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Mark Malatesta – Creator of the Book Genre Dictionary

Mark Malatesta is creator of the Book Genre Dictionary, used by writers of all genres to determine the correct categories for their books. Authors of all types of books–fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books–have used his Book Genre Finder to classify their books properly when querying literary agents.

Prior to creating this book genres website, Mark served as the Marketing & Licensing manager for the well-known book and gift publisher Blue Mountain Arts. In addition to attending trade shows such as BookExpo America, the London Book Fair, and the Frankfurt Book Fair, Mark was responsible for choosing the company’s BISAC (book genre) classifications.

Mark Malatesta is also a former literary agent who sold books to publishers including Amacom, Ballantine, Andrews McMeel, Barron’s Educational, Contemporary, Broadway, Entrepreneur, Harcourt, F&W, Hyperion, Peachtree, New Page, Penguin, Prentice-Hall, Pocket Books, Random House, Scholastic, Renaissance, Simon & Schuster, St. Martin’s, Sourcebooks, and Workman.

Mark is currently an author coach and consultant who helps authors get literary agents. Hundreds of authors have worked 1-on-1 with Mark to position their books in the best way and get offers of representation.

Click here to see Reviews of Mark Malatesta.

Mark Malatesta Testimonial – Kerry K. Cox

I got offers from two top literary agents, Richard Curtis and Victoria Skurnick. Since I was getting a lot of responses from agents, I knew I didn’t necessarily have to jump at the first offer; however, I didn’t want to f*ck everything up, either.

Black and white headshot photo of author KS looking over right shoulder with beard and plaid shirtI got the first offer on the Friday before a three-day holiday weekend. I’d just come in from playing Pickleball and sat at my desk. I don’t think I was in the seat five minutes, when a call came through from a 212 number, a New York area code. I’d just finished sending out my first round of queries, so I was excited to pick up the phone. It was Richard Curtis.

I wasn’t shocked but I thought, “Mark had all these things I was supposed to say if an agent called and I don’t have them with. I’m totally not ready to have this conversation.” But we exchanged hellos and Richard asked, “Has anyone else called about your manuscript?” I said, “You’re the first.” Then he said, “Then let me be the first to offer representation.” He was really nice and excited about the manuscript, and I thanked him for his interest.

At the same time, other agents were reading my manuscript. You told me what to say to them, so I contacted them and got promises from two of them to make a decision by Monday, even though it was a holiday. I don’t remember if it was Sunday night or Monday morning, but Victoria called to offer representation, and we talked for an hour.

She was super enthusiastic and energetic, and I felt she really “got” the book. I liked that she worked with the Book-of-the-Month Club for almost twenty years, and served as their Editor-in-Chief. She also talked to me about my career—versus just the sale of this book—which I liked. I decided to sign with her. I called Richard Curtis and thanked him profusely for his interest and offer. He was extremely professional and a gentleman, and wished me the best.

KC Success Story – Pt 2

Victoria said she’d shop my book right away. She had me make changes that were easy and quick. The holiday was a Monday. I signed with Victoria on Tuesday. By Wednesday or Thursday, I had the changes back to her. And by Friday, she had it out to publishers. It went really fast.

Big black bear on mountaintop with forest and mist background as the sun risesMy daughter and her husband were down the next day, so we went out to dinner and raised a toast to celebrate. Now I’m waiting, which is no fun. I’m focusing on writing my next book, trying to stay busy. It’s hard putting your baby in the hands of somebody you’ve only met over the phone for an hour.

The last time I tried to get an agent, for a different book, I didn’t ask for help. Instead, I did a lot of research, and wrote my own query. I built my own spreadsheet of agents, instead of getting one from you, and I endured a Chinese water torture of drip-drip-drip rejections that came in at roughly the same slow rate that I was querying. It was really demoralizing, and I didn’t get any requests for a full manuscript. Not one.

I’ve written for a living all my life, so I’m used to hearing, “Fix this” or “No. Sorry this isn’t working,” or whatever. I’m not cowed by rejection, but I finally decided to put that book aside. This time around, with my new book, I prepared everything on my own again. But I’d been watching your emails and read the testimonials—with the jaundiced eye of a copywriter, of course.

KC Success Story – Pt 3

I looked at the rhythm of your pitch and everything else, and I thought, “Well, he’s got some good PR skills. He’s got me hooked and given me good reason to believe. He’s doing all the right things.” I kept watching and reading and thinking, “Should I do this?” Finally, I just decided, “Clearly, I already know how to do it wrong. What do I have to lose here? I’ll put up the money and follow his instructions. I can’t do worse than I did before.”

Top professionals in every sport have coaches. Someone who can objectively look at what they’re doing and steer them along a better path. Why would writers be any different? You have the credentials, so I made the investment. I thought, “I’ll do the introductory call and, if he’s a knucklehead, it was just an intro call.” Which is, I’m sure, why you offer those. You want to show prospective long-term coaching clients you’re not a knucklehead, and you want to find out if we’re knuckleheads. It’s a mutual knucklehead-discovery call.

When we talked, I felt like we hit it off. You had confidence you could make it happen, and I knew I had a pretty good property. I’m sure all writers feel like they’ve got a good book, but I conceptualized this one very purposefully. I really felt like I had something commercial. I didn’t want to screw it up by going out there and spoiling the waters. That’s why I decided to give you the call. Once we talked, it was kind of a no‑brainer for me. “Let’s do it and do it right.”

There were a number of strategies we talked about that I hadn’t thought about before. The first was getting author testimonials. I would have never thought that was a viable strategy. Truth is, I thought it was goofy when you first told me about it. A long shot. But I’d spent the money on your coaching and I didn’t spend that money to listen to my own advice. I spent it to listen to yours. So, I followed your process. I got really nice letters back from some of the authors I contacted, including an unexpected surprise: one of the author’s agents offered to read my manuscript! Blew my mind.

KC Success Story – Pt 4

That was very validating, and I was 100% bought into your process at that point. The other thing that impressed me was the extensive questionnaire I had to fill out before our first conversation. It was very thorough and very good, and I did my best to answer it completely without a lot of extraneous crap.

Pencil scrawling on book cover of KC book SW with teal colorWhen we talked, you said, “You’re killing yourself with your query letter.” That was also quite validating. Frankly, that’s the kind of critique I’m used to. When you’re a professional copywriter like I am, nobody’s overly worried about your feelings, in terms of criticism. I can take a punch, and you waded right in and talked to me in a way I could understand. You also helped me see that I could adjust my pitch materials to be more appealing to female agents.

