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Want to get published? Here's how!

Samyukta Bhowmick | March 24, 2005

It is a universally acknowledged truth: a struggling writer who has a good manuscript must want a publisher.

Wanting and getting, however, are two very different things.

In India, the process of finding someone who will publish your manuscript, however brilliant, is only slightly simpler than pulling out your own arm and eating it. Worse, it takes longer.

PublishingThe first thing is to send a couple of chapters and a synopsis with a suitably flowery letter that will coax the publisher into reading your manuscript over the thousands of others that are piling up on his/her desk.

Immediately, a difficulty arises.

The question here is: should you wait until you have finished your manuscript before you induce a publisher to read it? Or should you write three or four chapters and a synopsis and send them off immediately?

Writers differ on this. Some suggest you send off part of your manuscript and finish writing it while you wait for a reply. This way, you could save yourself some time.

On the other hand, there are some pretty good arguments in favour of finishing your manuscript first before the publisher has time to play around with it and change your original vision completely.

Whichever way you decide to go, "I would definitely keep my day job," says Ajay Garkal, a struggling writer.

"The publishing industry in India is not huge and there are no great royalties. All together, it is a long drawn out process. And if you are writing something even slightly against the grain of what is 'popular' here, publishers will just shy away. I have been to four publishers until, finally, the last one gave an indication of liking what I was doing. Even then, there is no contract."

Garkal finished his manuscript before sending it off to publishers. He says most publishers kept it with them for three months at least.

Samit Basu, who has signed a two-book contract with Penguin, feels three months is child's play, considering Penguin kept his manuscript for eight months before getting in touch with him to offer their contract.

"Don't believe in the whole publishing fantasy," he warns, "where someone has written a book; they find a publisher overnight; it becomes a bestseller and they make a million dollars. That just doesn't happen, especially in India."

Basu also tried some publishers abroad and says that, given a chance to do it all again, he would stick to finding an literary agent in the United Kingdom or United States of America.

"If your agent [abroad] is a super agent, he will get your manuscript read in one month flat. Even if he is mediocre, it won't take him more than three or four months. All in all, the process -- from sending out your manuscript to actually getting published -- doesn't take more than a year. Over here [in India], it takes two years. I sent out my manuscript in April 2002. It did not get published before January 2004."

This being India, there is an easier way.

B K S Brajesh has been reviewing books in Hindi and contributing to the Sahitya Akademi newsletter for several years. When he met some publishers at the Golden Jubilee of the Sahitya Akademi, he pitched his synopsis to them immediately.

He has had interest shown in his first book before anyone has even read a word!

Brajesh doesn't seem to have found the rigours of publishing too hard. Clearly, as with everything else here, having contacts in the literary world helps!

Here are some suggestions:

i. The trick seems to be to not lose heart.

ii. Take the plunge. Send what you have to as many publishers as you can.

iii. Take whatever advice they give (unless it is vulgar abuse. In which case, ignore it), and look on the bright side: you will have lots and lots of spare time in which you can work on and polish up your manuscript, paint the spare room and maybe learn how to speak Russian!

DON'T MISS!


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