Jon Biemer Success Story Interview with Mark Malatesta – During this insider interview on our literary agent blog, you’ll meet Jon Biemer, author of Our Environmental Handprints: Recover the Land, Reverse Global Warming, Reclaim the Future, published by Rowman and Littlefield, a leading traditional publisher of many bestsellers that produces both trade and academic books, and one of America’s largest book distributors: National Book Network (NBN). During this success story interview, Jon shares his advice for authors of all genres regarding how to write, publish, and/or promote a book. Jon also talks about his work with former book agent Mark Malatesta, which led to interest from four agents.
Scroll below for: 1) Instant access to the audio interview and text transcript, 2) Jon’s success story about how he got his book deal, and 3) Get a copy of Jon’s book. You can also click here to visit Jon’s website.
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Audio Interview with Jon Biemer
Author of Our Environmental Handprints
Press the play button below now to listen or click here to download the file (left-click or right-click the link, then select “Save Link As”). This recording is 69 minutes.
Click here to view and/or download a free PDF transcript
of this audio interview!
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Mark Malatesta Review by Jon Biemer
I now have an agent!
When Lisa Hagan offered to represent me, I had three other agents interested. You suggested I follow up with them because I might have liked one of them more, and I agreed to that. It gave me more time to study Lisa’s portfolio as well, but it was also a bit of a conundrum since I was already excited about Lisa.
She had sold books to major publishers, she was really enthusiastic about my book, and I had a sense we’d have a good, long-term relationship, one I would enjoy. In her emails to me Lisa showed the capacity to embrace more dimensions of myself than I thought possible in an agent: the engineer, the activist, the spiritual person, and the person who tries to walk my environmental talk (with my wife). I thought “There’s nothing else I am looking for in an agent.” So, I wrote an email to her, expressing the reasons why I really wanted her as my agent. A final “YES!!!” message.
It was hard letting those other agents go, but I wrote the difficult emails to them saying I’d made my decision. They responded with gracious, well-wishes. THEN, I was able to feel that joy that comes when you’ve made a HUGE step on a journey to your dreams! Upon reflection, I felt like I chose the agent rather than the agent choosing me.
As you know, it took a lot, including a lot of queries, to get to this point. Sending out submissions is not a job for the faint of heart. When you sent me that Excel spreadsheet with all the agents who might be interested in my book, it was a learning process. There was a lot of information and I was clunky about using it at first. That was challenging given my limited experience with spreadsheets, figuring out the system and how to send out a lot of queries.
You didn’t suggest I send out a few email queries here and there, but in big batches. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it that way without you. I didn’t get much response for quite a while, but the sheer numbers of queries you had me send out were good for my psychology. It shifted me from being the victim of a highly competitive industry to being in control of my circumstances. That was significant.
I probably wouldn’t have gotten to that “popcorn popping” of requests from agents if I hadn’t worked with you. There’s a phrase I read in a business article that basically says, “Hire people that can ship.” It speaks to the idea that you just need to send things out at a certain point. It isn’t going to be perfect, but you’ve got to send it anyway and get on to the next one and the next one and the next one. I didn’t start out with that kind of discipline, but I started doing things faster when I realized how long I was taking.
You helped me stay focused on a proven strategy. Rejections just became noise, something happening along the way to “Yes.” Stepping stones. A “No” answer was better than a non-answer because I knew the agent had read my query. It was a definitive step closer to the next agent that might want my book.
One agent asked for my book proposal the morning after I queried her. She was encouraging but felt I was trying to do too much. Another worried about the market. Another just failed to fall in love. However, I was surprised that not a single agent complained about my platform. Considering I’m not well-known, that is extraordinary.
The things you did with me to build my platform were a major part of our work together. I recognized my platform deficiency early on, and you were very diplomatic about saying, “You need to work on that.” I was surprised you didn’t ask me to do things outside my skill set. You didn’t ask me to become a social media butterfly or do a whole lot of public speaking engagements. Those things would have been really hard for me. Instead, you played to my strengths.
I didn’t see the path to building a platform until you showed it to me. It was more like, “Yeah, I’ve done a lot of stuff but it’s not going to bring me up to the point where my message could get out to lots of people.” Even at the end of our process, right before I started querying agents, I wasn’t convinced my platform was good enough. It was just a compilation of things I’d done and things I planned to do in the future. But it communicated my capacity and ability to promote a book.
As you’ll recall, it was hard getting to “yes” related to your fee. My wife and I had to cash in savings bonds to do it. As an author, you think, “If I knew I was going to make a million dollars, of course I’d invest in the coaching.” But the odds of making a million dollars on a book are low, at least at the outset.
I’m not much of a gambler, so I worked with you to increase my probability of success. Writing has been a passion of mine for a long time, but if I’m serious about making a difference in the world, I need to learn what it really takes to publish with a mainstream publisher. I’ve passed up opportunities to get a second master’s degree and a PhD, not because those things wouldn’t be nice, but because the payoff for didn’t make sense at this point in my career. I thought, “How am I going to get $60,000 back from a PhD?” I couldn’t see it.
When my wife and I looked at the investment to work with you, we said, “Okay. It costs less than a PhD, and it’s a teaching tailored to what I wanted to do. My intention was to learn a very specific set of skills that I would need to share my book with a large audience. You offered a customized curriculum for imparting those skills, and you only accept authors for coaching if you see they have real potential for success.
Your coaching program is essentially a tough “school” that prepares writers for a tough business. The reason I say that is to put your fee in context. People pay fees of the same order – and more – to learn robotics, writing, designing games, and political science. I can say it more brazenly than you to other authors: “Do you want to publish a mainstream book, or just say you tried?” Having ongoing interaction with you in coaching is a lot different than just getting advice from a book or conference or hiring an editor.
You have an excellent process, you’re patient, and you pace things according to what your clients need and are capable of. I’m slow, with a lot of other things going on in my life, but that didn’t stop us because your process didn’t depend on me coming back at a specific moment in time. That’s really a plus. I also appreciate that you worked with me for 18 months, even though our agreement was for just a year. You read your clients pretty well. The experience has been transformative.
Finally, I want to thank you for your valuable guidance regarding the manuscript itself. You suggested I improve the beginning of my book and add an important chapter. You also showed me how to present the spiritual part of my message in a way that felt good to me and wouldn’t be off-putting to readers. With your experience and perspective, those types of things are normal for you, but, for someone like me, they’re gold.
Thank you, from my heart.
Author of Our Environmental Handprints: Recover the Land, Reverse Global Warming, Reclaim the Future, published in hardcover by Rowman and Littlefield, a leading traditional publisher of many bestsellers that produces both trade and academic books, and one of America’s largest book distributors: National Book Network (NBN)
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