You said, “They’re going to read this first sentence of your query and basically retch, throw it down and say, ‘No. I don’t want to read this.’” You turned everything around and basically flipped my query on its ear. I thought, “Wow! You know what? This might really make a difference.” And judging from the number of agents who responded with full manuscript requests, it did. I knew, on an intellectual level, that my work could appeal to both male and female readers, but I hadn’t internalized it enough to make my copy reflect it.

In addition, the tools you provide along the way are well-timed, as far as when you release the information, so it coincides with what’s going on at the time and the process doesn’t become overwhelming. That was a nice crutch for me to go back and remind myself, “Okay. These are the questions I want to ask when somebody says they’re ready to sign me.” Though I didn’t have those damn questions ready when Richard Curtis called. However, I was ready when Victoria called and she said, “You’re asking all the right questions.”

KC Success Story – Pt 5

Your agent spreadsheet was also very helpful. Keeping that thing current has to be a challenge, the way the agents float around from one agency to the other. The list was big and unwieldy, more information than most people probably need. But all the information you need is there. It’s clear you put a lot of time and thought into the organization and dissemination of everything.

I appreciate it all, Mark. Regarding the investment to work with you, I asked myself, “What would I pay, right now, for my best chance to have a top agent call me and ask to represent me?” When I put it in those terms, the investment looked eminently reasonable. And, as it turned out, it was the best money I’ve ever spent in my writing career.

Writing is a lonely endeavor, done largely in a vacuum. Working with you made me feel like I was part of a team—and my teammate brought to the game a wealth of inside knowledge, insights, and experience. Just what I needed to avoid the lengthy, painful process of trial-and-error I’d fought through before on my own. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person for lunch soon, to celebrate.

K E R R Y . K . C O X is co-author of Successful Scriptwriting (Writer’s Digest Books), which has sold 65,000+ copies; and author of the novel Money Bear, along with other books in the Nick Tanner Mystery Series, published by Level Best Books, a traditional publisher of crime fiction and short story anthologies, including The Best New England Crime Stories, the Writers’ Police Academy, and New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime anthologies

Kerry shared the above success story about Mark Malatesta after working him to improve his pitch materials, resulting in offers for representation from two top literary agents–Richard Curtis and Victoria Skurnick–and a three-book deal. In the interview below, Kerry shares his tips for authors about the best way to write, publish, and promote a book. He also talks more about his experience working with Mark.

Kerry K. Cox Interview with Mark Malatesta, Creator of the Book Genre Dictionary (Text and Audio Available)

During this 67-minute interview with Mark Malatesta, author Kerry K. Cox talks about his journey to get two offers for representation from top literary agents, and a three-book deal, for his eco-conscious crime novels, the Nick Tanner Mystery Series. Kerry is also the co-author of Successful Scriptwriting, published by Writer’s Digest Books (more than 65,000 copies sold). In this interview, Kerry shares suggestions about the best way to write, publish, and promote a book. He also talks more about his experience working with Mark.

Mark Malatesta: Kerry K. Cox is the author of Money Bear, the first in a series of eco-conscious crime novels published by Level Best Books, a traditional publisher of crime fiction and short story anthologies including The Best New England Crime Stories, the Writers’ Police Academy, and the New York/Tri-State Chapter of Sisters in Crime anthologies. Kerry is also the co-author of Successful Scriptwriting, published by Writer’s Digest Books, which has sold more than 65,000 copies

Kerry and I worked together to help him get offers from two top literary agents, and, I don’t know if he knows this yet, but Kerry just got a great review from Kirkus, which says his book is, “an impressively complex crime drama…that Kerry shows an uncanny talent for characterization…and that he effectively keeps up the story’s momentum…as it speeds to a rousing conclusion.”

I’ll let Kerry tell you more about his novel in a moment—along with his best tips for writing, publishing, and promoting your book—but first I want to tell you a few more things about him.

Kerry studied Wildlife Management in college and, in addition to the aforementioned books, he was the “Scriptwriting” columnist for Writer’s Market for many years. He’s also written for The Disney Channel, and he’s written feature film script and spec scripts, industrial theater live shows, The Hollywood Scriptwriter Newsletter (11 years), and more than 200 TV ads.

When Kerry isn’t writing, or doing interviews like this, he can be found serving as a rescue and transport volunteer on the California coast, as well as catching feral kittens and cats for the local rescue. To stay well-rounded, he’s also a boxer and black belt who’s fought in tournaments, which he says comes in handy when writing action scenes.

Kerry’s website address is kerrykcox.com.

So welcome, Kerry!

K.C.: It’s great to be here, Mark. Thanks for that terrific introduction.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, my pleasure. There’s a lot of fun stuff in there. It’s all these things you’ve done. It seems like you’re 97 years old.

K.C.: I’m close, I’m close.

Mark Malatesta: Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve coached authors from 10 to 104. I know you’re somewhere in the middle.

K.C.: I’m somewhere in between there. Yeah, I am somewhere in between.

Mark Malatesta: Alright. So, let’s get into it. I already just mentioned, very briefly, some details about your book, but please take a few minutes to talk about it [more] since I know a lot of people listening will want to get a copy, and then we’re going to share some of your writing tips.

K.C.: Okay, sure. So, Money Bear is the first, as you said, in a series of crime thrillers and it features Nick Tanner, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife service special agent. What’s interesting there for me was there are only a couple hundred of them in the entire nation. So, they work undercover, highly trained, kind of an elite force of Federal enforcement officers with the same sort of power in terms of law enforcement as FBI agents or DEA agents or ATF agents for that matter.

Mark Malatesta: Wow.

Pt 2 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

K.C.: I haven’t seen a character like that, though certainly there are other authors doing game wardens and state enforcement officers, but I haven’t seen a U.S. Fish and Wildlife service special agent. So, I thought there might be a niche there. Money Bear takes place in the violent underworld of bear poaching and it’s set in the shadows of the world’s tallest living organism which are the Redwood trees of Redwood State and National Parks. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but they are amazing to see.

Why do people poach bears? They poach them for a number of reasons, but what we’re focused on here in Money Bearis their gallbladders which, pound for pound, are worth more than gold, worth more than cocaine on the international market, which attracts the kinds of criminals you’d think it would, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: The ones that are willing to do anything, the ones that are willing to kill. And so, the killing of bears in the park escalates to a series of kind of macabre human murders and that leaves Nick and his sidekick in this particular story, the park ranger there who is female, Kathleen Shepherd, into a life-or-death battle with the bad guys. I won’t spoil the ending, but the next two books feature Nick Tanner as well, so we at least know he probably makes it, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right. Yeah, we hope. Well, we never know. Some series, they just keep killing people off like MI-5, the British TV show. Don’t get too attached.

K.C.: Yeah. Well, I got Nick around for a couple, but it’s how he gets out that hopefully is interesting. What I’m hoping with the book, too, is that this series not only entertains but opens the eyes of people to what’s out there. Wildlife trafficking is the third largest, how do you say this, revenue generator, illegal revenue generator. It’s behind drugs and guns.

