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Mark Malatesta Review by Author N. Aronheim

This Mark Malatesta review was provided by the author of Soles of a Survivor, a memoir, published in hardcover by Skyhorse Publishing, distributed by Simon & Schuster. Skyhorse has 56 New York Times bestsellers, and has been named by Publishers Weekly as the fastest-growing small publisher in America.

Mark Malatesta helped Nhi improve her memoir, author platform, book proposal, and query letter, which resulting in requests from many literary agents. Click the following links to see this review of Mark Malatesta, followed by an interview with Nhi, during which she shares advice for authors of all book genres hoping to get a literary agent.

Mark Malatesta Reviews – Nhi Aronheim

Thank you for your support during the nail-biting experience of getting a literary agent. My book is now being published by Skyhorse Publishing, distributed by Simon & Schuster. They’ve published 56 New York Times bestsellers, and they were named by Publishers Weekly as the fastest-growing small publisher in America.

Head shot photo of brunette author giving review of former literary agent Mark MalatestaAfter you and I worked on my manuscript, book proposal, platform, and query letter, I prepared to send out my first large round of submissions to literary agents. But, within 24 hours, eight agents asked for more information and I got an offer.

I was thrilled. 

I then took your advice and used the script you sent me to start contacting all the interested literary agents to let them know I had an offer. I said I couldn’t wait three or four months for them to read the manuscript and decide if they wanted to represent it. So, they pushed everything aside to read my book proposal in a hurry.

It was exciting but extremely stressful, trying to figure out how long to wait, which offer was best, and how to do it without pissing anyone off. I was freaked out talking to different literary agents on the phone. Thank goodness I had you. Once I knew who I was going to work with, I went out with my husband and two author friends to celebrate.

Pt. 2 – Mark Malatesta Reviews

Before I worked with you, I sent out many queries for my book but didn’t get offers, just standard rejections. After getting requests for more material and having every literary agent pass, I knew something wasn’t right. That’s when I started doing research and reached out to you.

One of the reasons it worked the second time is that you helped me emphasize different themes. The message of the book remained the same, but you helped me phrase the query letter and description in a way that made the book more relatable. Before, it was just a survivor story about a kid in Vietnam. Now it appeals to a broader audience—it’s an inspirational memoir about diversity, survival, and unconditional love.

How I Got My Literary Agent for Memoir, Book Cover for NA Book OneMy literary agent said the query letter was exceptional, and every other agent who contacted me for more material said the same thing. The literary agents also said my author platform was impressive. In fact, my agent said, “It’s so impressive that it might just be too much.” She said she was going to pull out some of the things we included in the marketing plan and tell publishers there’s more promotional material if they want it.

While writing my book, my friends asked about you, I would say, “This man, I have a love-hate relationship with him. What I love about Mark Malatesta is that he’s an expert and very caring. He’s like the parent who knows what’s best and tells the kids what to do, but the kids don’t like it because it is hard work.” Working with you felt like I was getting my master’s degree in English literature 🙂

Pt. 3 – Mark Malatesta Reviews

Actually, I felt like I was being trained by Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid. It was a lot of, “Change this. Do it again. Wax on. Wax off.” One day, you’ll remember this, I was lazy and didn’t put enough effort into my chapter summaries. You made me redo them four times. Each time, I told my husband, “Damn it, he keeps bossing me around!” I love that you told me what I needed to hear, to put myself in a better position, and my husband had a good laugh at the torture you put me through.

Developing my author platform was also painful. I remember thinking how hard it was but then I got 14 well-known people saying they would review my book for promotional purposes. I was so excited. When I told you, you said it was a good start. Then, when I told you I had 28 people, you said that was better but you asked me if I wanted to be mediocre or excellent.

I told my husband, “He’s killing me, he’s killing me!” I didn’t like hearing the word mediocre. My husband said, “This man knows how to push your buttons. He knows how to get you to do more.” My husband was quite entertained by the whole process. You were part of my family dinner conversation and the kids loved learning about you and your “agonizing” process. 🙂 And, needless to say, that’s how you continued getting me to raise the bar and took me from zero promotional partners to 59.

I appreciate you pushing me.

Another way to describe working with you is training for an Ironman Triathlon. When athletes are training for those events with coaches, pushing through the pain, they often say, “I hate you. You’re torturing me. You’re killing me.” It can feel that way, but the coach and athlete respect each other, and the athlete knows the coach has good intentions.

Pt. 4 – Mark Malatesta Reviews

The literary agent list you made for me, with the agents prioritized regarding who’s really good, was also a godsend. Copying and pasted agent information manually is a lot of work and that takes too much time. Having the list you sent to me allowed me to get a lot of queries out pretty fast, much, much faster than before I worked with you.

What first sold me on you wasn’t just the big number of testimonials on your website, or the success you’ve helped people achieve. It was the caring way people who’ve worked with you talk about their experience. When I spent the money to do your coaching, I didn’t know if I’d get a literary agent, but I knew I’d learn a lot and have a much better chance.

I expected it to be hard, but I was really surprised at the joy and the respect I felt working with you—the partnership. My husband, who is now a fan of yours, was so intrigued by the relationship I have with you that he asked me for updates to figure out what you’d been doing to push me. He wanted to learn your moves, especially after finding me staying up at two in the morning doing the work!

Authors should know they can’t just give you their credit card number. They have to do the work. And they should expect to run into challenges. When that happens, they need to remember that you only want them to succeed. Then need to just shut up and do the work. That’s what I kept telling myself. You can cry inside for five or ten minutes. But then do the work. If you’re not willing to do what Mark suggests, then don’t join his program because you’ll waste your money and also cause frustration for everyone.

Thanks again, Mark, for everything!

