Malaga Baldi (she/her/hers) 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.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
Even though my American-born and bred parents met in Morocco, I was born in Philadelphia, Pa. They moved to Madrid, Spain in 1955 to start a family. Spain, ruled by Franco was considered a third-world country. My father worked for a management consulting firm advising Spanish businesses. As a second-grader in 1963, we returned to the US with my three younger siblings. That summer I learned English glued to the television set. I am no longer fluent in Spanish, and my spouse says I don’t speak English properly. That being said…I am more of a listener and observer, interested in the written word, and identify with outsider stories.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I complicate things. Food, shelter, companionship/family/friends, are human rights and should not be taken for granted. Finding strength in setting goals — seeing through bad and good times, spirituality, and helping others are key. Ultimately, being a parent and training a puppy are humbling and wonderful lifelong lessons.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Just because an expert touts something, doesn’t mean you should do it. Pick and choose advice and recommendations given to you and leave the rest on the shelf for some other time. I have seen myself do the same thing the same way 18 times before trying something different! Some call this insanity. It is good to try new strategies, adapt and listen. Once over the phone as an associate, a gruff writer scolded me “In this business, never say you are sorry.” In another job, my boss, known as the dragon lady, told me to do the hard, awful stuff as soon as I get to work. This includes passing along rejections to writers, discuss a book proposal that is not working, report on news of an editor that has been fired and issue the royalty checks.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
Handling my mother’s estate and my brother’s special needs trust after their deaths were/are the two hardest things I have had to do. Procrastination is an issue for me. Both these matters could not be resolved in a day, so I may have belabored these responsibilities. Seeing something to the end is daunting, chock full of nuance and ultimately never-ending.
What is your morning routine?
Ideally, it would be having a coffee and walking the dog early in the morning. Because of covid, technology, and multitasking my routine has been slapdash. I am a one-person operation, so defining a schedule is hard. Much of what I do is fluid as I work every day and out of the home. I will look back fondly at the structured six months, puppy-less, NYC-based covid lockdown as an oasis.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Stick-to-it-ness. Knowing what I like. Being able to get to and chase projects I am excited about and are important to me.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Most recently, keeping a covid journal scrapbook. It kept me sane during the lockdown. Moving forward: harping on coulda woulda shoulda is an opportunity for the next time. Unsold projects haunt me — manuscripts that didn’t find homes. For those that come close to placement, editors call it a near miss and it breaks my heart. Then you pick yourself up and do it all over again.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Major struggle! There is never enough time for reading/considering/reviewing manuscripts by potential new clients. It takes time to read. I love to read and to fall into a well-written book. I have many projects in the air while I put out small fires and take care of big problems…..but I rarely put reading retreat/time out on my calendar to steamroll through the dozens of manuscripts piling up in my to-read folder.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I am still looking for that book. So many good books to read! So many classics unread. So many books soon to be written.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
These thoughts cross my consciousness several times a day, every day.
“Be here now.” – Baba Ram Dass
“Don’t be mean.” – Kate Bornstein, client
“God don’t like no ugly.” – Dick Gregory
“The party starts when you get there.” – Pink
“Good things are worth waiting for.” – Abraham Lincoln
“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” – Billy Connolly
“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” – Aristotle
I like to watch. BEING THERE/Jerzy Koszinki, Peter Sellers in the movie.
What goes around comes around. Donald Writes No More(1974) by Eddie Stone.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King