During this interview and Mark Malatesta review, author Dean Tolson talks about his book, his best tips for writers, and his experience working with former literary agent Mark Malatesta, who helped Dean get fifteen offers of representation from literary agents. Dean is the author of Power Forward: My Journey from Illiterate NBA Player to a Magna Cum Laude Master’s Degree, published in hardcover by Rowman & Littlefield.

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Mark Malatesta Review by Dean Tolson

Headshot photo of Dean Tolson smiling“So many literary agents offered to represent me, I got tired of trying to figure out which one was best! The one I signed with is one of the top agents in America. She said she’d get down on her knees and worship me for what I’ve done as the first illiterate NBA basketball player to get a master’s degree and graduate magna cum laude, and my ability to help people. You got me over the hump, Mark. Authors can roll the dice, but wisdom comes through experience, and you have the experience authors need to get published.”

Dean Tolson, Power Forward (Rowman & Littlefield)

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

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Dean Tolson Interview (Audio and Text)

During this 67-minute interview with Mark Malatesta, author Dean Tolson talks about how he got offers from fifteen literary agents for his book Power Forward (Rowman and Littlefield), now available in hardcover. Dean shares his suggestions for authors of all types of books, about the best way to write, publish, and promote their writing. He also talks more about his experience working with former literary agent Mark Malatesta in his author coaching program.

Pt 1 – Mark Malatesta Interview and Review

Mark Malatesta: Dean Tolson is the author of Power Forward: My Journey from Illiterate NBA Player to a Magna Cum Laude Master’s Degree. Dean got 15 offers for representation from literary agents, and his book is now published in hardcover by Rowman & Littlefield.

Born and raised in the impoverished environment of Kansas City, Missouri, Dean had to fight through illiteracy and multiple years as an orphan, intercity violence, taking care of his four siblings. Dean was one of the top prep basketball players in the state of Missouri his junior and senior years at Central High School. He knew basketball was his only way out of the ghetto, so, when colleges came running, he accepted a full ride to the University of Arkansas.

Despite being illiterate, Dean went on to be one of the most prolific players to grace the Razorbacks’ campus. In 1974, he was the first basketball player to be drafted by both the NBA (National Basketball Association) and the ABA (American Basketball Association). He was selected by the Seattle Supersonics and the New York Nets, respectively.

Dean now uses his platform to pursue his mission of empowering and encouraging people to rise above their circumstances and maximize their God-given potential. He prides himself as being a veteran speaker on how to “Better Your Best and Bring Out the Best in Others.”

Dean’s life exemplifies how a person can take the failing qualities of illiteracy and turn their life around to succeed as a contributing citizen. Dean holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Arkansas, and he is a member of the National Honors Society.

To learn more about Dean, visit deantolson.com.

One more time…that’s deantolson.com.

So welcome, Dean!

Dean Tolson: Hello everyone, Dean Tolson here.

Mark Malatesta: Okay, good, welcome. I’m so happy we’re doing this. I know we’re going to be getting together soon in Las Vegas to meet, and I’m looking forward to that. I don’t know if I told you this, Dean, but, I’ve told my wife this, you’re one of the few people in my life that… When you meet Ingrid you’re going to understand… She’s the biggest thinker I know and you’re right there with her. You guys are the kind of people that like stretch me. I think pretty big, but whenever I talk to you I come away thinking bigger and more inspired and it’s infectious, your can-do spirit. So, I know you are going to bring it for authors today and stretch them too.

Dean Tolson: (laughing) Thank you, thank you, Mark, for that wonderful compliment, and I think we have something very valuable to offer to listeners today.

Mark Malatesta: Thank you for doing this, and let’s just get into it by talking a little bit more about your book. I shared very briefly in the intro a little bit about it, but I’m sure people are going to want to know more, and you’re going to want to share more about it. People are going to want to buy a copy of your book, so can you talk a little bit more about your story?

Dean Tolson: Well, my intentions were to never become a graduate of either high school or college. My dream was to become an NBA basketball player, make a lot of money, and never worry about graduating or getting an education in life. I decided at thirty-two years old, after being illiterate, I better do something about it.

Mark Malatesta: Can you walk people through the basic storyline? It’s up to you how much you want to give away. People know you have a happy ending and get your master’s degree, but…can you hit a few of the highlights?

Dean Tolson: Being functionally illiterate and then overcoming that starting at thirty-two years old is monumental. You don’t want to go there, believe me. You want to start when you’re young in elementary school, middle school, high school and then on to college. If you get that traditional pattern, you’ll never fall into what happened to me. It will just never be a reality for you in life to become illiterate. It was a choice, and I chose not to do the work, and the system allowed me to be a superstar and keep playing the game and not getting my lesson until it all turned into a disaster.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Has that changed much, do you think? Or do you know where back in the day when you were coming up like they would just push you through and kind of like okay, you can play, so we don’t care about your grades, or we’ll cover it up. I mean, and not care about empowering you or educating you. Do you think that’s changing?