Mark Malatesta: Wow.

K.C.: As far as generating illegal money in the United States. So, I’m trying to open people’s eyes to this problem and that it goes on everywhere. It’s in every state. It goes on all the time and the penalties are not great. In other words, they are not enough to dissuade people from just getting out and trying it again. The recidivism rate is crazy. So, that’s what I’m hoping I can do with these books.

Mark Malatesta: It’s funny. I’m reliving all this with you as you talk about it because it has been a while since we worked on everything. I’m thinking about some of the potential challenges you had like making sure it sounded female-friendly, making sure it sounded in a pitch like it wasn’t going to be too macabre, and making sure, you know, getting your passion in there for wanting to raise awareness. All those things, to help get more people interested.

K.C.: Absolutely, you really did help with that because I was coming on pretty strong with the macabre end of it and you helped with that. Yeah, I mean, I’m trying to entertain, right? Lecturing people about this isn’t where I’m coming from, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: It’s about making an exciting story that draws you in and it makes you turn the pages, and then at the end of it, you go, Wow, I didn’t know about that, but that was a great story.

Mark Malatesta: Do you remember, we switched it up and mentioned a female important character first in the query?

K.C.: Oh, I remember a lot about that query. When we talk about queries, I have all kinds of things to say. When we get to that part of the interview.

Mark Malatesta: Okay. So, let’s start at the end and then we’ll work backwards as to how we got there. You and I both know how hard it is to get a publisher. Let’s relive that, like how things unfolded because every success story is a little bit different. In your case how you got interest from multiple literary agents, and then your book deal and, hopefully, you did a little something to celebrate. Walk us through all that.

K.C.: Right. So, my struggle was I wanted to be sure with this book because I felt like I had something. I had done other books and I had done other queries and I had not really generated much in the way of full-manuscript requests or interest. And so, as somebody who writes for people to respond, I wasn’t getting any response. So, I thought that I was clearly missing something. And so, with your help, and again, we’ll talk about the whole query thing later, but with your help, we pulled together a query that was quite a bit different from the one I had been proposing that I send out.

Once we did that, and I followed your submission method, I generated half a dozen full manuscript requests within days. They happened fast. Then, within a week, I got a call from a literary agent who wanted to represent me. A good literary agent. I mean, he had been in the business forever. I was flattered, but I had already sent full manuscripts to other agencies and I wanted to give them the courtesy of saying, “I have somebody who has made an offer. What do you think?” Because I thought, Wow, what if I get in the position of more than one literary agent wants to represent me? That would be kind of cool.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Pt 3 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

K.C.: And that is exactly what happened. Other literary agents did express interest, so I interviewed both of them. Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot and that felt kind of fun.

Mark Malatesta: You didn’t feel you were interviewing them per se.

K.C.: You know what, I absolutely did.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, okay. Alright.

K.C.: I absolutely did. I told them that I’ve got multiple offers for representation and that I wanted to talk to them about what they saw as plans for the book, what they liked about the book. I mean, I literally had my own side of it scripted out as far as what I wanted to ask them.

Mark Malatesta: That’s okay. You’re polite. It wasn’t, “Hey, I have another offer, so you better get back to me quick and tell me why I should work with you, and if you’re lucky…”

K.C.: Oh, no, no, no. I didn’t do that to any of them. My first reaching out was an email where I just said, “I received an offer. I just wanted to let you know because you did request the full manuscript,” and that’s it. That’s basically what I said.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: And then they, the ones that were still interested, and there were a few…Out of the six, there were, I don’t know, three or four or whatever who said, “Sure, we’ll make sure we read it right away.” And then the one that called me first on that reach out was Victoria Skurnick. She was very enthusiastic and so, yeah, I interviewed her, and I interviewed the other literary agent as well. I loved them both, to be honest with you. It was a very, very difficult decision. Good problem to have.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: I decided to go with Victoria of LGR Agency and she got right to work. The total elapsed time was that I sent my queries out, I chose the night of January 1st. I chose New Year’s Day night because I figured, people, they party, do whatever on New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day, you’re kind of just sitting around and I picture literary agents being unable to stay away from their email.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah.

K.C.: That was just a guess, but that’s how I pictured them. So, I thought, alright, I’ll send something out. I’ll be the only one, maybe, to do this on January 1st. By January 17th, she was pitching Money Bear. So, it happened that quickly.

Mark Malatesta: I want to slip in two things really quick here. One, it’s totally not normal. What happened for you, and how fast it happened. I don’t want somebody signing up for coaching with me, expecting six requests within a day or whatever you got, and within a week after that, an offer. That’s like lighting striking. I’m thrilled it happened that way for your, but that is not normal. I just want to get that out there, and that getting a multiple-book deal is also not normal.

K.C.: I was well aware of that. So, one Sunday morning I checked my email and Verena Rose of Level Best Books was saying how much she loved Money Bear and wanted to offer me a three-book deal. You know, you wake up and look at your phone. It was a Sunday, so I wasn’t expecting anything, and I read that. I woke up Lee and said, “I don’t know if this is a scam or something.” I didn’t believe it at first.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: But then, obviously, reality set in, and Victoria negotiated the contract. That took a few weeks of back and forth and then it was done. But to be honest, I still didn’t truly believe it until I actually signed the contract. It was an amazing feeling for me. For decades, I had been writing for a living, dreaming of being a novelist, but a guy has got to work for a living when raising a family and paying for schooling and all that. Once they were out on their own, I decided to really throw myself into it and see if I could do it. It turned out the way it turned out.

Mark Malatesta: Did you do anything noteworthy to celebrate or were you waiting until the books were out there.

K.C.: Yeah, you know, I’m not a celebrator, per se. I have been in the business for a long time. On the day I got the literary agent, we went out to dinner and celebrated. No question. And I knew when I had the book in the hand, I would do the same thing. I visualized it happening far in advance because I honestly believed I’d get there. It was a goal that I achieved that I felt really good about. I felt really smart this time about having asked for help. Before, as you know, I never asked. I would say, “I don’t need help. I can do this. I can read the how-to books and make it happen.”

Mark Malatesta: Yes. Your background, I was going to ask you about that later, like why would someone like you get help because most people would be like, “Why does this guy need help or want help,” right?

K.C.: Certainly, in the query letter, I would think that I would not need the help, and in fact, that’s where I needed it the most. We’ll get to that.

Pt 4 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: I’m sure. Right.

K.C.: Alright. That was the story.

