Review of Mark Malatesta by Author S. LeRette
This review of Mark Malatesta was shared by the author of The Unbreakable Boy (Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson), now a feature film with Lionsgate Entertainment starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton.
Scott LeRette worked with Mark to improve his book and pitch materials, which led to a bidding war between publishers. Scott signed a publishing contract with Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson and his book is now available in hardcover.
Click the following links to see Scott’s review, an interview in which he shares his best advice for authors, and more Mark Malatesta reviews:
Mark Malatesta Review by Scott LeRette
Boom!!! I just signed a contract with Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson for (what I’ve been told by several people) is a very large advance for a first-time author.
Before working with Mark I submitted my book to agents but didn’t get any interest. This time around I got a top NY literary agency, FinePrint Lit. They teamed up with MacGregor Literary and got publishers bidding against each other. Now I’m looking forward to my book tour. I’m also excited to say that the Editor in Chief at Thomas Nelson is going to be my editor!
What cloud is higher than 9?
I actually had several agencies interested before deciding to go with Fine Print. And, to be honest, all of the attention didn’t surprise me. The query letter and proposal that Mark helped me develop were incredible. Agents actually said things to me like: ‘Scott, I read your proposal and I’m just blown away by it! Are you available to chat tomorrow afternoon?’
One of the reasons I’m having so much success is that Mark helped me steer my entire vision for the book. He took the time to get to know me and understand what it was that I was trying to do. That’s just as important as the actual writing of the query letter and proposal.
Pt 2 – Review of Mark Malatesta – S. LeRette
Mark walked me through every step of the process, baby step by baby step. He showed me how to give my book greater bestseller potential, making it more meaningful and appealing to a broader audience. He guided me through some minor rewrites. And he showed me how to communicate all of the project’s value to agents. I was too close to it.
I might have been able to get an agent without Mark’s help, but it probably wouldn’t have been a TOP agent. My chances of eventually getting published would have been a lot less. And, if I did get published, it probably would have been on a much smaller scale, for a much smaller deal.
The sample query letters, proposals, questionnaires, and training documents that Mark gives his clients are significantly better than anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve gotten a lot of information online and in writers’ forums, and it doesn’t look anything like this.
Going through Mark’s process helps you pull every useful thought and detail out of you… so your finished query letter and proposal are mostly your words, in your voice. But Mark has this amazing expertise and ability to take your words, move them around, and make them sound so much better.
Pt 3 – Review of Mark Malatesta – S. LeRette
In fact, there were things that I told Mark casually on the phone during our sessions, that I later saw he’d added to my query letter! I’m reading it to my wife… saying ‘Yeah!’ and high-fiving her because it’s exactly what I said… and it works great.
Mark also brings passion and compassion to his work. He really cares about the authors he works with, and he’s sincere. It’s pretty neat to have someone like that, when you can feel they’ve ‘bought in’ and they’re passionate about your project. It’s great to have someone that you can call your mentor or guiding force, your silver bullet or secret weapon.
Mark is extremely talented at what he does, and the process of working with him has totally opened my eyes. If you have the opportunity to work with him, take advantage of it.
SCOTT LERETTE is the author of the memoir The Unbreakable Boy (Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson), adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton
Scott LeRette Interview (Audio and Text) with Former Literary Agent Mark Malatesta
During this 73-minute interview with former AAR literary agent Mark Malatesta, author Scott LeRette talks about his efforts to get his book, The Unbreakable Boy (Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson) published. The book is available in hardcover and paperback, and it was recently adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton. In the interview below, Scott shares tips for authors of all genres about the best way to write, publish, and promote a book. He also talks more about his time working with Mark as an author coach to help him get a literary agent.
S C O T T . L E R E T T E
Mark Malatesta: Scott LeRette is an ordinary man, with an extraordinary son. His wife, Theresa, and son Austin, both suffer from a very rare bone disease, called osteogenesis imperfecta, resulting in countless broken bones. Austin also has multiple heart defects, and autism. Scott wrote his book, The Unbreakable Boy, a memoir based on his popular blog, to share his redemptive story, based on faith, love, and addiction: the story of his son teaching his dad to embrace all things and live.
The Unbreakable Boy generated a bidding war with publishers, and is now available from Thomas Nelson, a division of Harper Collins. [The book has also now been adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton.]
In addition to being an author, Scott is a sales executive for GE Capital. Before that, Scott served as an officer in the US Navy. Think an officer and a gentlemen. Scott holds a business degree from the University of Oklahoma, and he lives in Red Oak, Iowa.
