Silvia Foti Success Story Interview with Mark Malatesta – During this insider interview on our literary agent blog, you’ll meet Silvia Foti, author of The Nazi’s Granddaughter, published by Regnery Publishing, with more than 50 books on the NY Times bestseller list. During this success story interview, Silvia shares her best advice for authors of all genres regarding how to write, publish, and/or promote a book. Silvia also talks about her work with former book agent Mark Malatesta, which led to offers from four agents, her book deal with Regnery, her book being featured on the front page of the NY Times, and an interview on BBC being broadcast to 75 million listeners.
Scroll below for: 1) Instant access to the audio interview and text transcript, 2) Silvia’s success story about how she got her book deal, and 3) Get a copy of Silvia’s book. You can also click here to visit Silvia’s website.
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Audio Interview with Silvia Foti
Author of The Nazi’s Granddaughter
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 59 minutes.
Click here to view and/or download a free PDF transcript
of this audio interview!
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Mark Malatesta Review by Silvia Foti
I just got an offer from Regnery Publishing! They’ve had more than fifty books on the New York Times bestseller list, including numerous books at #1. Harper Collins Mexico has picked up my book as well. My agent, Helen Zimmerman, has been great. I LOVE her, and I wouldn’t be at this point without your guidance and help.
It took every fiber of my being not to say yes to Helen immediately, but I followed your advice and asked for time to think about it…since I had other agents who were serious. That was really, really hard. I just wanted to scream, “Yes!” Helen said she was “completely engrossed” with the book and added, “This is a really good proposal, I’m so amazed.” She was ebullient, enthusiastic, and eager. No poker face, which I really liked.
I sent out the query you wrote in early November, and I got good responses. You said I might get an agent by Thanksgiving and it totally could have happened that way, but the agents left me waiting, waiting, and waiting. Then it was nothing, nothing, and nothing. Then the holidays came and went. You said I should send out a second round of queries. When I did, I got more responses and two offers.
I’ve been with this book 19 years. My early versions were horrible, but I sent them out because I didn’t know how bad they were. Every couple of years I’d send the manuscript out again and get more rejections. I knew something was wrong. At one point, a couple years ago, I got an agent to represent me, but she only showed the book to editors at Random House. Then, she said, “I can’t sell it. Your proposal is too weak, you have no platform, and you need a website. I’m sorry.”
In the middle of that, I had my first coaching session with you, to talk about my proposal and platform. I was very impressed and wished I’d worked with you from the beginning. The difference in my positive response rate with queries after we worked on everything together was like night and day. I got mostly nothing before. Once in a blue moon, an agent would respond and that was it.
Agents loved the new query.
It got a very high response rate, and some of the agents who’d rejected me before asked to review my material this time. It wasn’t just the query that did it. It was the things you had me do to make my platform better. I was blind to that. I had no idea what I was getting into, trying to get an agent. It felt like I kept walking into a dragon’s cave and getting burned.
I have four degrees, two of which are writing degrees (journalism and creative nonfiction), but I didn’t have a degree in how to get an agent. Now I feel like I do! School doesn’t teach the stuff I learned with you, and books about literary agents don’t give authors everything you do. You’re a guide, like a Sherpa. I felt like you were holding my hand the whole time, giving me the information I needed and shining a light on what was ahead. I was never surprised.
You’re very hands-on and methodical, and you have an explanation or packet of information for everything, from A to Z, beginning to end. I like that. I was always able to figure things out and I knew what to expect. I should say it’s a lot of work for the author. It’s not like you pay your money and it’s done. It’s not like that at all, but at least I knew what I was doing working with you. I knew I wasn’t spinning my wheels or wasting time.
I was intimidated by the platform work at first, in particular. It took a lot of time and I didn’t think I could do it. I would have never, ever, ever done it on my own. I kept saying, “Okay. Well, he knows, so I’m just going to trust him.” It was always a leap of faith. Before I started contacting agents, when I was reaching out to people to build my platform, I got discouraged by all the rejections. But that changed when Salon.com published the article I pitched to them.
