Sherna Khambatta

Please tell our readers a little bit about what you do, and what your background is?

As a literary agent I sell the right to publish books of the authors whom I represent. I manage an author’s career right from the time I receive a manuscript to the book being in a bookstore. This involves encouragement and support, sometimes nursing a writer’s block and advice and on the work front, which includes editorial advice (though not copy editing), assessing work by considering the overall structure, style, readability and marketability of the book. I negotiate the contract on the author’s behalf. I also, sell rights such as translation rights or other secondary rights that have not been granted to the publisher. I am responsible for collecting dues, checking royalty statements, receiving feedback from publishers regarding print runs, sales figures and marketing. Post publishing, I work on general promotion of the book from the book launch to publicity and checking in on distribution and store-availability.

I wrote a book of poems which was published in 2002 and found the entire process extremely alien if not intimidating and I wished that I had someone to guide me through it.

What does your role involve as a literary agent?

As an agent, I am actively involved in the entire process with the author from the time the manuscript is written (with constant contact, editorial feedback and support) to the point when the book is available at stores and thereafter its’ sale and promotion.

Do you have clients from all over the world, or are they based in India only?

I do represent clients from all over the world though currently I am focusing on their work being published in India and throughout Asia. I am currently representing the author, Michael Benanav who has had two successful titles published in America, (retaining his rights for Asia) and was on the Discover Great New Writers list on Barnes And Noble and have got him a publisher for his work in India.

How do you prefer new writers to approach you?

I prefer being approached via e-mail by new writers both for non-fiction as well as fiction. A strong covering letter, a synopsis and sample chapters that are well-written with strong characters and an original plot will certainly grab my attention.

What are your pet hates?

Rceiving manuscripts with spelling errors, that haven’t been edited, authors who are presumptuous about their own ability and talent and those who repeatedly query with the same manuscript after being turned down.

Are you more concerned with promoting your author in India or across the world and why?

I do believe that an author needs to relate to the reader and vice-versa, so by promoting them in India and the regions in which the book is available it bridges the gap between the two.

Even though marketing and promotion of books in India is a new concept, with chain stores promoting authors, launches and readings things are most certainly improving which also gives the author a platform to reach a wider audience.

Is a literary agent an employee of the author, or the other way round?

I think a literary agent and author work as a team in tandem with each other so the question of employee and employer doesn’t arise.

What is the decision maker when taking on a new client?

Primarily, I’m looking for an author who is talented, whose work I can relate to, who is professional and lastly saleable. In fiction, the author would have to be commercially viable as well as original. It’s fairly tough to come up with something novel which hasn’t been done before but a different twist to a tried and tested formula would work. The characters would need to be both memorable and identifiable with a unique storyline or setting. In non-fiction, a well written thorough manuscript that readers can identify to certainly interests me.

What do you think are the benefits of having a literary agent based in India?

For authors based in India, having an agent locally who understands the market, has contact with publishers and can support them through the writing process I think gives them the time and space to do what they love best, writing and leaves me to take care of the rest.

What advice would you give to new writers looking to secure an agent?

To secure an agent, the author needs to begin with having a distinctive book, and to find an agent who is equally passionate about it. The first interaction and covering letter, brief and synopsis should be gripping enough for the agent to be compelled to want to read further. An understanding of an agent’s role and complete trust are vital in order for the relationship to work successfully.

The Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency handles fiction and non-fiction, including children’s books. We look forward to receiving manuscripts in English from writers across the literary spectrum. We currently accept new manuscripts in Fiction, General as well as Narrative Non-Fiction in the areas of biography/memoir, narrative travel (no guidebooks), current affairs and contemporary issues. We do not handle plays, screenplays or film scripts. Sherna acts as the Indian representative of the U.K. based Wade & Doherty Literary Agency, for further information visit