NHI ARONHEIM is the author of Soles of a Survivor, published in hardcover by Skyhorse Publishing, distributed by Simon & Schuster, with 56 New York Times bestsellers, named by Publishers Weekly as the fastest-growing small publisher in America

Nhi Aronheim Interview (Audio and Text) with Former Literary Agent Mark Malatesta

During this 63-minute interview with Mark Malatesta, author Nhi Aronheim talks about her journey to get her book, Soles of a Survivor, published in hardcover by Skyhorse Publishing. She shares her suggestions for authors of all book genres regarding the best way to write, publish, and promote their books.

Mark Malatesta: Nhi Aronheim is the author of Soles of a Survivor, published by Skyhorse Publishing, distributed by Simon & Schuster. Skyhorse Publishing has been named the fastest-growing small publisher in America by Publishers Weekly and they have 56 New York Times bestsellers.

Though Nhi is only 4’9”, her story is immense.

Several anthologies and a documentary that aired on PBS have profiled her harrowing journey as a child refugee who went on to live the American Dream.

The soles of Nhi’s feet still bear the scars of her horrific escape from Vietnam—where she trudged through the jungles of Cambodia as a child with a group of strangers seeking the land of opportunity: America. Her only possessions at the time were two pieces of clothing and a heart filled with hope.

Nhi’s story isn’t just another inspirational survival story, however. It’s about the lessons she learned about humanity, diversity, and unconditional love since arriving in the United States.

After Nhi met her Jewish beau, they married and Nhi now has an even deeper appreciation for the parallels between the Jewish and Vietnamese cultures, and others.

Nhi’s book is an invitation from her heart to yours, reminder that there is light at the end of every tunnel.

Nhi and I worked together to improve her manuscript, platform, and pitch materials, which led to her getting a top literary agent and the offer from Skyhorse.

To learn more about Nhi, visit

So welcome, Nhi!

N.A.: Mark! Thank you so much for having me as your guest here today.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, my absolute pleasure. Go ahead.

N.A.: Yes. And thank you for being my coach. You are my sensei.

Mark Malatesta: [laughs]

N.A.: Yeah.

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. I had so much fun working with you. And I know you’ll tell everybody it wasn’t just fun, it was really hard. But I’m so grateful you’re here and you made it. And thank you for that kindness.

N.A.: Thank you for helping me get to where I am today. Without your help, I would not have been able to get my book published.

Pt. 2 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. My honor. So, let’s get into it. I know I gave a brief introduction of your book, but not many of the most interesting kind of human detail elements, right? Just kind of those general themes and things. So why don’t you take a couple of minutes and talk to everybody a little bit more about the book, about the story. I know a lot of people listening will want to get it and read it. Not just listen to your advice for writers, but read your story as well and be inspired by it because it is one of those stories.

N.A.: Thank you for giving a brief introduction about my book. Why would people buy my book? And the reason is it’s unique. Aside from an insane survival story, it is that I got the exposure to that diversity. Yes, I escaped Vietnam as a child refugee, and I got taken in by a Christian family in the south. So, when you talk about discrimination, I felt it. I experienced it all.

Mark Malatesta: And culture shock. I mean, goodness, you know?

N.A.: Correct. And not just being exposed and living in a Christian household, coming from Vietnam. I later fell in love and got married to a Jewish man, and ended up having a Jew Vietnamese family, raising my family in two different cultures. And that’s why my book is unique in that aspect.

Mark Malatesta: I love that. Yeah, your book is unique. It has many different threads running through it, where many, it’s just kind of one note. You have multiple arcs in your story. And many, many, many threads, like theme threads.

N.A.: Thank you. And I have received a lot of reviews from people outside of my friends and families, of course, because family and friends are typically biased. But people share that they love the rich content of my book. I’ve weaved in different aspects of life, and they experience the journey I learned and I grew. And they felt like I was in the living room or family room, reading to them, sharing with them my story about grit, resilience, and gratitude. And when I talk about grit and resilience, you know, things happen to us. But what can we do when things don’t go the way we want? Our ultimate goal is to have a book published traditionally. What if we don’t get to it? What can we do? So having resilience is something that can lift us up. And having gratitude to celebrate different milestones of our accomplishments, even one small step at a time. And that’s why my book is more unique and why people should read it.

Mark Malatesta: Right. I love that. And it’s funny. Usually, if people say, “Oh, my friends and family love my book,” it doesn’t mean anything.

N.A.: Yes! [laughs]

Mark Malatesta: In your case, it actually does because we’ll believe what the friends and family say because we got the hardest people of all to say it’s good, and that is agents and a real publisher. So then, it’s different. I just say that because a lot of people, if their friends and family love it, that doesn’t mean anything regarding what’s going to happen with agents and publishers. Does that makes sense?

N.A.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: But it’s a good starting point.

N.A.: I know family and friends are biased, but now I started getting feedback from people outside of family and friends. I even got emails and texts from folks in Germany. They read my book and love it. So I figure if they’re strangers and make that kind of comment, it must be good!

Pt. 3 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Absolutely. Yeah, strangers are going to tell the truth. Always. Okay, so let’s do this. I know you shared some of this with me previously, but it’s been a while now and I want you to share it with everybody else. Let’s talk a little bit about, have you relive when everything unfolded, like when you got that first real offer from an agent. What were you doing before that happened, like that day? How did you get the news? How did you react to the news? And then, how did you react to the news when you got the book deal? Because that’s what everybody listening, most of all, is visualizing for themselves, right? They’re just like, “Oh, I want that too.” So, let’s, let’s talk about that. And if you’ve done anything to celebrate, then we’ll go back in time and talk about your advice for writers and how you got to that point.

