NAW Interview with Jaya Bhattacharji Rose (International publishing consultant and columnist)

Jaya Bhattacharji RoseNAW- How long have you been in this business? How did you start?

I have been in publishing since the early 1990s. I started by contributing reviews and articles to literary journals. I was then plain lucky to have worked on publishing projects such as the first report for Publisher’s Association, UK on the Book Market of India.

I have been interested in publishing for as long as I can recall. It is a passion. After spending so many years in the industry, I am also learning different aspects of the business.

I now have two columns on publishing and literature. “PubSpeak” in BusinessWorldonline and “Literati” in Hindu Literary Review.

NAW- For the benefit of first time authors, can you take me through the entire publishing process. What happens after an author submits his/her manuscript to you?

Well I am a publishing and literary consultant now so if an author submits their manuscript to me, it is usually for constructive evaluation.

I read it, give my feedback and then they make the tweaks, if they deem it necessary. If the manuscript is really good and worth promoting, I recommend it to a publisher. Finding the right fit between a manuscript and a publishing house takes a while.

NAW- Do you provide editorial services also?


NAW- What genres do you look out for in particular?

I keep my options open. My reading tastes are eclectic as well but certainly literary fiction, translations, gender studies, narrative non-fiction, memoirs, children and young adult literature etc.

NAW- Generally speaking, how much does a literary consultant or agent charge for his/her services?

Generally the literary agent’s fee is a percentage of the money negotiated with the publisher. The subsidiary rights are also negotiated. Depending upon the mss, author, and body of work it can vary from 10-20%.

This is the general rule I am speaking of.

NAW- Besides excellent writing skills and strong voice, what are you looking for right now in manuscript and not getting from writers?

Confidence and originality.

NAW- Can you name some authors that you have worked with in the past?

KunzangChoden, ParoAnand, Anil Menon, Shauna Singh Baldwin.

I have been acknowledged in many books, including in Burnt Shadows by KamilaShamsie.

NAW- What frequent mistakes do people commit when sending submissions? Misspelling names maybe? Forgetting the synopsis or a horrible query letter, something of this sort?

Oh yes, these mistakes are made all the time. Most often I see covering letters with spelling mistakes. At times the person does not have a clue on formatting a letter. I am reluctant to read their manuscript submission after such basic errors.

NAW- Please tell me what would be a perfect approach from a prospective writer to get his manuscript selected at your end?

Submit the manuscript, with a covering letter + a synopsis. The covering letter should include a couple of lines about their expectations from the submission. I want honesty, frankness and transparency when an author submits the mss.

I want to hear their wishlist.

NAW- I have been told to forward this query by some writers. Is it true that literary agents don’t take aboard young writers, first timers and prefer established ones? And most authors get agents only when their first book is a hit.

Well I suppose lit agents are reluctant to represent new voices but I am always open to hearing new voices and meeting new authors, as long as they have the basic understanding of what constitutes literature etc.

But what you say has been known to happen quite often.

NAW- Do you attend literary conferences? How do you find clients? How should an author contact you?

Yes I attend conferences, on occasion. Otherwise, I am very active on social media and print media. I have a blog that in approximately 19 months has had over 3 million+ views. An author can contact me by writing to me. Clients come by word of mouth reference or write to me directly.

NAW- Have you ever experienced a situation where a writer you represented criticized you later?

Not as yet.

NAW- How important is it for an aspiring author to have a blog?

I do not think it is important to have a blog, unless it is about a subject that has the potential of growth. Otherwise there is a limit to how much content you can share. Where a social media presence on interactive platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and maybe to some extent on Instagram, it is important to have a presence.

NAW- Does the resume of the author make any difference in influencing your decision to represent him, (previous publications, online presence etc.) or do you simply go by the strength of the manuscript?

A healthy track record in publishing books always has its own charm. Having said that, it is important to see the strength of a new voice/manuscript. I don’t think sharing a resume along with a manuscript submission serves any purpose at all, except for giving the co-ordinates of the author.

NAW- So you are sort of working freelance right?

I am completely independent. Remember I have more than 2 decades of experience in publishing. (Smiles)

Being a literary agent is an option that I have not ruled out. On occasion I do recommend manuscripts to publishers.

NAW- Sure. I don’t think there are many literary agencies in India. We came across only a few and they were also recently established. Most agents in India work freelance I think. Is it because the industry is nascent and here I mean the English fiction publishing industry?

Hmm, there are literary agents coming up in India.

But I will reserve comment about the quality of work. I think India is for now a writers market; so literary agencies are a “natural” outcome.

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose can be contacted via email- or twitter- @JBhattacharji.

Visit her personal website here.

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