This review of Mark Malatesta was provided by Carol Plum-Ucci who worked with the former literary agent to get her young adult novels published with Harcourt. The Mark Malatesta review below is followed by an interview in which Carol talks more about her time working with Mark. Carol also shares advice for other writers hoping to get a literary agent or take their writing career to the next level.
- Carol Plum-Ucci Review of Mark Malatesta
- Mark Malatesta Interview with Carol Plum-Ucci
- See More Reviews of Mark Malatesta
Mark, when you called to tell me about the publishing offer you got me with Harcourt, I was in my office and it was a snow day, which means me and 3 other people were in the office. I slammed down the phone on you and I ran into the secretary’s office and I threw myself down on the floor and said… “I got a deal!”
They sat there and held my hands for about 10 minutes.
I was speechless.
Every day I would start crying all over again.
I was so stupid back then and didn’t even know to ask if that sale was paperback or hardback. I went home that night and my husband, Rick, took me to dinner at the Crab Shack. I’ve never ever been that happy in my life.
On my wedding day I wasn’t that happy.
Getting married and having children are wonderful experiences, especially in these times where people feel they must say “My children are the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” but I didn’t work to get my children.
Even cows can get laid.
CPU Review of Mark Malatesta – Part Two
I remember when I got pregnant with my daughter Abbey, I was trying so hard to get published. Then I suddenly had a multi-book deal. People were coming up and pumping my hands and saying congratulations. Then there is that moment when you get the first galley copy of your first book in your hand.
It’s a great moment.
I originally found you when you were still a literary agent. You were listed in Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. I made a list of 15 agents I thought would work for me. It was December so that list was my Christmas list.
I already knew that I didn’t want a way famous agent. I thought I would always be at the bottom of their pile. I wanted someone who would treat my manuscript like it might be their ticket, too. I was looking for someone young and hip who could get the job done. Your agency came up at the top of my list and you were the first agent I contacted.
I liked what you had to say in the Jeff Herman book – you sounded friendly and you said: “I’ll get back to you in 2 weeks.” I thought, “Yeah, that’s bull$h*t!” But then you responded to my query within 48 hours and called me on a weekend.
CPU Review of Mark Malatesta – Part Three
It was really, really cool.
I was with 2 big name, famous agencies before I worked with you and they didn’t really need me. I was with them a total of 4 years and nothing ever happened. I never got a book deal.
When I found out that my second agent dropped me like a hot potato, I was depressed. I didn’t get out of my bathrobe that whole weekend. I sat on the couch, researching agents. Hearing back from you so quickly was a big pick-me-up. The only reservation I had was that you were down in South Florida somewhere, instead of New York.
It was such a big deal when you got me that first multi-book deal with Harcourt, and it wasn’t just the money. I’d known that I wanted to be an author since I was young, but I’d had a lot of setback in my life. I was starting to think I might be one of those people who have a big dream and never get it.
I’ve always, always been grateful.
CAROL PLUM-UCCI is the award-winning author of The Body of Christopher Creed and many other novels for young adults (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) with film rights optioned to Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks
During this 68-minute interview with Mark Malatesta (available as audio and text), young adult novelist Carol Plum-Ucci talks about how she got her book, The Body of Christopher Creed, and many other YA novels published by Harcourt.
Mark Malatesta: Carol Plum-Ucci is the author of more than half a dozen young adult novels published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, including The Body of Christopher Creed and What Happened to Lani Garver? Carol’s novels have been nominated for Michael J. Printz Honor Book Awards, selected for the Reader’s International Children’s Choice Awards List, chosen as a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Awards, and been selected as the Amazon Editor’s #1 Choice in Teen Lit.
Carol has received seven citations from the YA division of the American Library Association (YALSA) for three of her books. Two of her novels have been named Best Books for Young Adults, with additional nominations, and her novels have been named Junior Library Guild Premiere Selections. In addition, Carol’s work has received starred reviews, and been selected as featured books both in Seventeen Magazine and YM Magazine.
Carol has two daughters and lives in Southern New Jersey. She’s spoken to audiences across America, including conventions of the National Association of Catholic School Librarians and the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. Carol received her bachelor’s degree in communication from Purdue University and her master’s in arts from Rutgers. She has ghost written for six Miss Americas, two CEOs, and others. Her many professional awards include a Dalton Penn Award and two Iris Awards for excellence in Miss America publications. She was also the recipient of a Kneale Award in Journalism from Purdue.
So, welcome, Carol.
Mark Malatesta: You have one of the most impressive bios, and the irony is I only included like 15% of it, but you’ve got to stop somewhere. Right?
CPU: I was looking into that. I was like, “Is that really me?”
Mark Malatesta: I’m so happy we’re finally doing this. How many years have we known each other now? I don’t even know. It’s a lot.
CPU: Wow! We met in 1998. So, almost 20 years. One more year than you’ve been married.
Mark Malatesta: Yeah. I’ve known you longer than my wife. That’s saying something.
CPU: That is saying something.
Mark Malatesta: We were just talking about that before we came on. She and I have been together for almost 16 now. So, you trumped that. That’s saying something. Let’s get into it. I know that I already told everyone a little bit about you and your work, but is there anything important that I left out. Anything you want to add before we jump into everything else?
CPU: Yeah. I won a Printz Award. I wasn’t nominated.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 2 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
Mark Malatesta: Oh. Details!
CPU: That was in my bio. I saw that before. I thought, “He has to change that.” I won one. I was nominated twice. I’m not sure your listeners will know what the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award is, but it’s a high honor from the American Library Association for young adult books. I got that on my first book. So, I had to learn how to public speak really fast. For someone with a panic disorder, that was not an easy one. But I got there, and I have enjoyed a great career of public speaking about my book. It all started with you.
Mark Malatesta: Oh, well, thank you. I want to get into that. Every one of those awards and honors and things gives you a little bump in book sales every time and more exposure. Right?