Pt 2 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview

Dean Tolson: No, Mark, that still goes on. With superstar athletes if they possibly think it brings loads of revenue into the university or the institution. They still figure out how to push some of these guys through sometimes. It is not as widely expressed now as it was then. Then it was just like routine to kind of do that, but now you can, it’s illegal and you can actually be imprisoned for doing it if you get caught.

Mark Malatesta: Wow. Now the crazy irony, I don’t think you and I have talked about this, it’s the first time I have thought about it, but in a kind of backwards way it was kind of a blessing that it was the way it was for a while. Because if you’re coming up in a bad situation, and athletics is your only way out and you have that opportunity but maybe your grades aren’t good enough or your education isno’t good enough at the time, it kind of ended up in a weird way being a good thing that you had the opportunity as long as you got the education eventually…

Dean Tolson: To me this is a societal thing. When a child is coming up, that’s why he’s called a child, and he doesn’t know any better or right from wrong when it comes to getting his education and how important that is for his future. Basketball, quite naturally, was more important to me, wouldn’t you think, at the time?

Mark Malatesta: Right. And it was a lot more fun and glamorous and exciting.

Dean Tolson: Yeah, and there was money in it and all sorts of things. They challenge you, to persuade you, to do that over getting your lessons and your education in school. And so, I made that choice. If I was talented enough that I would figure out how to get past doing an education and studying books and learning and doing math and that sort of thing and not even considering, because like I said I’m a child, I’m not even considering that I’m going to need it later in life. (laughing)

Mark Malatesta: Right, right.

Dean Tolson: It’s instant gratification for the moment.

Mark Malatesta: And then I know you had that moment with your mother. Can you tell that story? You know the one about when she sat you down and..

Dean Tolson: Yeah. That’s a classic, Mark. I flew in from Athens, Greece, and I had been on a basketball contract over there. As a matter of fact, there is a story in the book about that and a picture of the Greek team I was with. I had a two-year deal over there. I had a two-year contract, and I only played one year because after the first year I flew into Kansas City to visit my mother because I hadn’t seen her in two years. I had been all over South America and played all over in Manila and the Philippines and Argentina and all over the world and she hadn’t seen me in a while. So, I said you know what, I’m going to go see my mama. So when I got there, I walk in the house and she is looking at me real weird. I go back in and put my luggage down and I put my plane ticket and my passport and my contract for the next season to go back to Greece, so I’ve only got a couple of months before I fly out again.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: So, I noticed after a couple of weeks my passport and my plane ticket are missing, and my contract. I had it in a nice packet. I said, “Mother have you seen that packet on the top of my dresser in my bedroom where I fly out to go back to Greece to play?” She said, “No, I haven’t seen it.” I said, “You haven’t? It’s only you and me here in the house and I know I put it there.” So, she walks around the house for a couple of days and she’s got her mouth poked out and she’s not saying much to me and I’m not saying much to her because I know something happened to my paperwork.

So, she finally comes up and comes clean and says, “Yes I’ve seen it, I’ve got it and you’re not getting it back!” I said, “Excuse me, are you kidding?” (laughing) She said, “No, I’m not kidding. Look at you, you look awful. You look horrible to me! You come in here from overseas with that basketball under your arm and you’re brushing your teeth out of your suitcase and you’re spending all your money. You don’t have no education after you’re done playing. What do you think you’re going to do one day? I said, “Mother, I’m making $50,000.00 tax-free and I’m happy.” And she goes, “And that’s going to last forever?” I said, “I ain’t worried about that, it’s lasting for today.” (laughing)

She said, “Look, I’m not going to do the back and forth with you on it. You sit down here at this table, and you listen to me! I’ve never asked you kids to do nothing for me, but I’m going to ask you this one time to do something for me and for yourself. More importantly, because I won’t be around, you need to consider going back to school and getting your education and overcome illiteracy.” I said, “Mother, you’re out of your mind. You have literally lost your mind, Mother.” She says, “I’m not kidding!”

The tears started rolling down her eyes uncontrollably. My mother was a very strong woman, and she didn’t never cry. She was tough. She raised five kids all by herself. No daddy, no help, no financial help from nobody. She worked so hard she ended up putting us into an orphan home. However, I listened to my mother that day and decided I was not going back to Athens, Greece. She went up into the attic and got the passport and gave it back to me and said, “Now you make your mind up. I’ve done the best I can to tell you what I feel you need to do.”

Well, I’ve always listened to my mother, and I decided to call up the athletic director and he told me to get on down there and enroll. I contacted the people in Athens, Greece and told them I wasn’t taking the second year on the contract. And I went back to school as a freshman and overcame eighty hours of F grades. On a one hundred and twenty-four-hour transcript, I had eighty hours of failing grades. They made me retake every class I failed, and I ended up graduating with a 2.0000001. (both laughing)

That encouraged me to go back and get my master’s after that, after being, after twenty years of being in business for myself running a carpet cleaning company, and I decided, I hurt my back and decided I couldn’t clean carpet anymore and went back and got my master’s degree.