When he’s not working or writing, Scott can be found hanging out with the family pets: Boomer, a tiger rescue cat; Mason, an Australian shepherd; and Stella, a French bulldog. Scott also plays guitar in a band, and he’s involved with his church where he helps organize youth and high-school admissions and community service projects.
So, welcome, Scott! It’s wonderful to have you here today.
S.L.: How are you?
Mark Malatesta: I’m fantastic. I’ve been waiting forever to do this with you, and this whole journey of getting the book done and out there takes a while. Boy, it’s fun to be able to tell everyone about the journey and promote your book.
S.L.: It’s definitely a lesson in patience for sure.
Mark Malatesta: But worth it?
S.L.: Absolutely! We still have a long way to go, but it will be here before I know it.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, once the book is available for orders online, and you’re there now, it all changes. Let’s get to it. I like to start these author success story interviews by giving you the floor, so you can tell everyone what your book is about. Also, make sure you let everyone know how they can learn more about the book online while they’re listening and, of course, order the book.
PT 2 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
S.L.: First, my intention wasn’t to write a book. It’s actually part of the story, and I think one day I would love to share how the book came to be, and write a book about that, because I think it’s been fascinating.
It goes back almost 20 years ago when I met my wife. We met in January, and had a baby boy in November. I kid and tell everyone that I didn’t even know my wife’s last name when we had our son. He was born with broken ribs, and we didn’t know it. From the get-go, it was a lesson in craziness with broken bones, and a man and woman who didn’t know each other, trying to make a family overnight.
Over the years, we noticed things with Austin and the diagnosis was slow in coming. I was in denial, and we had another son two years later. They’re now 17 and 19, and Austin just graduated this Sunday from high school. I think it was about six or seven years ago when my brother Kevin asked me, “Why don’t you write about this?” Because there was a moment when, I believe, Austin got the cast off his right upper arm and we got home later that day, and he tripped and broke a tibia or fibula, I can’t recall. Kevin said, “Holy cow,” and my brother Brian called and said, “You guys don’t go through a rough patch in life, you guys are a rough patch.”
Another way I like to explain it, and my writing mentor, Susy, told me, “Scott, if you guys weren’t crazy, you’d be insane.” It’s always stuck with me, and I think it’s totally apropos for me and my family and our story. So, I started writing on, I think, three-by-five sized spiral notebooks, the small ones, and I still have the original. I did that for several months, and then stumbled upon blogging. I don’t even recall how it happened.
I created a free account with Google, and it took off. I started writing at least five times a week, and it was addictive. I found I loved it. What’s interesting, my writing skill, I can tell if I look at some of the first times I wrote posts and compare them to some of my stories one or five years later, it’s astounding how much a person can learn about honing their craft. It was so much fun, but I could never do that today, write five or six stories a week. I can’t do it. But my blog was noticed by Autism Speaks, as well as Babble, which is a Disney online presence. They voted my blog the number one dad blog in 2011, which was cool because it opened doors, and I was able to write stories, and recently I wrote for Everyday Health, which is a popular health website, and it was picked up by AOL. I was since contacted by the Huffington Post and they want a story.
Let me back up. I determined about three years ago, I started looking at the thought of possibly putting this down on paper, and turning my stories into a long form story. I bought some books, and you know, the big thick book with all the literary agents and publishers in it, and I bought two of them. Jeff Herman was one of them, and the other was by Writer’s Digest.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.L.: I think most people listening probably know which books I’m talking about. I think I stumbled upon your wife, Ingrid, and that’s how I found you.
Mark Malatesta: I didn’t realize that.
S.L.: Yes, I saw her on Twitter. Folks who haven’t really embraced social media, in this case it was very telling and helped. I found Ingrid, and it connected me to you, and I followed a link over to Literary Agent Undercover. I listened to one of your calls and figured why not? You had a special for a one-on-one for an hour and I did that.
At this time, I realized I was going to put my story to paper, because enough people told me it was something people would like to hear. The blog as popular, and people liked the stories, and also I was writing about something I was passionate about and love to do. I’m learning as I do it. It was really easy for me to continue and write.
PT 3 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
Mark Malatesta: Let me back up, because there are some important things I want to make sure we get in here. Number one, if someone is listening and want to check out the book and your website, do you want them going to your main website?
S.L.: Yes, UnbreakableBoy.com is…the final version at Harper Collins, we have a goal to have that done by the end of June.
Mark Malatesta: But, even now, you have links where people can buy the book.
