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On being a Literary Agent in India: Sherna Khambatta interview

Sherna Khambatta founded Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency in 2007 after gaining a Msc. in Publishing. At the time, the publishing system in India didn’t have many agents so she saw this as an opportunity to bring in a certain amount of structure into the industry and help authors get their work sold. Here Stephanie Cox interviews her.

1. What were some of the challenges of setting up a Literary Agency in India?

In understanding how the system worked/works. The main challenge in India is the marketing, distribution and visibility of books. So, for me, once the book has been published, that’s more of a challenge than getting a book sold.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. What is particularly exciting you about Indian publishing right now?

I think India is an ever-changing country and there are so many stories to be told and so many individuals with a lot of talent, so it’s always exciting!

5. 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.

6. 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 renamed Never Mind The Bullocks. I feel this has been one of my biggest success stories so far. To read the full interview, head over to Stephanie’s blog: Words are my Craft.  

India, literary agency, Literary Agent, Sherna Khambatta, Stephanie Cox

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