If you are someone who is currently working on writing a book or if it is something that is on your bucket list of “Top 5 Things I Want To Do In Life” then you must have wondered about how to crack a book deal or more importantly what can get a publishing professional’s attention. NW18 reached out to experts in the field to find out what it really takes-
When asked about what are the different factors that are taken into consideration while selecting a work by a debutante author, Sayantan Ghosh, Executive Editor at Simon & Schuster (India) mentions that for him what matters is, “A fresh voice, something that doesn’t remind me of another writer’s style necessarily. Honesty and rawness, because as writers get more seasoned they tend to get more careful as well, for no fault of their own. But a new writer often comes without baggage and is able to write a story exactly how their mind perceives it without bothering about who’s going to read it.”
Chirag Thakkar, Commissioning Editor at Penguin Random House (India) while talking on the same point shed light on how, “Every good story has to have a strong plot, a solid cast of characters, a compelling narrative structure be it fiction or nonfiction, thorough and meticulous research backed by credible sources that are fact-checked. Clarity and lucidity in the writer’s voice is equally rewarding for an editor who is looking at your submission.”
Therefore, having an idea is always great but what is considered even better is if your idea has clarity and is of utmost quality because that is what can drive it to become quantifiable. One must always remember that any publishing house will always take into account if your piece of writing is marketable or not.
“At HarperCollins, we have consistently invested in new voices. While in fiction, the focus is always on the plot and the writing’s excellence. We evaluate non-fiction works for originality in both content and presentation. Also, how would readers respond to it, the target market, how broad is the idea, and so on,” says Aman Arora, General Manager-Marketing at HarperCollins (India).
To further elaborate his thoughts he cited a rather interesting example- “ One such book we recently published is Desperately Seeking Shahrukh by Shrayana Bhattacharya. It analyses women in the post-1991 era and Shah Rukh Khan’s emergence as a superstar. It provides a glimpse of the influences Shah Rukh had on young girls in the 1990s. We carefully select excellent debut authors, and topics, and market them well.”
It is almost a no-brainer that your writing needs to have a definite purpose, there needs to be a genuine takeaway for your readers because without that happening you will not be able to satisfy yourself as a writer as well. Thus, if you are still working on your drafts, it is time you revisit your thoughts and try to understand what is it that you are trying to put out in the world.
What works and does not work when it comes to a first-timer?
According to Chirag, “A lot of debut writers, when writing non-fiction tends to overpromise in their book proposals and sometimes the end result doesn’t live up to set expectations. The other thing that doesn’t work is trying to do too much in a single book project. It’s great to be ambitious, but it also helps to have a sharp focus on what the story can do and cannot do from a realistic and pragmatic vantage point.”
“Edit, edit, edit. Do not send off your first draft without letting it marinate and brew some. Have your closest friends and peers read it, polish the draft, revisit bits and try to think from the reader’s point of view, and only then submit your work,” he adds.
“Sometimes I read a debut that reads better than most books I’ve read all year. Of course, if it’s someone’s first full-length book and the general reader doesn’t know who the writer is, it helps if they have a body of work to show on the internet. Shorter pieces they might have published in the past. One of my suggestions is to find a core idea and then go with it, instead of trying to pack too much into one plot–that doesn’t impress anybody,” points out Sayantan.
Suggestions for writers who are trying to get their works published
Sayantan’s simple suggestion to emerging writers is one that is definitely for the keeps, “Read more. Write every day, then read your work the next day and decide if it’s worth saving. It’s okay if it isn’t on most days. Read more.”
Chirag on the other hand has three very distinctive tips for those interested in the art of writing-
- Before you start writing your book, read a lot of books that come close to your area of interest, genre or subject. A writer who isn’t a good reader does not make a good writer.
- Research and study the publishing landscape, and find your editors on social media and publishing websites to figure out submission processes and guidelines which are unique to each individual publishing house. Submit your work to a variety of places and don’t stop at a rejection or two.
- Always think of who your reader is. Every book needs to imagine who the potential reader for the book is. Doing this helps you figure out who you are writing the story for and shapes your writing.
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Garima Shukla, Senior Editor at Fingerprint Publishing shares, “ From all the authors, debutant or published, we expect good, crisp pitches with a clear vision of the stories they want to tell. Stories that are compelling, engaging, and come from the heart will always be published.”