CPU: Yes. The book publishers, at least in young adult–I think it’s true in a lot of adult fiction too–say once you’re in there publishing crew and you publish for them, they will market your books out to these awards themselves. So, you can win things you were surprised. I didn’t know I entered that. They’ll do five or six things a year. The book sales on that are great.
Mark Malatesta: Right. Let’s start at the end and then work backward. Just to go all the way back to the time when you got that first book deal. Try to remember where you were when that happened, and what were you doing before you got the news, then when you got the news, and after to celebrate. That whole thing. That’s the whole fantasy. For you, it’s not a fantasy, but for everyone else who wants to be in your shoes, can you relive that for everybody?
CPU: Absolutely. I will never forget the day. It was March 5th, 1999.
Mark Malatesta: Wow!
CPU: Yeah. Before that, I was working for the Miss America Organization, which includes a Miss America Pageant. The only problem was, I was this big dork. I was not a wannabe. I really liked my work. It was computer-related and writing-related and all of that. I was the one who just didn’t fit in. I didn’t have a dress. I was the last one to get a cell phone and stuff like that.
I always had this fantasy. In my head, I’m thinking, “You know what? I might be a dork, but I’m not a big dork. I would love for you guys to know my real talents, which have nothing to do with you.” I always had this fantasy of publishing during pageant week. Hearing from a literary agent when all those contestants were in town, and all the news was in town and everybody was–you know. You fantasize these really cool things.
Mark Malatesta: Yeah.
CPU: Before I met you, I had a literary agent at Writers House who had a novel at two places. Past the week of September, and she told me in late August, “We’re probably going to hear from these people in three weeks. I thought, “Oh, my gosh. My dream is about to come true.” That week came, and I came home in the middle of the pageant. We could only get home for about four hours a night. There were two letters on the table waiting for me.
I just kind of wanted to put my head through a wall. I was trying to get in. I didn’t have a literary agent yet, and I was trying to get in through the Young Adult Novel Contest…owned by Simon and Schuster, I think.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 3 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: I got into that contest, and I came so close the first time. They sent me a letter back and said, “This is the last novel to be eliminated.” The way they did it was they would start judging in January, and they would start sending back that they were done with those manuscripts. If you hadn’t heard from them by late February or March, you started getting really excited. The deadline was April 15, same as Tax Day.
I had not heard from them by February 15, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh. Did I actually win it this time?” I had two manuscripts in that contest. Didn’t hear anything on the 15th. Didn’t hear anything on the 16th. On the 17th I called them, and they had accidentally lost both manuscripts. I mean, they thought that they were good enough to put on some editor’s desk, but the editor hadn’t looked at them.
I really went through it. You’ve got to be willing to skin your chin a little bit and look at it with some humor. I used to do things like when I got letters back from editors that were not standard rejection letters, I would post them on my wall and be still amazed like, “Oh. Look. She said she liked this book. Look. She actually read this book.” It’s stuff like that. You know, you psych yourself up that way. By the time that I met you in 1998…
Mark Malatesta: I have to explain for everyone, Carol…I’m so sorry because our situation’s different. Usually, when I do recordings like this, for the most part, it’s with people I’ve worked with as an author coach, which I do now. Right? Literary agents and book deals. With you, I just want to make sure everybody gets this is that I was a literary agent at the time and took you on as a literary agent and got you the book deal. So, it’s a very different thing. Otherwise, people are going to be very confused. I just want to get that out there.
CPU: Right. I’m a novelist. He was my literary agent. I only had one literary agent before him, and she bailed out on me. She moved to Saigon or something like that but promised me that she would still do everything. All of a sudden, she was nowhere and not answering my phone calls.
I really got depressed. I’m always the type of person who will get dressed and brush my teeth before I go downstairs. I don’t like to waste time. (Excuse me. My dogs are growling at each other. “Stop it, you guys. Hey! No.” I’m sorry. That’s my boxer and my…”)
At any rate, I was so depressed when I found that out, that I didn’t get dressed all weekend. I had this orange kaftan thing. I sat around with a copy of this book on how to find a literary agent, and all I did the whole weekend was scratch people out whom I didn’t think I wanted, or I knew who wouldn’t want me. I made a list of 15 literary agents. At the time, you were at the top of my list. I sent you a letter, and we talked about this letter because it ended up in a book.
Mark Malatesta: Yeah. The Writer’s Digest Book, I think. Right?
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 4 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: Yeah. You said you picked up the phone before you even got to the manuscript because you could see how much I knew about Young Adult writing. That’s something to maybe take up with your people in those query letters. I’ve always advised people too. You don’t just need to know about your own novel, but if you can show some definition of where it fits into the overall body of what’s out there.
Mark Malatesta: Yes. You’re aware of that.
CPU: Right. Yeah, but people should be aware of that.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: If they’re just looking at themselves, that’s kind of haughty. Get over it. Get over yourself. You’ve got a manuscript. If it’s good, it’s going to fit in somewhere. It’s going to be a little like something and a little not like something else. You don’t go around comparing yourself to Gone with the Wind, but you can talk to them about that.
Mark Malatesta: Okay.
CPU: One of the things I liked about you, Mark, was in your write-up in this book, you said you would get back to people in two weeks. Literary agents are notoriously slow. I sent you this letter thinking, “He’ll never get back to me in two weeks.” Low and behold, about two weeks later the phone rang, and it was you. It was summertime. I remember I had this big smile on my face. I had just come back from the beach or something. I was like, “Oh. He really meant what he said and was good to his word.” And you were always good to your word. I don’t remember back too much when you put my first novel out to the publishers.
Mark Malatesta: I don’t remember anything strange about that. I remember the F-bomb letter that I sent you because you had too many expletives in your novel.
CPU: I don’t remember that one.
Mark Malatesta: But you were good about that.
CPU: I was? Well, freedom of speech. You know? We have different policies in our family. Just as a quick side note. My kids were not allowed to say somebody was stupid, ugly, retarded, or anything like that. But if they’re like, “Mom. We’re out of [expletive] fabric softener.” You know, I didn’t care about that.
