Keywords: authorz coracle, self publishing, first time writer
(A conversation between Divya Dubey and Bhargavi Chandrasekharan)1
BC: Would it be fitting to call you the “one woman army” spearheading the successful “Gyaana Books”? Also, many congratulations on your latest publication – “Early Indications” by GB Prabhat. Could you tell us the tale behind starting your publishing firm?
DD: Thank you. Before starting out on my own, I had already been a publishing professional for some years, having worked with academic books, textbooks, trade books, and graphic novels. Gyaana was something just waiting to happen. I had decided early on that I would start an independent firm when I felt the time was right.
BC: What difficulties did you face as an independent publisher?
DD: It’s too long a list to mention here. Publishing is not an easy industry to break into, and there are several factors responsible for that – a major one being apathy: from the general reader/buyer, distributor/retailer, the media, etc. To quite an extent, things have been tough for the entire industry post-recession. If you’re big, or established, or have been around for thirty years, things are easier. But when you’re new, and have only your skills and products to speak for you, it’s a completely different ball game.
Of course the gender factor is always at work! There’s no getting away from it. Even though it’s 2012, and even though we have well-established women publishers in the country and enough women’s writing, I’ve faced problems first-hand. There have been men who would not even converse with me properly (though, when I sent a male representative to them, that changed); there have been times when I wasn’t even offered a chair when I went to meet someone at their office. It is sad, but it is true.
BC: How was the concept of “authorz coracle” born?
DD: It began with Gyaana. At Gyaana, many times we had to turn down manuscripts that had a story but required a lot of work. Many authors would ask us for feedback, and request us to help them improve their writing. Hence we started a new wing under Gyaana, to help such aspiring writers, for a fee. It is now an independent venture called Authorz Coracle. We’ve also added workshops to it now.
BC: In this age of e-publishing, how important is the role of an editor/ literary agent?
DD: Your question has two parts. I’ll answer each.
1. I don’t think the role of an editor can ever be unimportant or redundant, no matter what anybody says. A good editor adds value to the book. With e-book and self-publishing options available now, several authors are taking a shortcut, no doubt, but a lot of material that’s put out into the public domain that way is raw work by amateurs.
2. Literary agents add value to a book as well (if they’re good at their job). They polish the scripts and get their authors a good deal. Indian publishers still accept unsolicited manuscripts, but that might change in the future if enough good agents come up.
BC: What role does “self publishing” play in the current situation?
DD: There are both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that the author need not depend on the publisher at all for anything. He/she can do things his/her own way. He/she can reach out to his/ her readers directly. No publisher, no publisher’s share in the proceeds. The downside is that such an author misses out on all the important input/services the publisher would have provided professionally – editorial, packaging, marketing, distribution.
BC: What kind of challenges did you fa’e when you published your own book Turtle Dove?
DD: More than anything else, I think it was apathy. I had an edge over the others in the sense that I was already from the industry. But it was still difficult to get buyers to pick up the book, to get reviews, etc.
BC: You have published a collection on urban gay relationships. (Pink sheep – Mahesh Natarajan) how was it received by the distributors and readers?
DD: I think Pink Sheep has been our bestselling title. it was received quite well by the gay community, enjoyed by general readers, and reviewed widely by the media.
BC: As a writer-editor, how do you see the tags like “gay writer” or even, “woman/female writer”?
DD: I don’t believe in such tags; they’re restrictive. Either one has a story, or one doesn’t. Either one writes well, or one doesn’t. Everything else is secondary.
BC: What are the strengths and weaknesses of a new writer?
DD: Do you mean a first-time writer? It depends. Every writer, even a first-time writer, is a different person. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether they’ve been published before or not. Some are, by nature, receptive, professional in their approach, friendly, and always willing to learn new things. Some are fastidious, resistant to change, and difficult to please. You’re lucky if you strike a good rapport with an author from the beginning.
BC: What are the quality standards you use to measure the literary standard of a fiction?
DD: I don’t think there can be any ‘tools’ to measure standards of writing. A work is good if it’s well written, has substance, and keeps the reader’s attention from beginning to end. The writer’s craft would include storytelling skills – style, use of language, subtext, etc.
BC: When you are not writing or editing, what keeps you busy and inspired?
DD: I like to travel, especially to the hills; and I dabble a bit in ceramic painting.
BC: A word of caution to creative entrepreneurs like yourself…
DD: Do you r homework well before you begin. Have a workable plan. Think twice before taking any decision.
1 https://thoughtsonsale.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/interview-with-divya-dubey/reproduced with permission from Divya Dubey.