S.L.: You can go to it, because it’s up on Barnes & Noble Books and Amazon. Other than that, my blog and Facebook page, anyone I meet I tell them to Google my name. You can put in my name, The Unbreakable Boy, and you’ll find me. It’s kind of scary when I think about it sometimes, because when I do rarely Google my name, it’s weird to see pages of results of different things, and how easy it is to learn about my family, but it’s one of the things I chose to do.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.L.: My book is an open book, so people will know a lot about me and my family. So yes it’s UnbreakableBoy.com and…
Mark Malatesta: And people can Google you.
S.L.: Right, you’ll find it. There are all kinds of audio, video, TV, all those things are up there, and you can find out more than you probably ever want to know about me and my family.
Mark Malatesta: I also want to make sure everyone understands, it’s a great book, and as much as I want people to get some of your insight from your perspective on some tips to go about writing and promoting a book, I also want people to read your book because it’s good.
In a nutshell, would you say it’s fair, and I know you can add to this and I’ll butcher it, but what I think is one of the most powerful things about your book, which is, when you were talking about where you’ve been through, such incredible things with your family, and challenges you faced, that your story and I know from reading it, it’s where you can’t read the story and feel sorry for yourself. It’s like, if you can deal with that and come through it on the other side, and stay positive and stay driven, and do everything you need to do, then we all can. That’s one of the things I walk away with from the book, and why I think it has such broad appeal.
What are some of the other things you think a reader would get out of it?
S.L.: I think the first thing is a lot of folks, and even family members and folks who know me, might think that my book is the blog. My book is not a book about special needs. Special needs is a pivotal and integral part of the story but my book is about faith and love. It’s a love story. It’s about a lot of pain and struggle and failure, but more importantly it’s an inspiring story, and there is a thread in there for me personally that is extremely redemptive and, like you said in one of your initial lines…I have to be straight with you, that a lot of folks think it’s a book about Austin.
One thing to this day that fascinates me is, as I was rewriting the entire manuscript for the second time, I learned more and more every day that this book is as much about me as it is about Austin and my family.
Mark Malatesta: I remember that from our earliest conversations. The obvious thing on the surface is it’s about him, and the title The Unbreakable Boy. But you, as the author, how the journey affected and changed you and transformed you, is the real story. For the reader it’s ultimately the reader’s story, and you kept all three of those things, and juggled all three trying to connect it, so readers could see how the book could transform them. To me, that’s what makes a great book.
S.L.: That’s part of what actually happened in the rewriting of the story. I should back up, because the manuscript initially went out as 36 short stories, and the literary agent wanted me to change it more into a chronological form, 20 years ago to today. In the rewriting, you can see the arc of how when you read it, you’re reading this book about this boy, and how unreal it is, and how rare and unique this boy, who, there are only a few people quite like him in the world.
The arc is multifaceted, and changes, and then I’m brought into it more up front. Yes, it’s a very dynamic setting, and pretty cool.
PT 4 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
Mark Malatesta: I want to touch on that point for a minute, and I want everyone to understand it. I know you have a deep appreciation for this now, of how much a book evolves. This isn’t just while you’re writing it, but you get to one level on your own, and then if you work with someone like me, or a marketing or writing coach, it evolves. Then, when you joined forces with your writing partner, who became a co-author, it evolved again. Then, when it went to the publisher, it evolved again. It keeps deepening, and that took you by surprise, right?
S.L.: Yes. Let me address something I think you want me to talk about, because I think you mentioned this in the past. Three years ago, you made a comment to me regarding publishing and self-publishing, and you said, “You can self-publish any time anyway, why not go for traditional and see what happens? If it doesn’t, you can always self-publish,” and that’s why I did what I did.
Now, if I had self-published, I would have had 36 stories across the board scattered, just stories, and the evolution never would have occurred. The evolution with my literary agent and my mentor, it never would have happened, and I never would be where I am today if I self-published.
Mark Malatesta: Since you brought it up, what do you see as the upside, in addition to the book becoming better? What do you think are some of the other benefits for you? I believe in self-publishing too, but I always believe it’s better to start traditional and see if you can. What are some reasons you wanted to do that, other than it being a better book?
S.L.: I think you have to appreciate the business aspect, because Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson was one of three publishers who showed interest, and they definitely affected the way the book was purchased. And whoever it is, they have a lot more money to market my book than I do.
Mark Malatesta: That’s true.
S.L.: It’s a fact. Sure, they get a lot more of the book, but I don’t care. I want people to read my story. As a friend of mine told me they said, “In terms of helping, you’re going to be able to help people, and wouldn’t it be cool to help a million people, versus 500 people?” Your chances of doing that, for a first-time, no-name author–which is what I am–is traditional publishing. So, it made no sense to continue, because I was looking at self-publishing.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, and I’m glad you brought up that you got multiple offers from publishers, and they bid against each other. With you being an unpublished author–there are so many myths and misconceptions out there about that, and I hear this all the time. As an unpublished author, why should I do that, because I’m only going to get a $5,000 advance? That’s not true.
