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Authors sometimes say interesting things when they visit my websites. That’s partly because I provide a lot of information to help writers get literary agents, publishers, and book deals. I also say things like, “Getting published isn’t luck, it’s a decision!” And, a lot of the information and resources on my websites—including my Directory of Literary Agents—is free.

That leads to questions such as:

– “Is this for real?”

– “What’s the catch?”

– “What’s in it for you?”


You shouldn’t be naïve, but you shouldn’t be too skeptical either. That’s why I wrote this article. It will help you get a better sense of what’s possible (or not): a) using the information on my websites, b) working with me 1-on-1 through Author Coaching, and c) working with any other service provider for authors (such as a professional editor).

Is this for Real?


You CAN get a top literary agent, publisher, and book deal by simply taking advantage of the free information on my websites.

But that’s only half the story.

Here’s the other half…

Good information isn’t always good enough. It’s one thing to read (or listen to) valuable information that can help you. It’s something else to apply that information, at a high level, and be effective—especially when it comes to your own work. Thus, the proverb: “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” In other words, if you follow the advice on my websites and don’t get a literary agent, publisher, and book deal… it doesn’t mean the information on my websites is bad. It means you might need to tweak something and/or you might need help to apply everything in the best way.

With or without me, it’s usually not easy (and it’s not always pretty). You’ll probably need to send out many queries—probably a hundred or more, or hundreds of queries—to get agents reading your work and/or offering to represent you. It can be a slow process that’s disheartening and demoralizing. But it can also happen quickly and easily (and, of course, that’s how I hope it goes for you).

You’re ultimately responsible for your success as an author. Using the information on my websites and/or working with me 1-on-1 in coaching doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get a literary agent, publisher, and book deal. It will simply give you a much better chance of getting a literary agent, publisher, and book deal. I’m also not liable or responsible for anything you do (or don’t do) with agents. And, I’m not liable or responsible for anything an agent listed on one of my websites does (or doesn’t do).

Publishing is highly subjective. You’ve heard the idiom, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It’s also true in publishing. For example, when I was a literary agent, one of my authors was rejected by Warner Books because his writing reminded the acquisitions editor of Stephen King’s writing (go figure). Yet, two other publishers offered my client a contract (including a six-figure contract). And, one of those publishers (you guessed it) said he loved my client’s writing because it reminded him of Stephen King’s writing. In other words, if an agent criticizes your writing or says s/he didn’t fall in love with your work, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong—and it doesn’t mean that anyone else you might have worked with (critique group, professional editor, or a coach like myself) did anything wrong. Sometimes rejections are a sign that you should change something; other times they simply mean you need to keep sending out queries until (hopefully) the right person “gets it”.

You might need to edit your book. Although agents might say nice things about your writing, they might also suggest changes. If/when you get constructive criticism that doesn’t come with an offer for representation (and you’re willing to do the work), you should seriously consider making the changes. Then you’ll be able (in most cases) to resubmit your work to the agents who made suggestions. In some cases, if agents give you enough detailed feedback, you can make the changes on your own (it’s like getting free editing). Other times, if you’re not capable of making the changes on your own, and/or you have the money, you can/should hire a professional freelance editor to help you interpret what the agent is saying and make the changes in the best way.

You might need a little luck—or divine intervention. I remind my coaching clients of this right before they start sending out their first round of queries. One of my clients (Laskhmi Subramani, a memoir author who worked with me to get a top literary agent, resulting in a book deal with Random House) said it best when he jokingly told me, “You’re good, but you’re not God.” He went on to say that authors need to understand there’s only so much a coach (or author) can do. Of course, you should do everything possible to increase your chances of getting published, the same way that I do when I’m coaching someone. And, yes, getting published is (to some extent) a decision. But publishing is also (in case you haven’t heard–yes, that’s sarcasm) an incredibly competitive and subjective industry. So, you will also need to cross your fingers, say your prayers, and summon your angels. Whatever you do to give yourself an edge.