Mark Malatesta: Perfect. Now, these interviews are meant to be, in part, a case study that other authors can learn from and model somewhat. So, let’s wind it back, start at the very beginning of your journey as an author. I’m talking long before you got the deal, long before we ever met and worked together. When did you first get the idea you might be a writer or a novelist?

K.C.: Okay. Here’s where you’re probably going to want to rein me in at some point, but I’m going to try and keep it relatively succinct.

Mark Malatesta: That’s alright. This is fun because these are things I don’t always know, behind the story of my clients. So, I’m curious.

K.C.: I’m going to start with a story. I was a kind of a high-energy kid, I guess, is the right word and my mom would come up with ways to focus me during summer vacation just to try and keep me from, I guess, killing myself or others. One of the things she made me do was write a story. You got to write something. And so, I wrote. In sixth grade, I wrote this short story based on the animal books I was reading at the time. You know, The Animal Adventures, and mine was about a wolverine who was bloodthirsty.

Mark Malatesta: Not a whole lot has changed.

K.C.: Not changed. I haven’t grown. So, then in high school, I got an assignment, a person that I am now back in touch with. Her name was Ms. Dawson. She gave us this assignment and I don’t remember the specific assignment. I just know that I didn’t want to do it, so I did something else instead. I wrote a 12-page parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. I mean, I wrote, for every single line of that thing, I wrote a parody. I turned it in, and she sent me a note back with an “A” on it and said, “If you type this, I’ll enter it in the creative writing contest.”

And so, this will give you an idea of what kind of kid I was in high school. I sent her back a note that said, and I quote, this is exact, “Dear Ms. Daws, if you think I’m going to type all this, you must be high.” So, Ms. Daws typed it for me, and entered it. I won the creative writing contest, and I didn’t even go to collect my award. I didn’t know when the thing was, and she collected the award for me. Believe it or not, I still have it. The Wit and Wisecracks of Mark Twain. A little booklet and I still got it.

Mark Malatesta: Poor her. I hope you sent her a box of cookies or something at some point.

K.C.: Oh, there’s a lot more to that story, actually, because when I was, and I’ll do the aside here, because you took me there…

Mark Malatesta: Yup.

K.C.: I was running the Hollywood Scriptwriter which was a newsletter for screenwriters. Every month, I would interview top screenwriters. It was sort of my effort to break in through the backdoor in screenwriting by going in and interviewing screenwriters and then publishing this newsletter. I had a few thousand subscribers internationally. It was pretty good. Everything was mailed back then, right?

So, one of the subscription requests comes in and it’s Kay Daws, and she wants to subscribe to the Hollywood Scriptwriter. She’s trying to get out of teaching and into screenwriting. And so, I wrote her back a note or called her. I can’t remember which but I said, “You will never pay for this subscription for the rest of your life. You get a free subscription. I was an asshole. Here you go,” and she went on to be the executive producer of Heroes.

Mark Malatesta: You got to be kidding.

K.C.: I am not kidding.

Mark Malatesta: Wow.

K.C.: I am not kidding, and a few other shows as well, and she is, in fact, now, get this because we’ve been in touch again, she has volunteered to be one of my beta readers for the next two books.

Mark Malatesta: That’s just crazy.

K.C.: How weird is that, right?

Mark Malatesta: I’m sorry. I just want to tell you like that response letter you wrote to her, like, “If you think I’m going to do this, you’re high,” kind of made me think of some of the responses some of my clients send to literaryagents when they get rejections.

K.C.: Probably not a good idea.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, generally not.

K.C.: Generally, not. But the problem was I wanted to be a forest ranger, right? So, I went to college for that. I went to Oregon State University. I couldn’t pass any of the chemistry courses. Had never taken chemistry. It was a foreign language to me. In more ways than one, the instructor was a Chinese fellow with a tremendous accent and so I was having a lot of difficulty following him, much less chemistry.

So, I changed my major and during that, I changed it to speech communication. I took a class that was literally called Freelance Writing and learned about writing query letters to magazines and that sort of thing. I decided I was done with school after four years. I left and wrote a short story. My premise for it was there’s this Holden Caulfield type of guy who was in a whorehouse for his 17th birthday as a present from his dad. So, I wrote that experience. I obviously didn’t use the name Holden Caulfield, but I used that voice.

Well, I sold it for $250 to a dubious magazine called Cavalier and they reprinted it in an even more dubious magazine called Dude. I’m not kidding. Yeah, for another $50. Oh, I remember. I got the proof. You know, they send you the magazine as a sample, whatever, so you can see your stories in their magazine. The thing arrives and it’s plain wrapper. I opened it up and there’s this gal on the front and she’s got this big smile and a big gap in her teeth. She’s half naked and I thought, “Shoot. Here I’ve sold a short story and I can’t show it to my folks?” I can’t believe it. But the total revenue generated was $300 and so I guess that’s when I decided I could be a writer.

Pt 5 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: That’s fantastic. And, full disclosure, I had to take Statistics class three times in college. I think, even on the third try, I got a C or a D, but yeah. We can’t all be good at everything.

K.C.: Exactly. Chemistry absolutely escaped me. It was a very weird experience. It was the first subject I’d ever taken that escaped me to that degree. It was so bad that one day, I was taking notes like a madman. The guy had filled up the blackboard and I’m taking notes. I’ve got pages and pages and then he asks a question to the class. I realized I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was talking about. I couldn’t even think about what he’s talking about. I started laughing so much I had to leave the classroom. I walked right over and dropped the class and then changed my major. I said, “This is too much for me.”

Mark Malatesta: I love it. What other writing did you do before Money Bear?

K.C.: Well, like I said, I started by selling to magazines. What I would do is take any activity I was involved in, find out the magazine because there used to be a lot of magazines, right? There was one for every kind of activity just like there are now websites for every kind of activity. I was doing some flatwater kayaking, so I sold an article about a canoe club that was local to me, it’s a canoe magazine, and then I trained and taught karate for about a decade or so and did an article for Blackbelt Magazine.

There was a local magazine for West Lake Village as well. I lived out in that area, so I did an article for them. It was that kind of thing and I wrote, eventually, I think for two or three years, I was writing a column for the local newspaper out there. I wrote scripts and song lyrics for industrial theater. We did shows for like Kawasaki too. Yeah, Kawasaki, Yamaha, international hotels and motels. I would write the song lyrics for them and the scripts. I broke into TV with a show called Welcome to Pooh Corner. It’s old as Hell. I doubt anybody remembers that show.

Mark Malatesta: Pooh Corner, Winnie the Pooh connection or…?

K.C.: Yeah, it was Winnie the Pooh for the Disney Channel.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, yeah. Okay, alright.