N.A.: Okay. I think to think of what happened before I got the agent offer, first, I listened to you as my coach. You told me what to do, which means that I drafted many, many personalized query letters over a few months’ period. And then, I sent all of them at once using that delay delivery feature via my email.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: And because I sent it out, all of them out in one day, within 48 hours I received five different literary agents showing their interest and asking for more material. After that, I — of course, we have to find a way to celebrate one step at a time. And I’m fortunate that my husband was by my side helping me mentally every time I got discouraged. He kept telling me, “Let’s find where to celebrate because you get one step closer.” So basically, every week, we figure one thing out to celebrate. He said, “Okay, you have five agents showing interest. Let’s go and celebrate!” Even if many of them might reject you.

Mark Malatesta: Right. I love that.

N.A.: Yeah, he said, “We’re one step closer.” And once we got an offer from a literary agent, Sharlene Martin, of course, I was shaking. I didn’t know how to behave.

Mark Malatesta: [laughs]

N.A.: I called you, Mark! I’m not sure if you remember. I just freaked out.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: I called you. I said, “Mark, I don’t know what to do! She wants to talk to me.” And then, after I talked to her, I called my coach again, “Mark, she offered to represent me! What am I supposed to do?”

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: I didn’t know how to review the contract. And you were with me along the way, helping me. You said, “Okay, just calm down. It’s good, it’s good.”

Mark Malatesta: [laughs]

N.A.: “Let’s figure one thing out. Okay, this is how you can go back and negotiate with the agent.” You helped me review the offer from the agent.

Pt. 4 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Right

N.A.: And once we were okay with the offer from the agent and I signed the contract, and the next step after that would be the literary agent reviewing my book proposal. And she revised it for me, upon my agreement. And then, she sent out query letters to the publishers. So just so you know — and, you know, I’m talking about the listeners.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: The literary agent also got a lot of rejections from the publishers, just like many of us authors. So, I felt empathetic and sympathetic to her, and what she does. And that’s how the process works. But I can tell you, during that time from getting a literary agent to getting the book sold, it was a nail-biting experience. Certainly, I was biting my nails. And my husband, between you and my husband, he had to say, “Okay, just take one step at a time. Let’s go and celebrate. You are one step closer,” every time I got freaked out. You and my husband kept saying, “You are one step closer.” And for that, I’m thankful. When you asked about the celebration, as an author, yes we deal with a lot of rejection. It’s not a good feeling.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: And I had to learn through you and my husband to find small things. And one step at a time, to celebrate. Otherwise, we would go insane.

Mark Malatesta: Right. You suck the joy out of all of it. Everything you worked hard to create.

N.A.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: Oh good. I love it. How long did it take, once you signed on with the literary agent, for the book deal to happen? Because boy, that can take, you know, months. It can take longer than a year for some people, that part.

N.A.: I think it happened within three months.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, okay.

N.A.: And the difference is my literary agent was very good. She’s very focused. And once she gave, she was able to follow through with her promise. She said, “Nhi, I will review your book proposal and revise it from this day to this date. When I’m done with it, I’m going to send out query letters.” She was able to follow through and got them out. But from what I understand, is many literary agents may not work the way Sharlene works.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, I was just gonna comment, they’re all very different. Like where some people listening might wonder, well, gee, why would she revise your proposal, right? Especially if you work with someone like me. Well, the proposal is the one thing, unlike a query letter, for example, where I would have told you, “Nhi, you should expect agents to want you to make some changes to the proposal.” I always err on the side of making sure we have every single thing in there they could possibly want in a way that might be over the top. And then, the only flaw in that is literary agents, the only thing they might need to do is hopefully just remove some things. Or if they prefer their proposals organized in a slightly different way, they can do that. But that’s normal.

N.A.: You are correct. My literary agent told me that the proposal that you helped me put together was very solid. When I talked about her revising my proposal, a lot of it was format.

Pt. 5 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Oh, okay.

N.A.: She said, “Okay, we have under the platform, we have the other comparable books.” And I had the title — she didn’t need the form to make it look even better, insert the images of those books next to each of the title so people can recognize it.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, okay.

N.A.: Correct. But otherwise, the proposal you helped me put together was very solid, and she was quite impressed.

Mark Malatesta: Oh good. Good. Let me look at my notes here. When did you first get the idea that you might be a writer or an author or do this book?

N.A.: That’s an excellent question. You know, Mark, with English being my second language, it never crossed my mind that one day I would become a published author. Yes, I’ve written articles for work for marketing purposes. Maybe once a month, I wrote an article. But I never thought that one day I would be able to write a 330-page book.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: But the reason I got to it was my children asked me one day over dinner. They said, “Mom, you gave us a different glimpse of your story about your past, and how you survived and how you live the American dream. Can you please write down your story so we can know about our heritage?” It really shocked me that my children are both Vietnamese and Jewish. And if I didn’t write something down for them, we would end up losing our heritage, and they wouldn’t know where they were from originally. So that’s why I wrote out the story, to leave as a legacy for my family. And fast forward, I did not realize it would become published. I decided to take it the traditional route. Because at that time, even now, I felt like our country needs more stories about diversity, tolerance, unity, how we all can work together for the common good, because there’s so much deviation in our country. That’s why I decided to take the book and go the traditional route, if possible.

Mark Malatesta: Right. And it’s funny, it says a lot about you as a parent, that your kids would ask that and want that. Because I think most kids, it’s like the last thing they want to hear about, stories…

N.A.: Oh, my kids think I’m crazy, in a good way.

Mark Malatesta: [laughs]

N.A.: [laughs]

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, it sounds like how you describe me, I think. Interesting.

N.A.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: [laughs]

N.A.: They say, “Mom, you’re so crazy, but your story is so fascinating.”

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: “So, tell us more. Over dinner and every single week, tell us more.”

Pt. 6 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Right. Now, what else did you do, if anything? Other writing before working on the book? You said you did some of those articles. Was there anything else? Did you ever write short stories, poetry? Anything?