I have been in trouble with a lot of parents for my book, but you know what I say to them is, “Well, if your kids copy my book, they’ll curse less than they do rather than more because they’ll have mouths like farmers.” And the parents say, “No.”
So, we’re moving right along the story. So, you sold this book in March. It was not the time to get my Miss America dream. I was still working for them full-time, but it was March. Miss America weekend is in September, and things start building in August. So, I was not at a point where I thought I was going to get my dream.
You called us one day, and there was a snowstorm outside. Only about three of us had made it into the office: me, two secretaries, and a couple of other people. You called me, and I remember you said, “We got a sale.” I was so stupid. I could hear the excitement in your voice, but at the time I was too stupid to know if it was hardback or paperback, or what the difference is between those would be. There’s a major difference.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 5 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: Hardback, you get the reviews. You get critiques. You get put in all the awards and everything like that. For paperbacks, you don’t. But I remember. Finally, we got off the phone. I hung up the phone, and I ran into the cubicle beside me where these two secretaries were working, and I plopped down on the floor, and I said, “Oh my God, I sold a novel.”
Thank God you didn’t call me back the next day and say, “This contract has been voided.” You know, sometimes that happens. Then you’ve got to call back. My heart would have gone on the floor and splattered into a million pieces. These two secretaries sat there and held my hands. When I was thinking of all the work I had put in. The Body of Christopher Creed was not the first novel I wrote, obviously, with all this backstory. It was the fifth.
One thing I see people doing that I would discourage them from doing is waiting around to see if you sell that first one before you want to do this again. I mean, it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re doing the right thing, it’s really, really a total blast. The process is a blast.
Mark Malatesta: Anything not as much. Right? But the first draft, certainly. Right?
CPU: Well, you know what? I edit as I go along. Well, this is really the first I didn’t. There’s that book on the Seven Different Ways Writers Write or something. I haven’t read it, but I understand that some people write in drafts, and each draft everything comes a little more clear. I was what they called the brick layer, which everything has to be straight and in order before you put that next chapter on. I would edit words and take out a paragraph here or there.
So I edited my stuff one time. Somebody asked me to look how many times I had opened a file which would be how many times I edited. It was 35 times. But it was that type of a thing where you’re just changing a word here and there and reading to get your lead to the next chapter. That’s a little different, I think.
Back to my story. I was so happy that day. I ended up resigning from Miss America after 15 years when I got my first advance. Now, it was not a huge advance.
Mark Malatesta: It was a multi-book deal though. Right? Wasn’t it?
CPU: No. The first one was not. It was the second.
Mark Malatesta: Okay. It was after that.
CPU: The first book was solo, and then I have six more with Harcourt, and they were two, two, and two. So, after my first book, I got three two-book deals very quickly. It gave me enough courage to take a risk and think, “This is really what I want to do.” Fortunately, Rick, my husband was very supportive. He was like, “We’ll make it no matter what.”
I quit in ’99, but the funny story is a year and a half later when Lani Garver came out, I had a signing at a local mall in September during Miss America week. Now, this book signing at this book mall had nothing to do with Miss America. It was about 10 miles away. So, when I was sitting there, they had the press come. While I was there talking, everything was going so well, and the media was there taking pictures. The next day, when I opened the paper, on the front of the lifestyle section, it was split in two. One half was all this Miss America news, and the other half was me.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 6 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
Mark Malatesta: No way! I never knew that story.
CPU: Yes, yes. I mean, I wasn’t there anymore to see or hear from these people, but I was like, “Okay. Now they can think that I really am a good dork because I do something good. That was that. That was how I first got published with you. Then there were all these great awards. My first book did everything, so you can ask me about that or whatever you want.
Mark Malatesta: You know what I’d love to do. Why don’t you pick a book? It’s so hard to pick favorites. They’re like children. Right? Can you spend a couple of minutes? I don’t know–give people a mini-synopsis of a few of the books. Like if somebody’s going to go out and get a couple or a few, which ones would you recommend. Give people a quick snapshot of them.
CPU: Sure. My books to me, they’re all like children. They’re all different. You never know when you start one if they’re going to come nicely to fruition, if they’re going to need a lot of therapy, or something like that. I think my personal favorite is What Happened to Lani Garver? The reason is, it was inspired by a friend of mine who was raised somewhere very burly, like a coal-mining town. He had to leave home when he was 12 years old. He just couldn’t figure out anything else to do.
His parents were getting called from the school because he was so effeminate, and they were like, “What did you do to him?” and things like that. From the time he was 12 until he was 19, he lived on the streets of New York City, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia all because–you know, it kind of took my brain apart that somebody is safer on the streets of big cities like that than in like your backyard or my backyard. What is up with that?
So, I wrote a story. Lani Garver is not Rick, my friend, but he really infused him, and it’s a great story. I raised the question in there, could he be an angel or is he a gay kid? Angels don’t have a gender, so what are they going to look like? What are they going to sound like? Sort of like transgender, gay, or somebody like that.
At the end, well after the questions did these kids pick on and try and kill an angel, and where is he now? So, that was what happened to Lani Garver. That’s one of my only books with a female protagonist. Most of the time my voices are boys’ voices, like 16-year-old boys, 17-year-old boys.
Mark Malatesta: Why do you think that is? Is that a conscious choice or just what comes out?
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 7 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: No. It’s not a conscious choice. It has nothing to do with who you are I don’t think. I always wanted to try it, and I never have the nerve. I never read the Outsiders until I was 26 years old. When I saw Sue Hinton doing it with The Outsiders, she did it with all four of her books. I thought, “Oh, wow! It’s okay for me to do this.” I don’t know why I thought it wasn’t okay. So, that’s why Creed has a male protagonist, and the ones that I wrote before that, they either had a boy protagonist, or they would go back and forth like that.
That was my favorite. Everybody loves The Body of Christopher Creed. I think that’s so funny. It was my first one. I loved writing it. I loved the book. Loved the characters. Loved the story. Loved the setting. It happened right near where I live. But, when I was writing it, it just felt like another one.