Pt 3 – Mark Malatesta Interview and Review

Mark Malatesta: When you’re having that conversation with your mom, you’re what like 6’9” and she’s like, how tall is she?

Dean Tolson: 6’1”.

Mark Malatesta: Okay, okay.

Dean Tolson: And she was very adamant about me going back to school. I want to say that my mother was the only person on the planet who could have retired me from playing basketball at thirty-two years old. No one else would have done that. No one.

Mark Malatesta: Right, right.

Dean Tolson: I was going back to Greece, okay?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: Until she intervened. That’s the story of how I overcame illiteracy.

Mark Malatesta: You’re a natural storyteller, so you’ve got that gift. I’m not saying you haven’t worked at it, but boy…

Dean Tolson: (laughing) I’ve done many public speeches on this, Mark.

Mark Malatesta: You just paint that picture, and we’re all there in the room with you guys. I hope everybody gets the book. And, by the way, I won’t ruin it for everybody, but you’ve got a beautiful love letter in there to your mother at the beginning. I really like that.

Dean Tolson: Absolutely, I love my mother to the end of the earth, Mark. She’s one of the reasons I’m here and one of the reasons people can benefit from my personal testimony and experience.

Mark Malatesta: Right. I want to make sure everybody gets it. That at first, and this is kind of partly how we sold the thing too is that first and foremost it’s not really a basketball story, you know.

Dean Tolson: No.

Mark Malatesta: What it is, I’ll quote you at the end of the book. You say, “This book is about everybody who has a dream whether you’re fortunate enough to make that dream come true, or you fall short. Dare to dream again, it’s never too late. Every night you close your eyes is an opportunity to dream, and every morning that you open your eyes again is another opportunity to make that dream come true. That’s what it is.”

Dean Tolson: This is a life story for anyone. For your life, whatever it is, your endeavors you know, your dreams and wishes and hopes and ideals. I want people to know they must believe in that and that they can do that if they choose to. I chose not to go to school and be educated. I didn’t have to do that, but I just thought that I could do it without going to school, but just play basketball and make money.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: And it didn’t work, did it?

Mark Malatesta: (laughing) No.

Dean Tolson: There’s a little word in there called politics and that’s what I want people to understand. (laughing)

Mark Malatesta: Right, right.

Dean Tolson: It becomes political.

Mark Malatesta: Alright now, let’s go back to the moment where you got the news. You can tell this however you want, the celebratory moment when you got the book deal, and/or if you want to talk about how it felt to get that many agents offering to represent you. Relive that a moment because, as you know, a lot of people listening to this are writers and that’s the brass ring for them. They want to visualize that moment, and then we’ll talk about how you got there.

Dean Tolson: Okay. I’d like to speak to the writers and let them know NOBODY is going to believe in your story more than you do for it to become a success. So that means you, the writer, are going to have to work really hard for it to come to fruition and reality. I worked so hard that as time went by, I started gradually seeing that this is not something that happens overnight or gives instant gratification. This is a gradual process for a writer’s book and his story to become successful. And you’ll see one thing happen and you’ll go ooh, wee, ooh, wee, ooh, wee, and then you’ll see the next thing happen and you’ll go oh wow, wow. And then you know the next and the next and the next until you will finally see that it has left a launching pad. (laughing) And the rocket boosters are firing off (laughing) and you can finally see that right behind how hard you worked to get it there. It’s not to be discouraging, it’s to be real about the process that you have to believe in your story to get someone else to believe in it as much as you do.

Mark Malatesta: Right. And your story is incredible because I believe it was forty years getting there, right?

Pt 4 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview

Dean Tolson: It took me forty years to tell my story. I was thirty-two years old when I started, and I’m seventy-two now. That sounds like forty years, don’t it?

Mark Malatesta: Yep. Hey, you’re the one with the master’s degree. Not me. (laughing)

Dean Tolson: The book is coming out in October and my birthday is in November, that’s forty years. You must be a believer. That’s my advice. If you’re going to be a writer, you must be a believer about what you’re writing.

Mark Malatesta: Yep.

Dean Tolson: If you don’t believe it, nobody else is going to believe it. (laughing)

Mark Malatesta: Right, it starts there. When did you first think that you might write a book? I’m guessing it wasn’t when you were thirty-two and about to go back to school. When did the idea first hit?

Dean Tolson: There is a renowned public speaker who passed away who was one of the top five speakers in the whole world and his name was Keith Harrell. Keith was a friend of mine when I was playing in the NBA and I was, he was 18 years old and I was 21. I was with the Seattle Supersonics and he got into public speaking because he didn’t get to play in the NBA and I did.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: So he wanted to make some money writing books and public speaking. And so we stayed friends over the years, and we bounced ideas and stuff back and forth off each other. He finally came to me and said, “Dean, I wish I had your story. I can only pray that I have your story, but he said I had to make up my own story and fabricate my story to become a public speaker.” He said, “Yours is natural, but I’m going to tell you right now you’re not going anywhere with your story until you write a book.” So I took his advice. He said, “Let me hit you with the slogan for your book. ‘Better your , and bring out the best in others.’” He left me with that when he passed away with cancer, and that is still my platform and slogan. I went back to school, I bettered my best, and now I’m here trying to bring out the best in others.