Agents don’t sell every book they represent. Don’t ask me exactly how many they sell (like a percentage) because I can’t tell you that—no one can. Agents are all different in that regard. But I can tell you that the most successful agents (those with the most experience and the best connections, who are picky about who they work with—the way I’m picky about who I work with as a coach) sell most of the books they represent. Some of those agents boast a success rate of 90% or more. That’s the good news. Other agents, at the other end of the spectrum, who are just getting started and/or aren’t very successful, don’t sell most of the books they pitch.

Some authors fail. Yes, I have lots of testimonials on my websites from authors who’ve gotten literary agents, publishers, and book deals… using the information on my websites and/or working with me as their coach. But I’ve also worked with authors who haven’t made it (or, at least, not yet). In that way, I’m no different than a professional editor. In other words, not every author who hires a professional editor gets a literary agent, publisher, and book deal right away (or at all). And, not everyone who uses the information on my websites and/or hires me as a coach gets a literary agent, publisher, and book deal right away (or at all). That’s why I don’t promise authors they’re going to get a literary agent, publisher, and book deal if they follow my advice. Professional editors don’t make promises like that, either. Again, the best we can do is greatly improve your chances of getting a literary agent, publisher, and book deal.

Why Am I Telling You This?

First (mentioned earlier) authors sometimes wonder if what I do is “real” or too good to be true. I hope this disclaimer of sorts helps put everything in perspective.

Second, many service providers who do things with/for authors aren’t brave (or honest) enough to tell you the whole truth. They’re often too worried about scaring authors away, so they only say what that they think you want to hear (instead of also telling you what you need to hear). I’m not like that (and I think you’re smarter than that), so I hope you appreciate this more direct approach. I know that some of the things I need to tell you might be difficult, but hopefully, in the end, they’ll make you feel more empowered—and more determined to be successful.

Third, there are other people (who aren’t very qualified) providing services for authors. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear yet another story about an author who’s been disillusioned and disappointed. What’s the easiest way to figure out who’s going to give you the best information and do the best job for you? Easy. Ask yourself smart questions. Is the person telling you things you don’t want to hear? Remember, that’s a good thing. The best coaches, consultants, and editors don’t just stroke egos. At the risk of losing possible clients and customers, they’re willing to tell the truth—to help serious authors reach their goals. And, lastly, does the person you’re thinking about getting advice from or hiring as a coach have testimonials from real people (with photos) who’ve written books in your genre and gotten agents and/or publishers that you can see online? Most service providers don’t have that, or they don’t have very many. You can see my success stories here:

Fourth, I want you to have realistic expectations if you’re thinking about signing up for coaching with me. I want you to dream big, but also be realistic. Yes, if you sign up for coaching with me, I will tell you things (and do things) that will greatly increase your chances of getting a literary agent, publisher, and book deal. But, again, I can’t promise you’ll actually get a top literary agent, publisher, and book deal–or that you’ll be able to do it quickly and easily (and, hopefully, you wouldn’t trust me if I did)!

What’s in It for Me—and What’s the Catch?

As a writer myself, it’s hard to describe the excitement I feel when one of my followers or coaching clients tells me that s/he got an a request for more material, an offer for representation, or a publisher and book deal.

It never gets old.


This is also a business.

So, yes, I provide a lot of valuable information and inspiration (free) to help authors get literary agents, publishers, and book deals. I also answer questions online (free). But I don’t just do it because I’m a good guy. I do it because it’s smart business.

In other words, I also give away free information and answer questions to demonstrate my knowledge of the publishing industry. And I do it so talented, committed, and coachable authors can find out about my coaching… and work with me 1-on-1 to help them get literary agents, publishers, and book deals.

That’s all there is to it.

No catch, just a simple question.

What if?

What if your book is as good as you think (or hope) it is? What if the only thing standing between your book being read by a lot of people is getting the right agent to read it? And, what if the free information on my websites (or the information you could get from me in coaching) could make the difference for you?

Everyone isn’t right for Author Coaching, but anyone can use the free information on my websites and Ask Questions online. Does that sound too good to be true—to you? Again, I can’t guarantee you’ll get a literary agent, publisher, and book deal… but I’ll do everything I can to give you your best shot.

Let’s make this your year,

–  Mark

Ask a Question About Literary Agent Biographies

Mark Malatesta answers questions about literary agent biographies

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