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Mark Malatesta Interview and Review with Melissa Bond


Cover of book with orange pill for Mark Malatesta review

During this interview and Mark Malatesta review, author Melissa Bond talks about her book, her best tips for writers, and her experience working with former literary agent Mark Malatesta, who helped Melissa get a literary agent. Melisa is the author of Blood Orange Night: My Journey to the Edge of Madness, published in hardcover and paperback by Gallery Books, a prestigious imprint of Simon & Schuster.


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Mark Malatesta Review by Melissa Bond


Photo of Melissa Bond long hair review of Mark Malatesta

"I'm so excited I could cry. My agent just sold my memoir to Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books. My agent is genuine, and she loved my book for all right reasons. I feel a kinship. I wanted that because my book is a memoir. It's personal for me, and I didn't just want an agent interested simply because she thought she could sell it. You're the best coach I could imagine, professional and incisive in your knowledge, but kind. You get back to your clients quickly, you're clear with your boundaries, and you know how to nudge without pushing. Anyone who has the great fortune to work with you should consider themselves lucky. You're an angel."


Melissa BondBlood Orange Night (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books)


The Mark Malatesta review above is an edited excerpt. Click here to see the complete Mark Malatesta review, and click here to see more Mark Malatesta reviews.


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Melissa Bond Interview


During this 54-minute interview with Mark Malatesta, author Melissa Bond talks about her memoir, Blood Orange Night, published in hardcover and paperback by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. During this interview, Melissa also shares her advice for other authors, and she talks about her experience working with former literary agent Mark Malatesta, who helped Melissa get a literary agent she loves.



Part 1 - Mark Malatesta Interview & Review

 

Mark Malatesta: Melissa Bond is the author of Blood Orange Night, a memoir about her multi-year struggle with accidental benzodiazepine addiction. Melissa and I worked together on her manuscript, platform, and pitch materials, which resulted in her getting a literary agent and then book deal with Simon & Schuster's prestigious imprint, Gallery Books.


Melissa is a narrative journalist and poet, and a respected writer and blogger on the perils of over-prescribing benzodiazepines. She's been a regular contributor for Mad in America, and she's written several chapbooks of poetry. Melissa has also served as Associate Editor and Poetry Editor for the Wasatch Journal, a long-form glossy magazine. During that time, she won awards for being the Gutsiest Spoken Word Poet, Best Poet in Motion, and Best Profile Writer for the Western Publishing Association’s Maggie Awards.

 

In addition to the printed page, Melissa has been interviewed by ABC World News Tonight, she's been featured on popular podcasts, and she's performed in Poetry Slam nationals in multiple states.

 

Melissa has also written and performed her work at the Rose Wagner Black Box during the Sundance Film Festival. And she performed in The Vagina Monologues at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall, in addition to spending several years writing and producing fictional shorts for radio.

 

To learn more about Melissa, visit melissaabond.com.

 

One more time…that’s melissaabond.com.

 

So welcome, Melissa!

 

Melissa Bond: Thank you so much, it’s a total pleasure to be here.

 

Mark Malatesta: My pleasure, and it’s always fun to celebrate a win. Especially when you have a book like yours, personal and meaningful and can make a difference to other people, also more reason to celebrate. 

 

Melissa Bond: Oh my gosh, yep. It was not the book I thought I was going to write, but it was the book I needed to write.

 

Mark Malatesta: Right. So let’s get you talking more about your story because I just, on this type of interview I just give a high-level teaser. I know a lot of people are going to want to read your book after benefiting from your advice during this hour, or they might find it relatable, to them or somebody they care about. So, let’s get you talking a little bit about your book too, not just your advice for writers.

 

Part 2 - Mark Malatesta Review & Interview

 

Melissa Bond: The way I would describe the book, the over-arching narrative of the book, is my experience having a successful life that was moving forward, checking all the boxes. Being married, having one child and then another child, being in a career I loved, which was being a magazine editor and working with an incredible group of writers. Then things started to plummet, and it was, I think so many people at some point in their lives have something like this happen...I had pregnancy induced insomnia that was pathological.


I know tons of people suffer from insomnia. So, when I describe the insomnia in the book, I'm talking about a couple hours sleep a night for months and months. I know a number of people who have gone through this at various times. It is really akin to torture, and so I ended up getting prescribed Ambien while I was pregnant and then going off it cold-turkey and going through the typical medical route because everything else had failed.


Then I had rebound insomnia and I was prescribed what you described, a family of drugs called benzodiazepines. People will know them as Mama’s little helper, the original Rolling Stones song. Valium is one of the first generation, and then you’ve got these very much stronger generation and they are faster and they are known as like Xanex, Klonopin, Ativan. People will call them their "chill pills." I was very much a holistically minded person, and didn’t want to take any kind of medication.