N.A.: Oh, well, I took English classes in college. And my writing got butchered by this English Harvard professor. And he actually taught me how to write. He was brutal, but I learned how to write through him. However, talking about learning from somebody, you taught me something powerful. What I learned from that Harvard professor was about the formal English writing style. When I worked with you, Mark, you taught me how to write it in a conversational style so that people feel like they can relate to me.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: That was really important. I had to learn to change my writing style.

Mark Malatesta: Well, it’s kind of easier to do, right? Because honestly, it’s just you being you, more natural and relaxed and confident. Especially for memoir. You’re just telling your story, no different than with your kids. You wouldn’t tell your kids your story in a formal style, right?

N.A.: Yes, and thank you for giving me that guidance.

Mark Malatesta: Did you read books on how to be a better storyteller or be a writer, take any other kind of workshops, seminars, things like that?

N.A.: I read so many books, Mark, to the point that now I don’t feel like — I need a break from reading.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: I picked up any memoirs I heard of that were good. And when there were certain writing styles I liked, I sat and dissected the book and writing style the way I did when I was in college, taking English writing classes.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: And so, once I dissected their writing, I liked the writing style, I said, “Oh, this writing style would work well with me and my communication,” I adopted that writing style. And I hope the listeners would select my book as one of their books to dissect and adapt. Okay? But that’s how I did it, I just read probably hundreds of memoirs. And among those hundreds of memoirs, I was able to nail down several that fit my writing style, and I adopted that process.

Mark Malatesta: That’s so good. That should be very encouraging for a lot of people listening. It doesn’t matter what type of book they’re writing, whether it’s memoir or something else, but the fact that English is your second language, that didn’t stop you. The fact that you didn’t have a bunch of stuff published prior to writing the book and trying to get published, guess what, that didn’t stop you. But the thing you did, that was one of the most valuable things that enabled you to do what you did, was get familiar with your genre, like other people’s memoirs. That’s one of the best teachers of all, right?

N.A.: Yeah. And what I thought of, okay, why would somebody read and love the book “Educated” or “The Glass Castle,” all these famous memoirs? I started asking why would people pick it? And I just got those books and I dissected them.

Pt. 7 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Right. I love that. Funny, actually, that’s how I learned how to write query letters when I was a young literary agent just out of college. Now you get me thinking about it, you know, how I learned how to write a great query letter is getting tens and tens of thousands of them and kind of really keying in on the ones that really captured me and captured my attention. And then you start asking yourself why. Why is that grabbing me, right?

N.A.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: And then, over years of that, then you kind of figure it out, and you get creative and come up with your own concepts how to make a query even better, but so much of what we learn and get good at is just from modeling, in a way. Not copying, but modeling and learning, right?

N.A.: Yes. And then, another thing I also learned too, Mark, is let’s say in my genre, a famous memoir doesn’t mean that their writing style would work for me.

Mark Malatesta: No. Right.

N.A.: I read some amazing books, and I learned from that. But I kept telling myself, is that me? Would that be my writing style? I said, no, if it doesn’t resonate with you and your writing style, don’t model it. Just model the one that works for you.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Yeah, it’s funny. I won’t name names, but there are many authors out there that have written books about how to write a memoir, and there’s one that I recommend to all my clients. And recently, one of my clients came back to me and said, “Well, you know, I really liked this book that this author wrote about how to write a memoir, but I don’t like that author’s memoirs at all, that that author wrote.” [laughs]

N.A.: By the way, I ran into that situation too.

Mark Malatesta: Right. I’m like, “That’s okay. That’s normal. Just read the one about how to write it because that’s good.” And it echoes exactly what you were saying, like you’re not gonna like everybody’s memoir, their style, but we can learn something from every book we read. But certainly, some you like more than others.

N.A.: I agree.

Mark Malatesta: So, let’s get into your advice for writers. Let’s start with authors who are either thinking about writing a book or they’re in the process of writing a book. It doesn’t matter if it’s a memoir or something else. What are one or two or three suggestions you have, things that you’ve learned, things that work well for you that might help some other writers be more effective, or more efficient, or enjoy the process more, be more likely to follow through? Any advice that way, external or internal strategy, to help a writer on their journey with the writing part?

N.A.: Yes. When you are in the process, or want to write a book, or in the process of writing a book, one thing I learned is that it is normal to have writer’s block. And when you do have writer’s block, it’s okay to go and get help. In my situation, for example, the first section of the book, people talk about how it was an insane survival story of a child growing up to become a teenager. And some parts were just painful to relive. And I had writer’s block.

Pt. 8 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: I put the book aside, I didn’t want to go forward anymore. I got somebody who told me, and she’s a writer as well, she said, “Nhi, it’s okay to have writer’s block. And it’s also okay for you to get help and get a coach or somebody to help you out.” And that’s when I hired — before you, I hired somebody to interview me and turn it into a transcript.

Mark Malatesta: Nice.

N.A.: When it comes to the portion that was too hard for me to relive and write. And number one is it’s okay to have writer’s block, and it’s okay to get help. The second part is when we are not consistent with our writing style. Let’s say, you know, many authors, professional authors, typically say, “Oh, you need to write 600 words per day.” But what if we don’t have the discipline to write consistently? Can we keep making excuses? Then it’s okay to hire a coach like you to hold us accountable. And people have this weird mindset, okay. If we are fat and want to lose weight, it’s okay to hire a personal trainer to help us lose weight, exercise and lose weight.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: They don’t think of the fact that if they have a challenging time holding themselves accountable to write, it’s okay to hire a coach. People don’t think of it that way. Guess what, Tiger Woods was at the top of his game, and he still hired a coach.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: So that’s what I can pass on to the listeners, it is okay for you to run into challenges and making excuses after excuses not to write. But when you run into that situation and you cannot move forward, hire a professional person. It can be Mark or someone else to help you pass that phase.

