The Journey

Sometime in 2013, I was fired from my job. This was just 4-5 months after I’d been dumped by my live-in girlfriend, who had decided to marry the boy her parents had chosen for her. Rejected in two different spheres of my life, I’d hit one of the lowest points in my life. My mind was in turmoil, and as can be expected, rationality had taken a back seat.
In that frame of mind, a thought that had started as an idle fantasy- ‘to hell with the corporate life, I’m going to be a full-time author and make millions like Amish’ suddenly started making perfect sense to me. And that’s where my journey began. I decided I would not apply for jobs but would sit at home and write.
The going was surprisingly easy at first. I’d spend about 4-5 hours writing and loaf about for the rest of the day- an ideal existence for someone like me. Many enjoyable hours were spent reading history books and Wikipedia links (because research), going for long walks by myself (thinking about plot), reading and re-reading my favourite books (essential for writers) and having endless cups of lemon tea at Sharon’s Tea Stall with my equally lukkha friend Partha. It was an idyllic existence, free from all the dreary and mundane aspects of my former corporate life. Crucially, I had no real financial worries, for thanks to my Spartan lifestyle, I had enough savings to last me a good 4-5 years. That was about the length of time I figured it would take me to hit the big time.
What an idiot I was!
I soon learnt that the publishing industry moves excruciatingly, painfully, hair pulling-outly slowly. And that no matter how much savings you have, stress always builds up when you are only spending and not earning. Anyhow, with just 4-5 hours of dedicated writing every day, I had my first draft ready within six months. Another six months were spent re-writing it, twice. By the end of the year, I had in my hands a manuscript that I felt was good enough to start querying.
I started looking for an agent.
I sent out my work to two agents with whom I figured I had a better chance than the more established ones. Both of them said it needed to be made more concise and offered to take another look at it after I had re-worked it. One of these agents even gave me detailed feedback on parts of the novel that were dragging. This little back and forth itself took up another 3 months.
I went back to the drawing board and started on my third re-write. At this time, Bangalore Literature Festival had announced an event where aspiring writers could pitch directly to a panel of editors and literary agents. Informed by a friend, I had entered this contest and made it to the finals. At one go, I would be pitching to a number of different editors and literary agents. I thought it was my ‘big chance’.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a disaster. Without going into the details, let me just say I failed to impress the panel. Nothing worked out the way I had planned. To add insult to injury, I was shooed away quite rudely by one of the panelists, when I went up to him after the event. I had been trying to give him a folder containing the plot synopsis and a few sample chapters of my novel.
After that experience, I decided that I was not going to work with any of these people any more. That left only one name on my list, the one I had kept to approach last, Kanishka Gupta. By then I was on my fourth draft and the story was looking a lot better than the 1st cut. I sent it to Kanishka with a lot of hope and anticipation.
He rejected it within two days.
It turned out that he had sent it to a friend of mine, another author whom I used to meet often as part of an informal writing group. This ‘friend’ had said it wasn’t well written. The very next Saturday, I met him at a coffee shop and he gave me the thousands of reasons why my book was not good enough. He suggested I give up on writing this novel and write another one. ‘Your second one will definitely be better’, he promised. I grinned and nodded my head, for I was a nobody in an industry where thousands were knocking on the doors every day.
With all avenues closed, I sent the manuscript for a critique to a person who is fairly well-regarded in the literary circuit. This person (whom I did not know), wrote me a mail with a lot of positive feedback, encouraged me to follow my dreams and asked me to give him a call. It was a very kind gesture at a time when I was at my wit’s end and those few words of encouragement rekindled my dreams. I started on the fifth draft.
I was mid-way through the fifth draft when I started getting calls from Kanishka. My mentor had recommended me and just on the basis of his word, Kanishka apparently wanted to sign me on. The only problem was, that I was in the middle of a re-write and I didn’t want to send him a half-baked manuscript. So now the literary agent started running after me. Anyone who has faced Kanishka’s follow-up will know what I went through during this period. Anyhow, I raced through the writing and was finally accepted by a literary agent, 2 years and 5 drafts after I had first started writing.
I thought I could finally rest easy. I was wrong. There were still a few shocks in store for me.
First, was the period of waiting and uncertainty. It was unbearable. Time passed by on leaden feet as I counted down the days obsessively. I had to literally hold myself back from calling up Kanishka and every other day and asking for updates. Two months passed by in this condition, before we heard any news. An editor from Bloomsbury, the UK based publishing house which had first published J.K. Rowling wrote back to say she was loving my book and was interested in commissioning me. I was ecstatic and so was Kanishka. ‘This is going to be big, just wait’, he said.
I was told to wait for an all-important meeting at Bloomsbury where it would all be decided. So I waited, and in the interim, my religiosity increased a hundred- fold. I visited almost every temple in the vicinity of Indiranagar and Kasturi Nagar. Yet the weeks went by and there was no further news. Finally, we learnt that the book had been turned down as the marketing department had felt it would not sell. The same thing happened with another major publisher, where we were even verbally told that the contract was on its way before the commissioning editor disappeared. Finally, the book found a home with Fingerprint Publications, perhaps because the owner, Shikha had read the book and taken the call herself. Finally, I had a deal on my hands.
However, there are two laws that are eternal: a) Life is full of ups and downs and b) the publishing industry moves excruciatingly slowly.
Even though the deal was on, it took almost six months to finalize. The contract would come to me in soft copy, we would negotiate over some point and there would be back and forth over it for another month. It was during this time that my mother was diagnosed with cancer and we were told she had about six months to live. All through this phase, I kept telling her I had bagged a publishing contract and my book was going to make it big. I even showed her a print out of the soft copy. However, the final signed copy of the contract came exactly one day after she had passed away.
Between getting dumped and fired and my mother succumbing to cancer, lay my publishing journey. But then no one said being an author is easy.

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