But you get to a level of desperation, especially with insomnia, that I was saying to my husband at the time, "Just hit me with a two by four. I'll run my head into a concrete wall, I am that desperate to sleep." So I was prescribed a fairly high dose of what is a kind of benzodiazepine called Ativan. Which is, just for your listeners, it is used, that amount two milligrams, is used for people that are having grand mal seizures that are brought to the ER. They get shot up with two milligrams of Ativan and it completely shuts the system down.

 

Mark Malatesta: Wow. 

 

Melissa Bond: So, what happens in the story is I take these medications as directed by my doctor. They work for a short period of time, then they stop working, and he increases my dosage. This happens several times. Within about, I think it was about a year and a half, suddenly my body is really falling apart. I'm not being able to remember anything from one day to the next. I’m walking through the house, falling all of the time. At this point I have two infants, the recession has hit, and I’ve lost my magazine job because the magazine folded. So, it’s one of those times where, everything implodes including my health. I had one night that I described in the book where I literally fall holding my infant daughter and almost run both our heads into a corner wall.


At that moment, I say to myself, "Oh my gosh, I used to be somebody who could not only read but would edit other people’s works. I traveled to third-world countries alone, I was a rock climber. Now I can barely make my way up the stairs. What is wrong with me?" I suddenly realized the medication was the one thing that triggered all of this. And the research that I did showed me that what was happening, this is what was so stunning, is that I was in what was called active drug withdrawal, while on a very high dose. And this is because the drugs metabolize so quickly. I would take them at night, and by the time I hit morning and afternoon my body was needing those drugs to plug into the receptors in my brain. And because I didn’t take it until the evening, I was having drug withdrawals. So, the book is all about all that fun. 

 

Mark Malatesta: (laughing) 

 

Melissa Bond: (laughing) And then how I had to dig inside myself to find a way to get off of these drugs because the doctors I consulted said, "We don't know how to get you off of those without such extreme withdrawals." I tried to cut my dose once and had a stroke, so it’s incredibly dangerous, it’s harrowing, and we do not have a good system in this country. So I did my research and just lucked out, I think, with some of the people that I found and then I got out of it, and I was like I have got to let this country know about this because I am not the only one. 

 

Mark Malatesta: And of course, it applies to a lot of other kinds of medications or substances. 

 

Melissa Bond: Oh yeah, I mean a lot of psychiatric medications. They don’t talk about how difficult they are to get off. I think a lot of times we, unfortunately, patients can end up being guinea pigs and they can tell their doctors, "I’m having such a difficult time, and I can’t focus." Until people get into a degree of disability sometimes I think the doctors can say, "Well, that’s not what we saw in the clinical trials that maybe ran six to eight weeks." Yet people are being put on these drugs for years at a time and we really don’t know what happens to the brain structure after that amount of time. It can be really perilous. So, I’m hoping to be one of those people that brings a little more awareness and a little more caution to both prescribing and consuming because I feel like I almost lost my life, I just ended up lucking out.

 

Part 3 - Mark Malatesta Interview & Review

 

Mark Malatesta: Right. And not that it’s luck, but thinking of some of the fun or exciting things that have happened since the book was acquired by your publisher and published, what are some of the highlights and fun things that have gone on that could just be personally satisfying to you?

 

Melissa Bond: There are a couple of things. The first is I was writing it, and I was reliving this whole thing, so it wasn’t like a playful or fun book to write. It was painful to go back through. I lost my marriage, which wasn’t a strong marriage...when you go through real trauma it will really tests the relationship you have. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Exposes what’s there, right?

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah, it really exposed that we had some weaknesses that we couldn’t resolve. So, I think me being able to just speak to those over-arching traumas that we have in our lives and how much we can really rise up and become better versions of ourselves. And the emails that I have gotten from people have been really personally satisfying. People that have said you know, "I didn’t know that it was the drugs and you have made me look into it. Oh my gosh, my brother, my sister, you know, my husband." I mean innumerable emails. I tried to keep a list of them, but it was overwhelming.

 

Then on the professional front I have a really fun story. When Simon & Schuster took the book, my agent and I were negotiating the contract, and I said, "Look, I really want to do the audio book." She said, "Okay, we'll try to do the audio book." The publisher said, "It’s great you want to do that, but we have actors that do that, professionals." I said, "I know, but I really feel like I could do this. Let me audition."

 

They said, "You can audition and it’s really sweet you want to do that, but we have professionals." By the time they had gotten to know me, you know that I am very animated, and I have had performance, they said, "Okay, you can do the audio book." So we recorded it, and then the New York Times picked it as one of six audio books of the year of 2022. It was a huge honor and felt so gratified personally that I knew inside of myself that it felt right for me to like put my voice and passion into it, and the fact that that was recognized is immensely gratifying.

