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Tips for getting Published in India
14-08-2011, 03:42 PM
Post: #1
Tips for getting Published in India
It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.’
- Muhammad Ali

Writing is just a job as well. Until you get a publishing offer, that is; after that it starts becoming pretty fun. Hopefully, the ideas below will help you increase your odds of getting published in India once your manuscript is completed:

1) Be prepared to wait

You will likely start dreaming of your overflowing bank account and the litany of literary prizes, Booker, Pulitzer etc., to follow the moment you finish your masterpiece. Well, do be prepared to dream for just a while longer. If you aren’t Shobha De’s offspring or someone with similar publishing connections, the earliest your book will hit market from the day you are done with your final draft is 12-18 months (this is my best estimate on the fastest processing time from securing an agent to getting a publisher and finally getting published in India). Worse, if your book is being published in the U.S or Europe, the whole process takes 24-36 months on average. Patience is one of the best virtues that an author can develop given the amount of waiting involved in this game—waiting to find an agent, waiting to find a publisher, waiting to get published, waiting to get reviews from magazines, waiting to finally make some money etc. etc….

2) Request a published author for help with contacts when done

I would probably not recommend this step in the US, but here is the reality of the Indian publishing market: most (95 %+) Indian novels sell less than 3000 copies despite the author’s firm belief that he has written the great Indian novel which should sell at-least a hundred thousand copies. To correct this situation, the author embarks on a multi-city book tour, but its IPL season after all so no one attends his reading events except Mummy and Papa in hometown and Chacha and Chachi in Chembur. The disgruntled author hires a PR agency to fight this injustice and get media coverage for the novel. Alas, Rakhi Sawant has just got her navel pierced, so of course matters of such national importance are prioritized in our esteemed newspapers. The book gets no press and refuses to move off the shelves; now, our dejected author is about to swear off writing completely when…...

You help our misunderstood hero.

Write a letter or an e-mail to the author telling him how much his novel changed your life and hey, by the way, mention that you were inspired to write your own book after reading his. This isn’t a lie. Most likely, you will get inspired after reading the new breed of Indian novels (“What the hell? How did he get published? If he can write, anyone can write. so why not me?”). Finally slip in that it would help if he could forward your novel on to his publisher. If you decide to meet our hero in person at one of his many book signing events, even better. I promise you won’t have to beat away people to meet him or jostle for space in the book signing queue.

Five times out of ten, I think this approach should work to get a publishing reference or a contact. Once the manuscript is in the publisher’s hands, nothing can help except the content of your novel—and of course, destiny.

3) If your target author doesn’t respond, find a literary agent

Technically, you don’t need a literary agent to get published in India since most Indian publishers accept manuscript submissions directly from authors. I would highly recommend getting one though. Agents are a vital resource for the first time author-they carefully edit your masterpiece, aggressively market it to major publishers, and negotiate the best possible deal for you (the “best deal” is a loosely used term by the way; authors make no money in India. More on that later.)

Unlike the U.S which is abounding with literary agents, I know of only one good literary agency in India, Jacaranda Literary Agents ( I’ve never had the privilege of working with them since I was agented by the very experienced, enormously talented Renuka Chatterjee from Osian’s Literary Agency, who has since shut down her agency. But most authors say positive things about Jacaranda which means they must be good since authors rarely have positive things to say about anything connected to the publishing industry—or life, in general.

4) Or contact a publisher directly

If you decide to bypass literary agents or they don’t pick up your novel, there is still hope. You can visit any major publishing house’s Indian website—HarperCollins, Hatchette, WestLand, Penguin, Rupa&Co., Random House etc., to get instructions on how to submit your manuscript for consideration. A word of caution though. Like most institutions in India, publishing houses have no concept of time as well. You may have to wait six months or more; only to finally get an e-mail from the publisher saying they aren’t interested in your magnum opus.

Wait, don’t burn your manuscript if you got that message! You can try some of the new crop of publishers in India, Indialog Publications, Shrishti Publications etc., since they seem to be publishing almost everything they can lay their hands on. Although the editing values, art, and distribution systems of these publishers are nowhere as robust as the big ones; your book may just turn out to be the sleeper hit of the year. Abhijit Bahaduri’s Mediocre but Arrogant based on life in XLRI, published by Indialog, sold more than 25,000 copies, a stellar amount by Indian standards where anything that sells more 5000 copies is considered a bestseller. Point is, you can never predict the market, and even an average book with a mediocre publisher can sell more than a well written book by an A List publisher.

4) The Million-Dollar question (hardly!)

I’m sure you are curious to know what the light at the end of the tunnel is, and how much one earns as an author in India. While everyone hears mostly the well publicized cases of Arundhati Roy getting a Rupees 1 Crore + advance for the God of Small Things, and Chetan Bhagat making a couple of crores from Five Point Someone; these are the exceptions rather than the rule. In reality, the caricature of a hungry, starving, miserable author is quite true.

In the best case scenario, you will get paid an advance of Rupees One Lakh or Two against royalties for your debut novel, and if your book is a super-duper bestseller in India (>10,000 copies), you might end up with another Lakh in your bank. Hardly worth your time, right? Wrong. The light at the end of the tunnel is the intangibles-seeing your name in print, the cosmic completeness of creativity, a feeling of living a life less ordinary, and other such immeasurable, unquantifiable factors. Highly recommended and well worth it, if you are not trying to feed your family with your writing in India, that is.

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