Women Writers Fest in Delhi at The Lalit Hotel brought together some fantastic editors who reflected upon the latest trends in publishing. For the session Publishing Trends in 2020: Does your book make the cut the panellists were Milee Aishwarya, Diya Kar, Renuka Chatterjee, Dipankar Mukherjee and Priya Kapoor. Kiran Manral of SheThePeople moderated the discussion. They spoke about the nitty-gritty of publishing and what makes a book stand a chance to get published.
Is it necessary to have an agent?
Dipankar Mukherjee shares that having an agent is always helpful. He said "An agent usually does all the homework and knows whether the book is the right fit for the publisher. The probability of inclination and quality of content can be ensured, and instead of background checking, the publisher can focus on other aspects." However, he adds that literary agents may not be ideal if they are not involved with the book and the writing of the author.
Non-negotiable's of submissions
"A manuscript submission is similar to a job interview," says Priya Kapoor. "One needs to present the best case for themselves. Avoid 'Hi's' and 'Thanks a lot'," she adds. "A cover letter, synopsis, typically three sample chapters and an author profile is beneficial. Writing why the book is a good fit, helps the publisher gauge your seriousness, and an author can also cite the books the publishing house has published before and if it's similar to theirs."
A cover letter, synopsis, 3 sample chapters, and a research on what type of books a particular publishing house has published and how your book is similar. @PriyuK talks about a well thought-out process of choosing a publisher and of submission. #WomenWritersFest #Delhi pic.twitter.com/00E3KKSlez— WomenWritersFest (@womenwriterfest) February 12, 2020
For a manuscript submission to get picked
Milee Aishwarya talks about how much time it takes for publishers to pick potential writers. "Publishers get a lot of proposals, sometimes 20-40 proposals in a day. Publishers sign up new writers every year, but have a limit because there are already some books lined up."
Importance of online presence
"An online presence ensures a certain following and the kind of blogs and other publications the writer has been a part. It certainly helps in decision-making," emphasises Milee. She talks about how social media is a testing ground for micro poetry, micro fiction, long-form, and to know what readers like more. "One can practice and excel. And even receive free feedback."
The author can be involved in the marketing of the book along with the digital team. It can make a huge difference to the book. "Participation in the campaign through their areas of interest and following can help," Priya reiterates that an online presence and an active social media user can create a buzz around the book, which will help the publisher.
Dipankar says, "The book is only one aspect but larger the presence of the writer, larger is the audience, and greater is the response."
Diya Kar, talks about the impact of social media. “One can no longer afford to be shy; writers these days are expected to interact with their readers, whether it’s literature festivals or on social media. It’s the nature of the beast,” she says. She emphasises on the importance of using every opportunity one gets through social media.
"The book is only one aspect but larger the presence of the writer, larger is the audience, and greater is the response."
Pricing of Indian Authored Books
"We would love the books to priced at par with international author books," Priya says. However, she feels that the economics of the industry and import value of international books increases the price. She talks about the machinery in place to determine the price and how it is not arbitrary. "Physical tangibles like binding and paper used, with overheads and margins are all calculated while deciding the price of the book," she adds. "The page extent of a book and whether it is a hardcover or a paperback also matters," says Diya.
Renuka Chatterjee mentions how poetry books have a small market. "Selling 100 to 200 copies is also difficult in poetry. Even a veteran poet selling 700 to 1000 copies is considered good," says Chatterjee. Having an established name in the industry helps, she says.
What are the things that people are not writing about in India.
Diya Kar feels really really good crime fiction is missing from the Indian scene. She says, "Good crime writing is very difficult to find." And adds she would love to see more really strong women protagonists.
She further adds,"we want to see more people pushing the bar. Take risks and write about things that we see."
She points out the novel, The Swap by Shuma Raha and calls it an unusual novel as it takes the risk and talks about swapping. Further, she adds, "Love stories are very popular in India, but it will be exciting to see people doing different things with it. I would like to see people really experimenting with their craft."
Manuscripts that catch your eye
"Researching the facts and strong analysis in non-fiction can catch the attention of the publisher. Writing on a subject from a different perspective can strike out," says Renuka.
Meanwhile, Diya talks about how the first page of the book should capture the reader and make them want to read more. “Originality is important. Even if a plot or idea is similar, it’s the way a subject is approached that matters.”
"Guidelines should be followed as it sets a good first impression of the seriousness of the author. And a strong cover letter shows the sense of passion and efforts put in," says Milee. "Good fiction can get your heart beating and is a strong sign that it will be selected. Whereas, in non-fiction, topicality, what people are having conversations about, new voices and filling gaps in the genre is taken into consideration. But, writing is above and beyond," she states.
Priya Kapoor And Dipankar Mukherjee comment on submission emails being sent out in bulk."How clean and well thought out the submission is, and not copying ten publishing houses in the same email address, is undoubtedly essential."
"If a book is ticking any of the boxes of what a reader needs such as entertainment or education, then the first key is cleared," says Dipankar, and adds "What matters is what the book is doing to you and merit of presentation and language." He talks about how manuscripts get rejected outright when an author forwards the same mail without even changing names.
Saumya Rastogi is an intern with SheThePeople.TV