 

Mark Malatesta: I love that. You’re at least my second author I know that has been able to do their own audio, but that’s definitely unusual to get them to agree to that. 

 

Melissa Bond: I’m super glad. I don’t know if they’ll do it next time, but we’ll see. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, well, they don’t have a choice after that award honor. 

 

Melissa Bond: Yes, oh yeah. 

 

Mark Malatesta: They’d be crazy not to.

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah.

 

Part 4 - Mark Malatesta Review & Interview

 

Mark Malatesta: Alright, so you and I know as well as anyone how hard it is to get a publisher, and an agent before that. So, talk a little bit about that. I mean most of the people listening to this type of interview are visualizing following in your footsteps, doing something similar. So, let’s start at the end and relive the highlights for you at the time you were getting an offer, offers for representation, and then what you did to celebrate, and then similarly, for when you got the book deal. And then we’ll go back and talk about how you got there, of course. 

 

Melissa Bond: I remember when the agent that I ended up going with, when she offered me, representation. I’d been sending stuff out and I had been, honestly, I had been visualizing, I want this to be someone where there is a heart connection, someone who feels really isn’t just interested in selling the book but believes in the book and believes in the importance of the book. I remember sitting in the kitchen looking through my emails and my daughter was next to me. I saw the email and I gave this huge whoop (Mark laughs) and I was running around the kitchen. My daughter came and was like, "Are you okay? What's going on?"

 

I was like, "Honey, I just found the agent that I want." We ended up having a phone call and it absolutely cemented that she was the perfect agent for me. She was someone who understood what I was trying to do in the literary sense, understood the importance from a medical perspective, but also that the book itself had so many other facets. It talks about relationships, parenting, resilience. That I had found that perfect agent blew my mind. Her name is Jen Nadol and she works with the Unter Agency. She's a phenomenal agent.

 

We worked together and did a little bit of re-writing of the book, but it felt fairly well-structured. I think it was around October when we sent out like our first round, it wasn’t very big. Had a couple of people that were interested in terms of editors, but it was right before Thanksgiving. So, we sent something out at the beginning of the new year, and got the perfect editor. It’s so essential that people really that you hold true to the value of your own work. And find that person that just will sing its praises and will love it the way you love it. That has made all the difference. completely in love with both my agent and my editor. I feel very lucky.

 

Mark Malatesta: I love that. That's the fairytale. It’s not always quite like that. Part of it is the quality of the writing and part of it is your discipline and checking off every single little box along the way, that you got to that good scenario.

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah. Be true to that vision, you know?

 

Mark Malatesta: Did you do anything to celebrate you know when you got the agent or the book deal, or is that not really your personality? 

 

Melissa Bond: I think I might have gone out to dinner with my kids (laughing). You know I think at that stage like it was internal. I mean all of that year I was doing a lot of traveling. That is kind of the way that I celebrate. I was sort of like, I am just going to do all of the traveling that I want to. So, I did a number of trips with my kids, but it was sort of a year of celebration, you know, because it was just such a long time in coming.

 

Mark Malatesta: And it’s so much more...I’m more sensitive when I’m coaching or consulting memoir authors because it can be emotional for an author just investing all the time in any book, right? And the dream of getting published. But then when it’s memoir it’s times ten, right? Because it’s you getting rejected or accepted by the publisher. And then times ten again right if it’s a story in which you’re super vulnerable or you have to worry people are going to judge you or this or whatever, you’re putting your stuff out there.

 

Melissa Bond: Mm-hmm.

 

Part 5 - Mark Malatesta Interview & Review

 

Mark Malatesta: So, you have to be a tough cookie to do what you did.

 

Melissa Bond: Absolutely. I meant when I said it was not the book I wanted to write. This is a book that deals with issues that are deeply vulnerable with conflic in our culture regarding issues of addiction versus dependency and issues like childhood trauma and relationships gone wrong and all of those things. I didn’t want to talk about that. I had a childhood that was not ideal. I had a mother that had dealt with addiction, so I had to kind of go down that rabbit hole ask myself, "Is this something I want to expose, you know to everyone? Is this the book I want to write?" But it felt like if I was really going to really do a service, I had to I had to be that vulnerable. But you’re right it was like the triple shot of vulnerability on every side. 

 

Mark Malatesta: And it’s interesting, like I don’t know what kind of conversations you had with your agent or with the publisher or maybe agents who were thinking about the project that offered to rep you, and those you didn’t go with or who simply passed on it. But this is not necessarily an easy project, right? Your writing is really strong, but on the face of it, you remember the very first time we ever spoke, during the introductory coaching call, part of me was excited, but part of me was nervous. I was like, okay, here we go, another addiction recovery story. Where is our unique angle? Not necessarily easy. Right? There are other stories out there. Did agents or your publisher kind of say anything about that or did you remember any of the unique positioning that was important or interesting? 

