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Literary agents: Emerging as key ancillary of publishing

Sunday, Nov 13, 2016,12:33 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

New Delhi | Literary agents are emerging as the new kingmakers in publishing, acting as commissioning editors and helping writers realise their dream besides taking care of packaging, sales potential and marketing as well.

According to Kanishka Gupta, who heads Writer’s Side, an agent scours the market to find the best possible deal and editor for an author.

“An individual author, howsoever well-connected he may be, doesn’t have this luxury. At Writer’s Side, we handhold our authors right from the proposal development stage to contract signing, editing, publishing and even post-publishing activities,” he said.

Mita Kapur of Siyahi feels the scope for literary agents is on a steep incline with both authors and publishers preferring an organised and professionally nurtured relationship.
“An agent has the vision for an author’s writing career and where-how-what-why of the industry which makes it a perfect combination,” she says.

Publishers like HarperCollins India say they don’t have any one preference – seeking new talent themselves or engaging literary agents.

“Agents regularly pitch books to us, and we find new voices and commission fresh work too,” says its CEO Ananth Padmanabhan.

He also feels that new writers can get a fair deal if they approach a literary agent.
Denmark-based Tabish Khair, author of books like “The Thing About Thugs”, “How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position” and the recent “Jihadi Jane” was already an established writer in India, and with two novels published internationally by a major house, before he got agents.

“I cannot say to what extent agents help you break into print. But agents help me avoid the troubling business-side of writing, which they take care of, and for that I am most grateful. They also give good advice about where to publish, etc., because they know the market better than an isolated writer like me can,” he says.

He feels it is always good to get another perspective, but finally any serious writer writes what he or she wants to write.

For Shruti Debi, agent to authors like Yuvraj Singh, the late Vinod Mehta and Aatish Taseer, agenting is a “wonderful profession for someone committed to the culture of reading and writing, very rewarding in an everyday sense, enriching” but for which “you have to have certain fine skills and a big heart”.

She says while there is a great demand for content there is a slide in the habit of buying content and perhaps the hardest hit “content generator” is the author of books, whose income flows from royalties per sold copy.

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