Mark Malatesta: I love it.

Dean Tolson: And now Willie Jolley has taken his place, who is still living, and he introduced me to Willie Jolley and Willie Jolley is one of the top five speakers in the world right now.

Mark Malatesta: Now what type of writing, and I don’t mean school stuff…I mean what other type of writing, if anything, did you do before the book? Or was that really the first thing you did creatively that wasn’t a writing assignment for school or something?

Dean Tolson: Writing the book was the first creative writing I’d done. But what the listeners need to understand is that I had this book rewritten five times before I got it right. It took me five attempts before a major publisher said yes to it. If the quality of the writing is not there, then you’re going to either end up self-publishing it or possibly not doing it at all if you don’t get that manuscript almost perfect. It has to be almost perfect, and once you do that you can get the professional people, the important people, involved to help you climb that publishing ladder that is out there. I wrote the book first. It took me, personally, it took me ten years to write it. Then I had another person write it, then I had another person write it and another one and another one. Then I finally got a New York Times bestseller ghostwriter to write it to where I could get it to a publisher. So that was the only creative that I did.

Mark Malatesta: Right, and then did you, everybody is different with this, I mean did you take any classes on writing? Did you read any books about writing, look at any websites about writing or anything like that along the way?

Dean Tolson: Starting out, I did not. But later on into the project when I kept seeing that the writing was not passing the test, then I had to start either getting serious about getting help, the proper help or give up the idea of not getting the book finished.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: So that was a choice by me, and I decided to keep going because I thought the story was so powerful and so influential that it could help millions of people if they would just listen. This book is about not giving up and not quitting and persevering and overcoming adversity. That’s the nuts and bolts of my book.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Which is not a bad lesson or additional inspiration for writers thinking about getting their own book deal.

Dean Tolson: That’s right.

Mark Malatesta: Same journey, details are different.

Dean Tolson: Different topic, same journey.

Mark Malatesta: Right. Right.

Pt 5 – Mark Malatesta Interview and Review

Dean Tolson: It’s also an inspirational and a motivational book. It’s designed to challenge people to challenge themselves. Like my mother see, when she sat me down at the table, she challenged me didn’t she?

Mark Malatesta: Yep.

Dean Tolson: And I took the bait, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now in this interview.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: So people need to know that little secret right there. It’s a small secret but it’s huge, and in the end, you will see how big it is. When you go through the whole process you will see how big that little secret is. It’s the challenge that you must face and go through to succeed, and it’s not easy.

Mark Malatesta: No, and it’s daily.

Dean Tolson: Well, it’s more discipline.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: And a lot of self-respect, you know? You have to respect yourself to want to do this, and if people grab that and own it, they will go to heights and limits that exceed like they never dreamed of before. Excel.

Mark Malatesta: So let me ask you a two-part question. This is shifting into advice for writers about writing a book. I’m guessing you might have one or two tips for writers that are things you figured out when you were spending the ten years working on your book initially. You probably figured some things out.

Dean Tolson: Uh-huh.

Mark Malatesta: Then you probably learned a couple of other things working with some other writers who were helping you with the book. So, what are your best one or two or a few tips for other writers that might help them be better writers?

Dean Tolson: I’m writing my second book right now, and one of the biggest things I saw, Mark, was the chronological order of your story as you’re telling it. What people relate to is this happened first, this happened second, this happened third, fourth, fifth and so on. If you get the timelines and all of that twisted, then you lose people as you go through the story, and you don’t want to lose the reader because they closed the book. You want the reader to be anxious to get to the next page as you write.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: And my book does that.

Mark Malatesta: Because some people, when they are writing a book, especially a memoir, they might get ahead of themselves in the story or reveal too much too soon. It’s like telling the punchline to the joke before you tell the joke. If you give away too much too soon, there’s no reason for someone to keep reading.

Dean Tolson: Right, you actually turn the reader off. And you don’t want to do that. You want them to think what’s next? Like, what’s coming up next? Wow! You know if you don’t retain that and what has he got to do next is overcoming where you’re trying to go with this story.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: And they want to know that, and they keep reading. And when they get to the end of my book and it’s a master’s degree from a division one university and he graduates in the top ten percentile of his class, magna cum laude, and makes the National Honor Society in Chicago, Illinois. Incredible, right? That’s what they wanted to get to. (laughing)

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, it makes me think of the movie, the TV streaming series. We’ll be talking more about that. I really, I’d be stunned if like this doesn’t happen. But, who is going to play you? Did you figure that out yet?

Dean Tolson: Um, probably somebody like Rick Fox who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, somebody like that. He is 6’9”, played the same position I did, played in the NBA for eleven or twelve years. He’s been an actor for, I don’t know, ten, twelve, fifteen years. I don’t know if he’s even still acting, but he played in a few roles in movies. But he’s a decent actor.

