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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Literary Agents In India

Update:Please visit the website for your publishing needs.

The concept of literary agents in India has not really taken off so far even though there are now some well known agencies whose presence cannot be ignored. But frankly if the number of agencies is lesser than the number of publishing houses, it can be surmised that the slush pile at the literary agencies will be much bigger than that at the publishing houses.

WritersNet gives a list of 50 Literary agents/agencies in India. However be informed that the list is created by self-submission and is not validated, therefore if you are going to pick from the list, you do it at your own risk. I am not saying that they are not legitimate, I am just cautioning that there may be scam artists in that list. As a general guideline, anyone who is charging a reading fee should best be ignored. Agents are not supposed to be charging money, they take a commission out of your royalties after they sell the book. But otherwise, try to google the name of the proclaimed agents/agencies on the list and see if you can find any references on the net.

Beyond that amongst the literary agencies which have their own website and have some work to show for are as follows:

Jacaranda at Bengaluru.

Red Ink Literary Agency at New Delhi

Siyahi at jaipur

Osian's Literary Agency at New Delhi

Of the above four only the Red Ink literary Agency accepts synopsis online. Siyahi wants a query letter before you send any submissions, Jacaranda and Osians want the proposals by snail mail in hard copy. They also indicate a time of between 8-10 weeks for reviewing the proposal and if your proposal is liked you may be asked to send the entire manuscript, which in no way means that your work has been accepted, which will again take a similar period for the decision to be made. So you can safely assume a period of about 20 weeks before you are accepted or rejected. Wow! In this day and age of fast communication 20 weeks seem like years.

So then comes the question, Do you really need a literary agent? After all the agent/agency is going to take about 15-20% of the deal and irrespective of the modalities the money ultimately is going to come through the author dues. There are certain advantages to having an agent, one is that the first round of editing is done by the agent and they make your manuscript look more presentable. They also know the norms of the industry and of course the right people and hence know what your manuscript is worth and will hopefully get you a good deal. The publishers also, for obvious reasons, look more optimistically towards the manuscript which has come through an agent and the chances of your manuscript picked up faster are definitely there. The biggest advantage of having an agent yet is that the agent takes care of the formalities leaving the author to do what he does best i.e. write.

There are pitfalls of looking for an agent. As stated previously the time taken by the agents is just too long. Almost the same as that taken by publishing houses. And considering that there are limited agents available the situation is not going to improve in a hurry. Most agents or the people working for the agencies do have a past with the publishing world, so the chances of the author being short-changed can not be ruled out. Jacaranda has got into the publishing businees themselves, Red ink is an offshoot of Bahrisons, or India research press and Osians already has a publishing division, so you can imagine who gets the first look for your manuscript.

In spite of the benefits of working with an agent as portrayed in the media, don't waste time looking for an agent. The way out is, sending your proposal to multiple entities including publishers as well as agents. The time taken to respond by both being similar, if the publishing house accepts your manuscript, you save on paying the agent. Any good lawyer worth his salt will be able to advice you on the legalities of a contract. If an agent accepts your book you can save yourself a lot of hard work.

If you are a first time author, which I presume you are since otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, grab at anything which comes your way. The money, the terms and conditions, the contract etc is all secondary. Get this fact straight; It is difficult, near impossible, to get into publishing, especially fiction, so if you are getting a toehold, throw yourself in.

First published at


  1. Hi... I am a first-time, and yes I'm scouring the landscape for publishers and agents. Vis-a-vis Siyahi, an update.

    Siyahi does charge for a first reading & appraisal. I sent them a mail and they told me they charge. I sent them the approximate word count and they told me what the cost would be. That's how I know!

    Any thoughts on that?


  2. Shatrujeet, Agents are supposed to be a part of your efforts at publishing your work. If they already have your money, you can well imagine how much effort they are going to put in. Run away from such people.

  3. Some great tips here, friend.

    But Taps, you might want to reconsider putting up the litagency website link up here - If you noticed, they do charge a fee for manuscript reading, so putting a link up here is quite contrary to what you advised us - to stay away from such sites.

    Just saying... :)

    1. Thanks Phatichar (I am sure you have a great name) Litagency is not representing authors as of now. The charges are for manuscript evaluation and recommendations for improving it. The author is free to go anywhere after that. Reading fee is charging money for evaluating a script with the sole intent of deciding whether to represent it (No feedback or reason for rejection is offered).

  4. Sayanta Gupta BhayaAugust 29, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    Great article here sir......I have a doubt about the margin the agents make.....lets take a simple example....suppose the MRP of the book is 100...making charge say was 50...the publisher keeps a profit of 10 bucks for one copy....the writer gets 20 and the agent gets it that SIMPLE if you are published?

    1. Sayanta you have it wrong. If the MRP is 100, the publisher gets about 50 0r 60 from the book store, which includes making charge of about 30-35. Author gets 10% of the net price (50-60)and agent gets 15% of the authors earning. Hope that clarifies.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Educative article. Literary agents are really scarce in India. And if we begin filtering them based on their genre specialization, the are almost non-existent. For example, India literary agents who look at thrillers are very few. Have a look at this link.


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