Category Archives: Mark Malatesta

Oh, I swear! – An Article about Swearing in Writing by Rebecca Besser

Oh, I Swear!

By Rebecca Besser

            Recently, in a group I’m in on Facebook, someone brought up the topic of personal religious beliefs and swearing in writing based on a person’s moral standards. Being a Christian myself, I chimed in on the discussion, explaining the only way an author would be swearing, and that it’s separate from that of a character.

Let me explain… One must understand that the only time the author would be swearing in fiction would be in the narration. The only way there should ever be swearing in narration is if it is from the point of view of a character who is prone to that kind of behavior.

Swearing in dialogue is the character swearing, not the author. The reason characters swear is to make them seem like real people. Real people swear. For example, if a character is a drug dealer, the character would have to swear or they would be unbelievable to the reader. Or, there might be brief measure of swearing by a character when they’re startled or afraid. Even if you were writing a pious character, something along the lines of a swear word might slip out of their mouth when something happens that warrants it. This makes them human, because even human beings with the best intentions make mistakes.

To force your personal beliefs onto every character you write is impossible and wrong. Each character should take on its own personality and they should have a different background (usually) than the author. If not, the author’s characters would be bland and boring. Life is diverse. Writing life calls for diversity in characters, beliefs, and actions. You can’t live is a tiny little box of your own right and wrong and write something that’s going to touch people. If that’s your goal, you need to switch to nonfiction – you’ll be better off there.

There’s also another aspect to the swear word issue that gets complicated in the “swearing” area: culture. What is a swear word in one culture isn’t necessarily a swear word in another. All words are words, and your cultural-base decides which words are “bad” words. So…no words are really bad. What makes a word bad (or a swear word) is the implied and perceived meaning of that word to the people of different cultures. If you think about it that way, no words are bad or swear words. That puts an entirely new spin on the issue, doesn’t it?

Personally, I do include moderate swearing in my writing – in character dialogue. Swearing happens whether people want it to or not, so use it where it’s appropriate and moderate the rest. Let’s all be human – authors and characters – unless, of course, you’re writing aliens.

*Note: This article was previous published in Rebecca Besser’s Newsletter and guested blogged on Mark Malatesta’s Blog.*

©Rebecca Besser, 2015. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Mark Malatesta – Who?

Yesterday I told you about a former book agent that’s now helping me get my work out there, so I can get a top agent, publisher, and book deal. But I didn’t tell you about his background.

You’re going to love this…

The only reason that Mark became an agent was to learn how to get his own books published. That’s why he calls his author consulting company Literary Agent Undercover. As the former President & Owner of New Brand Agency Group, Mark helped many authors launch their publishing careers, including: thriller author Jim Brown (24/7, Random House), award-winning young adult author Carol Plum-Ucci (The Body of Christopher Creed, Harcourt), nonfiction self-help author Aggie Jordan (The Marriage Plan, Doubleday-Broadway), and best-selling gift book author Harry Harrison (Father to Daughter, Workman).

Other publishers Mark has secured contracts with include Simon & Schuster, St. Martin’s, Hyperion, Prentice-Hall, Workman, Andrews-McMeel, Entrepreneur, Barron’s, Amacom, and many more… resulting in millions of books being sold, as well as works being picked up for TV, stage, and feature film (with companies like Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks). Authors that Mark Malatesta has worked with have gotten 6-figure advances, been on the NY Times bestseller list, been licensed in more than 30 countries, and won countless national and international awards and honors.

Mark is also a former member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR). Less than one third of all active publishing agents are members, because you have to qualify to apply. Mark also spent several years as Marketing & Licensing Manager of Blue Mountain Arts (the book and gift publisher that invented e-greetings, and then sold their e-card division for close to $1 billion at the height of the dot com bubble). Mark has been invited to write feature articles for publications like The Guide to Literary Agents, a column for WritersDigest.com, and he’s delivered keynote addresses and seminars at some of the most prominent writers’ conferences in the United States and abroad.

If you haven’t already done so, check out this special page on this website that he just posted for my friends and followers: http://literary-agents.com/becca

When you click on the link above you’ll get instant access to Mark’s:

• Complete article library (tons of great information and it’s often entertaining)

• Audio/mp3 library (make sure you listen to his main mp3 about 7 insider secrets)

• Directory of Literary Agents (the best book agent directory anywhere)

• Webpage where you can ask questions about literary agents and publishing (make sure you post questions because Mark will be answering some of them right here on my blog – I’ll be asking Mark some questions as well).

