Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pitch it right

Do remember your first novel will most likely be your breakthrough work. So, how do you wow an editor?

Writing is only one part of the game, albeit the most important one. After finishing your novel, you want to see it in print and, hopefully, make a few bucks from it. In the West that would mean a literary agent. In India, though, those are few and far between. Everything is vested in the fiction editor. This month let's look at the world from the point of view of an editor.

A former fiction editor at a noted international publishing firm recently told me she quit her job to start her own independent imprint because she was unable to publish the kinds of books she was passionate about. The reason — the brief from her bosses to acquire only certain sellers. When she joined the business in the 1990s, publishers still had a midlist which was made up of authors in which they were investing for the long run. In other words they were supporting talent in the hope that the author would deliver a big hit eventually. Hence authors like John Irving and Don DeLillo were able to survive a few flops before writing their breakthrough novels — The World According to Garp for Irving and Underworld for DeLillo. This penchant for certain sellers has now become the publishing norm, certainly for the big boys, as a result of which the midlist has shrunk considerably. So bear in mind that nowadays your first novel to be published will most likely be your breakthrough novel. And that actually might be the second or third novel you write. Very few writers get it right the first time round. Midnight's Children, for instance, was the fourth novel Salman Rushdie ever wrote. After that he was able to publish everything he had lying about in his drawers.

How do you wow an editor? Well, irrespective of the kind of novel you are writing, you have to write one hell of an opening. These are not the days of the Victorian novel a la Charles Dickens where the author could spend the first 70 pages establishing the world of the novel before making anything happen. We live in an age of short attention spans, and a fiction editor's attention span is very short indeed. So if you don't hook him or her in the first ten-to-15 pages then you are in trouble.

Full report here Hindu

No comments:

Post a Comment