Humorous Angle

What goes on in the mind of a first-time author when his book is released? What are his anticipations on visiting a bookstore? How he reacts when he finds his book at the bookstore? Here are a few interesting anecdotes from the printed world by Asheela Butler.

Tucked amongst people gathered to be a part of your book release, you once again brush your fingers on the book cover to get the sense of “Yes, my book has finally got published”. It is now that the thought, “The battle is over”, crosses your mind. You happily revel in the freshly dawned attention by the people around you. Thus, you decide to have two extra pegs of the premium whisky available at the bar. After all, doesn’t all the rigorous disciplining manifested in penning a book of some 300 odd pages, followed by meticulously working with the cheap cialis without rx websites editor to prune the text earns you this much?

It is only after gaining some amount of experience in being a published author that one is bestowed with the knowledge that the deal is still half done. Anyhow, it doesn’t take you too long to figure out this fact. Next morning, as you reach the airport to catch a flight to your home town, the first thing that you do post checking in is to visit the bookstore. Your eyes are gleaming with the hope to see your book showcased in the ‘Latest Arrival’ section. Faster than the melting ice at the north-pole does the same gleam in your eyes disappear when you struggle to persuade the man at the counter to keep a few copies of your book.

Anyhow, as you board the flight you assure yourself that this is just an aberration. You sooth your senses by deciding to halt at your favorite bookshop the moment you land in your hometown. Soon sunk in the fairly cushioned seat of the aircraft your memory is clouded with events from the past. You recall the instance when the head of marketing had assured you that his team has left no stone unturned to flood all the bookstores in your hometown with the book. Also, you did over hear the chief publisher mention to one of the celebrity guests that the book is sure to be an instant hit amongst the readers. It is then beyond human foolishness to ignore a sure shot winner like this, you think.

After two hours of physical rest and mental exhaustion you reach your favorite bookshop. You ask the assistant if he has a copy of your book. Somehow you chose not to divulge him with the knowledge that the book is authored by you. He asks you to wait for a minute and as he turns towards his computer. With every click of the mouse, the distance between your two eyebrows narrows. Finally the man in front of the computer screen nods his head saying, ‘Yes sir, we do have a copy of the book.’ It seems as if the heavens have showered you with blessings. You want to explode screaming with joy, but your garb of an inquisitive buyer forces you to act decent. You request him to show you a copy of the book and start following his footsteps. He quickly walks towards the first bookshelf, then the second, then the third, leaving you with no time to react. Finally he halts at a shelf that reads ‘CLASSICAL LITERATURE’. You are completely flabbergasted when he slips out your book from there. You try and explain it to him that the book is more of a racy read (though not a thriller) and should be placed in the ‘FICTION’ section. The man, laded with years of experience says, ‘Isn’t all Phiction, Literature?’ You want to correct him but his phonetics is a direct give away to his limited knowledge, so you chose to keep silent. Swapped off all the energy by now, you chose to quietly retreat to your home.

That night, as you slide into your bed, your white pajamas with strawberry imprints remind you of the bookshelf episode – how? The mismatch is too jarring to be unnoticed and yet it is seen everywhere.

(Asheela can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Last issues, we discussed how to write an impressive manuscript for a fiction. But that’s not all. Forwarding the manuscript smartly to the publishers is also an art. Here are same useful tips on the same.

We all know that writing a manuscript is an art, but forwarding it intelligently to the publishers with a brief synopsis is also an art. Writing a query letter and a synopsis of your manuscript all go a long way in making the right impression. Here’s how you can master these arts:

How to write a good introductory mailer?

An introductory letter is the first point of contact with your prospective publisher, the first knock on his door, the first impression you can create, so just don’t shoot from the hip. Keep it professional and simple. It is said that it takes more time to draft a good query and synopsis than it does to pen a novel. I haven’t had that problem since I have studied these things for close to a year or two — no wonder I get good responses from publishers. Hard work pays in the long run, wotsay?

Ok, let’s get down to brass tacks. What is a good query letter? It should mainly convey three things: (a) A catchy line that will interest them, (b) The brief outline of the work, and (c) Why you are qualified to write it.

You can call it the ‘hook’, ‘book’ and ‘cook’ approach. Three or four small paragraphs are all that you need to get your book published.

The hook: Let us imagine you are penning a romance novel that revolves around a chic girl who is looking for a handsome, stylish groom but eventually falls for a simple, traditional, average-looking guy with middle class values who ends up transforming her.

