Some people were talking to me recently at a party. The topic turned to writing as a full-time profession. A young man said,”It must be fun to live the good life, earning so much that you just write all day long, which anyway is something you love doing.” I said, “I am doing this as a second career after retirement. Don’t forget I worked for more than 35 years as a professional before taking to writing.” I went on to say, “You have to be a top-notch writer, with a few lucky breaks thrown in for good measure, to be able to live only on the strength of your earnings through your writing.” I don’t mean to be discouraging but a lot of people in India, especially the young, seem to have too rosy a picture of the field of writing. They have a lot of spirit , which I greatly admire but sometimes in their enthusiasm lose sight of some harsh realities.The law of supply and demand kicks in, in the writing business as well. Yes, it is a business. There are countless people trying to get their books published but only a small fraction see the day when their hard work pays off and their book is finally published. However, getting the book published is only a small part of the story. If you think, your role as a writer ended there, you would be greatly mistaken. That’s when you need to do the most, to market your work and gain credibility as a writer of substance. Sure, some people do get huge advances for their forth coming books. Some have a series of book projects signed on for publication in the distant future, but the number of such individuals can be counted on your fingers, of one hand!
Make sure you know what you are in for when you select a publisher. Talk to others who have been published . Find out their experience. Does the publishing house act with integrity? Are royalty payments made in time? Read the agreement very carefully because it is a legal document. Sometimes people are so keen on getting published and seeing their name in print, that they deliberately turn a blind eye to what are clearly one-sided clauses in the agreement. Their goal at that point in time, is to be published. Come what may! It’s only later that they discover the agreement is totally loaded in favour of the publisher.
You then have two choices. Either you can contest the case in a court of law or you can just put it behind as a nightmare and move on. There are merits and demerits of each, which I need not go into for the simple reason that this is a choice individuals have to make. There are thousands of people who want to be published. If you don’t go back to that publisher, well, some one else will and the world goes on.
I am not suggesting for a moment that unscrupulous publishers with no business ethics should not be brought to book. Nor am I in any way condoning shockingly unethical behaviour of some publishers. All that I am saying, is that budding authors need to research much more and do their home work thoroughly before signing that agreement, which is oh so tempting to sign straight off.
All is not lost, though. Like there is a market for every good product. The better your writing, the more demand there will be for your output. There is no substitute for top-notch writing. Write well consistently and make a name for yourself as a great writer. The publishing will take care of itself.