Here’s the link one more time: http://literary-agents.com/becca

Got a Book? – Want an Agent?

As you guys know, or should know by now, I take care of my writer folk and let them know if there’s information that will benefit them floating around out in the abyss of the internet. So, guess what?! I have some great information for those of you who are interested in getting an agent, like I am!

If you have a book – or book idea – that you’d like to see published by a traditional publisher (like Random House or Simon & Schuster), I have something special for you. I’ve talked to a former NY Times bestselling literary agent recently and he has a great website that you need to check out. His name is Mark Malatesta and he’s now an author consultant/book marketing coach.

It’s been nice chatting with Mark, getting to know him while gleaning from his insights (he has a lot of them). He’s a truly genuine, up front, and honest person and those are the people I adore most in this world. That’s why I’m going to be working with Mark 1-on-1 to pitch one of my books to agents. That’s also why I told Mark that I’d be happy to share his website with you. So he just set up a special webpage on his website for you at http://literary-agents.com/becca

When you click on the link above you’ll get instant access to Mark’s:

• Complete article library (tons of great information and it’s often entertaining – he’s HILARIOUS!)

• Audio/mp3 library (make sure you listen to his main mp3 about 7 insider secrets)

• Directory of Literary Agents (the best book agent directory anywhere)

• Webpage where you can ask questions about literary agents and publishing (make sure you post questions because Mark will be answering some of them right here on my blog – I’ll be asking Mark some questions as well).

Here’s the link again: http://literary-agents.com/becca

If you’re an author (or aspiring author) who wants to get a real publisher (they pay you instead of you paying them), make sure you go to Mark’s site. You have nothing to lose and a LOT of information to gain.

Interview with Author Consultant Mark Malatesta

What is Literary Agent Undercover?

Literary Agent Undercover helps authors of all genres get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals. I founded Literary Agent Undercover in August 2011, after closing my literary agency called New Brand Agency Group (more about that below).

Literary Agent Undercover offers a free weekly newsletter, insider articles, audio and video training (including interviews with top literary agents), the world’s best Directory of Literary Agents (online), an interactive Ask a Literary Agent area (online), and 1-on-1 Coaching and Consulting Services (in person, by phone, and/or Skype).

Literary Agent Undercover is for authors that fit into one of the following categories: 1) Unpublished authors just starting to write (or pitch) their book(s), 2) Self-published authors who now want to find a real (traditional) publisher, and 3) Previously published authors who’ve lost their agent and/or publisher and want to find a new one.

Exactly what do you do in any given day?

Most days I get up at 5 am (thanks to 5 am Wake Up Call guru Bryce Chapman in Australia) and spend a few hours in my home office before going to the gym for a couple hours (weights, cardio, and laps in the pool keep me sane). Most authors would probably be surprised to learn that I only spend two days a week coaching, but I spend much of my time “offline” editing query letters, book proposals, etc.

I also post new content on my Literary Agents Blog each week, and make time to respond personally to every question and comment posted there. I do a lot of speaking at live events and online as well. And I coach high-level entrepreneurs with my wife, Ingrid Elfver, through Born Celebrity. Lastly, if it’s a Sunday afternoon or Monday night, there’s a good chance I’ll be watching American football. I’m a huge fan, much to my wife’s disappointment (football is the “f-word” in our house).

Who are some of the best-selling authors you have worked with?

Although my author consulting company Literary Agent Undercover is only two years old, I’ve already helped dozens of authors (in the United States and abroad) get the attention of top literary agents and/or book deals with major publishing houses like Random House and Thomas Nelson. Click here to see some of our Success Stories. I’ve also listed below most of the book deals I was personally responsible for as the owner of New Brand Agency, before I founded Literary Agent Undercover (I’ve excluded TV, film, stage, and other subsidiary rights for sake of space).

