Friday, July 15, 2011

How to get published (Part 2)

(This is the follow-up piece to the article that Divya wrote on June 30th 2011 about becoming a published author. Click here to read Part 1 of ‘How to get published’. Part 2:
With more queries popping up about submissions to publishers, it’s easy to see that many first-time authors have certain fears regarding their manuscripts and publishers – that are quite unfounded.  It is true that landing up with a wrong publisher may be injurious to the health of your manuscript. At the same time, it would be unfair to judge the entire publishing industry on the basis of such exceptions. Most publishers are friendly and more than willing to answer any queries their authors might have.  Some questions are standard, and can be easily answered here. Let’s have a look at those in the FAQ format.
Q. I am a first-time writer. Should I approach big publishers with my manuscript? Would they consider it at all?
A. Of course! Why shouldn’t they? As long as it’s a good script, any publisher will consider it regardless of whether you are an established writer or a new one. It is a myth that big publishers only publish big writers.
Q. Do I need to register copyright before sending my script to the publisher?
A. No, you don’t. It’s your intellectual property. Even after the book is published, you are the copyright holder (especially if it’s fiction). You could put a copyright symbol and your name and year – and your manuscript is safe enough. Please remember – editors and publishers deal with hundreds of manuscripts every day. It’s a routine affair for them. Nobody will misuse your manuscript. It would be against their own interests, for they would lose credibility completely. No writer would ever go to them in the future. Now, which publisher would want that to happen?
Q. Should I submit my manuscript to one publisher at a time?
A. Ideally, yes. However, in case you have submitted it to another publisher at the same time, it is best to be honest and mention it to them. In case someone has already expressed an interest in it, please tell the other one.
Q. Can I get my script back if the publisher doesn’t accept it?
A. It is practically impossible for publishers to return hundreds on manuscripts in hard copy that come to them all the time. It makes sense to keep the original with you and send them a copy.
Q. Is it the same process for children’s books and non-fiction?
A. Yes, it’s more or less the same. If you have illustrations, send copies and in low resolution. Keep your mail down to less than 1 MB.
Q. If the publisher asks for the complete manuscript or certain changes in a chapter/plan, does it mean they’ll publish it?
A. Not really. It’s simply an expression of interest, not a commitment. That is communicated to you clearly. The publisher will publish the book only when he/she is completely satisfied with the final script.
Q. If my manuscript is accepted by a publisher, would I have to bear the production costs?
A. No, not at all – unless it’s vanity publishing. No mainstream publisher makes the author bear production costs; it’s the publisher’s responsibility.
Q. How do I know if the contract is a standard contract, and the publisher is not trying to rob me?
A. Always read your contract carefully. If you are not sure about something, or do not understand a point, discuss it with your publisher. Most contracts have standard clauses. It is very important that you should understand everything properly.
Rather than treating publishers as villains trying to squeeze maximum ‘profits’ out of their authors, it is better to look upon them as friends and work together as a team. Then a good rapport can be established and, of course, the final outcome is much better.
Finally, here is a list of a few Indian publishers (big MNCs as well as small independents) where you can submit your script (fiction) for consideration:
This is a guest column by publishing entrepreneur Divya Dubey, founder of Gyaana Books. Turtle Dove: Six Simple Tales is her first collection of short stories. Her other short fiction has appeared in literary journals such as Out–of-Print, Muse India, Kindle Magazine, Urban Voice 4, and New Fiction Journal (forthcoming). She has also written for The Hindu Literary Review, Hindustan Times, Indo-Asian News Service, Pravasi Bharatiya, All About Book Publishing, Book Link, The Publisher’s Post, Chicken Soup for the Indian Couple’s Soul, etc. She occasionally conducts lectures on publishing and creative writing. She was one of the finalists at the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur Award for Publishing in 2010. Find out more about her journey as a publishing entrepreneur here. You can also read her blog on publishing here.
Through this column, Divya Dubey will be sharing insights into the publishing industry with the readers of


  1. Dear Divya,
    This is very helpful. Thank you.

  2. Some day, I would really like to know your thoughts about vanity publishing in India which is so rampant these days, almost co-existing (and flourishing) with the main stream publishing

  3. A very helpful post for budding writers

  4. Dear Divya,

    Thanks a ton. After having 17 published titles behind me, I found this very useful. I also sent my proposal to Hatchette who turned it down but let me know today. Sent it to some more. Will keep my fingers crossed. Short fiction is really very difficult to sell

  5. Dear Divya

    This is really so nice and helpful.

    What about some tips on how to find new publishers to reprint books that are out of print?

  6. Hi Divya

    This is very heartening.

    Do you have any tips on how to find new publishers for out of print books?

  7. Thank you so much Ma'am for your helpful comments.

  8. Dear Mariam, Given the current industry scenario, I doubt you'll get a publisher to publish an out of print book unless there's a huge demand for it.Really not the publishers' fault. It's just a bad time for the industry as a whole.

  9. Divya - agree that it is not the best time for the publishing industry, but if the book has potential and there is decent enough demand, shouldn't a publisher make some profits out of it. I, at a personal level, know of writers who are getting their out of print books reprint with another publisher because the first publisher refuse to bring in a second edition. Isn't the problem more in the system than in the industry overall? I know Gyaana is not in vanity publishing but still your thoughts are always appreciated.

  10. Hi Amit,
    A couple of things here:

    1. An out of print book is different from a self-published title. An out of print book is one that has already been through the cycle (i.e., been published by a publisher before, and then gone out of print because of lack of demand in the market. This happens with almost all front-list titles [or new books] after a point). One calls it shelf-life.
    2. You would need to define a 'decent demand'. Mainstream publishers cannot print less than a certain no. of copies, since mainstream printing works like that. It's a huge risk because the publisher's money goes into it, and if there isn't that kind of demand, we face huge losses. Any publisher only makes money when the book goes into reprint again and again, which doesn't happen too often, simply because the fact is that very few people here actually BUY books. We need to earn our bread like all other professionals. We cannot do things that would be be counterproductive for us. A lot of writers tend to feel that there are people out there dying to buy their books. The reality is very different.
    3. You'd need to think about what you mean by the 'system'g being at fault. The publishers? Distributors? Retailers? Ask yourself why. Yes, it's a very complex issue, but at the bottom of all that lies the book buying habits of people. There are simply not enough buyers, not enough sales.
    4.)I believe there's a difference between self-publishing and vanity-publishing. And the difference lies in the quality of the product (both content and production). In case of an out of print book, it might work better, since the author shares the costs with the publisher or bears production costs so that the publisher's risk is minimised.
    5.) Another option for an out of print book may be POD. You could seriously consider that option with a limited no. of copies -- if you can market it yourself.

  11. Hi Divya,

    I landed on this page through Google search. I am glad I did. Thank you very much for such a lovely bucket of information.

    I have a question about 'author's bio'. How important a role it plays in getting published? After researching some authors at Rupa, Penguin and Harpor Collins, I have an impression that unless you have traveled abroad (better, if you are settled there), have an MBA degree, are an IITian, it is very difficult to get published even if you have a good script.

    I am also working on a script, but I am just a B. Com graduate with 5 years experience in ghostwriting (freelance content writing where my articles don't get published in my name).

    I was thinking about starting a blog to make a decent online presence for myself. Do you think that would help?