Everyone did love that book. Let me see. It has to do with a kid gone missing. Going missing is the theme in a lot of my books. But as the weirdest kid in town suddenly up and disappears. They can’t tell by the note he wrote, which they know it’s from him, whether he planned to commit suicide or whether he planned to run away. There is not a drop of blood. There’s not a trail of blood. There aren’t razor blades. There’s no empty pills from his mother’s pill bottle that he may have taken. There are no bus ticket stubs. I mean, this kid is just plain gone.
The story is sort of like–I mean, the question is always in the air: Is he alive or is he dead? If he’s alive, where is he? Generally, the story is about what happens to a town when the most bullied kid and the weirdest kid suddenly disappears? The way adults read these things–adults love to read Young Adult, and I think I get more fan mail from adults than I do from teenagers.
Mark Malatesta: Right. You know, some Young Adult crosses over better, and there’s more there for the adults to sink their teeth into. Like kids, maybe it’s like if you watch Finding Nemo or something, it’s just as good for the parents. But if you’re watching Barney, you might want to shoot yourself.
CPU: Yeah, right. Yeah. I guess mine are a little more like South Park, maybe.
Mark Malatesta: Yeah. There’s more there for older readers.
CPU: Seriously, I don’t talk down to kids. I talk to kids the same way I do to adults. Their reading level. I guess in Young Adult, for me the focus has really been more on the adults than the young. I think they’re entirely capable. They rarely show like–in ways, they are adults. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. I always wanted to give them that respect of not being preachy. I don’t preach to them or get over-explanatory. Yeah. Sometimes I tick off the parents, but you know, their kids are reading my stuff, and they like it.
Mark Malatesta: One of your books was banned. Wasn’t it? Wasn’t one of your books banned?
CPU: Oh, yeah. A couple of them. My books are banned in East Texas. I don’t know if it’s the private schools. I think it is the public schools, but whenever I’m introduced as having banned books when I’m speaking at a conference, I always stand up and take a bow. I was enamored by that list of banned books. My books were on there with To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind. Some of the reasons they would ban these books, I have no clue. I can’t remember.
Mark Malatesta: I don’t remember, but it’s good for book sales.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 8 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: I don’t want to know, you know? But one time one of my books got banned up in Appleton, Wisconsin. They had this really sharp editor of the student newspaper. She called me, and she told me that these parents were on the warpath and the fact that they were going to come to a meeting to make sure that my book didn’t get read as part of the curriculum. She had gotten the librarians to speak to me on the phone and all this stuff. That was a big deal I won.
They didn’t make me face down these parents, but I have had parents show up. They’re like, “These books are for teenagers, and your books have swear words in them. What the ***** is wrong with you?” I’m like, “If you don’t want to think that your kids hear profanity every day, why are you sending them to public school? Just wake up.” Give your head a shake.
I just have already tried to make my characters sort of talk like they talk. Every character’s different. Some of them are prone to doing that, and some of them aren’t.
Mark Malatesta: Yeah, you’re just trying to create reality. There’s so much debate on that, and even more so books for younger readers. I’m fine with it both ways. I get both camps. Some people think it should be all vanilla, but then people have a harder time relating to it. Then there’s the opposite argument.
CPU: The reason I don’t like to do that is characters deliver a message. If your characters are not like average kids, so your kids are not going to want to absorb those greater messages. They’re going to see that character and think, “Oh. He’s not like me.”
Mark Malatesta: He’s made up.
CPU: People don’t have bad thoughts and do bad things. They make for really flat characters. What am I supposed to do here? I’m writing for kids. I’m not writing the Bible. But I have been in a lot of trouble for this. I’m finally hitting a point in my life where–I don’t know. I’ve just eased up a lot. I’m not quite as profane myself. I’m not angry. I think I was angry and intensely dark, like in my 20s and 30s. Now, I just kind of want to laugh. I don’t drop bombs like I used to. My characters are not wanting to as much either. But generally, what I put down on the page is what I hear from them.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: My editor always told me, “If you’re going too far or it sounds unnatural, I will let you know.” And, she never has.
Mark Malatesta: She picks on other things, but not that.
CPU: Yeah. Truly. There’s such a plethora of characters in Streams of Babel, which is my fifth novel and its sequel, Fire Will Fall. Those were great books. For the first time, I was working in more than one I-voice. It took me a long time to learn how to do this. I’m not a quick study. But there were six I-voices, I think in Streams of Babel, which is where in chapter one, Cora is saying “I this. I that. I this. I that.” In chapter two you go, and it’s Owen saying, “I this. I that. I this. I that.”
Mark Malatesta: Right. The multiple points of view.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 9 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: Multiple points of view. Those two were about–well, they started with 9/11. I had a relative in the FBI, and one of them came to me. They were working in New York City and said, “If I don’t come back, will you raise my daughter?” So, this hit really close to home. I think we entered an era of being more scared. It’s like before you ever got your house broken into, and then all of a sudden your house gets broken into, and you want your alarm and your security system.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: One of the things we considered back then was that terrorists might try and poison the water. I was living on an island at the time, and I went around and looked at the water towers, and there were just these little hurricane fences around them. I mean anybody could have gone in there.
Mark Malatesta: Yes. Totally vulnerable.
CPU: Yeah, yeah, and stuff like that was giving me the squishies, you know? Those two books were about what terrorists could do. You know, they’re still pretty relevant to what could happen now.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: We’re not so worried about Iran and Iraq, but we are worried about Russia and stuff like that. So, that’s one set of books that I think will always come back and be very relevant. The six characters, they’re among my favorites that I loved those characters so much. And to do six of them, you wonder how can you do six people that sound different on the page? They all felt different to me.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: They just were. I could tell the difference. If one said something, he would say it differently than this other one would say it. That was the one that was the angriest and edgy. He got my edgy piece. He was sort of profane a lot, and Cora was like my–what do you call it? My Virginia Woolf. You know, Virginia Woolf is a muse of mine. We don’t always have the best of relationship.
