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16 Jan 2021, 23:55 HRS IST
  • PTI
    • Bookworm
  • Literary agents: Emerging as key ancillary of publishing
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  • For Shruti Debi, agent to authors like Yuvraj Singh, the late Vinod Mehta and Aatish Taseer, agenting is a "wonderful profession for someone committed to the culture of reading and writing, very rewarding in an everyday sense, enriching" but for which "you have to have certain fine skills and a big heart".

    She says while there is a great demand for content there is a slide in the habit of buying content and perhaps the hardest hit "content generator" is the author of books, whose income flows from royalties per sold copy.

    "How do we sell more copies? This is the challenge, fundamentally, and it is shared up and down the chain: author (and agent: I mean the brackets literally, to indicate that the agent is parenthetical), publisher, distributor, bookshop. We all worry about it and try to find inventive or innovative ways to meet this challenge," she says.

    On whether we seeing more of new writers because of agents helping them structure stories, she says, "Probably not. In my
    experience publishing is an inclusive industry and publishers have always needed new writing. Books editors are very smart,
    generous people. A lot is owed to their hunger and commitment."

    Renuka Chatterjee, who stopped being a literary agent in 2014 when she joined Speaking Tiger publishing house, says the past five-seven years, however, have not as such seen a growth in the number of agents - there are still only a handful, not
    more than 5 or 6 - whom you can regard as proper, professional agents.

    "The real change that has happened is that more and more authors are now seeking representation from agents, rather than try and find a publisher on their own - as publishers tend to sit on slushpiles or unsolicited manuscripts, especially from first-time authors - whereas an agent will push for a response within a certain period of time; also, they find it easier to let the agent negotiate the money, contract, chase up advances and royalties and so on.

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