Like our workshop, these faculty interviews focus on youth novels. To read all years’ faculty interviews, see our Directory.
Does it get any better? Ted Malawer is actively seeking new clients. He hails from a highly respected agency and has a track record that rocks. He lands sweet deals with major publishers, including multi-book mega-contracts for debut authors. Ted is passionate about fiction and his clients, with whom he enjoys warm professional relationships that evolve with the clients’ careers. He encourages novelists to “dream big.”
As if these attributes weren’t enough to entice the discriminating writer, Ted—formerly a Comparative Literature student in college—is a published author himself. He has experienced the creative process first-hand, start to finish. Being “in the trenches” translates into solid, hands-on advice for Ted’s clients and workshop participants.
Although Ted’s two contemporary teen novels are funny, smart, and fresh (ah, the complexities of high school life!), his taste runs the gamut. Ted represents a wide range of innovative middle grade and young adult novels—perhaps like the one you’re writing?
Come meet Ted at the 2010 Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop, and enjoy his interview below.
How would you characterize your agenting focus and/or goals?
I cannot imagine a more fulfilling job than helping to create books for children. As an agent, my role is to recognize and nurture talent. This occurs at nearly every stage of the writing process—from finding writers with great voices, working together to revise their manuscripts until they are ready for submission to publishers, and guiding the writer through the sale of his or her manuscript (negotiating the right deal points, making sure the contract is in the author’s favor, etc.).
Most times, writers think an agent’s job ends there—with the sale. But in reality, this is where a large part of my work comes in. What happens if your editor is late getting you revision notes? If you hate your cover? If your monies are not received on time? And what about the next book—how are you going to decide how to launch and build a career that is rewarding in both the short and long term? An agent is a planner and a support system for writers, from the first sale to the tenth, and beyond.
What are three youth novels you’ve sold in the past few years? What aspects appealed to you from the query and/or manuscript’s first lines?
Three teen novels that have recently hit the shelves represent the spectrum of my taste: Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer is a beautiful, lyrical coming-of-age novel about love and loss, and is an early nominee for the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s book awards.
Josh Berk’s The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin is a laugh-out-loud murder mystery featuring a deaf, overweight protagonist with an unforgettable voice, and received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.
Bree Despain’s The Dark Divine is a darkly romantic re-imagining of the parable of the prodigal son, and one of the most original paranormals I’ve read in years—so far, it will be translated into more than 12 foreign languages.
Are you actively seeking debut as well as experienced authors? How much personal attention do you offer each?
I represent a select number of authors, so that I can offer each client a large amount of personal attention. I love working with debut authors, and have had a fantastic success rate in selling first novels—and subsequently working with those authors to develop, sell, and publish additional works.
How do you help writers grow their professional careers?
As an agent, my focus is career-building. Besides helping secure deals for film, TV, audio, and translation rights, after the initial sale I help clients develop proposals for future books. If an author has multiple ideas for future projects, I assist in choosing which ones to proceed forward with, and facilitate conversation between the author and the potential publishing houses.
I am eager to work with authors who want to stretch, experiment, and try new things in their writing—I want to help them jump out of their “comfort zones” and push each novel to be the best, and most unique, that it can be.
What background do you bring to agenting?
I graduated from Columbia University and The Juilliard School, where I studied Comparative Literature and Opera respectively. In general, I believe I have a good blend of the creative and the business-savvy necessary to help my authors succeed in the publishing industry. Certainly, as a lover of all literature, my English studies have helped familiarize me with the many different facets of the novel. I am able to share this with my clients when we talk about revision, plotting, and tone.
My experience as a novelist is, I think, a large part of what informs my agenting. I understand first-hand the process of writing a novel, revising it, and subsequently publishing it. This helps me to relate to my clients on a level I would be unable to otherwise.
Note: Ted penned two Delacorte YA novels under the name Ted Michael: The Diamonds (2009) and Crash Test Love (April, 2010).