Mark Malatesta: In all six characters, there’s the sum total of Carol? Is that what you’re saying?
CPU: Yes. Well, I’m not the sum total, but if you added them all–
Mark Malatesta: They’re part of a big part.
CPU: Yeah. It was really amazing. Right. They’re all my children. They’re all my favorites, I think. The other two are The She and The Night My Sister Went Missing. I get a lot of fan mail on them.
Mark Malatesta: I’m with you. Creed and Lani Garver are my absolute favorites, and it’s hard to pick. Those are the ones that–for you, some of them you write really quickly, and some take longer, but I don’t think you associate any difference that way. Just because one’s faster or it takes longer, doesn’t mean it’s better in your world. Right?
CPU: Yeah, really. Really. Like I said, they’re all like children. Christopher Creed took me eight weeks to write. People find that unbelievable.
Mark Malatesta: Yeah, that’s crazy to most people.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 10 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: There was one part in it where I had to turn back, but you know when I’m on a roll, I’ll do ten pages a day, or at least when I was younger. At that age ten pages a day. So, how long is it going to take you to finish 250 pages if you’re editing as you go along and stuff like that? So that took me eight weeks. Lani Garver took me two years. That one, I don’t know if you remember. We had a bunch of drafts, and I finally moved it down to the shore to change the setting. Then it really took off.
Mark Malatesta: Right, right, right.
CPU: The She took about–
Mark Malatesta: That was another fast one, I think. Or was it The Night My Sister Went Missing?
CPU: The Night My Sister Went Missing was eight weeks. The sequel of The Body of Christopher Creed, Following Christopher Creed, that took eight weeks. Then the other ones were just a learning curve, I think, and things to battle while I was learning to write in all those I-voices. It just makes for safer copy. So, they were all different. The one I’m working on now is coming together in layers. This is the first time this ever happened. You know where you have a layer, and you think “Oh, this isn’t really good.” So, you go back, and you do another draft. It’s a little better, but you need another draft.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: It’s a very humbling occupation because you don’t know what’s coming next, and you don’t know what’s going to come to fruition or not. It’s just something you’ve kind of got to live with and keep that smile on your face.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: That’s it.
Mark Malatesta: That’s what I was going to shift into. I was going to ask you–I want to get in the remaining time as much of it as is possible, get some of your best suggestions for writers. Regardless of what they’re writing. It could be picture books, or Middle Grade, or Young Adult, or adult fiction, or nonfiction. Let’s kind of just break it up into three parts and start with the writing process. What are your two or three kind of best tips for writers that might generalize for most writers?
CPU: Well, my first one is don’t stop after the first. We already talked about that. There’s a saying that if you write novels, you will sell on your fifth. The good news about that is, is that when they buy–let’s say your fifth–they will change their mind and they will look through those first four manuscripts and give you some notes. You know you’ve mastered your craft a little more with each one, and they’ll give you some notes, but they’ll buy a couple of those too.
Mark Malatesta: Yep.
CPU: But if you stop after the first–I see writer after writer doing this. First of all, you lose your momentum. It’s hard to write one novel after the other. Generally, your brain cells need to replenish. I am like a lot of writers out there. My timetable is one every two years. If I try, I can write something before that, but the plot isn’t there. It won’t come to fruition or something like that. But many of the really good writers have that same time schedule, or just like a biorhythm where it’s every two years. But when you finish a novel, your mind is going off like fireworks. That’s part of your brain has been worked and worked and overworked.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 11 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: It’s a great time to try out a new setting, new characters, a new what-if statement which becomes your plot and your theme. So, don’t waste time like that. If you stop after the first, you’re going to lose momentum. So, just don’t do it. The craft should be exciting enough. It should be fun enough to sit there and do it that you can’t wait till that year’s up or two years are up, or whatever your biorhythm is so that you can go back and do it again, and you get all this practice. That would be, I think, the first thing that I would recommend because you only get better by doing.
My second one was a bitch. I mean, I could not get that thing to turn over, move forward. I tried this. I tried that. I finally got an idea after I had gone on to my third and finished that; I came back to that one. So, it’s not always easy going, but it should always be fun. You should always be thinking this is what I really want to do, I think. The people who have the hardest time are the people who get an idea, they sit down, and it goes really well for about 90 pages. Then they want to know if they should be a novelist.
Another important thing is to start reading what you’re writing. Read what’s out there right now, and it will encourage you because first of all, you’ll see some people that aren’t doing it as well as you know you can, and they’re already published. But you’ll understand where your work fits in. It’s the overall body of what’s out there, and you’re not just writing, “Oh, I wonder if this fits in as Young Adult?” People come to me like that. “Well, I’ve got this novel and I think it’s young adult.” I’m like saying, “Oh, no, it’s not.”
It’s a tough market. If you’re not writing for that market, you don’t write for yourself. You’re writing for others. This is a giving occupation. We’re servants. We’re humble servants, and our job is to get into people’s world, take them out of it, take them into a world of our creation so that something inside them changes, or feels better, or they’re so glad they picked that up for some reason. That’s why, and if you’re not doing all that it’s like masturbation instead of sex.
I will choose to look at manuscripts. They say, “Well, I think this is Young Adult. What do you think?” And I say, “I don’t think. Here’s what I think. Go back, study the market, and then rewrite that book to what’s out there.”
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: You’re not just reading books. There’s so much on the Internet now about what editors are saying they want and what they like. Twitter is a fantastic place where editors will tweet what they’re looking for. Their wish list is right there. So, if you get on their tweets, pick the editors that you would want to work with, see what they’re tweeting every day. It’s all there. That is, I think, a big step in being a professional is to know that you’re writing for others, not yourself. There is a market and what it’s all about.
Mark Malatesta: I love that.
CPU: I guess the final thing would have to do with when you get writer’s block. First of all, understand everybody gets writer’s block. Writer’s block is when your story will not move forward. You can still be writing, but you end up tearing up at the end of the day what you wrote the day before, and stuff like that, and something just feels wrong. Because everybody’s been there and it frightens every writer so much. “What’s going on?” You don’t really know.
