Thursday, April 28, 2005

Another Manil Suri?

Looks like another Manil Suri in terms of the deal but she is much younger.

Here is the news:

"A teenaged Indian-American girl, who is yet to make her literary debut, has secured a staggering Rs 2.2 crore two-book deal with a prestigious American publishing house. US-born Kaavya Viswanathan, studying in Harvard to be an investment banker, has been given a whopping $ 500,000 in advance by Little Brown and Company, one of the oldest American publishers, now part of the Time Warner Group. "I still cannot believe this. I never expected this would happen," Viswanathan, the only child of Viswanathan Rajaraman, a neurosurgeon, and Mary Sundaram, a gynaecologist, told The New York Sun. Most first-time writers of fiction receive advances of less than $ 10,000, according to Donya Dickerson, the editor of Writer's Digest Books. "I had only vaguely thought of becoming a writer. But a book contract? From a major publisher? This is so incredibly unbelievable. It's so hard to believe that I'm going to be able to walk into a bookstore and see something that I wrote on display there," Viswanathan told Sun. Viswanathan, both of whose books will be fiction, said she expects to deliver the first volume, tentatively titled 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got In', by next month end. The novel is expected to be published next spring. "The main character (of her first novel) is a girl of Indian descent who's totally academically driven, and when she senses from a Harvard admissions officer that her personal life wasn't perhaps well-rounded, Ms Mehta goes out and does what she thinks 'regular' American kids do - get drunk, kiss boys, dance on the table," Viswanathan told Sun."


Susan Abraham said...

Zafar, this is the normal going rate at the moment for traditional publishing in Europe & America and for first-time authors whose work may hint of a later stellar success - not necessarily now. She is most likely to pick up a further £500,000 if her work is sold on London rights as she will be paid separately - most likely the same amount.
Its better that the majority of writers settle for alternative publishing though especially from countries like Malaysia. With new rules, it's very very hard to get your foot in the door anyway unless you really have something highly original and highly clever/different to offer - age isn't at all important. Literary agent rules have changed recently - much stricter - because of all the manuscripts piling in - quantity but no quality, as they say. So you may see less of the bad books that you once lamented on.
No, do promote the alternative publishing successes. That is where the majority of us will end up.

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Susan. What I have heard is that this advance is usually tied with the actual sales of the books. Suppose the book does not work, so what happens to the money?

I remember the same hype about Hari Kunzru. However, in an interview, he had said that if he had got that kind of money he would have fled to an island for good.

Look at this girl! She seems so cool about the deal. It seems that people who don't seek literary success are inundated with all kinds of offers on a platter!

Hey Susan, I am not promoting e-publishing as if I have some vested interest in it. A writer who believes in his work, rightly or wrongly, will go to any length to see his book out.

Anyway, if you really look at it, there are thousands of novelists today and who cares about them or their success except for themselves or for a few die hard fans.

Susan Abraham said...

Hi Zafar,
From my personal experience with my friend, the author, Rani Manicka, and the many others I've met through her and become friends with especially Sarah Hall who was shortlisted for the Booker last year, the understanding between author and publisher is that if the money is not recovered from sales (it seldom is by the way) then it will be recovered from the later books to come. Once the contract is signed with an agent and if the agent manages to sell your book to a publisher, the author is paid straightaway as the agent will already want his/her cut. It takes exactly from the signing of the contract around 14 days or so to have the cheque banked into the author's account. The advance is split between hardback and paperback and maybe one or two more times.

Most authors sign 2 book deals today and not one. If two books don't make it, then the publisher will pay a lesser advance for the 3rd book (and a fresh contract) until the advance is collected.

But in any case, the publisher willingly takes a chance and doesn't appear to hold it against the author in any way.

About Hari Kunzru. He won some big money and a trophy the other day from the British Book awards and didn't look like he was in any hurry to flee England.

I will care about my every success Zafar, if I ever do publish a book irregardless whether others do - however, after what happened recently, I'm still not able to pick up my manuscript and still haven't bothered to contact any literary agent. so now it may not happen (I may find something else to do with my life) or it may.

But if I decide to go ahead, I could care about every success - not to rest on my laurels - but to aim for higher successes and to pave the way for other authors in traditional publishing - an area that has now become excruciatingly difficult to get in. So pompous has now become its exclusivity with all the other easier alternatives around.

I personally, don't mind being not poor Zafar if God has given me a certain talent that enables me to go on to higher things. At the end of the day, it is still my choice how far I want to go and for someone like me who's been very grateful for a hedonistic lifestyle, I would want to go all the way for a full and enjoyable life and my advances will help.

But to understand this, you have to know the publishing market in London/Europe and NY throuh and through. At least if anything, I've learnt now that very few of us do.
best wishes,

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Susan for posting the information on book deals. Looks like a literary lottery!

Every year publishers find two or three new authors (faces!) and then magazines and newspapers go around the world promoting them.

Last year it was Alice Sebold (Lovely Bones). This year it is the Nigerian-born UK-based teen author, and now this Indian teen at Harvard! The show goes on.

You are right Susan. We all care about our success. That was what I was trying to say too.