I don’t know if you want to share what your advance was, but let’s say for everyone listening, what was the quote? I think it was, “Somebody who’s well published in the industry, who’s had bestsellers, told you they don’t even sometimes get advances like that.”
S.L.: Actually, I think the best way to look at it is if you look at Publishers Marketplace, they categorize the sales, and there’s five levels. It was the mid-level, the third one, which was a very nice deal.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.L.: I was shocked and surprised. I guess there are ups and downs for selling it for a good number, but to me, well, I’m fine with it. It tells me especially with what I know now, and what they’re doing with the marketing already that they have a lot of hope and a lot invested…
Mark Malatesta: They’re all in, yes.
S.L.: Yes, so they’re in, and that’s really good.
Mark Malatesta: One reason I love doing these calls, Scott, is to inspire people. Can you give people a little fantasy and spend a minute to describe to everyone where you were when you got the good news? How was it when you got the call from your literary agent? Walk us through the moment when you knew you had the deal.
PT 5 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
S.L.: I guess I’m spoiled, and you know this. I think there’s a reason for it all happening. Every step that’s happened, everything I’ve envisioned, every single thing from getting a literary agent to… What I did, it took me six months to look through those books and determine what genre, what type of literary agent. And on a Friday afternoon at one o’clock, I electronically sent out 15 queries, and some required sample chapters, and some the entire manuscript, and within two hours, 11 of 15 responded.
I responded back with the further appropriate materials, and it came down to a few. The one I went with, which was Fine Print Literary, was one of the top three I wanted. They reached out, and it was a marriage made in Heaven. I knew they were taking a risk on me, because they didn’t want the manuscript the way it was. So, they put me with a rookie literary agent and…
Mark Malatesta: At first with the rookie.
S.L.: Right, and now the President… Well, there’s Peter Rubie, and Stephanie Evans. One is the owner/founder and the other is the President, which is Stephanie, and she’s my literary agent now, because Becky Vinter, my original literary agent, she got moved up and moved on, and is doing wonderful things.
But they wanted me to rewrite the manuscript and… Let’s see, I have to answer your question. They asked me to call them, and I called them, and it clicked. I didn’t get a call while I was in a Starbucks saying, “We love you…” No. It went back and forth electronically, and I ended up calling them, and I was ecstatic. I don’t know where I was, but I was giddy, and I’m sure people around me were like, “What’s that guy doing?”
I think this is an important thing, Mark Malatesta: To this day, I have a hard time describing to people how solitary the entire experience has been. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been amazing, the whole last three years, it’s awesome, and amazing. But at the same time, nobody can experience you writing and rewriting, and doing the queries and talking with the literary agents. Nobody does it, it’s me. There is no one else on my team that’s changed, I have a literary agent, and now there are editors, publicists, and marketing people, and I have a writing partner who is amazing, and I never knew how that was going to go. I actually had to go through a couple of months interviewing writers. I’m not a writer, and I now know I am a writer, and I’m not too bad. I write good stories.
I’m not tooting my own horn, but regardless of how rough or smooth they are, people like to read my stories. So, putting me with the right person was really important. I don’t know if you want me to share how that happened…
Mark Malatesta: Yes. There are so many things I love about your story that I know are interesting and unique. I definitely want to talk about the co-author or writing partner, but first let’s back up. I love the part of you that always felt you’re not a writer. At least, that’s how you felt before, “I have this blog…”
Mark Malatesta: There are many people listening to this that feel that way. I guess, what made you see you’re really a writer, that maybe someone else could grab onto to help them?
S.L.: I’m glad you re-mentioned that, because it’s something I wanted to touch on. I’m the typical person that when they start something, they want to soak up as much information as possible. I was reading Writer’s Digest, and the Poet’s book, and all the different magazines and online forums, and researching everything on writing a book. There are always lists in these books, like the Top Ten Things a Writer Needs To Do, etc.
One thing that kept coming up in this list of Top Five Things Every Writer Should Do or whatever was write about what you know.
PT 6 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
Mark Malatesta: I thought you were going to say was actually spend time writing. That’s another good one.
S.L.: Yes, it was on those lists, but that one always came up, write about what you know. Hey, nobody is a better expert on my son and family then me. I know you couldn’t write my story. I thought, “I can do this,” and it evolved that way.
It’s hard to describe when you’re in the process of it, and there are all these mountains and peaks and valleys, because it’s been exciting, and I have six more months to go. But I truly appreciate it now when someone says, “It took me ten years to write a book.” I get it.
