suggested I contact famous authors. But I got over it, and I’m glad I did. You’re trustworthy, and, though I didn’t always understand your whole process, I trusted you and followed your instructions. And now I have a top agent.
Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.
aka Paulla Hunter
Author of the novel Rough Ride
(not yet published)
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Do You Want to Be Like Paulla Schreiner Who Provided this Review About Mark Malatesta?
Do you want to be like Paulla and get represented by a top literary agent like Bob Diforio? 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 Paulla Schreiner.