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Planning to write a book but wondering how to get your book published? An Indian author shares her strategies for finding a publisher.
By Adite Banerjie
Finding a publisher for your manuscript is like going on a spiritual quest at the end of which you may or may not find nirvana.
Depending on how long you have been at the find-a-publisher-for-your-manuscript game your reaction to that above statement will differ. Those who have been chasing publishers for years will nod their heads sagely and murmur, “So true!” Others who have had a smoother ride on their publishing journey will shake their heads and say “Come on, don’t be such a pessimist.”
The truth, thankfully, lies somewhere in between. Before diving into the do’s and don’ts for aspiring authors who are looking at closing a book deal with a publishing house, let’s consider some facts. According to a recent report in The Hindu, the Indian book publishing sector is going through a ‘churn’, resulting in publishing houses taking a closer, harder look at their kitty of mid-list fiction/non-fiction titles and re-evaluating their business strategy based on the changing dynamics of the marketplace. The two main reasons for the churn are:
a) The merger of large publishing houses and the consequent phase of consolidation.
b) The closure of several offline book stores run by large retail chains and the trends towards online book shopping as seen in the growth of Flipkart and the entry of Amazon in India.
However, most publishing sector experts aver that demand for books is growing: according to one estimate, during the last five years the book reading population has increased by 30%. That is reason enough for cheer, but that doesn’t make the road to publication any smoother. What aspiring authors need is a toolbox of strategies which can help them reach their goal.
Before you start writing your book do some research to figure out the potential for that genre. Which are the big sellers in that genre? Who are the bestselling authors? How many titles are being published in that genre every year? For instance, the romance genre is growing by leaps and bounds and even the biggest player, Harlequin Mills & Boon, is beginning to feel the competitive pressure as its rivals gear up to introduce more romance titles. Besides, there are also a number of start-ups in the e-books category, such as Indireads which offers Indirom, its flagship romance brand focusing on South Asian romance novellas. A popular genre translates into more titles and hopefully a better shot at getting published.
As an offshoot to the above, you need to check out the publishing houses and their websites. News and updates on their websites about their latest titles will provide clues as to the kind of titles they publish. Many publishers have commissioning editors who are specifically looking for certain kinds of books/genres. Looking closely at their guidelines will enable you to target your publishers and create stories that are more publisher-friendly.
If you are writing a mythological drama, how is your story different from the others that are currently available? A pithy two sentence synopsis of your story would help you not only to write a unique story — that is different from the rest that are currently available in your preferred genre — but would also come in handy when you start pitching your manuscript to publishers.
After you have written a first draft of your manuscript hire a professional editor to critique your story. Often times a newbie author needs guidance in terms of structure and style. It goes without saying that a competent editor will enable you to enhance your manuscript thus making it more difficult for editors at publishing houses to reject it.
No matter how unique your story, if the manuscript is full of typos and spelling mistakes, you will come across as a sloppy writer. So take care to see that your manuscript is as error-free as possible. Draft a two-page synopsis that covers the main beats of your story, keeping the focus on the lead characters and the story development. On reading it the editor should get a feel for the beginning, middle and end of the story. Make it as compelling as you can. If the synopsis is well-crafted, chances are that the editor will be compelled to read the manuscript. By adding the two-sentence synopsis of your story in the covering letter you can help the editor get a fix on your story’s premise even before he/she reads your two-page synopsis.
Depending on the backlog at the publisher’s office, it could take anywhere between three months to a year for the publisher to get back to you about your manuscript. It’s therefore, best to send it to a number of publishers. However if you get a response from one or more publishers and decide to sign up with any one of them, you should send a letter to the others to whom you have submitted informing them of your decision.
Working to a plan always helps, but sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. There are too many unknown variables — editors change jobs, trends change, a new book that may have a similar storyline as yours has just been published and so on — and there’s no way around these. So, even if you don’t get published the first time round, don’t quit writing. Your next novel/project could get you a publisher. The more you write, the better you hone your craft and the more compelling your work. That is definitely going to make you a more attractive prospective author to the publishers out there.
Happy writing and good luck!
*Photo credit: Pete Jellife (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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