Mark Malatesta: Do you have any other writing tips for someone who’s writing their book before we talk about tips for someone who is thinking about getting their book published?

Dean Tolson: A lot of my ideas, Mark, came to me when I was in my sleep, and I was dreaming. I would wake up, and I have a notepad and a pen beside my bed. You know how dreams are, they come and they go right? So, if you get up and have breakfast the next morning, you forgot the dream and the most important part of the dream, you forgot it so, I’m going to wake up and write that down. Then later on in the day when I’d sit down and start writing my manuscript, I would go get that pad and I would have, I don’t know, seven or eight, ten ideas from that pad that night.

They are just bullet points that trigger me to remember what I dreamed and then expound on it and write on it and finish the chapter that I am working on that I had a dream about. If I’m talking about how I served in the military, or I’m talking about one of the best basketball games I ever played, or I’m talking about playing for Bill Russell or whatever the topic might be in the chapter that I’m writing on. I’m doing that with my new book right now called Vagabond Millionaire. I’m doing that as we speak and I’m on chapter ten. The audience may not believe it, but Vagabond Millionaire is better than Power Forward. (laughing)

Mark Malatesta: (laughing) Well, you’re supposed to keep getting better…

Pt 6 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview

Dean Tolson: You’re supposed to improve in everything in life in every way of life as you get older. It comes with wisdom, right? So, I just try to continually improve my skills. Vagabond Millionaire is an imagination. It’s really not about a vagabond becoming a millionaire. That accidentally happened. (laughing) It wasn’t orchestrated on purpose. It’s kind of like this story right here. I didn’t orchestrate this; this is how my life went.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: So, Vagabond Millionaire is a character, like Harry Potter, he’s a character. Who is he? Well, he’s me. (laughing) That’s the character, me. I was an international vagabond basketball bandit. That’s what they called me. I went all over the world trying to make some money.

Mark Malatesta: Now when somebody is thinking about getting their book published, there are really just two main ways to go about it. One is to self-publish, and the other is to hold out and try to get the traditional publisher that pays you instead of the other way around. What was it that made you want to go for and hold out for that traditional publisher?

Dean Tolson: Okay, a traditional major publisher has all the resources you don’t have, nor can you create that…what they’ve got.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: You can’t create that. You can’t plug in the Barnes and Nobles and Amazons and Indigo and …

Mark Malatesta: Libraries

Dean Tolson: The libraries and all over the airports, bookstands and all over the nation. Walmart, Costco, you can’t plug into those. These major publishing companies already have contracts with these people, and all they do is…when they decide to take your book, they plug you into their machine. I mean once you’re plugged in, you are plugged in. And the marketing and the distribution goes into effect. If you try and do that yourself and you don’t have marketing skills, one percent or two percent of people in that industry survive. Self-publishing.

Mark Malatesta: And even if you have marketing skills it is hard. Because there’s distribution…

Dean Tolson: And imagine if you don’t have them. Which most people don’t have. The majority of people don’t have those type of marketing skills.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: The only thing I ever sold was carpet cleaning. You’ll see that in my book. (laughing) And I never advertised in my carpet cleaning company, Mark. I just always went word of mouth. I did such a good job on the carpet they just had to have me. And that’s how I marketed my product to clean carpet and furniture. I did that for twenty years.

Mark Malatesta: I always tell people at least try first to get an agent and a traditional publisher. If you don’t make it, then you can self-publish and know you tried it the other way. If you self-publish first and then you try to get an agent or publisher, it’s harder. They don’t want to see that as much as the thing that hasn’t been published yet. A lot of people don’t know that.

Dean Tolson: Well, when my manuscript first came out and it was finished, the agent you were able to land for me sent my manuscript out to eight different publishers and then she was going to send it to eight more. Out of the eight, only one of them offered to produce and publish the book, and that’s the company I’m with right now. Oh, the big houses, Bantam, Penguin, Random House, Simon and Schuster, Harcourt, Skyhorse.

These companies turned me flat down because they knew the story was powerful enough to publish the book. What they didn’t know was if they could push the book to sell in their publishing house because I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m NBA player Dean Tolson. That was what they told me. So, I chose the one publishing house that took me, which was Rowman and Littlefield. I went with that one offer because I felt as though if I went to the next eight publishers, I might go zero for eight. And as you keep pitching…

Mark Malatesta: That other option would be gone…

Dean Tolson: As you keep pitching, the story gets weaker and weaker and weaker from being turned down. So, I’m seventy-two years old, and said you know what, I may never get this story told at seventy-two years old if I don’t take this one offer and run with it. So, I took it. It’s kind of like my mother sitting me down at the dining room table, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: There was one offer to go back to school, right? I took it, I did the same thing with these publishers, these major publishing houses. People don’t realize what it really takes to get a major publisher to take your story. There are millions of people out there that want their story told, and they’ve got great stories, a lot of great stories. But what does it take to actually get it done? That’s the fifty-four-million dollar question right? I figured out what it takes to get it done. And that includes your services. (laughing) You helped me get it done. I made a good choice.