K.C.: Yeah, that’s where I broke into TV. At that time, I got married and needed a job. While you think, Oh, I broke into TV. Well, it’s not what you’d call steady income. It comes and goes and then Pooh Corner went away and it was like, “You guys going to give me any other kind of work?” There was nothing there and I needed a job. That’s how naïve I was and how lucky I was. I looked in the LA Times classified section under “Writer Wanted.”

Believe it or not, I found a job there to write training videos and the in-house newspaper and some sales stuff, eventually all their radio commercials for Thrifty Corporation which used to own 700 stores, Thrifty Drug. They used to own Big 5 Sporting Goods. They are a big corporation. I used to work downtown there. At that same time, that’s when I took over the Hollywood Scriptwriter, which I talked about.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: At the same time, I was trying to break into sitcoms. So, I was writing Speck sitcom scripts. I did land a literaryagent. Thanks to Hollywood Scriptwriter, I interviewed one and got a literary agent that way. I had some amazing near misses, but it was incredibly frustrating. I won’t go into all the near misses. We could talk about that over beer sometime. I did finally score with a Love Boat episode, but at that same time, I did this freelance gig. I wrote an infomercial for a membership-based company. That show worked and they hired me away from Thrifty for like double what I was making. So, I’d say, better to have the job than to try this TV thing right now.

For the next 20 years, I worked with that company. I wrote all their member communications, their informercials, their newsletter, their emails, their magazine advertising, everything, while continuing to freelance. I ended up being, I think, one of the handful of the most prolific scriptwriters for what’s called direct response television advertising which typically is when they show a phone number. It’s usually DR TV. I still do a little of that to this day but just for one client. The one I began with three decades ago. They’ve been one of the premiere DR TV producers in the industry for that long. We’re kind of family. I still do work with them, but that’s all that I do as far as commercial work anymore.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, that’s great.

K.C.: I told you it would take a long time, Mark.

Mark Malatesta: No, that’s fine, and I get a little more geeked up about it just because I didn’t know this about you. Now, I do, but we’re the same that way. We both, when we’re younger, we’re writers and we found ways to get jobs in the industry to learn, have fun, and get our writing out there.

K.C.: Yeah.

Pt 6 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: How did you get the idea for the book Money Bear?

K.C.: Well, I’m a prodigious reader, particularly of…my interest in wildlife never faded. The idea of being a forest ranger, you know. It’s like that childhood dream of playing third base for the Dodgers or whatever.

Mark Malatesta: Right, or to be a fireman or whatever.

K.C.: It’s always still there. I still keep waiting for the Dodgers to call me, Mark, but they just won’t call.

Mark Malatesta: I was going to say compare you to Tim Tebow but that would be mean. He just retired from baseball.

K.C.: He just retired. Anyway, how did I get the idea? I read about it and then one day, I saw there was a bear exhibit at the Museum of National History in LA. I took my youngest daughter. Learned more about it and it just simmered. That idea simmered for years. I knew there was something there. I just didn’t know how to tell the story. I took several approaches before I found the way in. I felt like the way in was trying to find who that protagonist was going to be. Once I decided on that, the story came to me.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: Plus, I had to have the time to tell it. Back then when my daughter was little, I was doing a lot of things. I just didn’t have the time. I would go at lunchtime and write in the library and that sort of thing. I remember, I wrote one novel that I think, in the end, came in at like 600-to-some-odd pages or something. I didn’t really know what I was doing back then but I was still trying to go in that direction.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Now, we talked a little bit about some of the things that have educated you along the way but is there anything else? Any formal studying of writing like books on craft, or anything else you want to recommend? Courses, master classes, websites, whatever, that you have found helpful? If you want to mention anything particular you think is valuable or helpful, that would be great. I was going to say earlier, the Writer’s Digest books about how to write and submit magazine articles are awesome.

K.C.: They are terrific. I was a subscriber to Writer’s Digest magazine and Writer’s Market. It was a big thing for me when I was contacted by them to write the columns in Writer’s Market, the scriptwriting columns in Writer’s Market. I was doing the Hollywood Scriptwriter at that time. I was publishing that. I really felt like I’ve come a long way when I was the one writing the stuff. I used to just absorb that stuff, the Writer’s Digest magazine and the Writer’s Market.

I also took a lot of creative writing courses in school. I think some of them helped me. I was a voracious reader of the how-to books, primarily on scriptwriting, William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade, I’ve read to death because I think he’s a master of structure. That’s critical for scriptwriting, of course, but it’s just as critical in any kind of storytelling and certainly in novel writing.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah. In one way, maybe we make a case that it’s even more important in novel writing because you have more words. The more room you have, it’s easy to meander or ramble or get lost.

K.C.: Absolutely. At some point, I think you have to lay that template over what you’ve written and make sure you’re hitting all the points. I know that James Scott Bell does 14 guideposts for fiction writing. I find that very useful. It simplifies things. I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule specifically like it has to happen here, it has to happen here, but all these things are guideposts that have to happen and in some logical sequential order. He obviously knows what he’s doing, so I follow that.

Mark Malatesta: There are so many out there, it can be scary, intimidating, I guess, but at the end of the day, it can take you to the next level.

K.C.: I think that if you’re not paying attention to structure, then you’re just writing for yourself. You’re just spelling stuff out and maybe you enjoy reading it, but I guarantee you, you will lose the reader.

Mark Malatesta: Even if you are writing for a world audience, you still might end up only writing for yourself.

K.C.: That’s kind of what I mean, right? Literary agents are going to be looking for structure in your storytelling. Okay, you send a query. You write a nice query. Maybe your first 50 pages rock and then maybe somewhere along the line structurally, it falls apart. They will find that. They will know that and unless there’s this huge promise in your book, they are not going to have the time or willingness to necessarily work with you to correct all of that and get it. They will work with you to get a book into shape, don’t get me wrong, but they have to know that you understand structure and that when they give you some guidance that you understand what they are talking about.

Pt 7 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: And then just read in your genre, obviously. I mean, that makes sense, right? I write crime fiction. I write crime thrillers, action-thrillers. Read those but take a few detours. My favorite all time novel is A Confederacy of Dunces, Jon Kennedy Toole’s book, which has nothing to do with crime thrillers at all, but I could read it. If I was left on a desert island, with that one book, that would be it.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Even if someone hasn’t read deeply in their genre, they can always start, but a great shortcut is to speed read tons of publisher descriptions of books in your genre and scan some of the good and bad reviews of those books. Just that is an education.

K.C.: It’s a really good point. A really good point. Publishers Weekly is a great place to do that. Every week, they publish their reviews of novels in various genres coming out. They encapsulate the story and then they do a little bit of opinion on it, but they mostly tell you the story. It’s a great way to see what’s out there, what’s selling too, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: That’s a really good advice.

