How to get published in India?

–Exploring the phenomenon of Literature Festivals providing platforms to aspiring writers

There is a growing trend in the book industry to provide a dedicated space for new writing. While internet and an ‘easy access’ have increased content generation, it has also impacted the reach of the (written) word. From status updates on Facebook and Instagram, and platforms like Terribly Tiny Tales to blogging on WordPress, there is always something for readers of varied interests. The literary landscape has phenomenally changed, bringing in new trends and opportunities. Chhavi Jain shares how to get published in India.

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Literature festivals, that capture the interest of millions today, have not remained isolated from providing a space for new writings. For instance, Jaipur BookMark at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, Lit-O-Fest as well as publishers like Juggernaut and media houses like Dainik Jagran and Times of India have developed platforms to mentor and even publish the already established and the new, emerging voices. Being a published writer is not a far-fetched dream anymore.

Platforms you should totally check out

The Times of India’s ‘Write India’ launched in 2016, under the aegis of Times LitFest-Delhi, is a crowd-sourced short story contest. It provides a platform to promote talented writers and is trying to bring to the forefront, the next generation of writers in India. At Write India, every month one of the authors (from the mentor panel) starts a story that you can complete in whichever way you want. The writer whose story is judged as the best each month by the ‘Author of the Month,’ wins a Kindle and gets a chance to be mentored by the author.The selected works are published under the aegis of the author whose contest you participate in.

Dainik Jagran too has launched ‘Dainik Jagran Srijan’ for aspiring writers in Hindi. It was launched in 2018 and in its first edition, the programme seems to be promising in terms of the exposure it offers. They have partnered with leading Hindi Publishing houses like Vani Prakashan, and the publishers shall collectively monitor the submissions. Prashant Kashyap, a marketing strategist and festival director for Jagran outlines its purpose, “Nowadays, the competition for content is cut throat across medium and this programme will bring forward new literary ideas and contributors for the Hindi Publishing industry.”

At Jaipur BookMark, the First Book Club New Writers Mentorship Programme, now renamed as ‘I:WRITE #mystories’, has been breaking new grounds in providing a space for dialogue between aspiring writers, publishers and literary agents. Festival co-director and publisher, Neeta Gupta, who closely monitors the process of the Programme, says, “Each entry goes through a careful screening process by editors and experts who select the best works. The aspiring writers are then invited to Jaipur to pitch to industry experts — publishers, translators and literary agents, who come together in a panel to mentor them.”

In 2018, for instance, the panel included Zac O’Yeah, Mita Kapur, Jayapriya Vasudevan, Preeti Gill, Kelly Falconer, Anuj Bahri, Urvashi Butalia, Aditi Maheshwari Goyal, Esha Chatterjee and Manasi Subramaniam. The programme also collaborated with Scroll.in as a digital media partner for an amplified visibility. About three books got a chance to sign deals with Zero Degree Publishing, a recently established publishing house by Ramjee Narasiman and Gayathri Subramanian in Chennai.

One of the shortlisted participants at Jaipur, Shubhangi Nasa said, “First-time writers are always looking for some face time with the agents and publishers and most of us are too shy or too awkward to approach them informally, even at literature festivals.” She added, “An actual individual pitch is what excites those of us afraid to make that push.”

Juggernaut in the meantime has launched an online writing platform which takes publishing beyond the traditional print medium. It is one of the most accessible platforms, where anyone can submit their edited or unedited works. At write.juggernaut.in, a team of editors pick and work on manuscripts which are then published on their website. Apart from writing your own book, you also get an option to design your own book cover as well!

Srishti Choudhary who handles the writing platform at Juggernaut recalls her experience while still trying to become a writer, “Last year, while I was still finishing my masters, I submitted a short story for a Juggernaut contest and it was immediately commissioned. I was also given a contract to write a collection of short stories for them. As a new writer, it was a huge boost for my confidence and this is what we are trying to do at Juggernaut, giving writers a platform and telling them that you don’t need to have contacts in this industry to get published.” Interestingly, Srishti was also one of the shortlisted participants at the First Book Club 2018 programme. At her workplace she comes across many stories every day and sees them blossom. “Juggernaut does not only provide a platform for writers to display their work, but we also constantly commission these writers, promote their stories via our various digital avenues, and pitch these stories to film and television studios,” she says.

Lit-O-Fest (Mumbai) is a space committed to the cause of promoting and building literary talent. It runs several initiatives to train, educate and publish the writings of aspiring authors. Throughout the year they run training and knowledge-based sessions. Some contests conducted for budding writers have also led to writers signing publishing contracts.

Let’s talk numbers

Providing a platform to aspiring writers and marketing their work go hand in hand. The author wants to be widely read. Content generation and its market value, amongst other things, are at the heart of the intellectual infrastructure. Prashant Kashyap vis-a-vis his years of experience in the industry says, “Bringing out new talent in this field is very important as it gives a new perspective and a variation to the creative form. The market has a huge potential to accommodate new writers along with the established ones. I feel it’s all about content. Strong and efficient content will create its own market space as the consumers are always looking for variety.”

Lit-O-Fest has in its first year published 8 books, free of cost, and plans to publish up to 20 books this year. By their 4th edition, they will get 30-40 books published.

Juggernaut’s platform, in its first year, has signed up a record of signing 26 contracts with writers. They run multiple online contests to ensure that the writers stay motivated to submit their work.

Neeraj Chawla’s story, The Last Prisoners of Six was sold to the Indian filmmaker and screenplay director, Rensil D’Silva and has caused a stir in this space.

Write India scored 25,000 stories its first edition. About 111 writers winning Season 1, out of which 33 have already been published. Star author-mentors like Manu Joseph, Namita Gokhale, Twinkle Khanna, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Anand Neelakantan, Ruskin Bond, Nikita Singh, Jeffrey Archer, Shobhaa De and Sudha Murty, were a part of the panel this year.

Jaipur BookMark’s Programme, I:Write #mystories has recognised some brilliant writers in the past and strives to deliver good quality work. It believes in maintaining its relations with the former participants and direct them to suitable publishers for their work. A phenomenal diversity of participants, more than 800, have entered the programme within a span of 2 years. Out of these, 40 have been shortlisted for mentorship.

Chandra Talware, one of the shortlisted participants at the Programme saw her first novel Alida get published by Zero Degree. “The mentorship programme is an amazing platform for new writers to get a glimpse into what happens at the other end after a book is written,” she says.

The festival in its next edition will see the book launch of Avinash Mishra’s Naye Shekhar Ki Jeewani, shortlisted by First Book Club 2017. It will be published by Vani Prakashan this year.

Jaipur BookMark 2019 will take place in Jaipur’s Diggi Palace from January 23-26, 2019 and entries for the programme will be opening soon at www.jaipurbookmark.org.

The growing presence of such initiatives has reduced the number of gate keepers in the industry. The real challenge we face is to deliver quality over quantity. With bars raised high, the sheer number of submissions to one platform stand as a testimony to its popularity. A plethora of initiatives and an even greater number of writers who aspire to make it big, reassure us that no one shall ever, ‘bear an untold story within’.

Chhavi Jain is an assistant editor at Yatra Books. She has completed her Masters’ in English literature from Delhi University and has previously worked as a blogger with bornofweb.com, and as a production executive for Jaipur BookMark and META with Teamwork Arts Pvt. Ltd. A skilled classical dancer, trained in Kathak, she has over 20 performances to her credit. She is also a social enthusiast and has worked with multiple organisations like Make A Difference, Smile Foundation and National Service Scheme to promote the welfare of underprivileged.

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