Priya Doraswamy founded Lotus Lane Literary in New Jersey in May, 2013. She has been an agent for a little over five years and has sold books globally. Priya represents bestselling and award winning adult fiction and non-fiction authors. Prior to her agency career, Priya was a Deputy Attorney General, with the State of New Jersey, prosecuting securities fraud. Priya was born and raised in Bangalore and relocated to the NY area twenty four years ago, but travels to India every year for work and pleasure.
In this interview, Priya shares insights on publishing a book in India.
This may seem obvious, but, when should a writer reach out to a publisher?
I would recommend that a writer reach out to an agent and not a publisher. More and more, authors are going down the agent route for all the obvious benefits. Publishers are also looking to agents more, although in India it’s still possible to approach publishers directly. For fiction manuscript, the book must be written in its entirety before querying agents. For non-fiction, either a detailed proposal (with synopsis, introduction, three chapters, chapter outline, and author platform) or the manuscript written in its entirety along with the proposal.
Would you recommend that writers get in touch with agents rather than publishers directly?
Absolutely. There are several agencies in India now and I would recommend authors finding an agent for their books.
What do you look for in a synopsis of one’s novel or collection of stories?
A synopsis narrates the story succinctly. Writers must take time crafting synopsis as it’s crucial in attracting the agent or publisher’s attention. Keep it in present tense, with simple language, and include only MAJOR plot points including ending. Personally, anywhere from 450-1200 word synopsis in a query letter works for me. When querying agents and publishers authors must follow submission guidelines as mandated on their website.
How important is it for an aspiring writer to have a contract? How can a literary agent help in this regard?
By definition an agent is a person who acts on behalf of another (client), to further the interests and goals of said client. A simplistic definition for a literary agent would be a person working on behalf of their clients (authors), in placing manuscripts with publishers. However, in reality, it’s much more complex than just the ability to place manuscripts with publishers. There are many facets to the business of successfully agenting an author. Agents know editors in publishing houses. They have a track record of working with publishers. Publishers trust agents to bring them solid manuscripts. While there is no guarantee that an agent will get an author a publishing contract, it’s better than the alternative for several reasons: an agent has a pulse on the book market and will likely be able to negotiate a better book deal than the author acting on his own. From a contracts standpoint, an agent undertakes the contract negotiations and guides the author to make best informed decisions. With many territories and subsidiary rights at stake (film, audio, foreign, electronic, derivative, to name a few) and money attached to these territory and subsidiary rights, it’s to the author’s advantage to have an agent who is knowledgeable in the nitty gritty to negotiate best contract. Notwithstanding contract negotiations, because the agent works on author’s behalf, the agent will help smoothen the entire process of the book’s publication. Every agent has their unique way of working with their authors. For me, I like working collaboratively with my authors to necessitate a book sale. Patience is a very valuable and necessary commodity in publishing. I am happy to work patiently until the sale is made , even if it takes several months. I am a very hands on agent and value substantive and meaningful dialogue with my authors.
What homework do the authors need to do to get their work published?
Read and research. Lucky for us that we live in the age of the internet! Google is a wonderful resource for authors to help navigate the complex and murky land of publishing. I know it sounds banal to mention Google, but it really is a fantastic research tool. Additionally, authors must visit publisher websites, blogs, Twitter to observe their trends. Many published authors have websites which are also very resourceful. Some literary agents in the UK and US have very dynamic websites that offer great writing tools and tips to writers.
Do the authors have a say in design of the cover page, distribution, type of publicity they would have to do for the book, and the way the book is marketed?
Yes and No. It varies from book to book and publisher to publisher.
What’s your advice to people who want to start small and independent publishing companies in the city/country?
Go for it!
Has it become easier these days to publish books in India? We see all sorts of writing—mostly bad writing—being published today. What are your views on this?
Appreciation for books is so subjective and thus what’s bad for you might be great for another. It’s like anything in life: food, fashion, movies, TV shows etc. There’s something for everyone to love or not, and to each his own! Getting published is an achievement no matter where you are published. The Indian publishing scene is very vibrant and when compared to other territory, is bullish. It’s great to see publishers taking on debut writing in all genre. If you visit any bookstores (sadly the few that remain) you will, at once, notice the strong presence of Indian writing.
Reach out to Priya here: www.lotuslit.com