Bring­ing Words to Life

WITH A BOOM IN THE LIT­ER­ARY SEC­TOR, IT’S TIME TO CON­SIDER PUB­LISH­ING AS A CA­REER

India Today - - EXPERT SPEAK - KANISHKA GUPTA FOUNDER, WRITER’S SIDE, A LIT­ER­ARY AGENCY, DELHI

Ionce read these lines on a web­site called Pubcrawl, writ­ten by a lit­er­ary agent by the name of Mandy Hub­bard, which sug­gested a sim­ple, two-step ap­proach to be­com­ing a lit­er­ary agent. “First, de­cide you want to be­come a lit­er­ary agent. Sec­ond, call your­self a lit­er­ary agent,” it said. For some­one like me, who for­ayed into this field with­out a de­gree or rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence, these lines were gold. The sce­nario has changed a lot since then.

Get a de­gree

Nowa­days, it is not nec­es­sary for a pub­lish­ing pro­fes­sional to be an English or Phi­los­o­phy grad­u­ate. They come from var­i­ous fields in­clud­ing en­gi­neer­ing, man­age­ment and even pure sciences. A good grasp of English, how­ever, is a pre­req­ui­site. And while, it is not manda­tory to have an ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion in pub­lish­ing, it is def­i­nitely help­ful. Pub­lish­ing cour­ses of­fer a 360-de­gree view of the field and help as­pir­ing agents build con­tacts. In In­dia, the three-month in­ten­sive course of­fered by The Seag­ull School of Pub­lish­ing, Kolkata, is a good op­tion for those look­ing to en­ter the field af­ter grad­u­a­tion. It ex­poses you to dif­fer­ent kinds of pub­lish­ing and al­lows you to in­ter­act with fac­ulty from around the world. If you are look­ing for a course over­seas, then Masters of Arts in Pub­lish­ing of­fered by the City Univer­sity of Lon­don, UK, and the Columbia Pub­lish­ing Course of­fered by Columbia Univer­sity, US, are good op­tions. How­ever, get­ting hired as an agent or start­ing your own agency in the UK or US is dif­fi­cult.

Hone your skills

An agent is es­sen­tially a mul­ti­tasker. He is a reader, ed­i­tor, lawyer, ac­coun­tant and PR man­ager all rolled into one. So, sim­ply be­ing a vo­ra­cious reader or a good ed­i­tor isn’t enough. In or­der to be a smart agent, one needs to have a good busi­ness sense and ex­cep­tional peo­ple man­age­ment skills. This is also a job that re­quires a fair amount of tact and diplo­macy since the agent has to please both his au­thor and the pub­lisher with­out ap­pear­ing to favour one over the other. It re­quires you to be good at net­work­ing with a proac­tive ap­proach, es­pe­cially in a place like In­dia, where pub­lish­ers con­tinue to ac­cept di­rect sub­mis­sions. “So, you need to keep in touch with the trade, see what is sell­ing and what isn’t, what’s re­ally in de­mand, and be busi­ness­minded enough to go for that, ir­re­spec­tive of your per­sonal tastes,” says Renuka Chatterjee, Vice-Pres­i­dent, Pub­lish­ing, Speak­ing Tiger Books. Ac­cord­ing to her, an agent has to ac­tively seek out authors, in­stead of wait­ing for work to come to them. Think­ing of ideas and find­ing good writ­ers who can ex­e­cute them, much like a com­mis­sion­ing ed­i­tor, is also im­por­tant.

Don’t worry about the money ini­tially

Low ad­vances and di­rect com­mis­sion­ing are a fact of life in the In­dian pub­lish­ing in­dus­try and it will stay this way till the mar­ket opens up for us to sell in large num­bers. If you’re a com­mis­sion­ing ed­i­tor, the de­sire to seek out writ­ers, or de­velop fresh ideas, will al­ways be there. But a good agent cant do well de­spite these fac­tors.

SHUTTERSTOCK

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