THE TRAVAILS OF AN ASPIRING AUTHOR – PART 1
At the outset, I must state that the purpose of this post is not to pass strictures against anyone or to accuse anyone, but rather to warn the wannabe author about the pitfalls he/she is likely to encounter during the journey of publishing.
Also, this advice stems from my own futile exercises in self-publishing three books. It is, therefore, my ardent wish that others are spared the frustrations, and the financial losses, looming on this path. Of course, there may have been exceptions, but you can be sure that such cases would be minuscule.
Imagine the scenario! You are brimmed with excitement at just having completed your first manuscript, after months of slogging and cannot wait to locate a publisher – preferably, a traditional publisher of renown - eager to add your masterpiece to his worthy collection.
You may be unaware of it, but it is a well-known fact that the publishing industry, particularly in India, is in the throes of a downturn; the e-Book may have something to do it.
With the result, the traditional publisher is extremely wary of promoting new authors; creativity and contents matter little to him. He prefers to play it safe, being extremely choosy and limits new publications mainly to well-known personalities with a Bollywood or sports background. Also, biographies of politicians of repute or dignitaries from the judiciary or ex-ministers or ex-Ambassadors receive marked preference. On rare occasions, such preference may even extend it to notorious ones (misdeeds invariably arouse curiosity). Maybe the publisher is justified in his action because he is running a business and has to safeguard self-interest above all other considerations.
I hate having to paint a disappointing picture, but in the end, having run the gamut, you’ll end up throwing up your hands in despair, hope trampled all the way! That too, not because your work is not good enough, but because the odds stacked against you are insurmountable!
In such a desperate condition, you are game to try anything! That is when you think of a literary agent or maybe somebody else suggests about one.
In the West, the literary agent plays a vital and prominent role in helping the author in finding the best publisher pertaining to the genre of his work. In India however, most of the publishers are inclined to deal with the author directly rather than involving a middleman.
To tide over this predicament, some of the embattled literary agents have resorted to asking for an ‘advance’ (a tidy sum and non-refundable) from the author for his/her expected services! Of course, he/she doesn’t guarantee sure results and you will only have your karma to blame if there is no success at the end of the day.
In this regard, I would like to share with you an extremely daunting experience. I had completed my second book, a fairy tale, and sought the services of a literary agent of some repute. The literary agent insisted on an ‘exclusive’ submission, which meant that I was forbidden from submitting my book to others – whether publishers or other literary agents. The response time indicated was three months. As a result, I was on tenterhooks, so to say, for those 90 days. To my disappointment, at the end of that period I failed to get a response from the literary agent. I sent a reminder. Guess, what was the reply: “I was indisposed and a result, there is a huge backlog which I am trying to clear. Bear with me and I’ll revert as soon as possible!”
A week followed and another one, but I was left in a state of painful anticipation! Another reminder from me and I bet you wouldn’t be able to guess the agonising response: “I have now decided not to entertain children books and so, regret to inform you that I am unable to represent you. However, I am willing to offer my services for editing, evaluating your work and, suggestions for its improvement, if you wish. My fees will be rupees………. which will be required to be paid in advance.”
Was it a well-planned ruse, obviously aimed at pressurising me, I, honestly, don’t know? Whatever the motive behind that ploy, the fact was that I had lost a valuable period of 3 months plus the additional 2-3 weeks because of it.
Then, there are some others who straightaway demand an advance fee of around 40 to 50 thousand rupees for lending their services; again, no guarantee of positive results.
I would love to go on but this post is already a tad bit long. I promise you more on the subject in the next episode. I hope you’ll be there to share it with me.
Walter Salvadore Pereira