Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bond, Agents And All That Stuff

I've been busy the last few weeks, with travel, and also trying to get my children's book into some shape.  That's why the blog has been dormant.  The work is still in progress but I've learnt quite a bit that I didn't know about trying to get a book published!

When Bond brings to mind Michael rather than James and agents are invariably literary, it's time to finalize that list of people to send your manuscript to.  I began with Indian publishers for children's books and wondered whether to contact an agent or not.  Searched on the internet and found a handful of agents and authors and children's publishers (no dedicated children's book agents) - each set cursing the other and decided it's probably simpler to begin on my own.  The good news is that apart from the usual publishers, I found a couple of small but enthusiastic new ones - Tota and Yolk Pickle, whose voices I liked.  Whether they will like mine is moot.

I continued my research by checking on U.K. agents (largely based in London), the idea being that the commonwealth group might be easier to reach out to, in the case of an Indian book.  I've made a list of fifteen (though ambitious authors advise going through entire books of agents' addresses and mailing them in batches of twenty five!  Almost all agents now only accept queries by email, which seems to enable this kind of process).  Of these, one represents Bond (yes, the one who wrote Paddington), another Milne and  Shepard (Winnie the Pooh etc.) ...ooops!  Regarding illustrations, there seems to be no rule.  Whether one should write 'XXX and YYY' for author and illustrator, (the advantage in this case as far as I can tell is that some publishers only want single author cum illustrators (I don't know why) and maybe will extend themselves to a team) or whether to specify 'written by XXX and illustrated by YYY', which, to me is only fair.  Then there is a another set who says 'Don't bother with illustrations, we have our own illustrators and so do the publishers' (or we know what we want).  It's too late to pander to this group though they are welcome to reject our illustrations.  A tiny set say, 'No unillustrated manuscripts will be read'.  I can safely send my draft to this minority.  Whew!

As for the illustrations, they are still in progress, about two thirds are done.  It's been a terrific learning experience, working with an unknown foreign artist miles away.  Once we got to the thick of things, where the story moved to India, chaos began.  The illustrator (naturally) had no idea that small town garages and shops were not gleaming and filled with machinery and that women were not typically tall, aggressive and dungaree-clad.  Where to begin to fill the gaps?  I gave a one-paragraph description and about five pictures of street scenes (including Indian cows!) and he came up with a terrific picture, so realistic that one would not guess he had never stepped into an Indian town.  In this process, I also remembered that in the sixties and seventies, the only cars sold were fiats, ambassadors and standard heralds.  From there we proceeded, with the usual ups and downs, some successes and some failures and a lot of learning.

I realised how invaluable Indian film songs were to describe certain scenes, and it turned out he liked music and now wants to visit India with his girlfriend sometime!  What songs did I send?  My story is set is the sixties and seventies, a time when many pleasant songs existed in relatively down to earth settings.  But to showcase some of the natural beauty and joy that still exists in this large and varied country, the song I liked best was from the early nineties, 'Chinna Chinna Aasai' (from the film Roja).  It's been translated into other languages, but I give below the link to the original Tamil version.  When I need to take a break from those long lists I am still compiling (will have to begin the U.S. agent list next, which will be an uphill task), I sit back and listen to this song, which my son likes as well.  It translates to 'Tiny tiny hopes...'

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