Mark Malatesta: I like that writer’s block comment because, in particular, with memoirs, it can be really hard. It’s so personal. Unlike anything else, if anybody’s going to write a memoir, it’s like you’re putting your life out there. It’s usually something pretty dramatic or traumatic, because otherwise, it wouldn’t be a book that a lot of people are going to want to read. So, you’re going to have to be dramatic. There’s usually a lot of stuff in there and a lot of stigma with writer’s block. There are a lot of writers and writers’ coaches and people who like the consistency thing, like they’re gonna make you feel bad if you’re not putting in your 600 words a day or whatever. But sometimes that’s not easy. My version of accountability, I’ve kind of changed over the years. I don’t want to take on too much accountability for my clients. I’m there for someone…kind of like part of the magic of is…there’s a great book out there that talks about the “fallacy of free.” That’s not the name of it, but it’s a marketing book that talks about the problem with free stuff. And it’s one of the things, like we don’t value what’s free. And so, that’s one of the things, like if you invest in books, or coaches or classes or whatever, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable, right? Because you’re investing, right?

N.A.: Yes.

Pt. 9 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: That doesn’t always mean someone’s going to follow through, right? But it helps. I don’t know, I’ve done this 10 years so I’ve learned the limits of what I can do. Definitely, I’m a cheerleader for people. I’m gonna push people in a good way, you know that. But then there are limits, because I know at a certain point, like if I go past a certain point, I could talk to the person for 30 more hours and beg and plead and push them, and it’s not gonna matter. That’s when they have to figure it out. They might have to talk to a therapist, or whatever they might need to do, or just decide and commit. But yeah, like those are two big issues.

N.A.: I agree with you. I think you cannot make somebody do the work as a coach. You can only encourage them. I usually relate it back to a personal trainer. The personal trainer can help somebody exercise and watch or follow up and watch carefully with the nutrition so they can lose weight or stay in shape. But the personal coach or trainer is not going to be able to help this person lose weight if he or she exercises, and then come back and eat 4,000 calories a day. You’re not going to stay in shape, and the coach or the trainer cannot do a damn thing.

Mark Malatesta: And they can’t do the exercises for you.

N.A.: Yes. You are right.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah. All right, so let’s talk about publishing now. Obviously, you decided at some point you wanted to go after traditional publishers, the ones that don’t charge you. You don’t pay to publish, but they’re going to pay you. That’s the best situation because they’re going to be most vested in promoting the book and selling the book. But why did you decide to go after literary agents and traditional publishers? Did you ever think about self-publishing or paying a vanity press or anything like that? What was your thinking?

N.A.: Yeah. The reason that I went to the traditional publishing route versus self-publishing is that I understand that a traditional publisher has a wider distribution. In other words, the bookstores, the libraries, would carry traditionally published books. But if the books are self-published, those channels more likely won’t carry the book.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: Unless you happen to know the librarians or the bookstore owners well. But with traditional publishers, they can distribute all the books nationwide, or even in some countries. For example, my book right now, I was surprised to learn they are even available in Germany, in England and Canada. That’s my number one reason. The second reason is influencers such as New York Times bestselling authors, famous people, they know how difficult it is to get the books traditionally published. So, when you approach them for future or potential blurbs or endorsements — you know the blurbs you see on the back of the book cover?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: They tend to say yes, because they think the authors are screened out.

Mark Malatesta: Right. That it’s vetted. They know you’re a good writer and they know they’re not wasting their time. If they take time to read the book and provide a blurb, they’re going to get visibility because it’s a book that’s going to have that distribution you talked about.

N.A.: Correct. When you read my book, you’ll notice I received 12 different blurbs from famous people. I think I got four or five blurbs from New York Times bestselling authors, and another one is from the president of UNICEF USA. So again, these influencers know that they will not waste their time if they read a traditionally published book.

Pt. 10 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: The other option I learned — and I might be wrong — is for film adaptations, Hollywood and the movie industry tend to look at the traditionally published books before the self-published books when they decide whether they want to option for a movie. And that’s why I decided to take the book to the traditional route.

Mark Malatesta: Absolutely. You know, there’s a time to self-publish or a time to go directly to smaller traditional publishers and things like that. But certainly, starting out trying to get a literary agent and do everything you can to get the biggest publisher possible just always makes sense, unless – you know, it’s very rare. Like I did an introductory coaching call with an author a while back. I won’t reveal any confidential stuff, but it was really rare. He just had a unique book that was well written. But it’s the kind of book that really just not that many people are going to be interested in that topic. It’s such a quirky, super quirky, small topic where it’s like, well, that’s one that you might just want to self-publish. Because I just know like big publishers are not going to take it. They’re going to say there aren’t enough people who are going to buy a book like that.

N.A.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: So, every once in a while, it makes sense to self-publish, but…

N.A.: And there’s nothing wrong with self-publishing a book. What I’ve learned is if the author wants to have more control of the book, and wants to control the expenses or the costs associated with the book publishing, and get more money per book sale, then go for self-publishing. Or if somebody is a business owner, and their goal is having the book to increase credibility to capture more clients through business and seminars, then go the self-publishing route. And it’s easier than going through the traditional route. Again, that’s only my perspective.

Mark Malatesta: Right. When it comes down to that money, the royalty rates vary, right? You might get 25% to 35% of the sales, retail price of the book for eBook, maybe 10% to 15% of the retail price for hardcover sales, 7% for paperback sales. It can vary a bit, but whatever those percentages are, with a major publisher, that percentage of a lot of money the publisher might be making is usually a lot more than 100% of nothing, or next to nothing, which is what self-publishing usually leads to. Like the average number sold is 86 copies or something. I just hope people will try at least to do the major stuff first.

