But, finding a publisher can be the stuff of epics

Their names rarely ring a bell. But many of them stand out amid your favourite authors, either because of an intriguing title or an interesting end note about the writer or sometimes, their story.

Some of them even make it to bestsellers' list or get shortlisted for awards. Three of the shortlisted works for The Hindu Best Fiction Award 2010 are from first-time authors. Similarly, debut works of five authors were shortlisted for the Crossword Book Awards, announced recently.

For many of these authors, an inherent urge to discover the storyteller in oneself has only been amplified by the increased willingness of publishers to consider such authors and the advance in technology. And they are also ready to explore new genres and styles or tweak old ones too as the increasing popularity of graphic novels and campus fiction shows.

For instance, Ravikiran Rangaswamy's semi-autobiographical fiction ‘46+14=06, A Story of a Genius', which he co-authored with his mom, is based on his experiences at Loyola College where he studied literature and his time at the National Institute of Design. “I think we must have worked and re-worked on the manuscript many times. I even designed and shot the cover for the book thrice.,” says Ravikiran.

Across occupations

“I see a lot of people writing across age groups and occupations – banker, social activist, advertisement person and even students,” says Kapish G. Mehra, Managing Director, Rupa & Co. Many first-time authors are between the age group of 25 and 35 years with focus on Indian fiction writing. “We receive about 70 scripts each day, which also includes submission from literary agents – India and international authors,” says Swarup Nanda, CEO of Leadstart Publishing, adding that 50 of them are Indian authors. Almost 60 per cent of the books published by the company, which has 10 imprints including Frog books, are by debutants.

But even in these good times, finding a publisher can be quite a task. R. Chandrasekhar's ‘The Goat, the Sofa and Mr. Swami' was turned down by three publishers before Hachette, impressed by the first three chapters, published him. “My story revolved around cricket, bureaucracy and politics, all three are timely and continue to be,” says the alumnus of Vivekananda College, Delhi School of Economics and University of Chicago.

Publishers employ many methods to process this deluge. For instance, Chennai-based Blaft Publications are open to getting works from first-time writers but insist on an element of surprise in the story and “not somebody who wants to be another Chetan Bhagat or an IIM story,” says a spokesperson. Rupa & Co too rejects a considerable percentage of the manuscripts they receive.

Distinct advantages

But, working with debut authors has some advantages, note publishers. As Mr. Nanda says, “Established authors are difficult to work with during the deal-making time. They have higher demands and a fixed point of view although their work takes lesser time to edit. First-time authors are more open and flexible during signing of their contracts.”

“The benchmark of success has also gone up in the market. Once if a book sold 3,000 copies it was good. Today, you have books that have crossed 50,000 copies or even more. And this could even be the work of a debutant author,” says Gautam Padmanabhan, CEO, Westland Limited.

That's also because today authors are more aggressive in selling their books. Author Sreekumar Varma says unlike his time when a book had to sell for itself, today thanks to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other online forums, even soft copies of the book can be accessed online. “Also, you don't leave everything to the publisher to do,” he adds.

Bonanza for readers

For readers, it is an undoubted bonanza as the range of books available has expanded and there is always a special feeling in following an author from her very first book.

And for those of you who have a book in mind, this is what publishers' have to say: Think about your plot; write for a target audience; spend time and work on it before sending to a publishing house.


Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012