Today’s interview is another international one, with a literary agent based in India. Here Sherna Khambatta discusses her role in the industry and the books and publishing landscape in her country.
Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your career.
I started the Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency in 2007 after gaining a Msc. in Publishing. The publishing system in India at that time didn’t have many agents and I thought it would be a good way to bring in a certain amount of structure into the industry and help authors get their work sold.
What were some of the challenges in doing so?
In understanding how the system worked/ works. The main challenge in India is distribution / visibility of books and marketing so for me, once the book has been published, that’s more of a challenge than getting a book sold.
Your website says “Literary agents are a new concept in Indian publishing.” How has the system worked previously and what do you feel your company brings to the indian publishing landscape?
There are a very few agents in India still, some publishers such as Hachette India now only work through agents so I think in a miniscule way we’ve been able to bring in some structure into the system. Previously authors could directly send in work to publishers by mail and now by email.
In what ways do you work as the liaison between the author and publisher?
I negotiate the contract, help out in editing the book, and if there are any issues whilst the publisher edits the work then I step in sometimes as a moderator between the two. I also help out in social media marketing, making sure the books are in store, sending out media copies, arranging interviews, organising events/book signings and with Literary festivals.
What is particularly exciting you about Indian publishing right now?
I think India is a country ever changing and there are so many stories to be told and so many individuals with a lot of talent so it’s always exciting!
How many submissions do you receive a month on average and what is it that you look for in a manuscript?
I receive about 70-100 manuscripts a week on average. I prefer working with non-fiction as I believe that no two people have the same experience and so that’s very interesting for me to see something written with a different perspective. I’m in search of well written narratives which I feel should be shared.
What’s been your biggest success so far?
I’m very proud to have worked on the newest book that we’ve released – Himalaya Bound by Michael Benanav – on a tribe in the Himalayas. It’s published by HarperCollins India and has been a very fulfilling experience.
The book The Nanologues by Vanessa Able, published by Hachette India, has had its rights sold in the UK & US by the publisher Nicholas Brealey and re-named ‘Never Mind The Bullocks.’ I feel this has been one of my biggest success stories so far.
You can follow Sherna on Twitter @ShernaKhambatta
Find out more about her company here: http://www.shernakhambatta.com/