Macaulay’s brown sahibs continue to serve the English language in India and with greater élan than before. With almost every Indian worth his ABCs turning to writing, English publishing in India has not only experienced phenomenal growth in the past few years but has also made the country second in the world in terms of sales of books. The recent entry of Cambridge University Press in the Capital only fortifies the point. However, the flip side of the story is that publishers are getting flooded with manuscripts day after day.
Enter Literary Agent. Yes, the middleman of the world of writers and publishers, a character quite common in the West, is undergoing a slow, laborious birth in India. However, even though his presence is needed in a sea of too many manuscripts, finding one is a task as there are just a handful of them to liaise between the authors and publishers.
Middleman: Most publishers agree on the need of literary agents in the country. Says Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books, “Literary agents look after the authors’ interests better as they help establish communication as well as understanding between a publisher and an author.” Adds Kapish G Mehra of Rupa & Co., “On any given day, we receive a minimum of six manuscripts. Agents help get only copies that deserve publication.” However, there are also those who don’t feel we need of such agents. Says writer and editor of Manohar Publishers & Distributors, Siddharth Chowdhary, “Too much of dependence on literary agents is bad as they might misguide new authors.”
Ravi Singh of Penguin Group (India) evinces, “We don’t need agents in India as publishers are doing pretty well without them.”
The works: A literary agent presents a work to the publisher in a manner so as to catch the latter’s interest. Alka Raghuvanshi, author, art curator and a former agent, elucidates, “Agents are like a gynaecologist directing a pregnant woman.” She feels that literary agents extend not only necessary guidance but also emotional support in a “lonely” job.
Anuj Bahri of Bahri Sons, who has recently donned the cap of literary agent himself, thinks that most publishers here don’t understand their job. “The publishers are hostile as they don’t acknowledge the role of the agents who are here not just to sell a few copies of an author’s work but the author himself to the world,” he says.
Author’s note: As is obvious, literary agents are important mostly for nouveaux authors. And the latter feel that the agents should not make the work look alien to the author himself.
Says Tushar Raheja, writer of Anything For You Ma’am, “The book shall be left to the writer to write. The agent should focus on spotting the right publisher.” DN Chaudhuri, writer of Delhi, adds, “Unfortunately, we’ve very few literary agents who are also quite unorganised; the profession has not taken up well.”
However, despite evincing a need for literary agents, most publishers add at the same time that they don’t have too bright a future here in India as there’s not much money in the profession. Writing on the wall, is it?