Mark Malatesta: Right. And six more months to go means until the book is in the bookstores right? But it’s available for pre-order now on Amazon.
S.L.: Right. It’s kind of crazy, and some things happened with Thomas Nelson, and they were shocked because it went up on Amazon about three weeks ago and the pre-orders have been… The word they used is they were “taken aback” by the amount of pre-orders that have occurred, and there’s been no promotion.
As I said earlier, everything that’s happened, if I could have chosen A, B or C, everything that’s happened would have been what I wanted to choose. It’s coming out as hardback, it’s a large book, and got either an 8- or 16-page color photo insert. They told me they didn’t anticipate doing this, but we want to do this and that. And they kept the name. They had a titling meeting about three or four months ago, and it was the first time they came to me and said, “This is unusual, nobody wants to change your name.” So, The Unbreakable Boy is what the name of the book is, and what it was from day one.
Mark Malatesta: It’s funny. I take that stuff for granted in the work I do with my clients. Of course, they’re going to take the titles we come up with together, because they’re the best ones. I’m still irritated they tweaked the subtitle, but it’s okay, I’ll get over it. At least they used the title.
S.L.: I like it.
Mark Malatesta: It’s good. I have to throw out there, one thing, because I don’t want you to come off just as lucky, or it’s the hand of God making it all happen so well. Each time you describe everything along the way that happened for you, it’s true. But on some level, maybe it’s partly divine, maybe it was just meant to be, but I also want to give you 100% credit for being patient, and doing every single thing in detail the right way, along the way, to get here.
This is what I love so much about your story. Then, what I want everyone to take away is at each step, you didn’t take the shortcut and self-publish the version of the blog of 36 short stories. You took advice from professionals, including me, and said, “Okay, let’s add story art.” And you took months to rewrite and organize the book, and put things in a different chronological order, and then you did a ton of things to work on your platform, and work on a detailed book proposal.
There were so many steps along the way where you could have been lazy or took the shortcut, and you didn’t. It’s the same with the literary agent research, and the number of submissions you sent out, and then making sure you chose the best literary agent. You could have opted out and tried to do it without a ghostwriter or co-author, and you didn’t. So, every time, you made the right choice.
I want to give you credit for that, because I think that’s the thing people listening need to hear, because that’s hard. What made you do that?
PT 7 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
S.L.: That’s totally fair, and I should also say I failed a lot. I wrote lots and lots of letters, and wrote to people just to tell them about my stories – celebrities, entertainers, authors, and I met a lot of them, but for every one I met or connected with, there were probably 100 I didn’t.
Yes, I had a lot of doors that didn’t get opened, and lots of nos from people who didn’t want my story. In fact, there were literary agents who I thought, “This is perfect for them,” who told me straight up it wasn’t their style or what they wanted.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
S.L.: I just lost my train of thought, Mark…
Mark Malatesta: It’s okay. So, if you had one tip to share with everybody, something you haven’t talked about yet…in 60 seconds this is my best advice for anyone in the process of writing a book, regardless of the genre, what would that be?
S.L.: In general, I think you have to be in love with what you’re writing about. That would be the overarching sentiment. You have to be totally connected and married to what you’re writing about.
Mark Malatesta: Is that because, from your point of view, the process takes so long, and there is so much rewriting to get it there…that’s the only way you’ll make it?
S.L.: If you are that, then there is no one who can’t say you weren’t honest about it. I think if you’re connected and totally in love with what you do, I think all you have to do is simply tell your stories. Everyone will be different, but I really liked writing, and I didn’t know I would like it. I’ve come to realize…I guess, on a philosophical level, it was something cathartic as well. As I was writing, it was helping me deal and cope, and that’s one of the threads of the story as well. Because my wife and our other son, Logan, we all dealt with it, and it’s represented in the story with everything, and we still do today.
Mark Malatesta: I have to ask, for anyone when they go to your site and check things out and “meet” Austin that way, he’s such a character. What’s his take on all this? He’s in a book about him, and there’s a website about him, and he’s doing some appearances with you. How is he dealing with all that?
S.L.: He’s the first one to give out my website to someone. I just had really neat business cards made up for him, and prior to that he’d just write on scraps of paper, but at the same time I don’t think he’s read a story off my blog. He knows what’s going on, and I’m writing a book and…
Mark Malatesta: And he’s a ham.
S.L.: Yes, he’s a ham. I love to have him with me, because he always ensures there will be something memorable to talk about.
Mark Malatesta: Let me quickly circle back to your advice for authors in the process of writing a book. I always like to get one tip on the genre. So, for someone writing memoir, what is your best tip specific to that genre that you think might help people?