NONFICTION: The Marriage Plan by Aggie Jordan, Ph.D. (Broadway/Sourcebooks); Soul Sex: Tantra For Two by Pala Copeland and Al Link (NewPage); The Husband Book by Harry Harrison (Andrews McMeel); The Women’s Guide to Legal Issues by Nancy Jones (Renaissance); Say Yes to Change by George and Sedena Cappanelli (F&W); Father To Son; Mother to Son; Father to Daughter; and Mother to Daughter by Harry Harrison (Workman); Eat Or Be Eaten by Phil Porter (Prentice-Hall); The Crisis Counselor by Jeff Caponigro (Contemporary); Get Weird! by John Putzier (Amacom); Money-Tree Marketing by Patrick & Jennifer Bishop (Amacom); Creative Selling by Dave Donelson (Entrepreneur);Fearless Brewing by Brian Kunath (Chartwell); The Dog’s Drugstore by Richard Redding & Myrna Papurt (St. Martin’s). ADULT FICTION: 24/7 and Black Valley by Jim Brown (Ballantine); Multiple Novels by Rae Foley (Simon & Schuster); BloodTrail by Michael Sullivan (Jameson). YOUNGER READERS: The Body of Christopher Creed and many other young adult novels by Carol Plum-Ucci  (Harcourt); The Finnegan Zwake Mystery Series by Michael Dahl (Pocket/Scholastic); The Young Shakespeare Mystery Series by Linda Fisher (Hyperion); The Misfits, Inc. Mystery Series by Mark Delaney (Peachtree); Multiple Young Adult Novels by Susan Rottman (Peachtree/Penguin).

Please note that I’m no longer an active literary agent—the only work that I do now with authors is in a coaching/consulting capacity. Also, “Mark Malatesta” is my birth name and “Mark Ryan” is my stepfather’s name. So, if you’re Googling me to check out my literary agent history, make sure you search for “New Brand Agency” and/or “Mark Ryan.” When I was 16 years old (and didn’t know better) my mother remarried and asked me to take on my stepfather’s name. I agreed but never developed a meaningful relationship with my stepfather, so I finally changed my name back to my birth name “Mark Malatesta” in 2007 (after I stopped being a literary agent).

 

How does having an agent benefit an author?

There are many benefits to having a literary agent. The most important one is the fact that 95% of traditional publishers like Random House don’t accept unsolicited submissions from authors. If you send them your material, they’ll return it to you unopened. Literary agents are essentially gatekeepers that read (on average) more than 1,000 pitches each month from authors. Then they take the best of the best and work (for free) until they get you a book deal (and collect a commission if they’re successful).

Here are some other reasons to work with a literary agent:

Agents Know Exactly Who to Send Your Book To

Book agents are familiar with individual publishers and their lists. Agents are also intimate with the preferences, strengths, and weaknesses of individual editors at publishing houses. That knowledge will allow your agent to submit your book to the perfect editors at the best publishers for you.

Publishers Will Take Your Work More Seriously

Top agents have access to senior editors and other publishing executives due to the agent’s track record of success. This allows agents to pitch books face-to-face (sometimes with the author present), submit books to publishers simultaneously, hold auctions, and get deals done faster.

You’ll Get Better Contract Terms

Book agents are skilled negotiators who can get you larger advances and higher royalty rates, multi-book deals, bonuses for any awards or special recognition that your book gets, a bigger promotional budget, hardcover and paperback edition commitments, an earlier publication date, etc.

Your Agent Will Troubleshoot Any Problems

Agents handle any challenges that come up during the publication or post-publication process, so you don’t have to. For example: editors that are difficult, fired, laid-off, or retire; title changes or bad book cover design; bad reviews or publicity; poor book sales; changes in the industry or marketplace; etc.

Your Agent Might Bring You Extra Book Ideas & Book Deals

You might not be aware of this, but top book agents often bring their authors ideas for new books. Sometimes those book ideas are something the agent came up with. Other times, the ideas are something an editor with a publishing house came up with. There’s never been an easier way to get a book deal.

What can authors do before they seek an agent that will help them get one?

My answer to this question will make some authors very happy; it will irritate others. That’s because I’m going to say something that many authors won’t be expecting and might not want to hear.

Here it is…

Learning how to write a bestselling book often has a lot less to do with talent than most authors realize.

Yes, talent is overrated.

And that’s not just my opinion.

If you want to know how to write a bestseller, you probably don’t need more natural talent. You need a writer’s education. And I’m not talking about some literary, highbrow, ivory tower education made up of academia and MFAs (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’m talking about a practical, down-to-earth, reality-based, how to write a bestseller education. And that type of education is made up of seven simple parts.

Which one(s) do you need to add to your repertoire?

