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Aspiring author? Here's how to get published
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August 07, 2007

Are you interested in a career in publishing now that Indian publishing is booming?

Are you good with languages? Do you have a flair for writing and editing? Publishing is a stimulating field where you work with writers and, above all, with ideas.

Chiki Sarkar, editor-in-chief of Random House India, one of the leading publishing houses in the country chatted with Get Ahead readers on August 1 about the different aspects of the publishing business.

For those of you who missed the chat, here's part I of the transcript:

Arpit asked, I am a BTech from a deemed university and I am really interested in writing. I have been the editor of the college magazine and people say I write quite well. I have some ideas for a novel, could you please let me know as to how I should go about it.

Chiki Sarkar answers, Well, the first thing would be to write the book! There aren't any rules. Some people just rush in and start writing. I know other writers who make a fairly detailed chapter plan.

bagi asked, Hello ma'am I am a 11th standard student and am very much interested in a career in publishing. I am also simultaneously trying for law and IIT-humanities. I request you to enlighten me about how to proceed in order to make a career for myself in publishing.


Chiki Sarkar answers, Finish school, get yourself a good degree from as good a university as possible, read widely, get into literary activities eg if there is a book club or literature society at collge, get involved. I look for bright, well read people when I hire, who appear to be passionate about books.



Mathew asked, I have 2 yrs experience in space selling, but now I am doing clerical job in the Gulf. I am planning to come back to India and again plan to continue in the publishing field. Is it the right move, what is your opinion?

Chiki Sarkar answers, Well, publishing feels very different from your previous jobs. Is there a particular reason you want to join publishing? Let me warn you, publishing is a great industry if you are into books but doesn't pay much!



vishal asked, I wish to write self help topics for the general public and also start a website where anybody can post his or her topics related to self help. How shoud I proceed?

Chiki Sarkar answers, Hi, I can't help with the website. I presume you need someone quite techy to help you set it up? As for writing a self-help book, why don't you think about what you want to write exactly, write it, then send the manuscript to Indian publishers who have done self-help books. It's a very particular kind of publishing and it's best to send your book out to companies that have a track record in this area.



Chatuberger asked, Is working for a publishing house a good start for an aspiring author? Does editing copy improve your writing skills?

Chiki Sarkar answers, Hmmm... I don't think so. I often find that the brain you need to publish, which is partly practical -- worrying about how to sell the book, publicise it etc -- is very different from the brain that wants to write, although both love to read. I do think editing improves your writing though, or perhaps writing properly makes you a better editor. But the skill to have is to be able to edit your own work.



Dr.Rekha [Images] Srinivasan asked, Since I do have habit of reading medical books extensively, I thought I can take this profession as part time,as I am having my own clinic in the evening.

Chiki Sarkar answers, What exactly would you do in publishing? Do you think you have strong language skills? Being a good reader doesn't make you a good editor/ publisher. But if you are interested, and since you clearly know this field, perhaps write to the publishers who do medical books.



Tanishqsheikh asked, Hi Chiki, I'm a freelance writer who loves writing for children. I want to publish a series of children's books using friendly characters. How do I go about getting my work published? Thanks.

Chiki Sarkar answers, Hi, why don't you write the book, then send in sample chapters and a covering letter to some publishers who you know have a strong children's list. It's always worth your while to do some research about which publishers do what books. Just look at your collection of children's books and pick out the publishers that are included.



N asked, Hello Chiki, I work for a publishing company and I am interested in working for other companies as well by doing online work. Can I expect good remuneration by doing free-lancing?


Chiki Sarkar answers, I'm not sure about this one. I know usually freelance pays more in any industry. Not sure if your company would mind you doing outside work though? I wouldn't mind my editor doing some but might worry if she did loads as it might distract her from her day job.



Sreeshashrihari asked, How do I go about the distribution and sales part for my books? Please guide me.

Chiki Sarkar answers, I am presuming you are self-published? I think it would depend on what you are publishing. I think in general, online is possibly the most effective way to get your books out. You could have your own website, and approach online booksellers like Landmark. But you also need to think about how to publicise your book.



rajivviswanathan asked, What is the minimum qualification & experience that you look for in a person aspiring for a career in publishing?

Chiki Sarkar answers, I look for someone with a good degree, preferably from a good university, who is intelligent and articulate.



vicky asked, Hi Chiki, According to you in which area publishing is booming? Newspaper, Magazine, Books, or Electronic Media?

Chiki Sarkar answers, I work in books -- can't help in the others. But I do think electronic media and certain newspapers have a much larger reach than books.



Chatuberger asked, Is it possible to turn blogs/ travelogues into books? Is there a market for this in India?

Chiki Sarkar answers, It is possible. Random House UK had a huge hit last year with a book called GIRL WITH A ONE TRACK MIND which was originally a blog. Check it out, very saucy. It depends, as with all books, on the subject and the writing.



Tilak asked, How real do you think is the publishing boom in India? Here, selling 3,000 copies makes a book a bestseller. Compared to the Western publishing industry, isn't ours too tiny?

Chiki Sarkar answers, You're going to have to give me a year to answer this question. I think there's so much more we can do with the way we sell our books. The big hits in India -- take THE LAST MUGHAL BY WILLIAM DALRYMPLE - all sell very large numbers here. An average book here has a print run of 3,000 which is about the same as in UK. But I think there is probably much less big sellers and much less medium sellers. USA is a different ball game due to its size -- even a book that does badly there sells about 10,000!



Mohan asked, How can make a career in editing?

Chiki Sarkar answers, Well, send in your CV to all the publishers -- they might offer you a job.



Chiki Sarkar answers, I am really bad with salaries, never remember. But its pretty low I am afraid.


Indranil asked, Hi Chiki, as a company we are trying to get into publishing, E-Book publishing with a focus in International market. Having both international and domestic experience, I would request you to share your view on this topic, Thank you

Chiki Sarkar answers, Well, there's no question that some form of the E-book will be our future, but from what I gather, the future seems a bit hazy at the moment, and no one is sure what's going to work, what's not. I think for most of your authors it will still be important to be published, at least for the moment in book form.



IIX asked, i have done a diploma in multimedia and doing graphics designing job for the last 10 years. Kindly suggest options for me in this field.

Chiki Sarkar answers, I work in books, not design - so cant help but publishers are always looking for book designers. send in your cv and portfolio to the various houses if you are interested in doing work with books.

Nirmalbengani asked, What is your opinion about Online Publishing and Online content marketing? Do you see any future for eBooks?

Chiki Sarkar answers, Yes there's definitely a future in online marketing -- we're all on computers today, it would be crazy not to use it.



arabia asked, Hi Ms Sarkar where can one apply for a publishing job?

Chiki Sarkar answers, Go the websites of publishing houses and see if there are any jobs available.



scgupta asked, Dear Chiki I want to know who are the serious publishers about the welfare of the society. I have a write up/book which speaks of Single Stop Solution for all social problems with the involvement of the sufferers.

Chiki Sarkar answers, Try academic presses like Routledge, Macmillan, and Oxford University Press.


Part 2: Tomorrow


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