S.L.: I bought all the books on memoirs from Stephen King to…you actually sent me a couple books. One of them is my favorite on writing that I have, and number two would be the Stephen King memoir. Number one is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Those books I read, here’s what I’m writing about, and here’s what I want to learn as much as I can, and those books helped. Some weren’t that great, but others touched me.
I have to say, I’m very surprised that in a relatively short amount of time, any person can get better at writing by simply writing. It works. Everybody writes differently, but I try to learn as much as I can about the genre, and I still do that, always when I go into Barnes & Noble or somewhere. I’m always looking for books on writing and things like that.
PT 8 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
Mark Malatesta: It’s a good point. It’s one of my favorite things about writing, now that you mention it, and I’ve become conscious of it, as in some ways there’s no rules. You really have the complete freedom to find your own voice and style. Yes, it has to be effective and be a story well told and make sense, whatever you’re writing. But there’s so much room to find your way, and be you, and enjoy it.
S.L.: Mark, there’s one thing that I circle back to, regarding a writing partner…
Mark Malatesta: Oh, that was it! Right, right, right, yes, let’s talk about that.
S.L.: Here’s the deal. I’m so happy, but initially I thought, “Gosh, someone else will be on my book with me.” In hindsight, I’m like, “Wow, I’m so happy I have the co-writer with me, Susy Flory.” We determined we wanted to interview writers, and I did something, and I think I talked with you as well as my literary agent and others about this, but I actually had a writer we interviewed, who is a multi-million selling co-writer, and I was so enthralled with him because if you look at the list of books he’s co-written, it’s all entertainers and celebrities, every name you’d know, and I went with Susy. I turned this gentleman down.
I did it, and the reason was multi-faceted for not choosing him and going with Susy. Initially, it was the gentleman wanted so much of the book in perpetuity.
Mark Malatesta: Financially, so everyone is clear.
S.L.: Right. I got good advice from Becky, and I’m glad I took that advice, but still it was my decision, which was neat. Knowing with my literary agent that everything I do, including Susy, decisions are still mine and are still mine, even though both of them would tell me, “I know you don’t want to do this, but consider this or that.”
The reason I went with Susy was because of her voice. I looked at samples, and things they wrote, as well as talking on the phone. It came down to these two people, and we had a couple of phone calls with each, and I thought, “Susy’s voice is a better match for me.” That’s it in a nutshell, and it was the best decision I ever made.
Mark Malatesta: Let’s do a couple of the nuts and bolts things here, because I know people have questions, and I think I’ll get this right, but you can correct me if I screw up. Basically, the way ghostwriters or co-authors work on a book. One, there is no set time when you can partner up with someone. If you partner up with someone early on, you’ll be paying them a lot more if you don’t have a literary agent yet.
When we talked, Scott, I think the way we talked about it is you might want to partner up with someone, but your writing was good enough that you might not need or want to, so let’s wait and see what happens. The benefit in waiting was if you get a really good literary agent, they’ll line up half a dozen authors, or point you in the right direction, and you get to interview them, and pick the one that’s the best fit. Is that how you remember it happening?
S.L.: Basically, and you mentioned earlier my success, and not luck so much. There was luck, an element of luck.
Mark Malatesta: There always is.
S.L.: Right, and I think the biggest thing that’s so refreshing is I think Fine Print took a leap with me, because that was the big thing initially was my writing of these individual stories. We know we don’t want to go to market with it, but we think we have the bones of something we can work with.
I did have to do a rewrite for them, and that’s what they required me to do initially. Stephanie Evans, the President of Fine Print and Peter Rubie, the owner, had said, “Have him send in three stories, and add a story he doesn’t have.” I did it, and we never looked back. I signed with them after I turned that in.
PT 9 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
Mark Malatesta: Let’s talk about your best advice for authors, one or two quick tips, on how to market a book. Again, I’ll give you room to play, so you can pick something that feels good to you. The second you knew you had a publisher, what were you doing to market and prepare for launching the book? Or you can talk about some things you’re planning to do once the book comes out.
S.L.: I think, initially it was online, which was my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and to this day those are still important parts. However, I also realized that Facebook and Twitter will only get you so far. I was probably guilty for a while in thinking this whole Facebook thing would make my book and sell my book. I know now it’s only one tool, because over the last few years we’ve had radio interviews, been on CBS once, and I have newspaper interviews and articles.
Currently waiting, we have about a half dozen newscasts I’m going to be on, in various parts of the country, as well as radio and newspaper. They are all like, ‘Right around when it’s published, we want to do this’, and that’s smart. We want to have all this publicity that first week in November as it’s coming out.