Pt 7 – Mark Malatesta Interview and Review

Mark Malatesta: Well, thank you. Now let’s talk about the promotion a bit and the marketing. So, before you met me you were doing some things to try to build your brand, your platform. Once you got the deal, then you are doing more to promote it. You’re already starting to do interviews and things. As authors are thinking about doing their part to promote, what are some ideas or suggestions you may have for them before they even have a book deal, and if they get the book deal. what should they be doing then?

Dean Tolson: Once you get into that phase of your project, your book project, now you are talking financial. It’s going to cost you a certain amount of money that is unknown to you, what you’re going to have to have to get your book across the finish line. So, what I did is I talked to people, like Willie Jolley, who has written ten to twelve books. And they tell you the step-by-step process to do that because if you’ve never done one, how are you going to know what to do first, second, third, fourth, fifth, you don’t know.

So, he became a mentor of mine. And he says, “Dean, go to Annie Jennings. Annie Jennings is a publicist out of New Jersey, and she does radio shows. So I went to Annie Jennings, showed up and did about six radio shows. I paid her. Once the radio shows were done, they were successful. The commentators and interviewers taped the show, emailed me the link, and I posted all the links of the shows on my website. As proof, see that’s considered a confirmation of you building the platform for your book.

Mark Malatesta: You’re proving to the agents and the publishers two things. One is that people will be interested in your story, and two that you are willing and able to do some of the legwork to get the story out there once you have a publisher.

Dean Tolson: That’s correct, right now I have a publicist that is going to book me with every major sports television network across America: ABC News, ABC Sports, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, CBS Sports, ESPN Sports, TNT Sports, across the board. He’s going to reach out to them with book review letters explaining to them that this story is a worthwhile story for them to air it on their TV station. So, this is all part of the promotional package that you spoke of for me to answer the question about, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right, right. And, by the way, you doing that, authors don’t have to do that. You don’t have to pay a publicist.

Dean Tolson: It’s the nature of my story and what my story encompasses, not necessarily their story. But they’re still going to have to do some type of promoting and marketing. It may not be verbatim to what I’m doing, but the process is still the same.

Mark Malatesta: Yes, so what some people do, they might, without spending any money, and what you did was smart and kind of helps. But what some people might do is email people who have popular podcasts and see if they can get themselves invited to speak on some of those podcasts, right? Which is achieving something similar right?

Dean Tolson: You have to find your niche in the market.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: My niche in the market was NBA, okay, that was my niche. Everybody wants to hear about that, right? That was my ticket to the show, okay. Then all of those other things after that were subtopics. Like division I university. Graduating magna cum laude in my master’s program, or another example might be serving in the United States military. All of those are tickets to the show, but as right as you had to figure out what your big ticket was, my big ticket was NBA. I knew I could ride that coattail. They may not have that, but every story has something in it like that, or else they wouldn’t have a story powerful enough to tell. Or an experience, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: So, you have to, you have to really, you know, Mark, to do this book…I did a lot of brainstorming to get this where it is. Nobody knows the relentless hours I put in brainstorming my book to come up with the ideas and strategies and the methods and processes to get it to be a reality. Nobody understands that but me. But they need to understand it for their book.

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, and the work you did to make sure you’re exploring and talking about, in a relatable way, in the book, relatable themes that other people can see themselves in your story even though their situation might be really different. But you’re building bridges with your audience in your book and as a speaker.

Dean Tolson: Yeah, everything is circumstantial. It’s based on a set of circumstances that I had versus based on the set of circumstances they’re going to have. And that’s their job to figure that out, right?

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: And that’s what I had to figure out for me, and I’m here to tell them that, you know? I overcame illiteracy to do this, and I’m saying to them that it is definitely doable for them, being educated people. Definitely doable for them.

Pt 8 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview

Mark Malatesta: That’s part of the inspiration, coming up the way you came up, and being at that disadvantage and then being able to get to where you got to.

Dean Tolson: Figure all this out, right.

Mark Malatesta: It leaves less excuses for the rest of us, right?

Dean Tolson: Exactly.

Mark Malatesta: We didn’t have as many challenges.

Dean Tolson: I had a math teacher, a statistics teacher, that says he’s a professor at the University of Arkansas right now. in master’s level statistics. He tutored me for five months for seven or eight hours a day for five months for me to pass the class. He said his students will come to him right now to tell him that they can’t do the work, it’s too hard.

He says, “Take your seats and I’m going to tell you the Dean Tolson story, and when I tell you this story you will not have any excuse coming to me and telling me you can’t do the work to pass this class. He studied sixteen, fifteen, sixteen hours a day to pass the class. The only day he didn’t study was on Sunday. And he passed. He went into the final with an A and, after the final, he ended up getting a B out of the class and graduated magna cum laude. Don’t tell me that you can’t do the work. When the class first started there were thirty kids in the class. Two weeks later I looked back and there were only fifteen left. (laughing)

Mark Malatesta: It’s Navy Seals in there (laughing)

Dean Tolson: They dropped out.

