'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Writer's Odyssey

*Some* visitors to this blog would remember, I posted here, sometime in December 2005 two parts of a play which I had been working on; they were generally well-liked and I seriously expanded those fragments into a proper novella of over 100 pages (still retaining the fully dialog driven format, thus making it continue to look like a play). This activity has been running in the background all these years and over the last year and more, I have also been engaged in an effort to get it critically evaluated and published. This longish post is a summary of some of the episodes in this quest. And parts of it are (appropriately enough) in dialog form.

1. There is a fairly well established writer who was well-known to self. I rang him up and asked if he could take a critical look at my work. He said fine. I promptly sent a soft copy of the story by email. Next week, I called him up again and asked if the doc reached. Then he asked me if I could send him a printout of the thing and gave me his postal address. I couriered the printout. Two weeks down the line, I called him up again. He said: "I have just started reading your story." I asked him whether he had my email address so he could send his comments across. He said "Yes". I said "Thanks in advance" and hung up. And that was that.

2. I tried to approach several publishers. Most of them make you fill up elaborate questionnaires on their websites; and each has a different format in which to send the work - some want word docs, some want pdfs, some want 30 percent of the work some want 50 percent, most want a synopsis and so on. And most do not reply. Those who do tend to reply on these lines: "Our publishing list is full till ----- (a date, variable but always beyond 2008 December). Hope you find another publisher" (yes, their wish that I find someone else reminded me of how American universities used to respond to applications for Graduate study. "Hope some other university accepts you").

3. I came to know that most publishers do not directly take works for consideration - although their websites fervently assert that they do. One has apparently to go through 'literary agents'. I wrote to a certain firm that claimed to be the one and only literary agents in this country. There was zilch response. They had someone in their editorial team who was resident in my city. So, I wrote to this person seeking an appointment. The 'daemon' bounced the mail back saying the mailbox was full.

4. Then I saw an article in a leading magazine about how Indian writers (even beginners) have begun to receive hefty advances from big publishers. One story went: There was this first time author. He just googled and contacted a certain foreign literary agent (name provided) with his *book plan* who in turn triggered off a major bidding war between the major publishing houses in the country, which left the author richer by something like a million rupees - even before he had drafted the book! Great! I did not need to google since the agent was named in the story; and my work was ready as well. I wrote to them. Silence.

5. I decided to search locally. Someone gave me this advice: "simply make a trip around the leading booksellers in the city and ask them for contacts with publishers/printers. Then decide." I asked around and came to a bookshop which apparently also had a publishing division and a printing press. An old man sat at the desk:

The Old Man: What did you write?

Self: A Novella, it looks like a play, fully dialog driven...

TOM: And do you want to publish it yourself?

Self: Yes, if required.

TOM: But nobody reads dramas. Here is a catalog. See...

(short pause; I silently leaf thru the booklet which lists the firms publications, mostly in vernacular, a few in English, on palmistry, astrology, nature cure,...; I finally look up at face TOM)

TOM: And then, printing 500 copies could cost something like ten thousand rupees, maybe twenty thousand, maybe...

Self: Guess that should be okay.

TOM: Actually, go to Delhi. There are plenty publishers there.

Self: But,...

TOM: Nobody reads dramas. And there is no point in publishing things which nobody will read.

Self: But as I said, if I publish it myself...

TOM: See, you will have to empty your pockets; that is all.

(short pause)

TOM: Okay, come after two weeks. Now is the festival season... yes, come after two weeks!

(I quit; end of the episode)

6. I used to know someone who had a wide circle of contacts, several of whom were *apparently* into publishing booklets, pamphlets etc.. One fine day, I called up this someone and told him about the problem I need to solve and asked him if he could find out about some good printers etc. thru his acquaintances. He asked for two days time. I called him up again two days down the line.

Self: Any information regarding presses?

Someone: Well, no.

Self: Your friends do not know anybody...

Someone: Actually, I did not ask them...

Self: I see.... You may need some more time...

Someone: Is the thing urgent?

Self: Hmm, what do I say? Since I have been searching for quite a while...

Someone: You sound rather desperate!

Self: To a good approximation, that is indeed the case.

Someone: Give me some more time.

Self: Okay. Maybe if you do find something from your friends, you could send me an email, so I don't need to call you up and ... disturb you.

Someone: Fine.

(End of the episode)

7. Continuing my quest for printers, I searched and found a press in the core city. The place appeared to be big and well established. I met another old man at the counter.

TOM2: Okay, so you want to publish this novel. How many copies?

Self: At least 500 to begin with.

TOM2: Do you have a copy of it with you?

Self: Not rightaway. It is about 100 pages of A4 size paper...

TOM2: But books wont be in A4. They could be this ... or this... (shows two books apparently printed out by his firm, both very grimy).

Self: Okay, it is about 30,000 words. That would give a better idea.

TOM2: No. That is not sufficient either. Get me a printout. I will give you a precise quote of the cost, based on the paper, the format,...

Self: This format would be okay ( showing one of the grimy books) Can you give an approximate figure...

TOM2: Not possible. I could say 10,000 to 20,000. That won't be useful. Get me the printout.

Self: Okay.

(I leave, search and find a cyber cafe in the area, download and print the document and get back. The operation takes an hour or so)

Self: Here is the printout.

TOM2: Actually I need to go for a meeting now.

(short pause)

TOM2: Leave those papers here and come tomorrow. I will do some setting and tell you...

Self: But can you not give an estimate?

TOM2: No. It depends. Maybe it will be 4 pages for 3 A4 sheets. Maybe 3 pages for 2 A4 sheets. ... (leafs thru the printout). One needs to set the thing...

Self: As I said, there are 30,000 words. That could...

TOM2: I told you that won't matter! Anyways, I am getting late for the meeting. Come today evening or tomorrow. If you want you can leave the doc here, otherwise,...

Self: Okay. I will come later

(I quit with the doc; end of the episode)

8. (This is the last bit!)
I heard the other day from a friend: "Know what? Leading publishers and literary agents are seriously scouting in blogspace for fresh writing talent! So, who knows, you may just hear from somebody, just like that!"


  • At 5:32 AM, Blogger Karthik said…

    Err..What was the nature of the theme in the play?

  • At 6:00 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…


    thanks. titled 'the loop' the story traces the path of an everyman character lucky thru the corporate and academic formations of post y2k india. generically speaking, the works looks like a play but is more of a novella based purely on dialog or still better, a comic strip, minus the illustrations!

  • At 6:13 AM, Blogger Karthik said…

    nanda..You should publish that! There are other bloggers who I know also write and read stories. They will definitely be interested in reading your work.

  • At 10:17 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks karthik.

    sure, shall bring out the story in book form, soon. it is a complex process but i am determined.


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