BY Vani IN For Writers, Guest post
Do Indian writers and publishers have all the editorial resources they need to create good books? [Scroll]
It was in 2012 that I completed the first draft of my novel. I was in London and had just started submitting it to literary agents when a spate of rejections made me realise there was something wrong with my manuscript. It could only be a “minor” problem, I reasoned, since my friends and family members had loved it.
Despite my initial reservations, I decided to take professional help, and, picking up the latest edition of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, a directory that provides information about key industry contacts to writers, illustrators, designers and photographers, I applied to an editorial agency in Edinburgh.
A month later, my editor and literary consultant, Claire Wingfield, returned my manuscript with the words: “Whilst you have some great observational material here, there is far more true drama to be developed.” Needless to say, I was shocked. I blamed my friends and family for doing a shoddy job of editing, little realising they were not qualified to be my editors (and trust me, they never are!).
Later, when I moved to California, I got to use books like Jeff Herman’sGuide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, as well as websites like agentquery.com, publishersmarketplace.com and aaronline.com, which offer great advice to budding writers.
What about India?
Fast forward to 2016, I am in India and as I look around to place my second novel with a publisher, I am appalled at the dearth of writing resources here. Forget about an annual directory with key contacts, there is hardly anything to guide writers about their work and that despite a thriving book publishing industry. Maybe I was lucky to start my career in the UK and the US, countries which have ample resources for their writers.
I wonder if that’s also the reason why so much of half-baked stuff comes out in India.
“Indian publishing is not as mature as publishing in the West,” agrees Vaishali Mathur, Executive Editor & Head Language Publishing and Rights at Penguin Random House India. “Therefore, it is very difficult to find organised information or services,” she says, adding that the editorial department definitely suffers because of this. “In most countries, freelance editors have had some experience of publishing before they get into the job of freelancing. However, in India, anybody who has good English is allowed to edit, which results in the half-baked manuscripts that you are talking about,” she says.
That could be true of independent editors, but what about the editorial staff employed by the publishing houses? Aren’t they supposed to act as gatekeepers and allow manuscripts only after these have been thoroughly screened (read: revised, proof read and edited)? Amish, the bestselling author of the Shiva trilogy and Scion of Ikshvaku, offers an explanation, albeit a managerial one. “The salaries paid to the editorial and marketing staff in publishing industry are ‘humiliatingly’ low compared to banking and IT. Low salaries not only lead to low motivation levels, but also drive away the best writing, editing and marketing talent towards other lucrative industries like advertising and films.”
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