Italicise the first line of your query letter, after the usual ‘Dear Sir,’/‘Dear Madam,’/‘Dear Editor,’/‘Dear Mr Khanna,’ (if you are sure of that). Mostly ‘Dear Editor’ is the best approach. Do not ever say ‘Dear Publisher’.

What will happen if a stylish girl with ultra-modern tastes falls in love with a simpleton who swears by middle class values?

You have grabbed attention. You have pulled the editor into your letter. Romance sells, makes money, gets reprinted, so they are going to read on.

The book: I have just completed a 60,000 word commercial fiction MS titled MR RIGHT USUALLY HAS TWO LEFT FEET.

My romantic comedy revolves around snooty Sheila, an alumnus of St Stephen’s College, and village-bred Vanraj, an accountant with National Bharat Bank; and how she tries to convert him into a stylish, disco-going, gym-frequenting hunk, but instead finds herself mutating into a middle-class, traditions-worshipping girl who begins to think like him.

Fantastic, well done! You have told them the word count, the genre, the title, and the fact that it is completed.

The next paragraph has outlined your story, the characters’ personality profiles, the plot that holds promise since it sounds both romantic and humorous, and above all, you have conveyed the twist that Vanraj ends up making snooty Sheila simple.

Remember always: the title of your novel has to be all caps in the body of your query letter, not in italics. This one rule will tell any editor or literary agent that you are a pucca professional, not a pathetic tyro. Indian publishers may not be too particular about this, but take it from me, international literary agents look for that all caps title.

Congratulations! You have a bestseller on your hands. (By the way, do not just copy-paste the above and shoot it off to a publisher. Write in your own style. Create your own plot. The above-mentioned is in fact the title, query and plot of one of my forthcoming novels. I have a copyright on that by default.)

The cook: I am a freelance writer presently breathing loudspeaker-molested oxygen molecules in Chennai, and haven’t yet won the Booker. This novel will be my debut if/when published.

If this interests you, I can mail you the synopsis and few sample chapters.

Do not add things like ‘for your kind perusal’ or ‘for your kind attention’ after ‘chapters’ in the previous line — that is implied.

Round off by saying: I look forward to hearing from you / I will await an encouraging response / I will be delighted to hear from you / I look forward to being published by you. (Enter) Warm regards, (Enter) Yours sincerely, (Enter) Full Name (Enter) Mobile Number. Don’t forget to add 0 before the number, if your publisher is in a different city (mostly they are all in Delhi), or add +91, the ISD code, if you are sending the query to an international literary agent. If you are using a landline number, don’t forget to prefix the number with your city’s STD code.

Convey something about yourself in two or three lines in the ‘hook’ paragraph. Keep it short, humorous, and slightly cheeky, like I have done.

The subject line of your query (am assuming you are sending an email) should be something like this: Query for commercial fiction / Query for commercial fiction — Mr Right usually has Two Left Feet / Query for commercial romantic fiction / Query for trade fiction.

Personally, I like the second option, since the title of the novel is so attention-grabbing. But never forget to say ‘query’. Do not make the subject all caps — email filters may send that to the spam folder.

If they ask for the synopsis and sample chapters, say: Synopsis and sample chapters — Mr Right usually has Two Left Feet. If they ask for the entire MS, say: MS submission — Mr Right usually has Two Left Feet. You can add ‘— For Mr Roshan Khanna’ to ensure that it goes to the right person, if you are interacting with him. But the full name is only for the subject line. If addressing him in the body of your mail, it is always Mr Khanna only. Ok, exceptions can be made if you are a maverick like me. But you got the general drift.

Writing synopsis: an art

Your synopsis should be one MS Word page only. Period. Times New Roman. Or any other font you like — I love Georgia, Calisto, Verdana; and in that order. Max 300 words or whatever can fit in there. 11/12 point size. Single-spaced. (Don’t double space it.) The MS has to be double-spaced though.

Start with the same hook used in the query for synergy. Then split the synopsis into, let’s say, five or six paragraphs. Don’t say things like ‘First they did this, then they did that, then finally they did more interesting things…’ Don’t ramble.

It should read like the interesting synopses you find on the back covers or jacket flaps of novels (though back covers are more like menu cards that don’t reveal too much about the main course). But your synopsis should have more details about the story, the plot twists, the characters, chief events, the story graph, and of course the ending — yes, even if you are writing a whodunit. Don’t say things like ‘you will know who the murderer is when you read the climax of the novel and it will totally stun you’ in your synopsis. No, tell me right now. I don’t have the time to read your MS right away since I am a hotshot publisher/editor.