HOW TO WRITE A BESTSELLER – 7 STEPS

Conscious Reading

You can’t learn how to write a bestselling book without reading a lot… but I don’t just mean reading bestselling authors in your genre that you admire. You should also be reading bestselling authors in your genre that you don’t like. And, you should read bestselling authors in other genres.

You also need to read consciously. When you’re reading purely for pleasure, you can permit yourself to get lost in a author’s story or style. However, when you’re reading for business(how to write a bestseller), you should be studying the context of what you’re reading.

Pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling as you’re reading. Peek “behind the curtain” where the author is busy pulling his/her strings. Try to deconstruct what’s happening, and why. When you feel something, try to figure out what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it.

Writing, Writing, Writing

This should be obvious, but some writers think they can learn how to write a bestselling book without paying their dues. In other words, you can’t learn how to write a bestseller without spending thousands of hours writing. I’m talking pure volume here.

A good idea for a bestselling book isn’t the same as a good idea for a bestselling book in the hands of an experienced writer.

Rewriting

One of the biggest mistakes writers make is measuring themselves (mainly) by how much writing they’ve done. But it’s not just volume that matters. It’s quality. And the best way to improve the quality of your writing is rewriting. Unfortunately, hard work alone doesn’t always lead to extraordinary results. It has to be the right hard work.

In other words, if you want to learn how to how to write a bestselling book, you have to design your “writing time” to your specific needs. For example, most writers spend most (or all) of their writing time doing one thing: writing. And they spend very little (or no time at all) rewriting. Some writers do this for ten years, write ten books during that time, and never get published (because they didn’t write ten good books, they wrote ten first drafts).

Studying the Craft of Writing

Most writers understand that they need to spend time studying the craft of writing, but I want to encourage authors to do more… expand their range of study to new areas.

Read books that might not seem (at first) to apply to you like books on humor, suspense, story, mystery, horror, romance, etc. If you want to learn how to write a bestselling book, start by having a more eclectic approach in what you study. This will make your writing richer, no matter what genre you’re in.

Here are a few books to get you started:
 10 Best Books for Writers.

Studying the Business of Writing

If you consider yourself a “creative artist” you might resist this idea or be intimidated by it. Don’t be. Check out this one simple resource to help you get more educated and stay plugged in: Publishers Marketplace.

If you want to become a bestselling author, it will show you deals being done, who’s doing them, and more. 40,000+ publishing professionals are part of this community. There’s a free newsletter you can subscribe to as well. And there’s a paid option that gives you access to even more goodies.

Case Studies

One of the best shortcuts to learning how to write a bestselling book is case studies… learning how other bestselling authors became successful. The act of writing books, proposals, and query letters takes a lot of time. Don’t experiment. Take advantage of those who’ve gone before you.

For example, let’s say you need to write a query letter to get a literary agent. You might have read a book or two about query letters, but you’ll write a much better query letter if you have a case study to look at first. In other words, a before and after example of a query letter that eventually led to success…with a detailed explanation of the changes that were made, and why.

Case studies let you see what you would have done differently than the subject. This process of focusing on different scenarios and evaluating different solutions is powerful. That’s why the “case method” is used by top universities around the world like Harvard and Yale.

Studying theory is great, but it’s much more beneficial to see that theory applied in real-life situations that resulted in success. Guessing is for the amateur. Case studies are for the professional writer who wants to learn how to write a bestseller.

Coaching and/or Consulting

If you want to learn how to write a bestselling book, coaching is possibly the most important piece of the puzzle. It requires the biggest investment, but it can also save you years of wasted time and lots of money working with editors and/or publishing companies that aren’t the best fit for you. Virtually every bestselling author has had some type of coaching, for good reason.

If you want to learn how to how to write a bestseller, you’ll need some help to see things that you’d never see alone. And you’ll need help overcoming things that you can’t overcome alone. Coaching is about discovering shortcuts, being held accountable (for some people), and having someone on your side who’s actually already “been there and done that”.

No one can guarantee you’ll write a bestselling book, but this 7-part process is as close as you’ll get to a proven formula. These are the things that you can actually control (unlike natural talent or ability, if there even is such a thing).

Focus on them.

And, make sure you’re dividing up your time properly based on what you really need… instead of what you want (don’t neglect one of the areas above that you know you should be focusing on). If you want to learn how to write a bestseller, you need to treat your writing more like a business… and less like a hobby. I don’t mean to take the romance out of writing, but a balanced writer’s education is the key to helping you write a bestseller.

