We got all our book-related questions answered by Vaishali Mathur, Senior Commissioning Editor, Penguin India. You writing this down?
Q: “I want to write, but am freaked out by the thought of competition. Is there an openness to fresh voices in the market?” Vaishali Mathur: “It’s an exciting time in Indian publishing. The industry is evolving, and publishers are much more open to experimentation. With the rise of the aspirational class, there is a lot of mass market and self publishing happening too.”
Q: “What’s the best way to get a publisher to listen up? Do I have a better chance of winging it through an agent?”
VM: “It all depends on the proposal and the strength of the writing. That said, agents have direct connects with commissioning editors and know their lists well. They are also quick to assess potential. So that is very much a viable means. However, it might not always be possible to get the appropriate agent. In that case, directly approaching the publisher is an option too. It may just take more time.” Q: “What can I do to make sure that my proposal stands out in that huge stock pile every top publishing house must have?” VM: “Write a good story. Language can be brushed up by editing, but the story has to be really, really good. If you have been writing and getting published, it will add to your credibility. Another thing that helps is a solid online presence. It ensures that when your book gets out, you have a ready readership. Publishers do consider online profiles while reviewing proposals.” Q: “What works better with a publisher––a complete first draft or a proposal package? What should the package include?” VM: “Either can work. The idea of a proposal is to give the publisher a complete visualisation of your book and yourself. Include a synopsis, giving as much detail as possible, and a couple of sample chapters. Send the whole draft in case you feel a proposal might not be able to do justice in reflecting your project. And don’t forget to attach an (interesting) bio note about yourself.” Q: “How much money can a first timer like me expect to make?” VM: “The money an author makes is based primarily on royalties and the number of copies of the book sold. New authors often get swayed by big advances without realising that the advance is a part of your royalties. So the more important thing is to get a competent editor and a reliable publisher. The rest will fall in place.”