What will get your fiction novel published in India

I visited a local bookstore on Saturday and spent a couple of hours browsing books their fiction section. Over the past few weeks, I have followed the Top Selling, Newly Arrived, and the Most Popular sections of online booksellers with interest, and today it was time to visit a physical bookstore. I was both amazed and amused to see the variety of books in the store. Amazed, because the fiction section was overflowing with books – half the aisle space was occupied with fresh arrivals and bestsellers. Amused, because I noticed a few recurring themes about fiction novels.

In order to get your fiction novel published in India, you should meet one or more of these criteria (not necessarily in this order)

  • You should write love stories

Romance involving characters who go to college is great,  teenage romance is preferred.

  • Write about life as a student

Experiences of students who are in school or colleges. Again, school life preferred. Teenage anxieties, adjusting to a new school in a new city… you get the picture!

  • You should be a Non Resident Indian

Writing about random themes that not many Indian authors write about- stories involving fashion, marriage, self discovery, etc.

  • Be a previously published author

You need not have authored books, any form of the written word would do- blog, newspaper columns, even a PhD thesis for that matter. Best if you have published something abroad.

  • Write fiction involving religious characters

In order of preference, plots involving the Holy Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh) or the incarnations of the latter two. If you prefer, pick any century and write about the dominant empires that ruled most of the country at that time.

  • Be a Bengali

Maybe it’s the fish, or the sweets that they like, but lets’ face it- Bengalis have a flair for the written word. And they are able to put it to print in much greater numbers.

  • You should be an alumnus of IIM or IIT

This phenomenon is most visible of late. By sheer numbers, alums of IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) outnumber alums of IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology).

  • Be an Expat Living in India

If you can write about everything from the colorful drapes to the heat and the dust, your novel will get published.

Needless to say, the higher the number of the above criteria you meet, the higher your chances of getting published. So do you think you are eligible to get your novel published?

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Meeting other authors is always inspirational

For the past few weeks I have met and interacted with other writers, most of them are first time authors. Incidentally, all of these writers who love to write while managing their professional careers. I have met the authors at alumni meets. and have taken the efforts to go through the pangs of getting their books published the traditional publishing way. They have told me stories of rejections, tales of long and agonizing wait to hear from publishers, the multiple edits to the manuscript, etc… But these seem like rest stops along a long journey, and the end result – the destination- seems to be worth it. I would like to mention a about a few of these authors in my post.

I will start with the most recent first: Vikrant Pande, who has translated a book on Raja Ravi Varma, one of India’s most celebrated painters. The original biography was written in Marathi language by Ranajit Desai. A review of the book can be found here. Vikrant is planning to translate four more books, each on a completely different topic.

The next interaction was with Ankur Mithal, whose book “What Happens in Office, Stays in Office” is about office politics, and other do’s and dont’s. It has received some good reviews at many sites, including the one at goodreads.

Aditya Mukherjee’s debut novel, Bomtown, is a story of young entrepreneurs who set up a restaurant. It has also received positive reviews across multiple forums, and the book’s facebook page has lots of links to reviews other information. I found it quite interesting.

And finally, there is Vivek Kumar Agarwal’s Love, Me and Bullshit – I suppose the title is self explanatory , but yes, it also has the tales of a young guy aiming to make it into business school.

I have not read any of the above books, nor am I writing about them to promote them. In fact, I am planning to buy them and read them myself once I have completed Now, Returned to India. But I thought of mentioning them here because meeting other authors is always a good feeling.

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From Post-Its, Credit Card Receipts, and Handbills.. to Evernote

When I started writing the book, I had so many thought on what to write and how to write, that where to write took a backseat. I started with a notebook that I began to maintain for the book, with different pages dedicated to characters, anecdotes and random one-liners that I could think of or recalled. That helped me developed the storyline, and then the actual writing part took off. But only for a while. As and when ideas occurred, I began writing them down- with the goal that I will put them all together in the notebook once I reach home. But that rarely happened. One fine day, I realized that I had several post-its, credit card receipts and every possible piece of paper, handbills included, where I had written down ideas for the book. One had voluntarily offered speaking points to one’s spouse regarding one’s organizational skills in the process.

That’s when it occurred to me – why not organize everything- chapterwise- on Evernote? After all, I can always add to/ refer to the notes from wherever I am (work, home or on the road) or whatever the mode (laptop or phone). Moreover, as I type out each chapter, I can also maintain a backup. I am sure this has been tried by others before, but this is a new experience (and experiment) for me. And so far, it seems to be working. While I have not migrated away from longhand, this is a baby step.

Would you wait to finish the manuscript first?

In almost every blog post I have read, conversations I have had, and email exchange with authors, both published and aspiring, there has been one consistent theme: they have all recommended that one should finish the manuscript first before sending it to the publishers (or agents, as the case may be).

While this seems like a logical approach, my question is as follows: at least in India, most publishers expect you to send a book proposal which includes at a minimum a synopsis, sample chapters and author bio. Then, there is a long wait anywhere between two to six months before the publishers respond to you – informing whether your book proposal has been  shortlisted or not. Then you have to send the full manuscript, which will get reviewed again and then finally you will be informed of the decision.

While what I have written above may already be known to most of you, my question is as follows: Why wait to send the sample chapters till the entire manuscript is ready? Why cannot one send the sample chapters as soon as they are completed, and finish the rest of the book while the book proposal is being evaluated?

I would like to know the pro’s and con’s of doing so- I am thinking of trying this approach for my next book.

Back from a scouting trip

It has been several weeks since my last post- the reason for my absence is that I had drawn a blank when it came to my book writing, and was looking for that restart button. Something within me told me that the button could be found in central India – where my family comes from. So off I went for a couple of weeks, in the middle of the monsoons. I had traveled less than a thousand kilometers but I felt I had also done time travel. Everything was exactly the same as I had last seen it back in 2003, except that the rains had made the entire region green and the prettier.

And after a week of trudging through muck, fighting the occasional mosquitoes, drinking lots of super sweet tea, and lots of sleepless nights, I finally found my groove. The last couple of days in particular have been pretty productive, and I am looking forward to completing the draft by the end of this week.

p.s: I received a positive response from another publisher…Image