Authors are bound to experience extreme mood swings. The pendulum could swing between extreme despondency and intuitional optimism. Just as I recapitulated my experience after publishing "In Harness" I wrote a blogpost way back in July 2006. And now I've a similar feeling to capture.
When a new writer, agog with a dream and plenty of literary ambitions yet unsure of the quality of the manuscript he is proffering, meets a publisher that is too experienced and too cunning...in nine out of ten such cases, the publisher would stoop so low as to bully the writer. I'm sure about this, sure as hell. He would just flip through the pages of the manuscript with disdain characteristics of mediaeval aristocrats receiving tributes from their serfs, casting thereon his hasty and impatient glance, and then say something as ludicrous as this: 'Um...its style is clunky' or 'Tut-tut...it's oodles of grammatical errors' or even 'Sorry...it's too long-winded,' blah and blah. Why does this happen at all? Purpose: in the bargain that starts with the meeting, the writer has to be brow-beaten, psyched out and driven back foot so that the publisher can take all the laurels! If he is an author with only dreams that are raw and brittle, he would go back with his dreams shattered. It's possible that he would even burn his manuscripts.
On the other hand, if the author has skin that is thick enough to endure this, as well as a belief in himself, he would come back and try to tread a different path that is within his reach--say he'd resort to self-publishing or a vanity publication or name it in whatever way you should. Of course, while resorting to this, he should be sure that he has the talent to steer him through the thick and thin of a creative life.
Only last Saturday, I happened to meet a big sort in Indian publishing domain. I was introduced to him by somebody who, at least in money and in clout, is no less than the publisher himself but the friendship between them, as it appeared to me then, is not all that intimate. In fact I already knew the big publisher had published a book of this big sort on the condition that the latter purchased at least 200 copies of his own book from the publisher. I don't know if the big publisher had ever paid royalty to this big sort, nor had I ever asked him about that. Yeah, I could be anything worse than that but not a busybody :)
So, when I met the big publisher and got introduced, he opened the discussion by enquiring what I needed from him. So I said that I wanted him to read my book "Virasat".
And the big publisher flipped through the book and got up to his antics.
'You should have got your book corrected from somebody who knows the language well,' said the big publisher. That he was condescending was clear even from his body language. The less said the better!
More than anybody else, I know what all I did before actually publishing "Virasat". I had shown the stuff to eight different people: a colleague of mine whose second language is Hindi and who has done his M. A. in Hindi from Benaras Hindu University; an officer who is working as a Hindi Officer in the Govt of India office; a senior government officer who hails from Hindi belt and had earlier done a stint in Hindi journalism; a Hindi poet; a couple of my colleagues whose ability to edit had impressed me; a person who is himself in printing and publishing line; another one whose grasp of Hindi grammar is really praise-worthy. In the preface of my book I've gladly acknowledged this! Then how would I accept such an out-of-the-blue statement that the book is still crying for editing touch. Yes, during the editing process, I had all the time seen to it that there should be no over-editing that could have robbed the book off its originality. And I'm fairly satisfied that the people who helped me did not exceed their briefs.
'But I just created something to afford the taste of a raw and unadorned style, say, like eating a raw mango plucking from its branches or tasting a ladle of curry from the boiling pan,' I replied.
'I know all that, but there're people specialising in this work,' the big publisher said.
Then I reacted, 'Look Mr Publisher, there's no dearth of people writing better Hindi than me, but I had no intention of publishing something in my name without myself writing it. You'd better appreciate the honesty.'
Now the publisher seemed to relent, 'I agree the book has honesty and plenty of it'. A pause gone he added, 'It can be published under a different title, say like "Post Office Tales".'
I know publishers flood the market with the same set of stories of the established authors again and again but under different titles and that's their way of overselling popular authors of the day. And coming back to my book "Virasat", when he had decided that the book lacked in linguistic strength, why should he be hinting at such a thing as publishing the book under a different title? Was it that he had the objection to the title only? Or did it mean that he needed a few more sessions of Q & A to psyche me out? Who knows, one day he won't come back and tell me, 'Look your book needs extensive editing and this, you know, costs money. So the author has to bear this. Plus, you've to buy the initial consignment of five hundred books and it'll be a kind of no-royalty edition, and so forth.
I'd better refuse to be bullied. As a self-publisher, I've been able to circulate five thousand copies. There has been a decent ceremony as I got "Virasat" released; the newspapers and electronic media covered it extensively. There have been symposia on the book attended by reputed writers. At least twenty different newspapers and magazines have covered it so far. Newspapers have published rave reviews on this book; the national television channel has so far telecast something or the other about the book. I've a standing invitation to proceed to Delhi and participate in a television programme that'll review my book and interview me. Some literary magazines have, in their recent issues, published stories from "Virast" and a few more would be doing that very soon. I'm receiving letters, off and on, carrying readers' appreciation. People leave comments about my book in my blog. A local literary society is going to award me "Kamleshvari Sahitya Samman" for this book on 24th December. People who have so far said sweet words about my book are from different walks of life-among them are retired and sitting professors, people from media, government servants and judges, anonymous readers and well-wishers, people from Hindi belt and from outside. Some have liked its plot, some its style, some have commented on its honesty and some on its freshness, some have highlighted its humour and some its touch of empathy-people who love "Virasat" far outnumber those who, for some reason, do not like it.
There's something common among all those who don't like "Virasat". And should I tell what? No, I should not, for people who envy me today are my friends tomorrow. So, the common denominator is that all of them are my future friends, including the big publisher who fancied bullying me in our first meeting!
A. N. Nanda
Labels: Forage, Virasat