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Getting a book published isn’t easy for most people (don’t worry… this article isn’t going to be depressing). In fact, it’s going to be the very opposite. I’m about to give you the #1 thing that you need to get a book published.

It’s not talent (although that’s obviously important). It’s not connections. And it’s not insider information. It’s something that a cashier recently helped me realize.

Yes, a cashier.

Here’s what happened…

* * *

Getting a Book Published – Meet the Cashier

A few days ago I stopped at a grocery store on my way home. As the cashier rang up my items, I noticed that he looked nearly the same age as me.

“How’s your day going?” I asked.

“It’s going,” he said with a sigh.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s my third day working up front. I used to be in the back, unloading trucks. I had more privacy and freedom then.”

He didn’t make eye contact.


“Look on the bright side. Now you have lots
of people like me, happy to see you.”

getting a book published happy

The cashier forced a smile and rang up my next item. The scanner made a loud bleep-bloop sound. “It’s not so bad,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get used to it.”

I shuffled a couple of my food items on the conveyor belt. “I used to work in a grocery store, you know, unloading trucks and stocking shelves. I even worked as a cashier when I was… when I was… younger.” I almost let it slip that I was 16 when I did that. This man was probably in his 40s and I didn’t want him to feel embarrassed (you never know).

“Really… what do you do now?”

“I help authors get their books published.” I could understand the cashier being surprised. What are the odds? Plus, I was dressed to the nines, on my way home from a meeting with a client.

The cashier’s eyes lit up. “Oh! So you’re a literary agent?”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. “How in the world do you know about literary agents?” Yes, it was presumptuous of me to think he wouldn’t know about book agents… but the words flew out of mouth before my brain could catch up.

“I read a lot,” said the cashier. “And I’m a writer.”

Getting a book published - read

“That’s awesome. What kind of books do you write?”

“Historical fiction, mostly. But I’ve only sent out a few query letters and never got a response. I’m probably not good enough.”

“Technically, I’m not an agent anymore,” I said. “I’m an author consultant… helping authors get agents. You should check out my website.”

As I swiped my debit card, the cashier and I talked a little more about getting a book published. He obviously wasn’t happy as a cashier. I wondered why he hadn’t submitted his book to more than just a few literary agents.

* * *

Getting a Book Published – The Epiphany

As I walked to my car, I started thinking…

Why do some people seriously pursue their passion (like becoming published authors) while so many others eventually give up – or don’t bother trying? Is there one thing that’s ultimately responsible for success in publishing? In life? If so, what is it?

I started thinking about my life…

I grew up in poverty.

Yes, poverty.

My father died when I was eleven (a story for another day). So my two older sisters and I were raised by our mother. She had a low-paying job at a nursery school. You can probably imagine what that might have been like.

If not, I’ll explain…

Our pantry was mostly “filled” with white bread (the oldest and cheapest stuff that you could buy, often stale), canned tomato and mushroom soup (generic brands), white rice, potatoes, powdered milk, and salt and pepper.

Getting a book published - poverty

We didn’t buy peanut butter
and jelly (too expensive).

Or even butter or margarine.


But we did buy lots of things from clearance bins. Most grocery stores have shopping carts at the back of the store with deeply discounted items that are outdated or damaged. So, dented and/or outdated cans of vegetables were common in our house.

Talk about embarrassing.

I once had to help my mom wheel an entire cart (about 100 cans) of okra to the checkout counter… many of those cans were dented and/or missing their labels. A store clerk had written a price of ten cents on the top of each can with black magic marker.

You think that’s bad?

We actually went “dumpster-diving” from time to time as well, behind the grocery store. Now, here’s the point. My mother didn’t give me money or connections (she didn’t have those things to give). But she did give me one thing that money can’t buy.


Belief that I was special.

Belief that I could be successful.

Getting a book published - special

Looking back on it now, I see
how powerful that was.

At the time, I was just a scared little boy. No father. No confidence. Few friends. I had no clue what I was good at. And I had no idea how I’d ever make a decent living and/or provide for a family.

But somehow, I figured it out.

I think the main reason I was able to do it… is the fact that I had someone in my life who kept telling me I could do it.

That made me believe.

As a result, I worked harder than most of the people around me (come to think of it, I still do). I got modest jobs that turned into better jobs. I even managed to get accepted into a decent University, and pay my own way (one job during the school year, two jobs during the summers).

Getting a book published - University

A couple years after I graduated, I became a successful literary agent and the Marketing & Licensing Manager for a well-known publishing company.

Why am I telling you all this?

Not because I’m great.

It’s because my conversation with the cashier
made me realize I’m blessed.

And so are YOU.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from
or what you’ve been through.

You are strong… 

You are special…

You can do this…

Like most things in life, getting a book published isn’t
just about talent and insider information.

It’s about belief.

And one pound of belief is worth
ten pounds of talent.

Getting a book published - talent

That’s why I’m going to keep believing in you and sending you positive energy. I know that your belief (in yourself, and in your writing) will give you the strength you need to finish your book and actually get it out there.

Now, if you liked this article… post a question
or comment below (I need your mojo).

For more information about getting a book published, click here and get my free 15-part Guide to Finding a Literary Agent. Then click here to learn about the 3 different ways that you can get 1-on-1 help from me (free to fee) as your Book Marketing Coach. You can ask me questions about getting a book published on my blog. You can ask me questions about getting a book published during an introductory consulting call. Or you can join one of my longer-term coaching programs.

Either way, I look forward to
getting to know you better.

I believe in you,


Mark Malatesta
Your “Undercover” Agent
How do I get published comments

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