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Nov 6, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Malaga Baldi


A warm welcome to literary agent Malaga Baldi! Malaga has worked as an independent literary agent since 1986. The Baldi Agency is an eclectic agency specializing in literary fiction, memoir and cultural history. She worked as a cashier at Gotham Book Mart, in the Ballantine Books Publicity Department, as an associate at Candida Donadio & Associates and the Elaine Markson Agency before going out on her own. Baldi believes the strength of the author's voice and the heart of the story to be key when considering new work. Baldi graduated from Hampshire College and lives in NYC with her family.

CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Malaga:  I am organized. I try harder. I don’t know how to lie/you can tell if I am.

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in biographies or lifestyle books in the last five years?
Malaga:  Queer/trans/non-binary bios, memoirs & lifestyle books. All sorts of food/cooking/alternative eating habit books. 

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Malaga: Trump! Enough Memoir.

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued? 
Malaga:  In 1974 I took a year off from college to work as a mother's helper for Lois Wallace, a young NYC based literary agent. She left the august William Morris Agency to launch her own agency.  I met all sorts of writers including Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne and Erica Jong while I took care of her son, George. One afternoon, there was a knock at the apartment door. Eric Segal (LOVE STORY) was there looking down at the floor: his hard contact lens had popped out. We three fell to our knees in the vestibule lightly tap taping the floor with our fingertips.  When I found the contact, a lightbulb went off in my head: I can’t write, I can’t edit, but I can find contacts....
Maybe, some day I could become a literary agent or even a UPS driver — I like to drive, I love UPS and the uniforms are magic.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Shared values
Deep belief in self/ resiliency

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Malaga: About 50.  Some authors have books out now, others are between books, others not active. My list has grown.  I still hunt for the books I wish to represent.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Malaga: I am not an editor instead, more of a cheerleader.  There are many superb editors turned agents. Most of the manuscripts I represent are written at a top level.  If there is a manuscript I believe needs work, and I am gaga over it, I suggest to the potential client a handful of paid for editing former editors. This does not guarantee publication and the author pays for the editing out of their own pocket.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Malaga: MOBY DICK by Herman Melville, read for the first time ever!

CM: How important is voice in a query? 
Malaga: The voice not so much, more the description of how the writer came to write about the nonfiction subject.  Why this subject is so important.... For fiction an invitation to find out what happens at the end, asking enough questions that make me want to pick up the phone & ask to read the book asap.

CM: Describe the path to publication for one of the books you represent.
Malaga: The best answer I can offer is in the brilliantly written essay, "ZEN & THE ART OF QUICKSAND" by client, Colin Hester, recently published in Poets & Writers online. 


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • General fiction, reference, biography, history, lifestyle, cookbooks, personal business, spiritual, science, narrative nonfiction, memoir, cultural history, literary fiction, creative/hybrid nonfiction, and LGBTQ fiction and nonfiction.
  • Nonfiction proposals about:
    • What museums will be like in the future
    • Anything with anthropocene in the subtitle
    • What it takes to become an architect
    • Water conservation for dummies
    • What happens to art during bad times (like now)
What you’re not interested in:
  • Children's, middle grade, young adult, Christian, travel books. 
  • Generally, genre category fiction: science fiction, fantasy, westerns, mysteries, women's romances, and thrillers Are not our focus.
  • Poetry, plays, teleplays or screenplays, novellas, “fiction novels”.

2 Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)

Harper Collins - 2019
Harper Collins - 2020

Query Tips
Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

  • Read the agency website.  Does the agency Really represent what you have completed?  DO YOUR RESEARCH.
  • Double check, edit/re-edit and read your query out loud.
  • Be patient, it takes time to read.
  • Write the best book you can.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Don’t give up.  Stick to your guns.
  • Agents get rejected every day, all the time.
  • No typos.
  • If you don’t know how to address the agent by name, write out The full name. No Mr.  Malaga Baldi.
  • No fiction novels.
  • Not a good first line:
    • It was a dark and stormy night.
    • The natives were restless.

Submission Guidelines
FICTION: A thoughtful one page letter describing the novel along with SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) for response. Or query by email, If we ask to read the novel, we will ask for the entire manuscript.
NONFICTION: A descriptive query describing the questions you are raising in your work along with SASE for response and/or return of material. Or query by email,