Mark Malatesta: They’re dropping out like flies.

Dean Tolson: Yes, and that scared me half to death! Scared me to death that I probably should have dropped out too, but I didn’t. I hung in there and ended up getting a B out of the class.

Mark Malatesta: Yep.

Dean Tolson: It’s the only B in my master’s program that I made. All the rest were A’s. And so, this is just a testimony for people that say that they can’t do it. That’s the point. You can do it, you must believe you can do it, and then even work harder as you believe that you can get it done. And you will surprise yourself, you will do it.

Mark Malatesta: You know how I do these calls and I told you before that this is mostly about you and your book and advice for writers, but I’m certainly going to hit you up for a few minutes to help people understand a little bit more what my coaching is like. Can you just talk for a few minutes about what that experience was like, our work together? What might be the most interesting or most valuable for someone listening who’s thinking about doing a one-time introductory coaching call, or doing the longer-term stuff, either way?

Dean Tolson: Well, you know, Mark, when I first read up on your website about going with you to coach me to get this done…people know things aren’t free. You have to pay something. You can’t get something for nothing, come on. Who don’t know that?

Mark Malatesta: Well, there are a lot of people who are in denial about it.

Dean Tolson: I know, you know, Mark, but the reality is you know you can’t get something for nothing. Come on, man.

Mark Malatesta: Nothing you want.

Dean Tolson: Well, nothing that’s worth having. (laughing) I mean so why even try? You know I don’t even try it. I just go my way, get what I want and now I’m in a position to where I can possibly get mine now. Possibly. It still ain’t guaranteed. And that’s the risk you take, right? Right Mark?

Mark Malatesta: Yep.

Dean Tolson: The most important thing that I saw, is what you said that got my attention on your site was that you can try, this is to the authors out there, you can try to teach yourself what I have learned over many, many years, or you can hire me and not spend most of your time trying to learn what I already know to get your book done. You can spend your time getting your book done instead of learning what you need to do and how to get it done. I’m going to coach you through that, and that’s what made me decide to go with Mark Malatesta.

Mark Malatesta: And, even then, it’s a lot of work, right?

Pt 9 – Mark Malatesta Interview and Review

Dean Tolson: (laughing) Hey, Mark, I have no idea what you do (laughing), that’s all I can say. I have no idea. All I know is after overcoming illiteracy I’m not trying to teach myself all that. I just want to get my book done. That was what was encouraging to me, Mark, was that statement there. In other words, I am going to save you time, frustration, energy, and effort, and then you said even if you did do it, you still might not get it done. That is what turned me off right there.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: You still might not get it done.

Mark Malatesta: Right, and you know, we talked about the parallel between what you achieved at a high level, making it to the NBA… and going from illiterate to master’s degree and going from no book to book, and then a book deal with a real publisher. I mean all three of those things are kind of the same, you know. Tremendous focus and desire…

Dean Tolson: Tremendous.

Mark Malatesta: …discipline, and you have people at a high level helping you. It’s not usually something that kind of happens.

Dean Tolson: No, you have to attract these people and draw them in through your hard work. They see how hard you’re working at it. You saw how hard I kept working at it. And that encouraged you to continue to help me help myself get the book project to where it deserved to go. That’s the goal. That’s the whole goal, and if you don’t get that accomplished then it’s all for naught, wasted energy. At my age and how much I have gone through, I don’t have any wasted energy. I have to make everything I do count. It has to count.

Mark Malatesta: That’s the success energy, I was going to say that’s the success energy. Like that’s my favorite type of client where you know we’re not trying to impress each other or anybody.

Dean Tolson: No, take the ego out of it.

Mark Malatesta: Right, just the important stuff. Let’s just do that and be smart.

Dean Tolson: What’s more important?

Mark Malatesta: Yep.

Dean Tolson: For me to think I know more than you, or you know more than me, no, no. I know I want my book done. (laughing) That’s what I know. I don’t know anything else about that other stuff. So, we good.

Mark Malatesta: Yep, and I cannot begin to tell you, although I’m going to try here, how excited I am about seeing you get your stuff out into the media and start doing the promotion and some of those bigger interviews. Man, that’s going to be fun, and if there’s not something happening on the movie or TV front by then, guess what? You’re going to be getting a lot of exposure there, and you know it might be happening then. It’s a no-brainer to me.

Dean Tolson: Well, you know, Mark, I just have a feeling that this is going to help a lot of people that are struggling in this society and this system that we live in right now, and the challenges that we will be faced with that are upcoming in the near future. I mean it’s upon us right now. For instance, the dropout rate, seven thousand kids a day drop out of high school.

Mark Malatesta: Wow…

Dean Tolson: Every twenty-six seconds of every day, all day, one of them drops out. And you know as well as I do they can’t become nothing but a menace to society. What they gonna do? Are they going to earn money on their cell phone their whole life? Come on. Ain’t gonna happen. They’re gonna go get their assault rifle and what are they going to do? They’re frustrated, they’re bewildered, they’re baffled.