Mark Malatesta: As long as the author doesn’t get too stuck on what’s selling and what’s trending. Some of my authors have a hard time getting the will to query because they think that all the literary agents and publishers want right now is diversity and #OwnVoices books. But there’s always room for something else.

K.C.: It’s cyclical. So, yeah, that may be true for a brief period of time, but then that will glut and there will be room for something else. You can’t let that stop you. You just have to keep plowing ahead.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Now, if you have anything more to add to this, like as far as what your best advice for authors is on how to write a book, please share that. Again, this could be general for writers of any genre whether it’s children’s books, fiction, or nonfiction and/or kind of any tips or tricks particular to your genre.

K.C.: Well, we did talk about story structure and I would always lead with that. Also, I start out knowing what my hook is. Whatever that thing is, when I open the book, you know, we all used to go to bookstores, and we would open various books. We would read the first page and that would pretty much decide whether we were going to buy that book or not. I mean, we might read the back cover or whatever, but usually, we’d read that first page and go, “Oh, no. That’s not happening.” Or it is.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: I see that as the hook and you have to feel that hook and spend a lot of time on it, really make that right. Certainly, when you’re doing your literary agency queries later, you’re maybe going to be sending 20 pages out, your first 10 pages out. Sometimes, they will do more, the first 50, but they are going to want to see if you hook their interest, so really do that. Bring your main character into play quickly. I recently read a self-published book and, I kid you not, the main character did not appear until I was 20% deep into the book. What’s going on with that?

Mark Malatesta: What about anything mental or regarding motivation or scheduling, anything like that? Something that works for you, maybe it won’t work for everybody, but maybe it will work for some? But you probably don’t even think about motivation at this point.

K.C.: I don’t.

Mark Malatesta: Go back to the time in your life before you had the butt glue.

K.C.: I always had the butt glue, Mark. I do 500 words a day pretty much religiously. Unless I specifically take time off because I’ve been cranking and cranking, and I want to just step away from the book itself for a while. I know if I sit down to do any writing, I’ll bring that damn book back up and I’ll start working on it again. I’ll say, “Okay, I’m taking a full week and I’m not looking at that thing.” Or two weeks even.

Mark Malatesta: But that alone doesn’t sound too scary, or it shouldn’t for people. 500 words a day, that sounds doable.

K.C.: It’s super doable. My daughter is now a published author and she would always talk of me. “I remember dad staying up late and writing late.” What I said to her was, “Look, if you got a half-hour anytime in your day, everybody’s got a half hour. Don’t watch TV for half an hour or stay up a little late for half an hour.” Whether it’s time or words, just say to yourself, you will almost always exceed either one.

Once you sit down to do 500 words or once you sit down to write for half hour, you will almost always exceed that and then on the days that you don’t quite make it, you do 400 words, you do 23 minutes. You go, “Oh, that’s alright. Most of the time, I’m over anyway.” People say you have to approach it like a job. I don’t like that. I like approaching it as a vocation, as a habit, as something I just will do today. This is going to happen today.

Mark Malatesta: When you really twist it, you look at it as a reward.

K.C.: Well, in a way, what you want to do is if you can possibly leave yourself in a good place to start the next day. In other words, try not to end your writing day with an end of a chapter because now, you’re going to have to get your self-esteem back up again. If you know how that chapter is going to end, go ahead and give yourself the rest of that night off or whatever. Come back, finish the chapter the next day, and now, you’re up and running. You’ll just flow right into that next chapter.

Pt 8 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: What about publishing, because, you know, there are just really two choices, either getting interest from traditional publishers or self-publishing? Why did you decide, I mean, this is a no brainer for me, but I want to hear your version, like why did you decide to go traditional and what’s your best advice for authors who are going to be thinking about that at some point?

K.C.: Well, I’ll start by saying I have self-published. I wanted to see what it was all about. I conducted kind of an experiment. I wrote a small handbook called How to Write Faster Than Anyone Better and Better Than Anyone Faster. I self-published it because I wanted to see what the logistics were, how it worked. I focused it on copywriting and how to make money at copywriting, but I don’t know whether I could say this, but frankly, I kind of look at self-publishing like masturbation.

There’s nothing wrong with it. It feels good. Go ahead and do it, but it’s not the real thing, you know. To be honest, I wanted objective proof. I wanted validation that I was good enough to be a novelist. I had succeeded at commercial writing and I had a modicum of success in TV writing, but I wanted to know I could write a novel. If I wrote a novel and self-published it, that wasn’t quite objective proof. I wasn’t going to self-publish my fiction novels. I wanted to go the conventional route.

Mark Malatesta: Got it. From your background, if an author is going to have much hope at all of having their work maybe adapted to feature film or international rights or things like that, the odds of that happening with the bigger publisher are a gazillion times more.

K.C.: Yeah. There’s that credibility, right? There’s that credibility, that respectability of the major publishers, well, of any publishers, I think really, but certainly the major houses. Self-publishing, and people will point to, “But look that one book that went on to become…” Maybe that one book did for the 10 million that were written.

I wanted to be with a conventional publisher that would help with promotion, that believed in me enough to handle the cost of production of the book. In this day and age, any new writer is going to have some responsibility for promotion of their book even when they are published by a conventional or a larger house. But if you self-publish, all the promotion is on your shoulders. It’s all on your dime. For the most part, I think I’m safe saying, I don’t know the stat, but I have to think that most self-published authors spend more than they make on their book.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, yeah and the average numbers, I looked it up one day so I could write an article about it. I saw the numbers. The average number sold is 82 copies, unfortunately.

K.C.: Yeah, wow.

Mark Malatesta: What about marketing? You were just talking about that. Again, you have a broader base of experience, right? You kind of have what you’re going through right now with this book kind of hitting bookstore shelves with other books and your experience with Writer’s Digest and other things. What are your best suggestions for authors, like things they might be thinking about or doing either while writing their book from a marketing standpoint or write when their book is coming out, either way?

K.C.: Well, writing their book, just write the best possible book you can. I mean, I don’t think there’s any magic there, right?

Mark Malatesta: Some might be doing some platform building. Oh, I want to build my platform while I’m working on my book so when it’s time to publish, they feel like they can do a better job promoting, kind of thing, right?

K.C.: Well, I don’t know. Are you talking about fiction specifically?

Mark Malatesta: It doesn’t matter. Whatever you want to talk about. Certainly, it’s harder to build a platform in advance if you’re a nonpublished novelist, so it’s easier for nonfiction.

K.C.: Right, because nonfiction, I think literary agents probably for nonfiction right now would be interested in the platform that you’re already established as an expert in your area if you’re writing specifically a book that kind of focuses on your expertise, how to knit or something. You should be a professional knitter, I suppose. As far as for fiction, with anything you’re trying to sell, you have to think like a marketer and think about if you were a consumer, how would you be likely to find out about this book if you hadn’t been the writer? How do you find books?