And that’s pretty romantic in my book.

 

MARK MALATESTA is the author who went “undercover” as a literary agent for five years to find out how to get his own books published. During that time, Mark became a NY Times bestselling literary agent and helped many authors launch their writing careers with major publishers like Random House. The result was millions of books sold along with projects being picked up for TV, stage, and feature film (with companies like Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks). Mark’s authors have gotten 6-figure advances, been on the NY Times bestseller list, been licensed in more than 30 countries, and won countless national and international awards and honors. Now Mark is helping authors of all genres get top literary agents and book deals through his new training and consulting company called Literary Agent Undercover. Get instant access to Mark’s FREE 60-minute mp3 training: Seven Secrets Every Author Needs to Know… to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal, weekly newsletter, insider articles, Directory of Literary Agents, interactive Ask a Literary Agentarea of his website, and information about his1-on-1 coaching and consulting services. Click Here Now to Become a Publishing Insider with Literary Agent Undercover.

 

©Mark Malatesta & Literary Agent Undercover. All rights reserved.

 

Sensitive artist? – Get over it!

Recently, I read this article on Mark Malatesa’s blog about how a speaking/training engagement he and his wife presented didn’t go as well as planned: http://literary-agents.com/author-armageddon/ It really got me thinking…

I know writers are sensitive about rejection and about learning and being pushed out of their comfort zone. I also know that if you never leave your comfort zone, you’ll never grow.

Learning = Growing.

After reading the blog post I realized I’m one of the people who wouldn’t have walked out of the room. I’m one of the people who would have stayed and took value from the efforts they were putting forth with the “Author Hot Seat” exercise. I want to learn, and I want to grow.

I’m one of those oddball people who will intentionally JUMP out of my comfort zone in an effort to get past what makes me uncomfortable. For example… A few years ago, one of my writing goals was to send out a set number of submissions in one year. (I’m thinking it was 100 or 150.) I submitted around 200 times in that year, smashing my goal. It was also my most published year. It wasn’t about writing new pieces, it was about putting myself out there and practicing following guidelines, and MOST OF ALL, it was about taking away the sting of rejection.

I basically beat any negative feelings associated with a rejection out of myself. When I received a rejection, it wasn’t about not being published anymore, it was about sending it out again and increasing my submission count. I got to the point where I actually looked forward to rejections so that I could turn around and send the piece out again. (Most were poetry or short stories.)

Don’t get me wrong, I was equally excited about acceptances, because that’s what I was really after. I just found a way to make rejection work for me.

I beat the sensitive artist bullshit out of my system. There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive, mind you, but you need to control it and get over yourself in some areas. It’s awesome to be sensitive when you’re writing a story, or a song, or giving a character depth, but it has to stay there. Like it or not, writing is a business. You have to treat the sales/publication end of writing as the business that it is! Which means, rejection isn’t personal. It is just business! I don’t know of any editors who actually like sending rejections. Believe me, they WANT to publish things that are up to par and meet their needs.

Since I’ve trained myself to not take rejections personally, I’ve actually had editors who’ve rejected my work give me compliments on how I’ve dealt with the rejection. I don’t know… Maybe since I’ve built a name for myself and have been widely published by a variety of small presses in the Indie community, people think I’m going to be a diva. Nope. I have no interest in getting upset. I’ve been on the editing end and I know the reason some rejections come about (something else that helps me). I know they aren’t targeting me or singling me out.

I’m glad that pushing myself out of my comfort zone has helped me grow, and through those comments/compliments from editors I respect, I know I’ve grown more professional because of my self-inflicted experience.

People like Mark and Ingrid who will spend their time trying to help writers grow should be valued – people only help when they care. They wanted to help those writers, but those writers still had rainbows and kittens in their writer’s vision, and they hadn’t felt the cold sting of rejection over and over – the polish used to make writers truly shine.

If you’re going to be a writer, write. Just don’t expect everything to be easy and to stay within your comfort zone. You’re going to have to face harsh realities.

Value what those who know more than you try to teach you. Even if it hurts a little.  If you have to, beat the sensitivity out of yourself like I did.

Don’t be the one to walk out and quit on yourself or those who have faith in you because they aren’t stroking your sensitive little ego.

 

rebecca-besser-bloody-horror-banner

©Rebecca Besser, 2013. All rights reserved.