Friday, February 22, 2013

Why simultaneous submissions are crucial?

I have realized the importance of simultaneous submissions a bit late in my writing life. The first book I had written around 9 years back, was sent to just one Indian publisher who took centuries to get back and that too after several nudges, pokes and prods.

I became aware of the term simultaneous submissions when I started searching for an agent around 2 years back. Until then the greenhorn that I was, I never knew about this term. But, as I searched the internet for the perfect way to write a query letter, I came across an agent’s guide to getting a query letter right. The agent highlighted the importance of submitting to several agents at the same time but also doing the agents the courtesy of informing them right in the beginning about it and keeping them in the loop when other agents offered representation.

There is value in it. Simultaneous submissions widen a writer’s chances as we spread the net wider. Querying lots of agents at the same time gives us the advantage of the benefit of pitching our stories to several prospective representatives of our work as well as ensuring that we get a wide feedback and it also reduces the waiting time.

Though my simultaneous submission (query) did not snag me an agent (many agents asked me to query them with my other books), atleast now I know that I did the best for my book: that is queried as many agents as I thought right. For my next book whenever I query again, I will query many, many, many agents. No making such mistakes again in my life.

Now tell me, were you all like me, late converts to simultaneous submissions? Were you smart (unlike me) and widened your net, and queried many publishers at the same time? Did you make a mistake and queried just one publisher at a time? Do share your submission process. I would love to know all about it.

P.S.  Checkout this site for an amazing Flash Fiction Contest held by Duckbill Books. They have some cool prizes and are open to International entries.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Interview with Author Himanjali Sankar

Today I have an interview with Author Himanjali Sankar, who is also an editor at a leading publishing house in India. Himanjali's latest book The Stupendous Timetelling Superdog has gathered rave reviews from children as well as adults. 

Q. Tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in Kolkata many, many years back and grew up there. I did my Masters and MPhil in English Literature from JNU, which was a wonderful place to be – wild, green and free. I have been in Delhi ever since, except for a few years in the US where I watched my children grow and taught at the University of Indianapolis as adjunct faculty.

Q. What is your children’s book The Stupendous Timetelling Superdog about?

It is about a goofy dog called Rousseau who lives with two girls and their mom and has one superpower – he can tell the time with barks and thumps of his tail. This comes in very useful when the Orange Marmaladies stop all timetelling devices and Rousseau is the only timekeeper in the whole world. It is a mad and funny story and I had a lot of fun writing it.

Q. How did you get the idea for your book?

It was the result of a workshop that I attended where we had to do a little exercise on Time and I came up with this fairly random idea of a timetelling dog. A year and some conversations and thoughts later, I developed the idea and it led to a children’s book.

Q. What made you write a book with an animal as the main character? Such books are a hard sell for writers.

I didn’t really think about the sales aspect – I just followed the story that grew in my head. My head is full of dogs generally. So they followed me into the book that I was writing. But there are nice and interesting people in my book too and the Orange Marmaladies from the Black Hole of Time.

Q. You are an editor at a leading publishing house. Was it difficult to switch off the editor while the writer took over?

I am an editor by day and a writer by night and on weekends. And I do not find it difficult to slip in and out of each role. It makes my life more interesting than doing just the one thing. 

Q.  Being an editor, were you okay with working with another editor?

I completely trust Sayoni and Anushka’s instincts, opinions and editorial skills so that was not a problem. I would not work with an editor who I could not respect though, so I guess I would not always be happy to allow an editor to review my work.

Q. What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a panster?

I don’t think I am essentially a plotter. To begin with, I just wrote, with a vague idea of where I was going. I had a rough chapterisation in mind but if the story wanted to take me somewhere else I was willing to explore. I expected the plot to resolve itself which it did do to a certain extent. But it also becomes important as one moves along to make sure it all hangs together and there are no loose ends. My editor did a pretty awesome job of helping me get the plot together till it all made sense – or as much sense as a stupendous timetelling superdog can make!  

Q. How do you balance your job with your writing?

I don’t find it difficult. There are enough hours in a day to do justice to both and to other stuff too – if one really wants to, of course.

Q. What are you currently working on?

I have some ideas in my head. But they are just moving around and making themselves comfortable right now. When they start clamouring and want to get out I will start writing.

Q. Any writing tips for my readers?

None whatsoever! I am not good at following rules or setting any. The only thing I do is read a lot but that is something any aspiring writer would do.

