A Writer's Life

Writers’ journeys: So your book’s been commissioned. Here’s what will happen next

Brace yourself. There’s a lot more you have to do than just write your book.

First things first: Congratulations! By being commissioned, you’ve crossed the toughest barrier   to being a published writer. Because, for every published author there can be (and often are) a hundred unpublished ones, whose works haven’t been able to interest publishers or literary agents. So yeah, you deserve that beer.

But wait, what happens next?

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to do once your book has been commissioned (and signed the contract, of course).

Let your commissioning editor go through the entire text before you make changes.

Writers are constantly editing their work because, as you know, the perfect novel just does not exist. But wait till your editor gets back to you with their suggestions. Often, you will find that the editor may not think along similar lines as you. Does the gun need to change? Can the two lovers not be in college? Does the ending need more of a punch?

These are questions you and your editor will resolve together. Try to get a sense of where the editor is coming from, and their vision of the book. From now on, the editor is your ally  – they will negotiate internal discussions about the book with the folks in sales and marketing, who don’t always believe in your book the way your editor does.

Edits: check. Copy: check. Proofs: check.

Be prepared to go over your book rigorously. Edit it with care, and not whenever inspiration strikes. Do not assume you can introduce a new character, or kill off some old ones, at a later stage. Do not assume you will be indulged even when the book is ready to go to print.

Allow the book to be copy-edited and proofed by professionals at your publisher. Do not mark “F&*k you” in the margins of your copy-edited document if you don’t agree with the edits  –  that’s not only rude but probably not best for your book.

While proofing (ie, when the book has been typeset and you get an idea of what it will look like), be prepared to pore over the commas and not the text. It doesn’t help if you want to grant extra lives to a character at this stage.

Judge a book by its cover

If you’ve written a commercial thriller, do not expect an artsy cover. If you’ve written a romance, you don’t want it to look like a swords-and-guns epic (unless it’s a historical sword-and-guns epic romance).

In short, go for a cover that is both familiar and striking in its originality  –  but always remember who your reader is. If you want help, trawl Amazon and see what book covers in your genre look like. And while you’re there, picture what your cover will look like on those pages – especially on a mobile – because half your sales may come from online booksellers.

The editor will send you cover options, designed either in-house or by freelancers. You may have a sense of design, and therefore suggest changes. But unless the cover’s completely off, doesn’t make sense for your book, or features semi-naked humans riding dinosaurs, do not demand the cover be completely scrapped and redesigned by you (or your colleague who makes social media banners).

Get ready to sell, sell, sell

Once the book’s been sent to print, you’ve got to prepare yourself for the most difficult part: you’ve got to sell the book!

Now you may wonder: isn’t that the publisher’s job?

Yes, it is. But what happens when the publisher begins to promote other books, like they have to? What will you do then?

At a time when books are being published by the dozens, and mainstream media has very little space dedicated to them, the author is no longer just a writer. An author is today a writer, marketer, salesperson, and publicist  all rolled into one. Even bestselling authors like JK Rowling and Stephen King promote their new books, TV series, films, or games on their own. So you have no excuse.

Let the publisher do their thing, but make sure you understand how the publisher views your book. If you’re a first-time author, they will rarely dedicate the resources a bestselling author gets. If you’re a commercial writer, it’s not always necessary to insist on a launch (in fact, don’t do launches unless someone else is organising them!). Resign yourself to the possibility that your book may not be reviewed by the mainstream media.

So how do you sell your book? Although this can be a whole new post by itself, here are some beginner’s guidelines:

Sell it on social media

If you’ve got more books in your kitty, create a Facebook page with your name (and not the book’s). Facebook is, among all social media outlets, the most “engagement-friendly”. Targeted advertisements connect directly with the sort of readers you want to attract. Use other social media channels too  –  Twitter is great for recommendations, especially if they come from “influencers”. Instagram needs great visuals. And LinkedIn works excellently if your book has anything to do with a professional environment.

Sell it to your friends

Word of mouth is sometimes more effective than the best marketing campaigns, and there’s no better starting point than your own friends. Get in touch with them, get them to talk about your book, and spread the word. And insist they review it on a public forum like Amazon reviews if they’ve read it. Sure, they’ll come to hate you for shameless hustling, but what’s a little bit of hate when it comes to friends?

Reach out to bloggers

Blog reviews can be an effective marketing tool in the absence of mainstream media reviews. Your job as an author will be to identify bloggers who’ve reviewed books similar to yours, reach out to them, start a conversation, and get the publishers to send them the books.

Events and festivals

It’s not always easy to be featured at these, but there’s a way around it. Reach out to your alma maters, and see whether they’d be keen on having you speak about a book. Students are sometimes the most engaging audience any author can find, and it’ll do you a world of good if you can break down your book so that they can understand it.

Write more

Today, there are multiple media outlets on the internet. Pitch stories to them. Build a reputation as a writer. Pick a subject that interests you, or correlates to the book. Only when you put yourself out there as a writer will others consider you one — – and not just because you’ve written a book.

That’s about it. Not every book will end up becoming a bestseller, so there will be disappointments. But the key is to remember that you’ve succeeded in making a book – or twenty.

Amish Raj Mulmi is Consulting Editor at Writer’s Side Literary Agency. He blogs on publishing here.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.