I suggest writing off the pages which is where you go, and you say–you’re starting to write what you think that problem is. It’s not just zoom, zoom, zoom, zooming through your head. Writing slows you down, and when you write journals, sometimes your thoughts come more clear. Do you want me to tell you about a couple of times where I had writer’s block and how I got out of it?
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 12 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
Mark Malatesta: Absolutely.
CPU: Okay. One time was when I was writing Lani Garver. I couldn’t figure out what was the matter, but this story would just not move. I had tried to set it in a place called Centralia, Pennsylvania. Centralia, like Central area. The reason I wanted to set it there was I could not believe Stephen King hadn’t found out about this place, but a fire had started in the coal mines under Centralia in about 1929, and there was no way to put them out. Way above these coal mines, smoke and fire would shoot up out of the streets.
You could buy property in Centralia for about 1,000 bucks because very few people want to live there and they have these things called sinkholes. Trust me. You don’t want to fall down one. I thought, here am I trying to be very literary or something? I’m posing these questions, is this kid an angel or a gay kid? And, I want to put this thing in Centralia or a place like it, and have these kids throw him down a sinkhole in the pit of **** and have him show up again.
While I’m trying to be so erudite and literary, this story will not move forward. I finally decided–I went to a writer’s workshop. I’m not sure they still have it. They used to have a really good writers workshop there for people near New Jersey. I got the idea when I was there to try and move it from Centralia down to the shore, and I did. Once I got it, and I had a rough start, I wrote a rough first prologue. You know my stories always have prologues. My editor was like, “No. This sucks.”
I finally got it going good when I could smell the salt air and sort of feel it as Clara, the protagonist, was moving around, and I could hear the water lapping against the docks, and hear the ocean, and all that stuff. That story started to move. That was wanting. If you’re struggling, make sure you have the right setting.
You always want a setting where you understand it, and you love it. I mean, people try and set stories in exotic places. Unless you’ve traveled a lot and have some sort of sense for what–how an exotic place is going to feel like, it’s better to do a place that you would love to be yourself and are familiar with.
All my books are like that. They take place either on the Barrier Islands off of New Jersey where I was born and raised, or in the woods directly behind them which is loaded with folklore, and myths, and history, and all that stuff. I know those places. So, that helps.
The second time I got writer’s block was on my third book, and I had written a draft that took place in Pennsylvania up near these insane asylums that had become deserted. They’re all over the Internet now. I think it’s called the Byberry Mental Hospital. If anyone wants to Google that, type Byberry Mental Hospital and all these old buildings are from this. I wanted to set it there. I just could not. It was a thing where I wanted–I had a feeling, and I really wanted the theme to work out. It made sense to me, and I wanted to be able to tell people that all voodoo and hoodoo doesn’t work. Quit waiting around and reading your horoscopes because discipline and hard work is what gets the reward. This sounds like a great thing. Doesn’t it? Such a great message to give?
Mark Malatesta: Right.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 13 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: When I sat back and thought about it, I realized how much I didn’t believe that. I really am a highly, highly intuitive person, and I believe in my instincts more than my intelligence, and I don’t believe in ignoring those parts of yourself. What I ended up doing to get out of that writer’s block was I flipped the protagonist with the antagonist, and I had the protagonist become the person who is right. The antagonist is the professor’s brother who’s trying to reason through everything. I also moved it down to the shore. That really worked. Make sure if you’re writing that you believe what you’re trying to say.
Mark Malatesta: It’s really making sure everything is congruent and in alignment. I think what you’re saying is sometimes people are just procrastinating, but if they’re sitting there and they’re just block, block, block doesn’t feel right, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s kind of like a sign to you that “Hey, you need to look at something differently, or do something differently and so just try to power through it.”
CPU: Yeah. If it’s not the setting, try and say the opposite of what your message is. Everybody works with the same in the sense that–I think a lot of novels start when people see something in the world around them, and they think, “That is so not fair” in whatever it is. You know, kids getting bullied.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: You know, it’s something like, “That is not fair.” That becomes your theme. If you’re a good fiction writer or have the instinct for fiction, you don’t even have to be good yet, that will start twisting itself into characters who will grow and take up that cause. Maybe not directly, but they will start moving. You just put characters with a problem and they will solve it.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: I think that’s why most of good fiction is character-driven. It’s not plot. But, at any rate, try and see if you believe what you’re saying. Try the opposite of what you’re saying and see what could come of that. But when I wrote one of my novels, I had about a 30-page journal entry. I love this journal entry because I can see from the beginning of it to where I can see the end of it three days later. I had reconciled on paper with a record of it. I would go from writer’s block into writing, and I finished that book. It did very well.
It was amazing to be able to have the record of that, but I was able to see the sets of how I started thinking, okay, the character’s wrong. Here’s what I really believe. Use things in your own lives and make sure that you believe what you’re saying.
Mark Malatesta: Let’s shift to publishing now. I ask everybody I have on for this. I don’t have a major judgment against self-publishing. I think everybody, 99% of authors should at least try to go to traditional publishers first for various reasons. What’s your take? What prompted you to decide to go after a literary agent and traditional publishers like that whole discussion you had inside your head about that?
CPU: People may have different reasons to do that. What I said, people who have nonfiction books, they may be able to find a better direct market than a publisher would.
Mark Malatesta: If they’re really good at marketing.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 14 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: Or, if they have a niche. My husband used to be in sales, and they would have these big sales meetings. There they would sell a lot of motivational books. You know, those sales meetings. You’re going to go in there and sell several hundred books. So, sometimes, if there is–here’s a good example. I homeschooled my daughter for five years. It wasn’t a religious thing. It was basically an intellectual freedom thing. I just wanted her to enjoy learning rather than have it be a task/test.
I wrote Homeschooling Abbey and sent it out to Greg Johnson. He was the literary agent for that. People kept coming back to me and saying this publisher thing. “Your writing is brilliant. We just so don’t know how to find these people that you want us to find.” It would be people that want to homeschool their kids. Where are they? They’re all over the country. They’re all spread out.