11 thoughts on “Sherna Khambatta

  1. Hello Sherna,
    I am delighted to read about you.I am a first time fiction writer. I am 72 years old retired customs officer(Heathrow Airport, London).
    This article gives me the impetus to consider my submission to you. I have finished writing my novel titled ‘RAKHI’. It is being edited by a professional writer/editor. I expect the editing work to finish by end of February, 2010.
    Rakhi is a story about an Indian woman who gets married to an Indian boy who holds a foreign nationality. The husband (Boy) has to leave India due to political issue between the governments of India and Portugal. After six days of their marriage, the husband goes to the UK. Rakhi being 14 years old has to learn a lot at the in-laws’ place; New style of living, learning and hard work in the family living in an aggrarian village in Gujarat, India. The uncle-in-law rapes her several time. Rakhi gets good support from her mother-in-law and grand parents-in-law.Rakhi has to attend an estate too, established by the uncle-in-law.
    After six years, she goes to join her husband. Once again, she faces strange environment. She finds learning new ways and the language in England very hard but due to her kind and considerate husband she slowley picks up the new things.They have a son within one year of her arrival. An unexpected arrival of the son of the uncle-in-law from Canada creats a havoc in the family already suffering from lack of finance that used to come from husband’s uncles in Africa; it was stopped due to the political issues between Portugal and India over Div, Daman and Goa.The domestic problems creted by husband’s cousin become intolerable and create dippressive situation for Rakhi. She falls down fourteen steps in the house and gets injured in lower back. She resorts to painkillers and subsequently on antidepression drugs. The cousin gets married and goes to the USA.
    Rakhi faces another final event that leads her to her death. Their son gets married to a Gujarati girl who refuses to accept the parents of her husband.Rakhi has hips replaced in the local hospital. However she becomes the victim of negligence by the hospital staffs. She dies in the ICU.
    I hope I will be able to approach you for your views on completion of the editing. Raman Morarjee.

  2. Dear Sherna,
    May I refer you to my earlier response of 5/12/2009. I have my edited novel manuscript ready for submission to you. Could you inform me as to the procedure required for submission, please.

    I look forward to your response. Regards. Raman Morarjee.

  3. Dear Sherna,

    I have been working, to put a quiz meant for children in place.This to be honest was primarily meant for my two children (8 & 5). It just so turned out that they started enjoying it so much that on returning from school,the first question that was shot to me daily was “mom how many new questions have you come up with today”?
    I am really keen to share this with other parents and get something that is easy,fun,enjoyable and most importantly holds the child’s interest.Am surely thinking on the lines of “dont leave home without it”
    I do have a few ideas but really don’t know where to start.Would appreciate any kind of help and guidance from you.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.


  4. Hi Sherna;
    I was very happy to get the information that this blog and your website gives. In fact, they have worked as an upper. I am one of the aspirants and look forward to have really fruitful professional relationship with you.The manuscript of my novel is almost complete but I am giving myself some cooling time after which I’ll revise the text wherever it is needed in the full text. I have noted the imperatives, guidelines and what an agency hates. I hope, I do fairly well in following the procedure set by you.I’ll revert to you in about twenty days!!

  5. No reply to the above entry of mine. So! Should i send the material! I don’t know. Or shall I try elsewhere?

  6. I finished a 120,000 fiction novel in 2009. It is set in the Philippines.I made the mistake of sending excerpts direct to New York and UK publishers.
    Do you entertain receipt and review of synopses and the three first chapters? If so, how do I send it? Thank you.

  7. Hi Sherna,

    I have finished writing my book and also have had it edited and reviewed by a peer group (mostly family and friends)

    I visited your website and was able to get your email address but did not see any guidelines. (Maybe I am not looking in the right place? )

    Usually agents are asking for the synopsis. the first 3 chapters or 3 sample chapters and the author’s bio. Is that what I should be submitting to you? Or should I send the whole manuscript?

    Please let me know.



  8. Hi Ruhin,
    Thanks for getting in touch. The submission guidelines are on the website in the tab on post it. You can send me sample chapters and a synopsis for the same.
    Best wishes,

  9. Dear Sherna,

    I went through your interviews and got the basic concept which you are looking for in the forthcoming projects. I have also gone through your website to check the submission guidelines as a consequence of which, the documents required for your review are designed accordingly. The email cover letter with multiple attachments is already scheduled to be sent on 21:04:14 at 09:00 AM BST. Requesting you to find time to interpret it so to conclude whether or not it fits unto your requirement.

    Best regards,
    Anshuman B

Comments are closed.