Many reputable book publishers in India will be glad to look at your manuscript and work with you directly.
But if you want to maximize the chances of your manuscript getting approved and published (while getting a sizable advance for your books), you should be serious about finding the best literary agent who will represent your work. You can use different writing tools to help polish your manuscript, but finding a proper agent is a different story altogether.
The Literary Agent Landscape in India
The position of a literary agent is quite new in India because most of the publishers work directly with authors. According to Shruti Debi, a senior agent at Aitken Alexander Associates India, “Relations between authors and publishers were intimate. But from 2010 to 2011, it wasn’t so easy to have a direct relationship with the author, and literary agents became popular.” Yet the rate of change is still quite slow. Premanka Goswami, an editor at Penguin Random House India (one of the biggest publishing houses in the country) said: “I haven’t acquired any book from an agent to date…” That’s all good, but in fact, the role of an agent is important because many first-time authors aren’t sure what to do with their new manuscript and how to pitch a book to a publisher. Important note: Make sure you do a background check on an agency before proceeding. There have been instances of minor frauds where the agent would take 20k – 80k Rs. from you and then disappear or simply not provide a proper service.
The potential benefits of working with agents
Agents know exactly what publishers are looking for, and they’ll help you structure your book proposal in a way that makes it more attractive and compelling. It’s great to use their services, especially if you’re a first-time author and you are still learning the ins and outs of the publishing business. They will help you negotiate the contract, hook you up only with reputable publishers, and guarantee that you will get your royalties. In return, you’ll need to pay them a fixed percentage on the foreign and domestic sales of your book (10% to 20%) and a percentage of the advance (usually 15%). But the advances for first-time fiction writers in India can reach even Rs 1 lakh. In 2013, Red Ink agency (see below) secured a $1 million advance for Amish Tripathi, which was the highest payout ever by an Indian publishing house. So things are happening. Here’s a great article if you want to learn more about how this business works in India.
11 Best Literary Agents in India:
This is one of the most established literary agencies in the country. It all began with the Legendary Bahrisons Bookstore in New Delhi in 1953, which then transformed into something much larger. As mentioned before, the company has been responsible for securing the biggest advance to a single author to this date ($1 million). The great thing about them is that they work not only in India but also cooperate closely with publishers in other countries. This enables the books to spread in the United Kingdom, USA, Italy, France, Germany, as well as Japan and Korea.
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: not provided
- Address: Flat 6, Khan Market, New Delhi – 110003, India.
This company was started in April 2007 by Mita Kapur, who’s been providing feedback to would-be writers for many years and decided to turn her passion into a business. Siyahi is one of the first literary agencies in India and remains one of the most trustworthy ones. They offer a variety of different services including the editing of the manuscript, securing a contract with a publisher, and promoting the book to increase sales. With a network of international publishers, they are also able to get the book translated into several different languages and help it spread around the world.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: not provided
Writer’s Side is a pioneering literary agency that started in 2010 when most people were still doubting that opening it was a viable idea in India. The founder, Kanishka Gupta has been featured in many international publications and now represents several well-established authors. The great thing about them is their transparency and the lack of hidden costs. They have uncomplicated contracts which make it easier for authors to move forward. The fee is 20% commission on advances and sales. That’s it! But note that they will only accept the highest quality prose and they reject over 90% of the manuscripts received.
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: not provided
- Address: 8 Chanan Singh Park, Delhi Cantt, New Delhi – 110010, India
After finishing her Msc. Publishing (an intensive publishing program) in 2007 in the UK, Sherna came back to India and decided she needed to fill the void in the market. She’s a well-educated person with diplomas in creative writing and publishing. She knows exactly what publishers are looking for in new books. She will usually respond to the email with your manuscript within 7 days. You’ll need to provide a synopsis and a few sample chapters of your work.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: Not provided
Founded by Renuka Chatterjee, this is one of the oldest agencies in the market. They represent authors who want to publish books in adult fiction (novels, short stories) and general non-fiction (biography, memoir, narrative travel, current affairs). Osian’s started as an auction house, but they saw a good opportunity in the growing literary market in South Asia and branched out into an agency and a design firm. In an interview with Live Mind, Chatterjee said: “We realized that the time is right for a professional literary agency given the ever-increasing interest in Indian writing and the way publishing in India has grown from strength to strength”.
- Email: Not provided
- Phone: +91 (0)11/417 43, 15, -58, -66
- Address: c/o Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art Pvt Ltd, B-35 Qutub Institutional Area, New Delhi, India, 110016
Leadstart is a well-established publishing house that also now functions as a literary agency. It serves as an arbiter between authors, publishers, and digital content distribution platforms. Over the years, they built up a large network of media outlets and content providers. Now they are representing authors and redistributing their literary works across various geographies. They will be more than happy to help you book spread with the help of other media houses and networks.
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: +91 9699933000
- Address: Unit – 25-26, Building A/1, Near Wadala R.T.O., Wadala (E), Mumbai – 400 037.
Shruti Debi has a lot of experience in the publishing business. She worked in Picador India for over 7 years, where she helped with editing and publishing a long list of best-selling works, including the internationally acclaimed White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. She also worked with Vivek Shanbhag whose works have been translated from Kannada to other languages. Now she’s working on her own as well as with Aitken Alexanders Delhi, which is a branch of a well-established literary agency from the UK. In her work, Debi focuses on both fiction and non-fiction. She’s doing her best to translate published works into different languages and spread them across various mediums.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: Not Provided
Jacaranda is a small literary agency having offices both in Singapore and Bangalore. They specialize in working with fiction and nonfiction writers from South East Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. Even though they are a small organization, they receive hundreds of emails with submissions every single month. So you will probably need to allow up to 6 weeks to hear back from them. If you write fiction you will need to submit your completed work, but if you’re into non-fiction then 50 pages is enough.
- Email: Not provided (contact form available on the website)
- Phone: Not provided
The company was started by Anish Chandy, who was a Senior Commissioning Editor at Penguin Random House and then worked in the business development department at Juggernaut Books. He founded the Labyrinth Literary Agency in 2014 which makes it one of the youngest organizations of this type in India. He works not only with fiction and non-fiction writers but with screenwriters as well.
- Email: Not provided
- Phone: email@example.com
- Address: 2nd Floor, 141A, Shahpur Jat, Siri Fort, Delhi 110049
The role of a literary agent is still in the process of development on the Indian subcontinent. It’s hard to compare these agents to a well-established organization functioning in the UK and the US at this moment. But something is going on and the authors should pay attention. By sharing some royalties with an agent, you can take the guesswork out of the publishing and get your book into the market much faster. I only expect this industry to grow and become more important in the future. Next up, you may want to explore a guide to the top book publishing companies in India.
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