N.A.: Yeah. I think that typically, you can just try the traditional route first. If it doesn’t work, then you fall back and do self-publishing.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Now, this is a wide-ranging question, right? So again, like when we talked about advice for authors writing a book, maybe they just have an idea for a book, maybe they’re finishing a book, maybe they’ve written lots of books. So marketing, the same thing. You know, for authors, writing any type of book, whether they’re just beginning to write a book, or they’ve already written a bunch of books, what advice do you have for them to think about, or do certain things, maybe before they have a literary agent. Or after their book’s published because building your brand or your profile or your platform, or thinking about promotion and marketing, there are things, as you know, that you can or should be doing even before you go after a literary agent. Plus, the stuff that comes later.

N.A.: Okay. I think that with building a platform, it is something I did not think about as an author until I started working with you, Mark. Because many of us, most of us who are authors who are first time authors, we didn’t think of marketing and platform. We just focused on writing the book. But working with you, you taught me to pay attention to that portion, because it also plays an important role in getting an agent to be interested in us.

Pt. 11 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: For nonfiction, for sure.

N.A.: Yes, for nonfiction. And you said, “Nhi, unless you are already a celebrity, it’s easier for literary agents to notice you. But if nobody knows our name, it is going to be a challenge.” So, in regard to the marketing, what I learned from you is that I needed to reach out to influencers for future blurbs, even though the book might not be purchased yet. But we reached out to influencers for future blurbs, and then follow up with them, even after they said yes.

And then, the second part is we need to figure out a way to contact the people in our lives and let them know of our work that will be coming in the future. In order to do that, we need to create an email list. Anybody who’s ever come into our lives, we should put that email list together. And then the third part is create a website under our name. For example, my website is, which is my first name and my last name dot com. And so, you also taught me how to create a website. No, you didn’t do it for me, but you gave me guidance on how to build a website.

And then the final part is start opening up some social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I noticed LinkedIn people are not as active, but Facebook and Instagram. Do I like to get on Instagram and Facebook on a regular basis? Absolutely not. I hate it!

Mark Malatesta: Right. [laughs]

N.A.: I hate it. I even removed Facebook from my phone, okay? Because I noticed I became addicted to it. I removed Facebook from my phone. I’m not going off the grid completely. I still get on it twice a day from my computer. I’m not as addicted if I do it on my computer. And so, try to stay active on those accounts. You don’t have to do it every single day, but regularly to engage with your sphere, the people in your life. Those are the top four things I remember, is reach out to influencers prior to the publication of your book, or even before you even get the publisher, asking for potential blurbs, create email lists. The third part is website with your name. Fourth part is social media. Those are the four things that I encourage the listeners or the authors to do.

Mark Malatesta: The good news is that for memoir — and it’s frustrating to me because literary agents will sometimes put out incorrect information. The truth is like with memoir — and you know this — you don’t need to be a celebrity or be famous to get a memoir published with a major publisher. In the old days, you would need to. Like we didn’t really have memoir way back when. We just had biographies and autobiographies, and well yeah, if you’re gonna write one of those about yourself or somebody else, that person needs to be famous, right? But with memoir, you don’t. You just need a really good story that is going to be relatable to a lot of people. And it can be just pure entertainment, or shocking or meaningful. It doesn’t matter, but it just has to be a really good book. But you do need to have something to increase your chances.

I’ve had a few miracles, some people I’ve worked with that had pretty much zero platform, get an agent for memoir. But it’s much easier if you’re doing some of those things you’re talking about. People don’t have to do it all, but the idea is this, for any nonfiction book, the agent is kind of saying, “Hey, we get a million submissions.” Most nonfiction authors are experts in an area. They’re not writing memoir, they’re writing maybe how-to books, like how to get published or something like this. And the publishers expect people writing nonfiction to therefore be pretty well known and experts in their category. And if they’re well known and experts in their category, they probably can get a lot of exposure and help promote their books, right?

N.A.: Yes.

Pt. 12 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: And so, that bleeds into the expectations for memoir authors, right? And so, you don’t need to do it all, but it’s hard to convince an agent, right? Like, “Hey, I’ve written a memoir and it’s really good, and I’m gonna do a ton of stuff to promote it and I’m capable of doing it. But I don’t have a website yet and I’ve never spent a moment on social media yet. But I promise I’ll do all that later and figure it out.” That’s tough. Tough sell, right? But if it’s like, “Hey, I got a website. And look, it doesn’t look like I built it myself.” And even if you did, it doesn’t look like that kind of thing, right? That’s the goal. And, “Okay, maybe I don’t have a million followers on social media, but at least I have social media accounts, and I’m starting to make progress in that direction,” right? And, “Okay, maybe I haven’t published articles in the New York Times yet. But look at this, I’ve got a few dozen influential people at well-known print and online media outlets and well-known authors, and this and that, who’ve said that they might do this and that.” Well, now we’re starting to have a real chance, right?

N.A.: Yes. And I want to make sure that listeners understand I did not have much of a platform to begin with. Yes, I have social media accounts I opened which weren’t that active. I didn’t have a huge mailing list either. So, I started out with the minimum. And when I mentioned earlier how you should create a website with your name, it sounds really intimidating. But the reality is when I was with you, Mark, you gave me the suggestion. I mean, you gave me the whole sheet of how to create a website by myself, okay? I didn’t need to hire a professional.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: So, if you check out my website right now, I created that website myself using the instructions you gave me, Mark.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Yeah, I love that. Yeah, because most authors that I work with — I mean, most authors aren’t made of money. And even if they do have some money, it’s not — at least to most people, it’s not inexpensive working with me. So, the last thing I want is for them to feel like they have to go spend money on something else. You don’t.

N.A.: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on a website. And I’ll tell people, I’ll throw this tip out there, it’s not complicated, because a lot of people get confused. And my clients initially sometimes wonder, “Well, how can I have a website? I don’t have a book published yet. It makes no sense.” Well, you don’t need a book published yet. Like I have websites, and I don’t have a book published out there. It doesn’t matter. We all have the same things. We have information. And we have — some of us, we have inspiration that some people find valuable.