I’m just continuing to try and get myself on… I’ve been on some regional radio shows that are popular, and some are syndicated nationally. It’s neat, because some things grow off that, like getting picked up by Huffington Post wanting to see my story, and AOL picking it up off another site and running it.
What I thought was neat was, I had a friend call and tell me they opened their browser, a few weeks ago, and their homepage is AOL, and they opened it up, and there was a picture of me and Austin.
Mark Malatesta: On the homepage?
Mark Malatesta: Yes, that’s huge.
S.L.: Yes, AOL ran the story. I think right now, in terms of going forward, that’s all in process. I’d have to say it’s one of the things in going with one of the big publishers is their access from their stable of writers to whatever else is something… From the media is something I’d never have been able to do. That’s all in progress right now, and it’s super exciting.
I have to tell you, and this might be what you’re looking for too, one thing, and I think I’m a regular down-to-earth guy. I don’t have much of an ego, however, I’m passionate about my story, and I want people to know about it. I’m sharing a lot, but I’ve chosen to do this. One thing also I’ve done is, I have no problem reaching out, and we’ve reached out, and we’re knee deep in endorsements right now. The endorsements that are already secured just humble me, because they’re names people know, and they’re really neat people.
So, a lot of this is simply, I’ve tracked down on the Internet phone numbers and addresses, and I’ve written letters and made phone calls, and just bugged people to death. “Can I send this to you to read a couple of chapters?”
Mark Malatesta: I love it. What gets you geared up to do that? I’m always preaching to my clients to do this, because you have to hustle. I’m so glad you’re still doing that, even though you have the big literary agent and publisher, and all this stuff is happening organically, you’re still hustling and working it to go bigger.
S.L.: That’s a great point, and I want to illustrate something. I go down to my basement office, and I’ll determine two or three people I want to write to. Thomas Nelson, in this regard, we have a multi-faceted marketing plan, and part of it includes me. There are people I’m reaching out to, and vice versa. I think one thing they appreciate is I’m as engaged as I am, because I guess when it comes to this point, some writers don’t want to get involved with marketing. They write their book and are done, and if they get picked up by a publisher, they leave it in their hands.
Mark Malatesta: Yes.
PT 10 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
S.L.: I’ve inserted myself into everything, and I think that’s one of the reasons that I have such a nice relationship with my publisher, editor, and everyone else at Thomas Nelson.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, I love it. It’s like the progression of a writer, so often its focus obsessively and narrowly on getting the book done, and it’s great. But the second it’s done, you have to start growing in the area of marketing, and your platform, and learning. Then once you have the publisher, you have to suck it up and say, “Okay, now I have to take it to the next level with marketing.” We’re always growing. If we can make it fun and accept it, it all works, but everything dies the other way.
And for you especially, the first book, this is everything, and you have to go all in. If this book is successful, there’s another one coming.
S.L.: Right, and that’s one thing, Susy, my mentor and writing partner, and Stephanie, my literary agent, both said this at different times. They said, “Scott, enjoy every minute of this, because you’ll only have one time where you get a book published, and it’s your first book. Enjoy everything that’s happening,” and that made being patient not that big of a deal. The whole process has been breathtaking, amazing, and humbling.
Mark Malatesta: Right. Let’s talk a bit about what we actually did together. Up to this point, we’ve given a lot of backstory and explaining the book and your tips. I want people to understand how author coaching works.
What’s unique about your story, and maybe this is the angle we take, you already had some decent things going for you, with potential endorsement or endorsements in the bag already from well-known people. You could have tried to get a literary agent without doing anything with me. What pushed you over the edge to decide to work with an author coach?
S.L.: Like I said earlier, I found you indirectly through, and I don’t know how I stumbled upon Ingrid’s Twitter feed, and I clicked on it, and it was a connection to your feed, and I found your website. I watched it for a short while, and you put up about a one-on-one call, and I was like, “Why not?” I believe I listened to a call you did, where there were a lot of people on it initially, I think. Then I got on the phone with you, and I think what we talked about was you wanted to know about my story. That first call was you wanting to understand more about me, and my story, and what it entailed, and what I’d been doing up until then.
You’re a great cheerleader, but I knew there were things I needed to do… I love this phrase, and I’m sure you’ve heard it but, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” There was so much I didn’t know. In terms of working with you, you helped me understand a lot of things.
Mark Malatesta: So, that’s a lot of stuff that came out during that first intro call, and seeing some gaps. So, then it made sense to invest the time and money to do more, and give yourself an edge.