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah, you’re keying in on something that really was kind of the question to us. How do we answer this question because we did have a couple of editors whose big question was, "Where is it going to go on the shelf and how is it going to add to that section?"

 

Mark Malatesta: Like why in the world do we need another one of those, right?

 

Melissa Bond: Another one of those, yeah. So, the position we took was that this is a very different kind of addiction recovery story, about unintentional addiction or what’s called in the world of benzodiazepines iatrogenic illness, which basically means that you develop an illness based upon your doctor’s prescription. So, it’s very different. A lot of addiction memoirs deal with addiction as kind of a craving you know and a desire to use a substance to kind of cover up something else. Then that craving is in that cycle of use, repeat, crave, use, repeat. But this kind of physical addiction is just as severe, but it doesn’t have that craving. It’s totally doctor prescribed.

 

So, we took that angle. There have been a lot of things written about opioids, but this particular drug, one of the things that what is different about it, is it doesn’t often cause overdoses. Which is, you know opioids are like the fire that set, you know get set to your house. But benzodiazepines, my little description of them, is they are this thief that steals everything you own a piece at a time. They are stealth drugs that cause this systematic illness among people that they’re not even aware of. People go on disability.

 

I’ve talked with innumerable people. There is this thirty-one-year-old young man right now that I’m talking with and he is on SSI benefits now because he cannot work, all as a result of these drugs. So, our angle was the iatrogenic illness and a real strong female-written narrative that doesn't go too much into the science.

 

Mark Malatesta: Right. 

 

Melissa Bond: It's not like the book Empire of Pain. It’s the personal mother-parenting-female-lead memoir. So it hit a niche that hadn’t been hit before. 

 

Mark Malatesta: I was worried there that maybe we didn’t talk about some of that, and you just figured that out with the agent and publisher. So, I looked up our query while you were talking about it. Do you mind if I read the one sentence we had in there? 

 

Melissa Bond: No. This will be interesting...

 

Mark Malatesta: Blood Orange Night (80K words) is a new kind of addiction memoir, of the unintentional addict, written by a relatable "everywoman" narrator that makes it easy for readers to see how anyone—include someone they care about—could become addicted to prescription pills.

 

Melissa Bond: Yes. 

 

Part 6 - Mark Malatesta Review & Interview

 

Mark Malatesta: So that’s the accidental addict or unintentional addict.

 

Melissa Bond: Right. Which has not really been hit on as much, and I think in part because, because of our drug culture, our prescription pill culture. So many people are getting prescribed and then maybe not having an awareness of how it is slowly impacting their lives in a really negative way. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Right, right. 

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah. 

 

Mark Malatesta: And by the way, I want to slip this in there because, you’ve probably heard this from some agents, I constantly hear it from my clients and people who are not my clients, "Oh, you have to be famous to you know write a memoir or you’ve got to be a celebrity." Well, no, you don’t." Here’s proof, right? You need to have a well-written story, even better if it’s relatable and you worked hard at that not making it just about you but making it relatable. You absolutely don’t need to be famous. And, by the way, you're also proof it doesn’t have to be a diversity book. People are afraid of that, too, but there's room for everybody.

 

Melissa Bond: Absolutely. 

 

Mark Malatesta: So, let’s segue into your advice for writers and I’ll divide it up into three parts. Let’s start with somebody who is writing a book. What are your best one or two or three tips? You can go absolutely anywhere with this. Maybe they’re in the idea stage of the book, maybe they’re writing it. It can be memoir-specific or general. But some of the things you've found valuable that might be helpful for someone else.

 

Melissa Bond: In terms of the writing process? 

 

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, when they’re writing. It could be internal, it could be the external, you know just the craft of writing. Anything that might give somebody a hand up. And then we’ll talk about tips for publishing and promoting. 

 

Melissa Bond: There are a couple of things I would say. The first is around the topic of inspiration. I have talked to a lot of people who say, "I’ve got this book in me but I’m waiting for inspiration to hit, or I’m waiting for my life to change so I have more time. I’m too busy, or I can only work a certain amount of time." There are a couple of things to say about that. Life is never going to not get busy. (laughing) I know that for sure. I have two teenagers, one with special needs, and I work full time. If the passion is there, you'll make time.

 

Sometimes you have to get up early in the morning. Finding a way to prioritize so you write consistently. Having that time, this is kind of a funny way to describe it, but I think of writing as kind of like a lover. You don’t see a lover once a month. (laughing) You really show up for them or it doesn’t really build a good relationship. You show up every day, at the window. You’ve got to be a troubadour. You are at that window beseeching them, hoping to see them. For me that is what it’s like sitting down every day to write even if it’s just for like a half an hour or an hour every morning.

