My Publishing Journey (Part-I)

I have been putting pen to paper since the age of thirteen with various levels of success. Apart from my regular job, I took to freelance writing in 2005. This entailed various odd content related stuff like website content, marketing collateral, brochures etc. In 2005 I decided to seriously write a book. In fact, I have had always wanted to write a novel but it never materialized. Some got abandoned after the title selection and some after a few pages.  It took me close to 4 years to write Have a Pleasant Journey, my first book. I started writing Have a Pleasant Journey in 2005 and had to fight distractions like affairs, jobs and marriage (not in that order) to complete it in the latter half of 2009.

Publishing experience:

Now that I look back, the easiest part of the entire exercise was writing the book. Getting it published was a different ballgame altogether.

I had completed the first draft in Oct 2009. I was so tired of getting it finished that I wanted to get it out of my system. I wanted to get this done and move on. But before I could send the manuscript to the publishers, I wanted to check whether this story was worth reading. The easiest way was to give a printed copy each to my wife and a friend for reading it. I told them not to pay attention to grammar and/or typos. I wish I had not given them that brief. After I got their feedback, I started off with the editing. There was a problem with this though. I was so acclimatized with what I had written over the years that I was overlooking all the mistakes.

I should have edited, re-written, re-edited and re-written some more before I submitted the manuscript to publishers and literary agencies. Not that my chances of getting published were affected by the substandard language (I had read bad books in terms of language and grammar making their presence felt in bookstores), I just wanted to deliver a book which was in proper English. How difficult could that be, you ask?

Well, quite difficult if you ask me.

I found out that it is very difficult to write a book without making any mistakes and even more difficult to find those out alone. The typos that creep in during the writing process are always very difficult to find by the author. My suggestion would be to take help from people who know their English. In the 8 rounds of editing that my book went through, I managed to find hundreds of mistakes. This continued till the time it finally went into print.

I was so excited at having completed the manuscript that I sent it out to all publishing houses after a couple of rounds of cursory editing. I later realized that the manuscript had huge holes in the plot interspersed with in-your-face grammatical and typographical errors. It was no surprise that the manuscript was rejected by many. If I read the book again after a year or so, I am sure to find a few hundred more mistakes. That’s the power of editing and re-editing. 

After giving up on finding mistakes, I chose to go for professional help. Just as I was about to send out the manuscript to a professional copy-editor, a publishing house showed interest and I dropped the editing idea. Bad choice, I’d say.

The publishing contract never materialized and I was left with my mistake-ridden manuscript. I went back to the MS Word document and read it word by word till I was convinced that I had pulled up every single word, sentence and punctuation mark that was guilty of making the book a badly-written one. I was happy with the result but alas it was too late. I had already sent out the “badly-written” book to the publishers. 

Pursuing traditional publishers and literary agencies was quite interesting though. I started off by creating 4 documents:
  1. A proposal or covering letter
  2. A sample chapter document (1/3/5 chapter/s sample, based on specific publisher’s requirements)
  3. A synopsis of the story
  4. Author bio
After the book proposal along with the sample chapters and synopsis are sent, you wait. Yes, wait till you lose patience. It normally takes around 4-6 weeks for the publishers to get back with a response: positive or negative. If it is a direct rejection, you move on but if they show interest, don’t be too excited. You are not there yet.

If the publisher likes your synopsis and sample chapters, they might ask for the entire manuscript. The manuscript evaluation might take between 6 weeks to 6 months since a publishing house receives hundreds of proposals every day.

I started sending out the above documents to publishing houses and literary agencies. All this happened a month after I had completed the manuscript and 2 rounds of editing. I waited with bated breath for a response from any one of them.

The very first response came from a renowned Indian literary agency. The lady mentioned in her email that they had a first reading and appraisal fee depending on the word count of my manuscript which would give me a detailed feedback by the team of within eight weeks. She further mentioned that paying didn’t ensure the team accepting my work for representation. The reading fee came to 10K.

Nice start, I said to myself.

Then a call came from a publishing house. He said that they were willing to publish my book at a flat fee of 35K which included 20 free copies. I asked him whether those 20 copies would be the only ones in circulation. He said something profound that involved dreams, 20 copies and 35K in a single sentence. I still haven’t understood what he said. I never heard from him again.

Next came the rejections. They were short, sweet and invariably ended with wishes for my book finding another home. I was okay with rejections as they gave me a feeling of closure unlike some publishers who just wanted me to hang onto the edge. These were the ones who made me wait a week at a time till I lost all hope and patience. This is the status of my proposal accepted/rejected/awaiting status as it stands now:

Proposals Sent
Hachette Books
Rupa Publishers
Atlantic Books
Leadstart Publishers
Roli Books
Gyaana Books
Indialog Publishers
Vision Books
Srishti Publishers
Prakash Books
Random House
Niyogi Books
Tranquebar Books
Expression Publishers
Dronequill Books

The Part-II of this articles is HERE!  

Copyright (c) Pigtale 2005-2010. Images copyright respective holders.

4 Reactions:

Abhaya said...

Very interesting post :)


Pigtale said...

@ Thanks a lot Abhaya. This is kind of a learner's guide, with me being the learner : o)

zion from sion said...

Hi very well written, am in the same stage now..haha, it's been three weeks since I've sent out the proposals. No response from anyone yet. Can you tell me how much time it takes for the publishing house to accept or reject the proposal? All the best with your endeavours...

Pigtale said...

@zion from sion: Thanks for stopping by and finding the post informative. Some publishers take around a week or two to get back and some take ages to say no/yes ; o)

Rest assured, it is not a fast process.

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