Mark Malatesta: I don’t know how long we worked together, and I started doing this author coaching [in 2011], and I don’t know how long we spent on everything. But can you walk everyone through, if someone says, “Scott, what did you guys do together during that time between the intro call, and the project went out to literary agents?’ How would you describe the process?”
S.L.: I think a lot was spent on, for example, academic things, like in terms of what’s the best way to approach a literary agent. Initially, it was getting a literary agent, that was such a big part. So, it was all the logistics on how to look for the right one, and what to write, etc. and, of course, the standout would be us working together to create the document I sent out.
PT 11 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
Mark Malatesta: The query letter and book proposal right?
S.L.: Right, but the query letter is the rock star. It still to this day amazes me, because I had all the pieces, I just didn’t know how to put them together. You did such a fine job helping me understand how to put them together. In fact, I think a funny one was there was a particular paragraph or sentence actually, where I said, “That’s a really cool sentence,” and you said, “Well, you wrote it.” I didn’t realize it by the context and way we rearranged it that it was what it was.
That was one of the biggest things we did together and it was great.
Mark Malatesta: Yes, I tell people I’m nothing special, my authors are the rock stars. All I do is pull all the good stuff out of you, and I finesse that, and that’s where the magic happens. I probably do four or five of those intro calls every Tuesday when I do them mostly with new people, and it’s probably one out of four people I invite to do more stuff with me in a program like we did together, because they don’t have the raw material.
It doesn’t matter what ability I have, I’m only as good as the client. If you have the raw ingredients, we can do stuff, but I can’t spin nothing into something. It’s not possible.
S.L.: Right, and I think that also gets back to your point about my story. Hopefully it’s a good story, and a story and I’m probably jumping off base, Mark. But one thing, and another reason I think it was appealing to publishers, and I know it was because they all said it, it was the cross marketability of my story.
Whether you’re a Christian, Atheist, addict, single, young or old, everything was in there, from the problems I struggled with to my children, me almost killing them twice, to the inevitable love and faith component. That was a big selling point for my story, because the publisher felt so many different people would read it.
Mark Malatesta: Right. I have a curveball question… I get nerdy proud of the people I work with, and so, what are you the most proud of as an author at this point?
S.L.: It’s not necessarily what happened from the book, but the stories, and when I have a father or mother or teenager in the speaking I do, it’s the people who tell me I helped them. That is probably the biggest thing, and I think on a personal level, I realize that I’ve just been published, and it’s a reality. So, from a selfish perspective that is super exciting. Am I proud of that? It’s really cool, and come November, it’s going to take it to another level.
Yes, it’s helping people, and being able to know my stories are stories people will read. When someone tells you…here is an example from a gentlemen in his 40s. He said, “You made me go home after reading that story and look at my children and think differently.” It gave me chills, because the way Austin and Logan make me live is different. What’s crazy is the writing and rewriting of the story has also affected everything, because I’ve relived so much of the past 20 years over and over again. It’s had a profound impact on me. I guess I’m really proud to just share the story and have it touch people.
PT 12 – Scott LeRette Interview and Mark Malatesta Review
Mark Malatesta: That gives me goose bumps, and perfect answer for wrapping up. And so, I’m reminding everybody to go to TheUnbreakableBoy.com or Google The Unbreakable Boy or Scott LeRette to get the book. I think you eloquently explained why everyone should, without realizing it. That was a great pitch. Thank you so much Scott for doing this. Do you have any last thoughts or bits of wisdom for everybody?
S.L.: I think you definitely have to believe in what you’re doing. It’s beating a dead horse, but really believe in the story you have, and write about it honestly, and sometimes you may become vulnerable because of it. I think it will enable you to present the best portrayal of what you’re trying to get across. You are essentially the proverbial open book when sharing, and it will get the best product when you put it down on paper.
Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention there is the Facebook page and Twitter feed and website and everything else.
Mark Malatesta: Right. Alright everyone, this is Mark Malatesta founder of The Bestselling Author signing off. Remember, getting published isn’t luck, it’s a decision.
This interview and review of Mark Malatesta were provided by Scott LeRette, author of The Unbreakable Boy (Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson). The book is available in hardcover and paperback, and it was recently adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton.
Mark Malatesta is the creator of the well-known Directory of Literary Agents and this guide on How to Get a Literary Agent. His articles have appeared in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents and the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac. He has spoken at 100+ writers conferences and events. And he answers author questions (no cost) at Ask a Literary Agent.
As founder of The Bestselling Author and Literary Agent Undercover, Mark has helped hundreds of authors get literary agents. His writers 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 Best Literary Agents at the Top Literary Agencies on his List of Literary Agents.
Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta.
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