Let’s say it’s the book review section of your local newspaper. Okay, then you should be pitching them your book. Think strategically in that way and think of all the people you know that can help spread the word. People around you get very excited about the fact that they know somebody who’s written a novel that’s going to be published. You’d be surprised where your contacts can lead you. So, reach out to them so you leverage contacts that they might have as well. Devote time to marketing. I know writers generally hate this. To that, I say, “Get over it.”

Pt 9 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: With your book, this is a really easy one. You have layers there where you can promote it from a nonfiction standpoint where whether there’s something timely happening in the media or not, related to maybe animal protection, not just specifically bears or poaching. Where there’s something in the media, you could be submitting articles to places, right, and doing a tie-in with the byline to promote your book because you are dealing with some things. Some have climate change in their novel. Well, there are relatively easy ways to kind of get exposure there, but if an author is just thinking as a novelist, it’s harder.

K.C.: What you’re talking about is what I call the side doors. Try and get people to come in to see you through the side door. So, if people are interested in your novel about atomic power or the stock market, or in my case, wildlife trafficking, those are all good targets because they may not otherwise read much fiction, but they may be very interested in this particular subject.

That’s why on my website, my blog isn’t about writing. It’s not about how to write. I think there are plenty of blogs about that who can do far better than I can, but my blog is about wildlife trafficking in my volunteer work in wildlife rescue because I think people will find that interesting and then they will say, “Hey, this guy has written books, crime thrillers about that subject.”

Mark Malatesta: It’s funny. Most people that end up finding me or coaching with me, they are not looking for a coach or a coach to get them a literary agent. They are looking for literary agents in Texas or crime thriller literary agents. I’m just smart enough to put out content for that. That’s the same thing, side door.

K.C.: Right, side door.

Mark Malatesta: They go, “Oh, there’s a guy who does this? Oh, cool.”

K.C.: Yeah, exactly. That’s the thought behind it and besides which, I felt like the world had enough how to write blogs. Like I say, they do it better than I would. I have more fun writing about a subject that really interests me and that I think needs that kind of exposure. That’s why I do it.

Mark Malatesta: Let’s dig in now a little bit to our work together. Everybody experiences it differently but talk a little about our work together. I’m not fishing for anything in particular. Every person and every project is different, but what motivated you to reach out to me in the first place? How did you pitch this book prior to finding me? Forgive me for not remembering that. What led you in that direction to even begin? What were you hoping to accomplish when you set up that first call with me, if you can remember?

K.C.: I can remember clearly. First off, I did not pitch this book prior to getting your help. I pitched another book. I went through beta readers. I went through with a professional editor. I thought it was a pretty good book. I wrote a query on it and it was crickets. I mean, I got nothing. I thought that was pretty weird.

Mark Malatesta: I’m a copywriter, I thought, What’s going on?

K.C.: So, I went to one of the, what do you call it, not a convention?

Mark Malatesta: Conference.

K.C.: Yeah, thank you. A conference. I went to a writers conference where one of the draws was you get to pitch to a few literary agents. I picked a literary agent and I pitched to her. She said, “Yeah, I’ll take a look at the full manuscript,” which I suspect happens a lot more frequently in the conference setting than otherwise.

Mark Malatesta: Yes. Two reasons. One, it’s harder for them to say no to your face and two, conference, coordinators invite literary agents there to do those pitch meetings. If no literary agents ask to look at stuff, they have sour attendees.

K.C.: Yeah. I figured that, but on the other hand, I figured, she’s the only one that asked so far, so great. Once it was in her hands, it was crickets again until I finally reached out weeks later and she, I forget what she said. She didn’t slam the writing. She just basically said, you know, kind of like, “Not interested.” She gave me nothing to work with. I said, “Alright, I don’t think she read it.” So, I didn’t take it as the story sucked.

Mark Malatesta: She didn’t want it, right?

K.C.: I think she just said yeah and then whatever. I just don’t think it got her full attention. I don’t think she read it. There wasn’t anything specific to the story itself in her response to me that made me think she read it. She may have and may have not liked it. That could have been true too. I chose to believe that I just struck out. My point is, I didn’t dive back into the story and go, “Oh, shit. The story sucks. I got to change this whole story.” I believed in the story still. I thought there was clearly something wrong in the way I was marketing the story.

In the meantime, I had gotten the time to write Money Bear. I really liked how Money Bear had turned out. I thought, I don’t want to go down that same path again. I must be doing something wrong in the initial pitch. I saw your email any number of times. I watched it. I read it over and over and I was impressed by the credentials and the testimonials, but I was still skeptical because up until then, I figured, “Jesus, I get people to respond for a living. How am not getting any kind of response on my book?”

But I decided, you were offering this initial coaching call and I said, “Alright. I want to do it right this time. Let’s see if this guy can help. I’ll call him up. There’s nothing to lose here with this initial coaching call and I can find out if there’s a connection. If I feel confident in him, if I feel like he can add value, then maybe that’s the way I go, but let’s find out.” I just figured what I had been doing wasn’t working. So, to do that again is the definition of insanity, right? So, I thought I’d give it a shot. That’s how I first made the call.

Pt 10 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: Two-part question. During that intro call, what was that experience for you and then from there, what were some of your biggest takeaways either from that and/or what we did after that that you think were most important that kind of helped you get over the hump and get the two offers?

K.C.: Well, I felt confident right away during and after the introductory call. I could see, prior to the call, even, but more after talking to you, that you had developed a methodology, a system, and I figured you have been doing this a while so it was a system that you probably tweaked and honed over years and gotten any of the bugs out as much as you could. You probably had something resolved. You’ve been doing long enough.

Mark Malatesta: You weren’t one of my first guinea pigs.

K.C.: Exactly. I figured by now, you’d gotten the system down. So, what really convinced me was when you took the Money Bear query that I wrote because I think initially, you said, “Write a query and send it to me. I’ll take a look at it.” I wrote a query and you basically, I mean, quite literally, turned it upside down. The stuff I had at the end, you moved up top. You rewrote my whole story summary. You made it so much tighter and more compelling than I did. One of the things that you said, I’m trying to remember specifically… You were looking at my first query letter and you said, “No one is going to get past the first sentence.”

Mark Malatesta: I thought I saw something bad there.

K.C.: It was just gory, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

K.C.: Most of your readers and a good number of your literary agents are female and you’re going to turn them off right away.

Mark Malatesta: You were trying for the dramatic hook.