 

That greases the wheels. I’ve heard Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, she’s got a great Ted Talk, say it's like the winds of the muses...you’ve got to open the door every day and the muses come more. The more you beseech your lover, the more they will come down and talk with you. So that’s kind of the romantic way of saying you’ve got to get your butt in the chair (laughing) but it’s really true.

 

The other really important thing is to write a really crappy first draft. Don't worry at all about how that first draft looks. It is getting the story out, it’s going to be long, it’s going to be messy, you’re going to say a lot of things you end up taking out later. There are two hats you wear. One is the writer hat and the person of inspiration and the other one is going to be the editor. You don’t want those hats on at the same time. So go ahead and just write the messiest first draft. Get it out. 

 

Part 7 - Mark Malatesta Interview & Review

 

Mark Malatesta: Especially with memoirs...don’t think, at all, about what people are going to think about you, how they’re going to judge you, who you’re going to offend. Just write the best version that you can at first, because that’s hard enough. Don’t think about the other stuff.

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah, get it all out there. Let yourself be messy. Let yourself be sloppy. Say whatever, then the editor in you can come back and clean it up.

  

Mark Malatesta: By the way, what you said earlier, I think is only half true. The first part I totally get. You sound like my physical trainer. He says you’ve got to "make love to the weights," (both laughing) make love to the weights. That’s hilarious, but I say it's only half true because it’s not quite fair. You can get by on just four hours of sleep. So, you have more time to write. (laughing) 

 

Melissa Bond: (laughing) Well I used to be able to. I don’t do that anymore. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Good, good. Alright, so now let’s shift to publishing. I don’t remember back in the day when we first talked. Getting a traditional publisher, were you dead set on that, or were you of on the fence? Regardless, what sent you in that direction where you were like, "I’m going to at least try for that first."

 

Melissa Bond: I’ve done a lot of research. I knew self-publishing was an option for me. But what just became apparent was the number of hats I would to have to wear if I was going to publish on my own. I would have to be my own marketing manager. I would have to do so many other things that a traditional publisher would be able to do, and I knew I wanted the heft of a traditional publisher because they know all the people in the industry. They know how it works. So, I ended up making the decision that I would exhaust absolutely every avenue and would put all my energy into getting a traditional publisher just because they’re specialists, they’ve been doing it for so long. And I wanted to give my book every chance in the world to get out, and that seemed like the best way.

 

Mark Malatesta: Right. And there’s the tremendous learning curve. How do I get the book printed and produced, get a cover designed, get distribution, those things. You know you’re better off doing what you’re doing, which is promoting like a maniac, and making the book do well enough with a hardcover version, now they're going to be doing the paperback version.

 

Melissa Bond: Right, and I didn’t want to do all of that stuff (laughing). I knew it would take away...each time I split myself, it would be diluted. I wanted people great in marketing and people great in publicity. I didn’t want to have to do all of those things.

  

Mark Malatesta: I feel bad and have people give me a hard time sometimes because like I'm so regimented in what I offer authors. I just have a few things, an introductory coaching call and my long-term coaching program. I do those things really well because I'm focused. I’ve figured it out and I have to resist sometimes when somebody is like, "Well, can we do something crazy and do this other thing that you know you could probably help with?" But it would take so much energy to try to figure that out and I would be more nervous. Am I going to make that person happy because that is not the thing we do best. Right? 

 

Melissa Bond: Right.

 

Mark Malatesta: It’s good to know, and stay in our lane sometimes.

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah.

 

Part 8 - Mark Malatesta Review & Interview

 

Mark Malatesta: So, let’s talk about the promotion piece. There are a lot of places you can go here because your book has been out for a while. There is maybe the stuff you did before you met me that was you thinking you were going to build your brand a bit, or my platform, or maybe you did zero. Then there's the time between, like when we met and the time you went out to agents. You know I tried to get you to do a bunch of stuff to improve their perception of your platform. Like, oh, she looks even more influential and even more able to promote her books. Then there’s the stuff you’ve been doing since. What are your top one or two or three things that might be helpful for writers to know or do when they’re thinking about the promotion? So not everybody is half-extrovert, half-introvert like you. But...what are some things anybody can do, your thoughts on that? 

 

Melissa Bond: Right. Boy, reaching out to anyone that would have interest or influence that you could connect with that is doing something similar to what your book is talking about. For me reaching out to organizations was huge. "Would you be willing to look at my book, or could we do something that would be some sort of cross-pollination?" For me there were drug advocacy or prescription drug, I can’t remember what they are called, organizations trying to do education and advocacy. So, I reached out to them and did like some podcasts with them. It’s the modern version of networking. Connect with people who are like-minded and doing similar things.