Golden rule: A synopsis is the entire story in a nutshell — along with the ending. It should make me want to read your MS, so keep it zippy, funky and propecia canada pharmacy wow it's great gripping.

Read Part III:  What every wannabe author ought to know

In the previous two issues mentioning fourteen tips, we discussed how to start writing a fiction, now let’s see how to write an impressive manuscript. We all know that writing a manuscript is an art, but forwarding it intelligently to the publishers with a brief synopsis is also an art. Here’s how you can master these arts:

  1. Manuscript — Use words you think in

    Most writers make the mistake of using incorrect English or complex words. Avoid doing either. Write as you think. Use words that already exist in your vocabulary. You are writing for an audience that doesn’t usually include William Shakespeare or Francis Bacon. Imagine you are writing for college students, so tell them your story in a reader-friendly language.

    For instance, do not write a line like “She bamboozled him further by procrastinating their meeting, emphatically dilating upon the fact that her maternal uncle mentions constantly that her marriage to Sudarshan has enhanced the acrimony quotient between their hitherto friendly families, even as she hinted that they also ought to henceforth eschew confabulating with each other on any happenstance, be it personal or professional…” All/most pure OHT (overhead transmission), isn’t it?

    Now consider this: “She confused him further by postponing their meeting, stating clearly that her marriage to Sudarshan has made both their families rather bitter about each other, even as she threw a hint that they also ought to avoid talking about anything, whether personal or professional…’’

    Still, that line is too long. The mind’s attention span is much smaller. Better to write short sentences. Max ten to fifteen words per line. Once you master the craft, do whatever. Of course, you are the best judge.

    Sample this: “She left him feeling totally confused. ‘Why has she postponed our meeting on such flimsy grounds?’ he thought. Ever since her marriage to Sudarshan, their families had drifted atpart. And now all this bad blood was also spilling over at work. She suggested that they avoid discussing anything…”

    Don’t over-simplify things either. One or two tough words, here and there, which your readers can understand in context is fine in any given sentence. But don’t flood your book with it. Let the dictionary or thesaurus do that job.

  2. Know your grammar

    I normally see debut authors making horrendous grammatical mistakes. Either they were plain over-confident or didn’t take time off to check the dictionary or internet — laziness is so silly. Double-check anything that you write. Do not insult the readers by feeding them incorrect stuff.

  3. Be your own editor and proof-reader

    Remember, the editor at a publishing house is mainly a commissioning or acquisitions editor — and he/she is not there to improve or edit or tweak around with your work. Their team will of course remove or repair minor blemishes in your MS, but give them something real untidy and you can kiss your dream project goodbye.

    So before you dispatch your MS, make sure that it’s as close to being as error-free as possible. Have some friends (those good at English, not Swahili) reading your stuff and marking corrections. Go through it again and again and again. Just running a spell-check isn’t enough. It can’t tell the difference between ‘love’ and ‘lose’, ‘loose’ and ‘lose’, etc. So your novel might have something like ‘I lose her’ when you mean ‘I love her’. Or it might carry something like ‘I was afraid to loose her’ when you mean ‘I was afraid to lose her’. You have to read your MS letter by letter, word by word, and space by space. Tough, but who said being near-perfect was easy?

    The best thing to do is to read aloud the entire MS to yourself. When you say the words, you will identify the errors easily. Ears are better proof-readers than eyes — unless you are an editorial hawk, like me. Just kidding! If I reposed total faith in my eyes, why would I be reading out my MS to myself?

    Or you can have some freelance editor or blog writer go through it for a small fee. Your call!

    I use a great internet resource,, for checking my stuff, and, for slangs.

  4. Plot development

    I guess you don’t need to worry too much about this if you have a good story to tell. But do keep in mind that if you wish to churn out a page-turner, then bringing in some kind of twist, some type of innovative take on things every now and then will keep your readers interested in your story. It is better not to make it too flat: She saw me, I saw her, and we fell in love.

    Contrast that with: When she first saw me at the tea stall, I gazed more at her Fab India kurti than her beautiful face. Every time she saw me stealing a few shy glances at her, my eyes politely nose-dived towards her jute handbag or kolhapuri slippers. I would discover later that we had fallen head over heels in love with each other exactly when my gaze settled on a book she was reading: Mr Right usually has Two Left Feet. I had felt she was reading my biography.

    This is exactly what creative writing is all about. Create memorable characters, establish their personalities, describe their tastes, moods, aspirations, thoughts, weaknesses, and make the audience feel as if they are watching the story unfolding in print.

(To be continued in next issue)