K.C.: Oh, yeah. I was trying to hook. Right, exactly. When you said that, I said, “Ohhh, that’s what I’m looking for.” I’m for somebody who just doesn’t tweak my wording but totally changes the way that my query letter looks. Just like in advertising, when you’re testing different things, you change the big things, not the little things. That’s what you did is you changed the big things in that query. That made a lot of sense to me plus I think that you probably felt…like, this guy spent most of his life as a professional copywriter. He’s going to push back on me, but my feeling really was I already knew how to do it wrong. So, I was just going to shut up and do what you told me to do.

Mark Malatesta: I wish everybody could listen to that because I’m so tired of the people who do not have any right whatsoever to challenge someone’s experience. I’m just so happy when someone like you is humble enough to let someone share because it’s like me, right? I do what I do, but if I was going to do direct response TV ad, a radio ad, or write a press release, I would go get help because I’m good at what I do but you know what, they are a little or a lot different than a query.

K.C.: Yeah. Hey, the results speak for themselves, as they say. I think my query would have clanked in looking at the way that you rewrote my initial query, which, by the way, I was pretty proud of my initial query. I thought it was pretty good and I wasn’t expecting a total overhaul. But when I got it, it was like an epiphany for me. It was like, “Oh, right. Of course. This wasn’t even anything I considered, but it made so much sense.”

Mark Malatesta: Your earlier draft was very good. I have only two things to clarify for people listening, so they don’t get confused. One, I’m not a ghostwriter. What I do best is work with good people, giving me good stuff, and then I make it better. You can’t make a great query out of nothing. The other thing, just to makes sure everyone listening knows, we talked about your query on the introductory coaching call, but I didn’t do any rewriting of anything until you were in my longer-term program because that’s where the hands-on stuff happens. Just so people don’t think they’re going to do an intro call and get a revised query from me during the call. I can’t do that on the fly. It takes a lot more time.

K.C.: No, that isn’t the way it worked. No, I mean, I committed to getting the query redone. That was a commitment I made after the introductory call where I had the confidence that it was worth giving you the query and worth listening to your advice on the query.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah. I did one of those intro calls with somebody and they emailed after and said, “Well, my 13-year-old niece read the query and she thinks I should do it this way instead. What do you think?”

K.C.: Oh, God.

Mark Malatesta: That’s what I thought. I said, “Well, you should probably bank on the person who’s been doing this [since 2011] and helped [hundreds of] people make it, but you can and should do whatever feels right to you.” I don’t understand when people say things like that. I mean, I’m not going to do the electrical wiring in my house. I know better.

K.C.: Yeah. No, it was a case of I decided giving myself over to this. I’m committing fully to it. I’m not going to rethink it. I’m not going to second guess it because I want a different result that I had been getting. That was my mindset.

Pt 11 – KC Interview with Mark Malatesta

Mark Malatesta: And thankfully, I don’t think you said this directly, and it’s okay if it’s not true, but it feels like the way you’re describing it, I don’t remember exactly, but the query, even though it was different and unconventional, it was very different (you didn’t say this either) than what other people teach and coach in the industry, but I think it probably, for the most part, made sense to you as a copywriter once you saw it.

K.C.: I did say that. It made total sense. To your point, did it follow the formula that every book lays out regarding how to write a query? Yes and no. Yes, it put a great hook upfront. It just wasn’t the hook that I thought it would be. I had that at the end. I totally buried my lead. So, just by restructuring it, you made a huge change, in my opinion, and it worked.

Mark Malatesta: I’m really grateful for you doing this, and I’m really grateful you got offers as quickly as you did. It’s usually much bloodier and more painful and brutal than that. You’re in the quick club. Do you have any final thoughts or insights for anyone about absolutely anything? I just want to make sure there’s room for that If there’s something else you wanted to share before we wrap.

K.C.: The only other thing is that people say to write what you know, and I think that’s true, but I just want to throw in that you should write whatever you want to keep learning about. Write something you have a passion for and won’t mind spending hours of your writing time doing some research as well. I love writing about wildlife trafficking. I think it’s a fascinating subject. I think it offers a ton of opportunity for storytelling drama and also is just something that we as a society need to address. I’m writing something I have a passion for and that’s what sold. That’s what got me to a three-book deal. I guess that’s it. That’s my wisdom.

Mark Malatesta: I’ll take it, and so will everyone else. Thank you, Kerry. You put a lot of time into it to try to give people some things that are going to help them improve their odds. Thank you for doing this and thank you for what you shared about our work. I know that a lot of people listening to this are going to be a little bit closer, maybe a lot closer, based on what you shared. Thank you.

K.C.: No, thank you for having me. It was a real pleasure. Listen, you may or may not know this, but you’re in the acknowledgements in Money Bear, Mark.

Mark Malatesta: Sweet. Maybe I should wait and see what you said, but it probably can’t be that bad.

K.C.: Oh, no. It’s pretty good. I think you’ll like it and you earned it. I appreciate the help you gave me and to anybody listening, if there’s one person you want to trust with helping you get a literary agent and helping you make this thing a reality, it’s Mark.

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. You still owe me a beer, though. We have to meet in person at some point. Actually, beer is on me.

K.C.: Twist, my arm. I appreciate it. Thank you.

This interview with Mark Malatesta was recorded with Kerry K. Cox, who consulted with Mark to improve his manuscript, synopsis, and query letter. That led to representation offers from two top literary agents, and a three-book deal. Kerry is the author of multiple eco-conscious crime novels in the Nick Tanner Mystery Series. He is also the co-author of Successful Scriptwriting, published by Writer’s Digest Books (more than 65,000 copies sold).

More About Mark Malatesta, Creator of the Book Genre Dictionary

In addition to the Book Genre Dictionary, Mark Malatesta is the creator of the well-known Directory of Literary Agents and this popular How to Get a Literary Agent Guide. He is the host of Ask a Literary Agent, and founder of The Bestselling Author and Literary Agent Undercover. Mark’s articles have appeared in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents and the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac.

Mark has helped hundreds of authors get literary agents. His authors have gotten book deals with traditional publishers such as Random House, Harper Collins, and Thomas Nelson. They’ve been on the New York Times bestseller list; had their books optioned for TV, stage, and feature film; won countless awards; and had their work licensed in more than 40 countries.

Writers of all Book Genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books) have used Mark’s Literary Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get the Top Literary Agents at the Best Literary Agencies on his List of Literary Agents.

Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta.

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Author Success Story: Fiction/Young Adult  
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"When I got the phone call about my publishing offer with Harcourt, I was in my office with three other people. I slammed down the phone, ran into the secretary’s office, threw myself down on the floor and said, ‘I got a deal!’ They sat there and held my hand. I was speechless. I’ve never ever been that happy in my life. On my wedding day I wasn’t that happy! Getting married and having children are wonderful experiences, but I didn’t ‘work’ to get my children!" [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

C. Plum-Ucci (Harcourt)   

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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