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 www.shernakhambatta.com
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