 

As you get more connected it snowballs so I had lots of organizations who were like, "Oh my gosh, we will absolutely promote your book. We’ve been waiting for somebody like you to write something like this." That was huge. Also, connecting with a lot of authors writing about similar things. I wrote everybody. I had to learn to not be shy at all and really know that I value what these organizations and people are doing and even if they say no, , reaching out to and just saying, "I so value what you’re doing, I’d love to connect with you."

 

If it works great, and if not, I've been able to express my appreciation. Those were good things initially. Then really taking a playful attitude toward social media and figuring out which social media platform works for me, and seeing where my audience is. Then being really authentic and engaging consistently with social media in a way that works for me. I think that has been really important. I’ve been able to grow my message and you know my audience in that way, and that’s become another creative outlet for me. It's not for everybody, for some people it’s torture, but for me it’s been really fun. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your job, your hobby, your relationship life, social media, like what you said there, just making the decision to make it playful. Man, it’s night and day. It’s so funny how in life we can have stuff we’re doing and just totally hate it, not be present, and be looking forward to the next thing. Or make that shift like...I’m going to enjoy doing this and all of a sudden, we’re performing at another level. 

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah. I really made it a shift with social media after seeing this guy, Mark Rober, who was a NASA scientist and now does these really fun physics YouTube videos for middle school kids. He’s brilliant...

 

Mark Malatesta: You’re watching physics videos in your spare time. 

 

Melissa Bond: (laughing) My daughter was watching him. I was like who is this guy? He’s really fun, really high production value. But it was You Tube. I was like, aa, you’re surfing You Tube, but I was like this guy is amazing. Then he did this really beautiful video on his son who has autism, and that touched my heart because my son was diagnosed with autism. I thought, oh, you know I’ve been kind of viewing social media as this dark rabbit hole. And I realized there is so much beauty and there are so many important messages that can be conveyed via social media. So, it made that flip for me and so now I view it as a way for me to be my most authentic self. And, if I’m not doing it playfully and I’m not having fun, then I think I’m doing it the wrong way. So, that’s always a good thing to keep in mind. 

 

Mark Malatesta: It’s a good thing to train yourself that way, and think that way. I mean that’s a good rule for a writer too. If you’re bored writing something, then guess what? Your reader probably will be too. 

 

Melissa Bond: (laughing) Yes, it’s sad. 

 

Part 9 - Mark Malatesta Interview & Review

 

Mark Malatesta: What did agents say, including your agent and/or those who passed and maybe what did your publisher say about your platform? I don’t remember your numbers. It doesn’t sound like you had huge social media numbers when you went to them, but what feedback did anybody give you? I want people to see you don’t necessarily need five hundred thousand social media followers to get a good agent and book deal. 

 

Melissa Bond: At that point I felt like I was that author on the verge. I didn’t have a huge following because I’d been at my desk writing a book for the last six years. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Right. 

 

Melissa Bond: So, I had done enough outreach to various organizations and individuals that I had enough contacts, and they said now is the time where you want to target Instagram, you can target Facebook, Twitter, and they sort of worked with me. These are ways you can go about growing your audience. They helped me focus on that, and that was really fun. It's grown tremendously since then. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Right, and you know that's my strategy, like if someone is just trying to grow their social media numbers...that's so slow and hard and painful. But the other stuff where you do the outreach to potential promotional partners...that's a lot of work too...but you can be really smart and efficient and get a lot in a short amount of time. And that's going to impress some of the agents and some of the publishers. They can see your clout and ability and...she’s not quite there with her numbers, but she can squeak in anyway, right? 

 

Melissa Bond: Right, absolutely. I think that’s what it was for me. 

 

Mark Malatesta: And then, let’s see…did you have a particular person or place that responded when we were working together, or since you got the book deal? Someone that made you say, "Oh my gosh, I never thought I would have gotten that or connected with that person." Or it hasn’t been quite like that, just more general? 

 

Melissa Bond: There are a couple writers I've really admired that I’ve had the experience of, oh my gosh, I can’t believe they wrote me back! (laughing) 

 

Mark Malatesta: Nice. That’s what I mean. Those are fun!

 

Melissa Bond: Because I hold them in such high esteem. I mean, one of them was Patrick Radden Keefe, who is a phenomenal New Yorker writer and has written a couple of books. His most recent was Empire of Pain. He was just a sweetheart. I reached out to him, and he was like, "Your project sounds amazing." I was just like, "Oh, I’m seeing stars! So absolutely fun."

 

Mark Malatesta: I want to remind people that the promotion never stops. In a good way, like what you just described is a perfect segue because your part of the be-your-own-publicist stuff, when you’re promoting your book before and after it’s published is just doing things like that...researching like-minded people who have a similar mission...connecting and that creates promotional opportunities. You and I were talking before we got on this interview about stuff you’re going to be doing and should be doing now that the paperback is coming out. It’s just like hey, there’s more, you know?