Within a month of that being published, approximately 17,000 people shared it on social media. Then other media outlets saw it and started contacting me. The New York Times and Chicago Tribune wrote articles about me. And was contacted to do an interview for BBC World Outlook heard by 75 million listeners. Others have covered my story as well, in the US and abroad. And I’ve been contacted by people asking about the possibility of adapting the story to TV or feature film. One man I talked to, with a major studio, said it’s “Oscar worthy.”
I kid you not!
Some agents said my platform was too small, while others said it was too big, that I’d gotten “too much exposure” and there wouldn’t be enough places left to promote the book once it was published. You stayed positive and kept saying, “Keep at it.” I was like, “Okay,” and I did. That’s what led to me finally getting the article published at Salon.com. They later named my article their “Best of 2018 Life Stories.” It wasn’t easy and it took longer than a year, but everything we did was helpful.
You suggested important changes for the structure of my book as well, which was impressive. You’re not a developmental editor, but I did a lot of rewriting based on your suggestions. I felt very secure, like I was in safe hands. I had no doubt I was doing the best I could, and that if it wasn’t going to work, it wasn’t going to be because I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d literally tried everything else and your coaching was last thing left for me. I knew, if that didn’t work, nothing would.
I was desperate.
Before my first session with you, you sent me a long questionnaire that might be overwhelming for some people. I thought, “He’s really thorough.” I was impressed that you asked so many questions and wondered, “What else could we possibly talk about?” But the call was illuminating. You gave me a lot of good advice about how to improve my platform, proposal, and query.
It’s almost impossible to get an agent without help. The publishing industry is so complicated and Byzantine. There are a million different ways to do things and it’s hard to know which ones are going to work for you. You need someone to break it down, show you which areas to spend the most time on, and show you the best way to do it. You need a friend in the business, someone who can fast-track you.
I’ve really enjoyed working with you, Mark. I’m grateful for your advice, energy, talent, and kindness guiding me through this crazy maze.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Author of The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal, published by Regnery Publishing, with more than 50 books on the New York Times bestseller list, including numerous books at #1
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Silvia Foti – Biography
Silvia Foti is a journalist, creative writer, teacher, and mother. She holds masters’ degrees in Journalism, Education, and Creative Nonfiction, and she’s been a high school English teacher and journalist.
Upon her mother’s death, Silvia was handed the biggest assignment of her life, to write the story about her famous grandfather.
Silvia was raised on reverent stories about her hero grandfather, a martyr for Lithuanian independence and an unblemished patriot. Jonas Noreika, remembered as “General Storm,” had resisted his country’s German and Soviet occupiers in World War II, surviving two years in a Nazi concentration camp only to be executed in 1947 by the KGB.
His granddaughter, Silvia, growing up in Chicago, was treated like royalty in her tightly knit Lithuanian community. But in 2000, when Silvia traveled to Lithuania for a ceremony honoring her grandfather, she heard a very different story—a rumor that her grandfather had been a “Jew-killer.”
The Nazi’s Granddaughter is Silvia’s account of her wrenching twenty-year quest for the truth, from a beautiful house confiscated from its Jewish owners to familial confessions and the Holocaust tour guide who believed that her grandfather murdered members of his family.
A heartbreaking and dramatic story based on exhaustive documentary research and soul-baring interviews, The Nazi’s Granddaughter is an unforgettable journey into WWII history, intensely personal but filled with universal lessons about courage, faith, memory, and justice.
Silvia and I worked together to help her improve her manuscript, pitch materials, and platform, which led to her being featured in the NYTimes and being contacted by the BBC for a radio interview to be aired to 75 million listeners. Silvia then got an offer for representation from multiple agents, which led to her book being published by Regnery Publishing, which has more than 50 books on the NYTimes bestseller list.
Learn more at silviafoti.com.
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