So that’s what your website’s about before your book’s published. Like, “Hey guys, welcome to my website! I’m passionate about XYZ topic, and this website is devoted to that. Welcome!” And then, you might have a blog with a couple of blog posts or articles or stories about your stuff, and a contact page, a bio page, a media and a speaking page saying that you’re available for different media engagements, for speaking engagements. Make it look like it’s not homemade, make it look elegant, somewhat sophisticated, professional, and that looks for real, suddenly. Right?

N.A.: Mm-hmm. Yes. And the listeners are welcome to check out my website,, and you will see how I build it myself under Mark’s guidance.

Pt. 13 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: Right. And then you just imagine it without the book cover, and that’s pretty much what it looked like before.

N.A.: Yes. And then I upload the videos when I have new videos.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: Any interviews, then I upload them. But otherwise, the format I have on my website is very much what Mark recommended to me.

Mark Malatesta: Right. So, let’s talk a little bit about our work together. I don’t have a set agenda with this, just want to talk about it a little bit and see what comes up for you. I don’t know, maybe the three things that were the most memorable for you. They may not be your favorite things that you experienced in the coaching, but they were maybe the most important or the most valuable or the most helpful, just so people can get some sense of that, like from your perspective. And again, I like the way you framed it earlier because it’s like how I talk about it. It’s not about necessarily someone working with me, but the benefits of working with a coach, period. Right?

N.A.: Okay. Yes. I think the benefit of working with you is, again, we talked about that accountability, which we already clarified. You can hold us, your clients, accountable to some point. But again, you would not, you cannot, and make us work, do the work. You encourage us to do the work. But when working with you, I felt like I was being held accountable because I didn’t want to disappoint you, okay? I like you, Mark. I don’t want to have a meeting with you and say, “Sorry, I didn’t do the work that you asked me to do.” So that’s not my style. I felt like I have somebody to hold me accountable.

Mark Malatesta: Right. And that’s like a natural accountability. It’s like I don’t even have to say anything, right? It’s just kind of built in.

N.A.: Yeah.

Mark Malatesta: Right? Cause we’re in a coaching and working relationship, right? The same way, like I wouldn’t want to disappoint you either. So, I’m going to be on time and be prepared, and I’m going to have my stuff ready, right?

N.A.: Mm-hmm. Yes. And then the second part I learned from you is the wisdom you shared with me, that I still retain, is how to capture the attention from the literary agent during the first 10 seconds of my pitching material. You told me, you said the agents are so busy. When they get query letters, you have only 10 seconds for us to capture their attention. You gave me wisdom on how to go about to focus on that 10 seconds when I pitch.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: And then you also, in the first place, you challenged me to do better. Yes, you could not make me, nobody can make me do anything. Okay? But you challenged me to do better. And by doing that, what I learned is to shut up, listen, and follow your advice because you are the pro. And stop fighting the process. So, if somebody has a personality of I know it all, then don’t hire a coach. If they think that, oh, I don’t need to follow Mark’s process, they shouldn’t work with you. Don’t waste your time, because it’s not going to be a fun working relationship. The reason I treasure the relationship I’ve had with you is because yes, you challenged me, and we both held each other accountable with so much respect, that when you tell me something, I know you’re the pro. That’s why I hired you to begin with. Then sometimes you told me things I didn’t like hearing.

Pt. 14 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: [laughs]

N.A.: You know, it might be for five minutes I didn’t like hearing it. But I shut up, listened, and I said, “Okay. I will do what he says.”

Mark Malatesta: I appreciate that. I’m the same way with this new personal trainer I’m working with. It’s funny, like it’s such a great mirror for me to be coached that way. And I have other coaches for different things. But for some reason or another, with my personal trainer, it’s resonating more with me and helps me, a reflection for me and my own coaching. It’s funny because my coach will tell me a bunch of stuff and I do listen. I take it all in. It’s maybe not all obvious to him because I don’t always do everything he says immediately. But it’s like once he’s gone, like from that session, then I’m immediately starting to implement everything he talked about. The next time I see him, he can see that. But you know, it’s not always obvious on the front end. And like a lot of my clients aren’t easy, right? Or they don’t do everything right that second. But definitely, it’s a strange thing that some people will hire a coach, and then they want to do it their way, or they don’t want to follow the process. And it’s ironic because like if it’s a good person, like a good coach, like they have success stories, right? They have the track record. Well, that coach, their joy is to kind of share with you. Here’s the strategy I know works. And it’s the easiest, best way, right? Like that’s the whole point. We’ve learned the hard way.

N.A.: And one final thing I thought was great working with you is I felt like you knew how to push my buttons to challenge me. And so, you knew that and you started asking certain questions to challenge me. And then sometimes, I wasn’t happy, and I got mad at you. It’s not any different than a personal trainer, okay?

Mark Malatesta: Right, right.

N.A.: You work with a personal trainer and the person is like, “Wow, you’re killing me! I hate you. You make me do all these things. I hate you!” But when they see the result, they appreciate you.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: So, I had a couple of those moments. You did not see it, but over my dinner table…my husband hasn’t met you, but he loves you. He said, “I like this guy! He knows how to challenge my wife in a very good way. He knows how to push my wife’s buttons so she can get even better than she has been.” So that’s what I appreciate about you.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, thank you. So okay, one last thing. I know it’s been a while, so don’t feel bad if you don’t remember. But do you remember anything about that very first call we did, what I call the introductory coaching call way back when?

N.A.: Yes.

Mark Malatesta: Talk a little bit about what you remember about that and/or the questionnaire. So, if people are wondering about that, because it’s not some big thing where somebody has to go online and sign up for some big, long term coaching program, there’s that baby step where people can get a lot out of that hour. And most of them that do that aren’t going to be right to do more with me, but help people understand a little bit more what that first call is about.

