When I wrote my debut novel #iAm16iCan I was a full time screenplay writer for a major TV show. I was earning good. I was making a living following my passion—writing.
Was I happy? Far from it. Anyone who has worked for Indian TV industry knows that it’s a writer’s nightmare. So, yes, I was making money living a nightmare.
Nevertheless, this book was different. I was writing it in ZONE. At that point, I cared for nothing. No publication. No contract. No agent. This was the CALL of my life. I was born to write @YinYangSeries. Any writer who has been at the craft for 10+ years can recognize when writing reaches the ZONE state. I was in ZONE— FLOW.
After writing the book, I sent it to bloggers, journalist, and media people in India. We were “men” at work. #IndiaAgainstRape #Veerisha. Work was needed. We were doing it.
Then, I moved to the USA. And this is for the first time; I realized that publishing a book can be a systematic process. Unlike in India.
What did I do? Remember Hero’s Journey? I refused the call! I kept saying, no, I would do it my way. I don’t need an agent. Mistake. Big mistake! Thanks to my husband, last January 2016, I was convinced that I need a literary agent. And thus the quest for the Holy Grail started.
I have a memory of 3 phases.
(a) Departure: There are 1000s of agents out there. I will for sure find one.
What did I do right: I attended @SFWC and pitched my novel. 8 out of 10 agents I had pitched asked for a full manuscript. Later they asked me to revise the novel, which I did, but this first round of acceptance gave me the confidence I needed to precede in the USA publishing industry with my book.
What did I do wrong: At one point, I got in a Twitter war with someone who I should not have offended. I won’t go in details here. But it was stupid of me to do that.
(b) Initiation: Every writer worth his/her salt has a literary agent. I must be a terrible writer for not having one.
What did I do right: I worked with 3 freelance editors (2 developmental editors and 1 line editor) to make my book the strongest book I can present.
What did I do wrong: It’s not something I could have controlled, but I suffered from severe mood/ anxiety issues. For which, I am undergoing a treatment.
(c) Return: Literary agents are neither god/goddess nor demons. They are very efficient professionals working at the forefront of publishing industry— FOR writers.
Literary agents are writer’s best friends. They work for writers. ALWAYS.
Every writer—I repeat—EVERY writer—self pub, hybrid, or traditional published—need them.
What did I do right: I worked with 3 editors to polish my query letter. These 350-400 words are a writer’s first introduction. They must be laconic and brilliant.
What did I do wrong: I posted a rejection letter on Twitter. At that point, it seemed I am doing the right thing, but I was NOT doing the right thing.
If there are people who have created the White Wash situation in publishing, there are people who have been working diligently for We Need Diverse Books. It’s not fair to create panic and whitewash (pun intended) the efforts of the people who are working hard to make change.
It was a wrong behavior on my part. My apology.
Overall, in last 1 year, I have learnt a lot. As I am a newbie in the publishing world, yes, I did everything by making mistakes. But I hope other writers learn from my mistakes. Also, I hope they learn from what I did right :)