So, I put it out for myself, and I can see people wanting to do that. With fiction and everything, I discourage it. Now, there may be more ways now on Twitter and stuff like that that people promote themselves. Everybody throws in my face Fifty Shades of Grey. But she, actually, I think was doing extremely well before the publishers took her on.
Mark Malatesta: Right, and there’s always a fluke.
CPU: Yeah, there’s always the one person. It’s like, “Ah. Cinderella and that Prince Charming” one.
Mark Malatesta: You’re still traditional, so like for fiction. To you, what are the advantages of that?
CPU: For one thing, you don’t have to market your own work as much. I mean, they’re not going to send you a million speaking gigs. You have to get them by being in your local newspaper and stuff like that, but it’s not hard. I know a lot of people who will take their self-published book and go out to a fair or a festival, buy a booth, and sit there, and earn about enough money to get their gas home. I’m sorry. I’m just not in love with my signature that much.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: I think the thing would be, Mark, if you can tell people what they need to do to make this independent book a success, then they have a chance. But I don’t know. I just wouldn’t do it.
Mark Malatesta: The problem with it–the biggest problem with it, and there are exceptions. Right? And you already spoke to some of that. For the most part, the problem with it is the low cost of the book. Books are inexpensive products. Right? To break it down to this level, and the cost of what you would have to do to pay money to get exposure to sell the books, it’s virtually impossible as an author trying to do it to make more than you spend. This is why even the Random Houses of the world lose money on some books. Right? Because it’s that hard. That’s the challenge.
Like you said–you mentioned earlier too. Obviously, you’re going to get bigger distribution, but then you’re more likely to get the reviews you want too. Like good luck getting those and the awards and things on your own. It’s just much harder.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 15 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: What’s the name of that? Kirkus Reviews. I’ve been in Kirkus Reviews a bunch of times, and one time I got a writeup in Kirkus. I think Kirkus now has a…
Mark Malatesta: They do. You get real Kirkus Reviews, and it’s not like the one you paid for. That’s the difference.
CPU: Right. I think I might have a better chance than some people putting out a book of my own because I already have a name.
Mark Malatesta: Exactly.
CPU: Why go through all that pain and suffering? It’s like trying to install your own toilet. Hire a plumber.
Mark Malatesta: Right. To me, it’s [laughter]… I tell everybody I work with or interviews and things, it’s like “Just do your best to get a great literary agent, great book publisher, great book deal first. If that doesn’t work, even then, don’t self-publish and throw money at a company that’s a vanity press.”
CPU: Yeah, because vanity presses have a bad reputation too. I know they have a reputation from what a lot of my students will do. They’ll be “Oh, well. Nobody wanted this; so therefore, I’m going to self-publish it.” I’m like, “If nobody wanted it, why would you do that to yourself?” It prevents people from having the patience, the endurance, and the persistence that it takes to master something.
“I’ll get some signed books for my friends.” Well, who cares who your friends are? What are you going to go through to do that? I need to be sarcastic, but my students have said that. I’m like, “Get out of my class. I’m not teaching you anymore. If you’re going to ruin persistence by doing that, then I’m not teaching you.”
Mark Malatesta: Interesting. Yeah. I mean that commitment level has to be there. It’s hard. It might take years to get there, but it’s worth the journey. At the end of the day, even if somebody’s struggling, I’d still want them to get their work out there, but it wouldn’t be self-publishing. It would be then–plan B is go to some smaller but legitimate publishers that are going to do a good job too, and do it right, and print it, and not charge you, get it out there, and get reviews. And it’s maybe on a smaller scale than Random House, but it’s still better than nothing.
The most hardcore authors who want to be lifers, like you, they’re like, “Well, just keep writing the next novel.” You don’t even go to the small presses. You just keep trucking until you get there.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 16 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: Right. In the meantime, your brain cells will rebuild themselves for that next novel. You can do other things. You can write shorter pieces. You can write a blog. You can do like I do. I write nonfiction all this time. The goal is to stay on the path, and if you really feel like this is what you’re cut out to do, then just get on the path and keep your nerve up. There’s so many great rewards if you can stay the path. I used to psych myself up with that thought. I would say, “Okay. A lot of these people are not going to publish. Most of these people are not going to publish because they don’t know how to stick with it.”
I’m not a brilliant person. I am like the girl next door. That was a real epiphany for me when I was about 26 years old. It was like, “Okay, Carol. Guess what? You’re not Albert Einstein. You never got into Princeton. Your life isn’t going very well. When I was in my mid-20s my life was a mess. But wait a minute. You are the average citizen which means that things that are interesting to you are going to be interesting to most other people out there–other average people.”
That is what makes a bestseller. It’s not being brilliant. It’s not having the most poetic swell or whatever. I think people in graduate school get all caught up in that stuff and guess what? They rarely publish. Most of the people that do it over and over and over and over and over again publishing, those in academia make up about 1% of that. The rest of it is just the average…
Mark Malatesta: Yeah, I love it because that stuff, I’m always telling people and there’s part of them like, “Yeah, right.” But it’s so good from someone like you. It’s like they’re more apt to believe that, that the idea…
Mark Malatesta: So much of it is, talent’s overrated, in one sense. I mean, it’s great if you have it and you work what you have, but as much as it is that it’s just persistence.
CPU: It’s persistence. It’s not a double master’s degree. I’ve had students from Columbia and other Ivy League schools. Generally speaking, they can’t do what I do. If that writing is–it’s not all cognition and you can blow a manuscript. I’ve done it by overthinking it and trying to be clever.
Remember the old line from the old song, “The times you impress me most are the times that you don’t try.” Those people, they tend to get in there and over think these things and they create these convoluted–I had a guy once who thought he was amazing. Wrote exactly like Dickens. Don’t say Shakespeare. No, it wasn’t that big. I had him under the coffee table in our workshop pretending he was six years old and coloring like where mom would never see on the bottom of the coffee table. I took him down on the beach and taught him how to skim shells because his brain was working so hard. Stop, think, feel. Just feel it.