N.A.: Okay. Prior to my first call, introductory interview call with you, I already did a lot of research about you. What really captured me about you and your website is that your website was the only one I found that gave a listing of literary agents. You gave them for free, you provided this information for free to anybody who visited your website. And I said, “Oh, this is interesting. This is the only person who shared this information.”

Mark Malatesta: Right. Because there are some others out there, but they charge for it.

N.A.: Yeah.

Pt. 15 – N.A. Interview and Mark Malatesta Review

Mark Malatesta: So, I give it away as kind of a goodwill thing to help build trust in what I offer, right?

N.A.: Correct. And you captured my attention because I started asking, why would this guy give it away for free? And then, of course, I went on your website to look up literary agent info. But that’s how I got to the introductory phone call with you. And also, before I met with you or talked with you, I went to your website and I noticed there were over 100 amazing reviews about you. And it was you listed full names of these clients and their books. And knowing you, that you had to ask people for permission to post their full name, okay? And just for me to be able to see the full names, the book title, knowing they were your clients and they posted amazing reviews about you, it says a lot about you, even before I was on that first phone call with you. And when I talked with you, you were very thorough on where you were at and what you could do for me, but you were not pushy.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

N.A.: You were just – you said, “Here’s how I work. If I’m a good fit for you, great. If not, not a problem.” And so, I appreciate that you did not push me into deciding. Yes, don’t we all? We all want to persuade people into working with us. But you were not over the top. You were just really easygoing and shared how you could help me.

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. Yeah, it’s easier to do that. I’ve done this 10 years now. So, it’s not possible for me to work with everybody I can work with. So, it’s easier to say that with a straight face and mean it. Like if it’s right, I’m thrilled, because obviously, I genuinely believed in your project. And now you can see why, because I knew it was good enough, and here we are with your success story. But it’s not always going to be right for people. They might have things going on in their lives I don’t know about. There’s the financial piece of it. So, yeah, because people have different personalities. Sometimes, people want something different than I do. Like I’m not a hardcore developmental editor. If that’s the main thing somebody wants, then I’ll tell them, “Well, it seems like you want that, you should hire an editor. Here’s a link to a directory for that. Look at that. You should do that instead of working with me.” Or, “Oh, okay, you can afford to do both? Okay, let’s do both.” But I want what’s best for the author. And that’s not always me.

N.A.: Yeah. Oh, one thing that the listener would want to know is the timesaver for working with you is you provide the list of all the literary agents in an Excel sheet. Yes, you can get that free information from your website. But initially, I had to go onto your website, copy and paste the names and the contact and email. But when working with you, you sent me the whole Excel sheet after you narrowed down the literary agents who work and focus on my genre. It was a huge timesaver. I just used your Excel sheet and I updated it when I sent out a query letter.

Mark Malatesta: Oh right. And the two things people would want to know, that’s not part of the introductory coaching call. That’s part of the long term coaching.

N.A.: Correct. Uh-huh.

Mark Malatesta: But that literary agent list, it has two other things that they’re not going to get on a website or another literary agent directory. If you remember, those literary agents were divided into groups. Like here are the more successful ones and the less successful, right? So, you didn’t have to figure that out.

N.A.: Yeah. Uh-huh.

Mark Malatesta: And then also included are their individual submission requirements, because that’s not in the free literary agent directory. Like you would have to go to every single literary agent’s website to sort through the requirements and figure that out. And a lot of those requirements, you need to follow, and some of them, you don’t. And again, those are the things that eat up an author’s time and confidence. So, I like being able to give people that in a spreadsheet.

N.A.: Yeah.

Mark Malatesta: Okay, any final thoughts, or suggestions or wisdom for authors, anything else you think they should know about anything to help them get where they want to go?

N.A.: Yes, I think the final thought I have would be for those who are listening in, is if getting a book published is important to you, and you can afford to get a coach, then think about it. Think about hiring a coach. It can be Mark or somebody who’s amazing like him, okay? But think of it as furthering your education. Think of it as you hiring a personal trainer to help you stay in shape. Again, if you cannot afford to pay and put food on the table, then focus on taking care of you and your family putting food on the table. But if you can afford it and getting a book published is important to you, I highly recommend you get a coach. If not a coach, then get an editor to help you with your book. And the final thing is don’t waste your money to get a coach if you are not coachable. You don’t want to waste your money. If you think you want a coach, but you’re not willing to listen or put in the effort, then don’t go forward with Mark after the introductory phone call. You’re going to waste your money with Mark or anyone else. And those are my final words of wisdom.

Mark Malatesta: I love that. Yeah, and I don’t want those non-coachables. Honestly, I absolutely don’t. And that’s okay. Anybody else, if they can’t afford it, I totally get that, or if they’re non-coachable, use all the free stuff on the website. There’s a ton. That alone will give you a better chance. So, all right. Well, thank you again for doing this. I always love your energy, you know that. It’s always fun to reconnect with you. Thank you for sharing so much with authors. I know it’s going to help them.

N.A.: And thank you for being my coach and for pushing me to the next level, and the wisdom you shared with me has been invaluable, Mark.

Mark Malatesta: Thank you.

This interview and review of Mark Malatesta were provided by Nhi Aronheimauthor of the memoir Soles of a Survivor, published in hardcover by Skyhorse Publishing, distributed by Simon & Schuster.

Mark Malatesta is the creator and curator of the popular How to Get a Literary Agent Guide at, 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 his 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.

Other Mark Malatesta Reviews

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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About Mark Malatesta

Photo of Mark Malatesta - Former Literary Agent MARK MALATESTA is a former literary agent turned author coach. Mark now helps authors of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children's books) get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals through his company Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author. Mark's authors have gotten six-figure book deals, been on the NYT bestseller list, and published with houses such as Random House, Scholastic, and Thomas Nelson. Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta and click here for Reviews of Mark Malatesta.
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