Himanjali Sankar is an editor and writer and has written two books for children, The Magical Adventures of Skinny Scribbles (Scholastic) and The Stupendous Timetelling Superdog (Duckbill Books). She is soon going to be a certified deep sea diver as well about which she is rather excited.

Thank you, Himanjali for visiting my blog.  We all wish you lots of success.

Himanjali's books are available on flipkart.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fear of our books getting banned

In one of my previous posts I had mentioned that I had sent 5 chapters of my Middle Grade book on a notorious prankster to two publishers in India. Both had requested revisions giving me contradictory feedback.

For three days after receiving their emails, I was flummoxed. Whereas one editor loved the pranks in the first three chapters, the other editor wanted them to be toned down. One of my CP’s had urged me to write really evil pranks. And evil little me had gone berserk and did just that.

I had no idea how to go about doing the revisions. All of you wonderful people gave me some amazing advice through the comments. I appreciate everyone’s concern and advice. I not just heard the advice but also followed it up.

I have managed to revise the first 3 chapters by just following my heart. I walked where my gut led me. Yes, it was sheer torture to rewrite the first chapter as I had laboured over it for ages. With a heavy feeling in my heart I had to let go off all the funky pranks I had created. Let me tell you that I had fun creating the milder pranks. They made me laugh and laugh.

I have no idea whether the revisions will go down well with the two editors. I will leave aside the first few chapters for two days, read them over and over again later and then resend them to the two editors sometime next week.

Though I felt bad that one of the editors wanted me to go gentle on the pranks, I also got her point completely. In the past few days in India, there have been heavy protests by people on all kinds of issues: movies, books, paintings, twitter comments and sound bites voiced by celebrities. Things are getting banned like crazy. I would be heart-broken if my book gets banned, because parents or teachers find something offensive in it.

Have you ever feared your books getting banned because readers find something offensive in it? Does fear of a backlash makes you go easy on your writing? What’s your take on banning books? Please share your views.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Handling the pressure of deadlines

This is my second post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group started by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We meet on the first Wednesday of every month. Click here for the other posts.

Sometime back, I read in an author’s interview that a writer gets the maximum time to write the first book. After a contract is signed with a publisher the author is under pressure for the second book. So, the only book a writer writes without pressure is the first one. The first book also takes the longest time to get written as it’s that time the writer is trying to find his/her voice, get the story in shape, get a grip on his or her writing, get familiar with story and character arcs etc.

Working under  pressure, trying to meet  a deadline is my biggest fear. I get anxiety attacks when the word deadline is mentioned.  And I also have the bad habit of procrastinating. I keep postponing things, until I have to do it in a hurry. Whenever I am commissioned to write a story for a Penguin Anthology, though I get weeks to write the story, it’s always in the last week of the deadline I rush to write that story down with the clock ticking against me. Though I am trying to get rid of that habit, it still troubles me.

Sometimes I try to convince myself with the thought that instead of building pressure and reducing my creativity, deadlines may work in the opposite way, that under pressure I may produce the best and my fastest work. This thought cheers me up. Writers/authors all over the world work under deadlines, so why not me.

Does working under deadlines make you break out into a sweat? Do you feel capable of handling pressure of a ticking clock? Have any of you written a book for a publisher in a short span of time. I would love your advice on working under pressure, on meeting deadlines.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How to handle different feedbacks?

In the last three days I have received an avalanche of feedback: from editors of publishing houses in India and my crit partner, regarding a manuscript I had practically stopped querying. Each feedback is not just different from the other, it’s also contradictory.

Each editor would like me to make a few changes. I know it’s a good sign and that I should be jumping with joy and not cribbing. And the editors would like me to make those changes and get back to them. I am okay with those changes, but the thought running around my mind is that what one editor likes the other editor has problems with that.

We all know that feedbacks are subjective, but in this case, I am caught in a pool of quicksand of different feedback. I am wondering how other writers who have several crit partners (I have two) and who get feedback and revision notes from many agents handle this.

I know deep down in my heart that I am going to make only those changes that suit my story and match my sensibilities. I am not going to rush the changes as I have not signed any contract yet. So, I have asked both the editors for a few days. The good thing is that they like the story, actually they say its good.

I would like to know how you all handle multiple feedback? Which suggestions do you incorporate in your manuscript and which suggestions for revisions you turn down. What do you all do when you get several different feedbacks? Any advice and suggestions are going to be grabbed by me. So please share your views.