 

Melissa Bond: Right. 

 

Part 10 - Mark Malatesta Review & Interview

 

Mark Malatesta: You did well with the hardcover and now you’ve got the paperback. You do well with the paperback, then it’s more likely you’re getting the next deal you want, etc. 

 

Melissa Bond: Right, yeah. It’s constantly the next step, next step. Who would be fun to connect with next?

 

Mark Malatesta: Alright, so let’s see, totally open-ended question. I’ll get you talking a little bit about our work together. I’ll frame it in a more general way. Like if somebody feels like I might be the person to help them, I’ll be thrilled. If it’s not me, somebody else, that's okay too. I’m more pushing the idea of mastermind and getting help with someone. Anything you want to share about our work together, how you perceived the process, that would help people understand that, or get a sense of what that process might entail? 

 

Melissa Bond: I have spent years combing through books for agents, feeling like it was just very cumbersome, like a dark, black box process. Like how do you get an agent? The way I would describe it is I'm standing at the bottom of the mountain and I can see the peak. I know there's a trail to get to the peak, but I don’t have a guidebook to get there. So, I’ve been bushwhacking for years and making it just like ten or fifteen feet. It's so slow going and then I stopped because I was so tired.

 

With you, you knew where the trail was to get up to the peak. You didn’t carry me on your back, you said, "Okay, here’s the trail, here are the things you’re going to need to take. It’s going to be really tiring, there are going to be times you want to stop, but this is the trail to get to the peak." That was the monumental difference, having someone that knew the landscape who could tell me how to get there and give me the biggest chance. But I still had to muscle up and do all the work and hike up there myself. That’s the way I would describe it. 

 

Mark Malatesta: It's even a little less glamorous than that, in that you still had that machete, and I was like, "You’ve still got to do all the bushwhacking, but I know the best area to do the bushwhacking, so we’ll get there in the least amount of time, right?"

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah, you have to be willing to hold that machete and whack those bushes! I was willing because I'd been really trying and then feeling like uh, this is never going to happen. And with you I was like, this all feels right, it all sounds right, and I just gave it my all and every step of the way it just felt like, yep, yep, this is exactly how, this makes total sense.

 

Mark Malatesta: You don’t have to share this if you don’t want to, but was it relatively quick and easy that way or was it like the longer, slow grind that it even then took us like a lot of submissions over a lot of time to get there. I don’t remember that piece. 

 

Melissa Bond: I think it ended up being relatively quick. Maybe in the space of a couple months. But I sent out a lot of queries, and we had, you had set my expectations. 

 

Mark Malatesta: That’s why we got there in a couple of months, right? 

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah.

 

Part 11 - Mark Malatesta Interview & Review

 

Mark Malatesta: Everybody else trickles them out. Send out ten and wait, send out ten more and wait. What people don’t realize, now if you’re doing it by yourself that makes all the sense in the world because you’re not going to be as confident in what you’re putting out and you want to be constantly open to learning and tweaking...but that’s part of the problem, doing it that way. A year goes by and you wait. The other way when you’re clear and confident, we can go out with a lot of volume, and you don’t have as much time to think and feel and get stuck. You just send them all out. 

 

Melissa Bond: Exactly. You know something funny, even up to like a couple of months ago, I've had a trickle of agents that haven’t gone through their list...I was in their slush pile, and they’ve rejected me as a client after my book was published. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Oh my gosh. Wow! 

 

Melissa Bond: That just speaks to, you know, waiting for those five or ten that you’ve sent out is just a ridiculous waste of time. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Do you just ignore those, or send them back, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah...I already got an agent and a book deal."

 

Melissa Bond: If it doesn’t sound like a form letter, I say, "Thank you so much. I actually gained representation and the book was published last year." (laughing) 

 

Mark Malatesta: (laughing) Nice, nice. Good, that’s funny. Do you know what the oldest one is? The record I know of so far, with anyone I’ve ever worked with is fourteen months. Getting a rejection fourteen months later. Sounds like you might have had one of those. 

 

Melissa Bond: This one was two years later.

 

Mark Malatesta: Two years! Okay, we’ve got a...

 

Melissa Bond: I was like...are you kidding me? 

 

Mark Malatesta: How does that even happen?

 

Melissa Bond: I know, I thought, My gosh! I’m glad I wasn’t waiting for you… 

 

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, I feel stupid and guilty when I send someone a thank you for a card they sent me six months earlier. Two years! Man. 

 

Melissa Bond: It’s ridiculous. So that’s why your process was so much better. It was...let’s just crank through these. 