There’s that element there that we can’t describe, but a lot of the time, and they’re generally not people with their PhDs and double-Masters from Ivy League schools. Not to cut them down.
Mark Malatesta: Absolutely. It’s more about lifting up the people that might not have that. They don’t need to feel inferior and intimidated at all.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 17 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
CPU: No. Not at all. This is the gift of the salt of the earth people. Bestselling is a gift of the salt of the earth people. You see it happen all the time. They’re thinking up a bestseller. “Oh, how could she have said that? Oh, that’s so lacking…” and whatever. But you know what? You turn the pages. You forget where you are, and you jump into their world, and that’s what this is all about.
If you want to enlighten somebody, you’re probably not going to. Especially these days. Nobody wants to be enlightened. They just want to feel like they’re always enlightened. Okay. Go with it. To try and do that in a book where people are going to pick up and just turn the pages. Which isn’t to say that books shouldn’t have social redeeming value if you’re writing for adults or anything.
Social redeeming value, it spreads out the pores and out of the corpuscles of the author. You can’t preach and try and put something in there that you think you know that everybody else doesn’t know.
Mark Malatesta: It has to be the secondary thing. At least in fiction, the story is what it is. If you focus on that, then the other stuff is going to be there.
CPU: All of us novelists think we have a different way of looking at something than the world is used to looking at it. That’s what drives us forward. But that’s different than thinking you’re superior. People who have very, very high IQs, they are superior. But this has nothing to do with them.
Mark Malatesta: Right. Beyond talent and persistence, let’s just talk a little bit about getting educated and getting help for a minute. I know your story’s different because I was a literary agent at the time, and that’s how we met and worked together. You know the industry. You know publishing a lot. Whether it’s an author thinking should I invest in myself in any way? It could be a writer’s conference. It could be hiring an editor. It could be working with someone like me to improve their chances of getting a literary agent. Give minute or two on why you think that’s a good idea for people to do things like that.
CPU: I’m a great believer. I have been my whole life, probably one of my former sayings is a wise man has many counselors. I’ve always looked for help. When I didn’t understand something, I would go and get anything from an [inaudible] to a therapist to try to break writer’s block. When I used to look at–there was no person like you, Mark, where I was getting published. But I would go, and look, and read about what people like you had to say.
Whatever a literary agent asked for, that was a time where I didn’t want to play games. I didn’t want to be funny. I didn’t want to be clever or anything like that, but I would always give them exactly what they asked for. If they wanted three chapters, I’d give them that. I never read about how to write a query letter because I didn’t want mine to look just like everybody else’s. “Oh, you put this here. You put that there.” But I suppose that’s what you’re good at is bringing out how being an individual and be yourself while you’re trying to do this. Right?
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 18 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
Mark Malatesta: Yeah, and honestly, what it is, it’s basically I’m acting as a literary agent to help people get a literary agent. So it’s like if you think of replicating what a literary agent does to help get as many publishers interested as possible and get them interested in reading, and hopefully, make an offer. You have multiple offers. I’m doing the same thing, but now with authors trying to get literary agents. So, it’s the same deal. It’s the same pitching process. It’s just one step earlier in the chain. Does that make sense?
CPU: Yeah. I get that. The business has become overwhelmed, I guess, with people who think they can do it or want to try and do it. It’s so romantic a notion. “I’d like to be a novelist.” You really need that sort of help these days. This is like a repeat. What you’re doing is sort of like a little history repeating itself. I think literary agents became a thing in the 1930s.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: So many people just found publishing so cool. But in order to get to a publisher, you needed to suddenly get a literary agent. It was like the publishers didn’t want to be overwhelmed and they really appreciated the literary agents. Now, it’s to the point where the literary agents don’t want to be overwhelmed.
Mark Malatesta: That’s exactly it. I had a literary agent tell me once at a conference–she was like, “Ah, I love what you’re doing.” I said, “Are you sure?” She said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, I can make anyone look good.”
Mark Malatesta: But that’s okay. They don’t care. They don’t care. You get the foot in the door, and then they read the book, and they like it, or they don’t.
Mark Malatesta: I’m so happy for everything you’re doing. I could do this for you for three hours, but we’re up on the time. One thing I left out–can I tell everybody how many copies you’ve sold of your books because you told me that earlier.
CPU: Sure. Yep, go ahead.
Carol Plum-Ucci – Pt 19 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview
Mark Malatesta: Yeah, you’re at the quarter million or something mark. Like 250,000 or something like that. That’s crazy.
CPU: Quarter million. Yeah.
Mark Malatesta: I think you’ve won 40-something or 50-something awards or been nominated, like combination. That’s a tremendous amount.
CPU: Yeah. It’s national and then state awards. The state awards, sometimes I’d never heard about them. I would just go. My editor advised me to go online and surf my name every once in a while. It was an uncomfortable procedure, but I would go in there and like, “Oh, the state of Rhode Island” or something like that. So, it was always good to know. Yeah, I’ve got probably about 50 of national and state awards.
Then my latest one–wait a minute. It’s over here on the kitchen counter. Hold on a second. Sometimes they’re not very big. Local authors. That’s of the Atlantic City Press Award. Look at the newspaper.
Mark Malatesta: Right. It never gets old, though, does it?
CPU: No. It really doesn’t. No. It’s always appreciated, because that’s what you work for. You work for people to have the experience of something cool because of you.
Mark Malatesta: Right.
CPU: No, it never gets old.
Mark Malatesta: Thank you, so much for doing this, you kind of sharing everything and your journey and tips. It’s going to help a lot of people. So, thank you.
CPU: I hope so. I wish them all the best, and you too, Bud.
Mark Malatesta: I love it. Thank you.
This interview and review of Mark Malatesta were provided by Carol Plum-Ucci, who worked with Mark to get her book, The Body of Christopher Creed, and many other YA novels published by Harcourt.
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.
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