Publishing is famously considered to be a profession which has cracked the code to shattering the glass ceiling. Publishing houses all around the world and in India boast of spirited women leaders who publish best-selling and critically acclaimed books across all genres.
At the Women Writers' Festival Renuka Chatterjee, Vice-President, (Publishing), Speaking Tiger and Poulomi Chatterjee, Editor-In-Chief and Publisher, Hachette India, mutually agreed that as publishers, they want to promote good writing and are constantly on the lookout for interesting voices -- be it of a man or a woman.
"The reason there are more women in publishing is because they are more likely to settle for lower salaries, whereas a man wouldn't go down without a fight," says Renuka, matter-of-factly
Questions kept flowing from the aspiring writers in the audience. The panelists advised that one must do their research before approaching a publishing house. Hachette, for example, doesn't accept any unsolicited material (which is not pitched by a literary agent). But there is a list of agents on their website to help people find someone who can see the potential in their work and represent it best. At the onset, a writer is mostly expected to send a basic synopsis of their book and a few sample chapters and depending on that publishers take a call on whether they'd like to publish the given book.
Both Renuka and Poulomi say that even when a trade publisher takes up a book, it is the author's responsibility to keep getting the word out. Social media is now considered to be a great tool for marketing a book, especially by a newcomer. Because compared to cost-intensive offline events like book launches, the internet can offer much more visibility if the author already has some amount of traction on the web.
Renuka says that an author is the CEO of the book, and Poulomi adds, "There has been a decline in the number of bookshops in the country and review spaces have shrunk as well. For e.g, Times of India doesn't carry reviews at all. So it becomes imperative for every author to make that extra effort to ensure that their book is reaching the end reader."
One of the most relevant advice publishers give to first-time authors is to be realistic and not quit their day jobs
But even in a considerably unfavourable environment, some books are thriving, others are selling in millions - so what is the secret to producing a bestseller?
Renuka says, "After 25 years in the industry, I can say that there is no formula. The books I have loved the most have sold the least."
Poulomi says, "When editors take on a book, they believe in it. Sometimes it is just a stroke of luck."