 

Part 12 - Mark Malatesta Review & Interview


Mark Malatesta: Alright, well I’m so excited, it sounded like when we were talking either during this interview or a little bit before we started, it sounded like you’re thinking about or working on that next book. 

 

Melissa Bond: I am. I’m hoping to have it done by the end of this summer. It’s a little tricky having two kids and working and finding time, but I am. I have about 55,000 words and I’m shooting for about 65. So, I’m pretty close.

  

Mark Malatesta: Good, good. Any additional thought or advice? Anything I didn’t ask you about that you really wanted to say? 

 

Melissa Bond: I think the only thing I want to say is that, honestly, working with you, making the decision to commit to having a coach for something I believe in was one of the best moves of my life. I mean, truly, you've changed my life, changed the way I do my work, and have provided an education I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I have so much gratitude for working with you and for you doing what you do. I encourage anyone thinking about it to go for it. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Well, thank you, and the introductory coaching call, I advise anybody to do that. The other stuff you and I did, I probably told you this at the time, when you were thinking about it...I know it was a big deal for you, right? Not just like, "Oh I can do that." It was a big decision.

 

Melissa Bond: It was a huge decision. 

 

Mark Malatesta: I don’t know if you felt like this from me or I said it, but I don’t push people into that. I’m nervous too. I didn’t grow up with money or grow up with anything. So, if I know it’s a bigger stretch for someone, and it’s a meaningful project, especially, I'm like, oh man, okay, I'll do everything I can to try to get you there.

 

Melissa Bond: Yeah.

 

Mark Malatesta: But, you know, not everybody makes it. I’m just so glad you believed enough in your writing and the process...and you were willing to do the work to get there. Even then, someone might not. I don’t know. I can’t promise they’ll make it. I just promise they'll have their best chance, and that’s all we can do.

 

Melissa Bond: I felt passionate enough, you know. What is it we want in this life? Do we want to be engaged with something we believe in deeply and have passion for? I felt like you could support me in getting as close to that dream as possible. And even if I didn’t make it, I knew I would have known I'd given myself the best chance. That was worth everything for me. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. Yes, because you don’t need anything else to interfere with your ability to sleep at night.

 

Melissa Bond: (laughing) Absolutely, no kidding. 

 

Part 13 - Mark Malatesta Interview & Review

 

Mark Malatesta: It’s funny, no joke. That’s what I tell people: "You'll be able to sleep at night knowing you did everything you could. Outside of that, it’s out of our control."

 

Melissa Bond: Right. There’s never a guarantee, but boy, I don’t want to leave this world with any regrets. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Well, thank you so much for doing this. 

 

Melissa Bond: It was a pleasure. 

 

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. 

 

Melissa Bond: It’s been the best.

 

Mark Malatesta: Thank you. Okay everyone, this is Mark Malatesta, founder of The Bestselling Author, with Melissa Bond, author of Blood Orange Night, published by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint. You can get a copy of Blood Orange Night everywhere books are sold. And you can learn more about Melissa at melissaabond.com.

 

And…


If you’re interested in a private 1-on-1 coaching call with me to talk about the best way to write, publish, or promote your book, visit AuthorConsultation.com.


Again, that’s AuthorConsultation.com.


Lastly, if you’re listening to this interview…or reading the transcript… and you’re not yet a member of my online community…register now at TheBestsellingAuthor.com for instant access to more information, and inspiration, like this to help you become the bestselling author you can be.


Remember…


Getting published isn’t luck, it’s a decision.


See you next time.


***


Who Is Mark Malatesta?


Headshot glasses Mark Malatesta Reviews

This interview and review of Mark Malatesta were provided by Melissa Bond, author of Blood Orange Night: My Journey to the Edge of Madness, published by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint. Melissa worked with Mark Malatesta, who is now an author coach and consultant, to get a literary agent.


Mark Malatesta is a former literary agent, and the creator of the well-known Directory of Literary Agents and this popular How to Get a Literary Agent Guide. He is the host of Ask a Literary Agent, and founder of The Bestselling Author and Literary Agent Undercover. Mark's articles have appeared in the Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents and the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac.


Mark has helped hundreds of authors get literary agents, including the Best Literary Agents at the Top Literary Agencies on his List of Literary Agents. Mark's writers have gotten book deals with traditional publishers such as Harper Collins, Random House, 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.


***


Mark Malatesta Reviews - Former Literary Agent


Here you can see more Mark Malatesta reviews from authors like Melissa Bond who've worked with Mark to get literary agents and traditional publishers interested in their books. You can also see reviews of Mark Malatesta from publishing industry professionals. These reviews of former literary agent Mark Malatesta include his time as an author coach and consultant, literary agent, and Marketing & Licensing Manager for the well-known book/gift publisher Blue Mountain Arts.


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