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  • Writer's pictureVadhan

Raw Deals and Middlemen- An Author’s tale

‘Hey, any news about the manuscript I gave you?’ I asked my literary agent on whatsapp.

‘Yeah, sure. Work in progress. Something will give somewhere,’ he said, a little dully, in reply.

‘Ok. Look forward to hearing from you.’

‘Listen, I spoke to a book event organiser for you. They’re holding an event to discuss a book by this famous author. It’s a husband and wife team. She said she’ll fit you in somewhere. Are you interested?’

‘Sure,’ I said. I was excited. An author doesn’t get too many of these outings and I was determined to make the most of it.

‘So, I am going to text you their number. Talk to them.’

‘Sure, I’ll talk to them.’

‘Hey, you’ll know these people. That’s where we first met,’ he said.

‘Great’.

So I called these people. A husband and wife team. Let’s call them Mr. and Mrs. They said they couldn’t put me on a panel but that I will get a five minute slot to say my piece about getting published in India. They asked me for a small bio and I sent them my introduction.

The session started with a panel discussion on ‘getting published’. A three member panel seated on a raised platform consisted of a rep from a self-publishing firm, one from a traditional publishing firm and a smart young author. The discussion went on predictable lines were the publishers were grouchy and myopic about how authors should promote their books, did not offer anything but statistics and how bad the business was while the author was liberal in his praise for publishers. A guy’s gotta make a living. Right? Into the discussion, Mr. intervened by saying there was another author who could air his views.

Mr. introduced me by saying, ‘that’s Vadhan, he self-published, or was traditionally published, hey, I don’t know, why don’t you come and introduce yourself.’

To him, that was probably informal. I am a published author of two books. My latest work was published by one of the largest publishing houses in the world. That should count for something, you’d think. He would think it too, if only he had taken the time to read the four line introduction I had sent him. Apparently, he had not. That’s how much credibility they give authors.

I had five minutes. That’s a mighty long time if you know what you have to say. Which I did. So I started by saying I am a published author, the recognition my books had won and the time it had taken for me to publish my first book in comparison to my second book. Since the topic was ‘Getting Published in India’, I was making a point that it is difficult for a first time author to break in but once you’re there it gets easier. My point was, an author must build his image and be lucky enough to have a good literary agent. I was going to say, I met my literary agent while attending the same club a couple of years ago.

About three minutes into my talk, Mrs. butted in with a mic from the other end of the hall that I was out of time. I had got to the part where I was talking about author brand building. She then asked me to speak about my literary agent. I said I was getting there and spoke about my literary agent. And then she butted in again to say that I had met my literary agent in her book club. And then she said ‘thank you, your time’s up’. I asked her, very gently to allow me to conclude my thoughts.

I simply said an author has to develop his brand and that the book would sell itself and then I said thank you. I was smarting so much under the insults that I didn’t even notice the applause. But that was not the end of my woes.

As I was making to leave, Mr. walked up to me and asked me to stick around to take questions in case the audience wanted to ask me something. I obliged. Mrs. walks up to Mr. well within earshot, ‘What’s he doing here. He cannot take questions from the audience. Only the panel can. Ask him to go.’

Mr. turned to me and I said, ‘I think I’ll go back to my seat.’ He said ‘Yeah, maybe you should’.

My wife and son were with me. They were horrified. My friends, whom I had invited were also in the room. They simply turned away, too embarrassed to speak.

I sat there for a few minutes just out of courtesy before we walked away from the gathering.

The point is, I did not ask to speak. I was invited. I did not do anything to be dealt with the way I was. But that’s how the cookie crumbles. That’s the world for you. The whole experience left a very bad taste in my mouth. I like to write. I like to publish my books if I can. I like my readers to choose if they like my work. There are reviews. They are entitled to an opinion. My reader is God to the writer in me.

The art of writing is great. The appreciation, critical or approving, is welcome. The business of writing sucks. The middlemen who make money using us authors are like all other middlemen. They give you a raw deal. You deal with people who could never be an author and who think its ok to treat authors like something the cat brought in, ironic, since its the authors  who bring them the eyeballs and the sponsorship for their ‘events’ and ‘clubs’.

History is full of the middlemen, the profiteers who suck on your hard work to line their pockets. Its sad that authors are given a raw deal by publishers, agents, PR agents and digital marketers, heck, just about everybody including non-entities like middlemen. Considering that only 5% of the books published hit the stands and considering that the top 1% actually become ‘bestsellers’ and considering that more than 1000 new books are released every month, no wonder there is a plethora of middlemen feasting on gullible authors who think they are the next big sensation.

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Vadhan

Author Of Best Selling Fantasy Books

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