Mark Malatesta: And they’re angry because they know there’s something wrong with the system.

Dean Tolson: Mad at the system.

Mark Malatesta: It’s not on their side.

Dean Tolson: They’re discontented, they’re distraught, they don’t understand, they’re confused. I was all those things, Mark. I was all those things, but I decided that I would do this about it instead of doing that, what they do. And people have to understand that these kids out here are our future. They’re the ones that are going to be running it, and that’s what you want it to look like? A shooting every day? Come on, we are the baby boomers, we need to tell them the right thing to do. That’s our job.

Mark Malatesta: Right. You sound like your mom right now. (laughing)

Dean Tolson: (laughing) She told me, I mean did she lay it on me? I thought I was going to get a whooping at thirty-two years old. I thought she was fixing to spank me.

Mark Malatesta: It’s not too late.

Dean Tolson: That’s what she made clear to me. I’m serious, Son, I’m not playing with you about this. And so, yeah, you’re right. She got my attention.

Mark Malatesta: Any last thoughts or advice for anyone or anything last thing you want to share?

Dean Tolson: Yeah, work hard, never give up, believe in your project more than anybody else believes in it. Then convince them to believe in it as much as you do. And look for professional help if there’s something you don’t know how to do yourself, and you’ll have a successful book project.

Mark Malatesta: And go to Amazon and get a copy of Power Forward and post a review.

Pt 10 – Mark Malatesta Review and Interview

Dean Tolson: That’s right, and then go to my website, deantolson.com and it will explain in detail the conversation Mark and I have just had.

Mark Malatesta: And they’ll see some great photos which are…

Dean Tolson: (laughing)

Mark Malatesta: (laughing) I was so happy when you sent me the advanced proof, and I was able to see those pictures. I hadn’t seen all those before. And I read the book, but it’s a whole other thing to see that.

Dean Tolson: A Mark, to tell your audience another secret, that website is vitally important isn’t it?

Mark Malatesta: Oh, to have an author website?

Dean Tolson: I’m talking about to your listeners, if you’re going to do a book project, you must have a website. It’s vitally important.

Mark Malatesta: Oh, yes, if you’re a non-fiction author. Yeah. If you’re writing romance novels or mysteries or something you don’t need that, but if you want to try to convince an agent and a publisher you’re somebody. I just say that for non-fiction, right? You’re supposed to be an expert on something, right? So, then it’s hard to convince them you’re an expert on anything or that you’re going to light the world on fire promoting your book if you don’t even have a website yet.

Dean Tolson: And they don’t have nothing to look at.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: Mm-hmm. Okay, It’s alright to have a website with a fiction book too.

Mark Malatesta: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Dean Tolson: It’s okay, okay.

Mark Malatesta: So many authors get overwhelmed like they can hardly do the stuff that they have to do. So, we want to make sure the stuff they don’t have to do, to know they don’t have to do it. That’s all.

Dean Tolson: And I’m talking about what it takes to get to the finish line.

Mark Malatesta: Right.

Dean Tolson: You asked me if I had any last thing to say, and that’s how you get your book to the finish line. Mine was built almost ten years ago.

Mark Malatesta: I was going to say you had yours before we met, but we did some updates.

Dean Tolson: We tweaked it. Yes. And it looks good, right Mark?

Mark Malatesta: Yeah, it does.

Dean Tolson: Are you impressed with my website?

Mark Malatesta: I’m impressed. If I wasn’t impressed with it, I would have said, “Hey let’s not—”

Dean Tolson: Let’s change some things.

Mark Malatesta: “Hey, let’s not put a link to that in the query letter.”

Dean Tolson: Thank you, Mark. I worked at that, and I’m still improving it. You’ve got to always upgrade your website as well.

Mark Malatesta: Right….and thank you again so much for doing this. We will talk after this. We’ll be doing some charity things together for literacy and then we will be meeting soon in Vegas. But thank you so much for doing this, and thank you, it’s really obvious to people, well to me and to anybody listening or reading this transcript, but it will be obvious to them that you put time into it really try to help people and I hope they will read your book too. They will be more inspired. Thank you.

Dean Tolson: Okay, Mark.

Mark Malatesta: Okay everyone, this is Mark Malatesta, founder of The Bestselling Author, with Dean Tolson, author of Power Forward, published by Rowman & Littlefield, now available in hardcover. You can get a copy of Power Forward everywhere books are sold. And you can learn more about Dean at deantolson.com.

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This interview and review of Mark Malatesta were provided by Dean Tolson, who worked with Mark and got representation offers from fifteen book agents, including top literary agents at the best literary agencies. Dean’s book is now published by Rowman and Littlefield, which is now available in hardcover.

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Who Is Mark Malatesta?

Headshot photo of former literary agent Mark Malatesta wearing glassesMark 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. His 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.

Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta.

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Other Reviews of Mark Malatesta – Creator of the Directory of Literary Agents

Here you can see more Mark Malatesta reviews from authors like Dean Tolson 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 Mark has met and worked with. These reviews of former literary 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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