Success Stories

Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency – A bridge between authors & publishers

Michael Benanav – Himalaya Bound

We’ve been seeing a host of new age authors and books filling up the shelves across bookstores. There are tonnes of books being published and at times it becomes quite a task to choose from one author to another.

When a book gets published, usually the author seems to enjoy most of the limelight. But what goes into publishing a book is seldom written about. Even today, in spite of modern technology making communication far easier, it can take several months to a year for a manuscript to see the light of day. But Thankfully, today, there are various mediums, forums and institutions that help a budding author publish a book and one of them are Literary Agents.

Here’s our latest feature on Sherna Khambatta, the founder of Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency about donning the hat of a Literary Agent when such a concept was almost unheard of. We had met Sherna several years ago in her South Mumbai office when she had just started out and later at a book launch. What we truly admire about her entrepreneurial venture is that it takes immense courage to start something on their own and stick by it and this is what inspired The Lifestyle Portal to share her story with our readers.

Spiritual Parenting, Spiritual Pregnancy – by Gopika Kapoor

How did it all begin?

After completing her Graduation in Sociology and MSc. in Publishing she felt that being a literary agent would be the right fit with working with both the author as well as the publishers. “During my MSc. we had studied all aspects of publishing as well as the role of a literary agent. After some research on the business in India and speaking with publishers as well as authors, I felt that this was a niche that existed. Also as publishing in India grew and more structures came into place, I felt that an agent would be a vital link in the chain from author to publisher. Since Literary Agents are a relatively new concept in India and there is just a handful of us so I thought it would be an opportunity in this space,” recalls Sherna.

Initial investments

“Absolutely nothing to begin with,” says Sherna, she further adds, “Through the word of the mouth, I got my first client Gopika Kapoor and only once her book was sold to Hay House and we had a contract was I confident that this is something that I could do – a year or so later I got the website going.”

What makes Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency so unique

What makes her Literary Agency so unique is that Sherna gets involved and accessible to the author and they work together on the book. She ensures that she gives her best on the given project, which in turn helps the author tremendously. I try and support the author along to the best of my ability. I help with choosing the right cover of the book and, with the editorial. Sometimes authors can’t see an error since they are too close to the work, so I offer an outside perspective while being an advocate of the work at the same time. I also help organise book launches, attending literary festivals, social media marketing, book reviews and more,” explains Sherna.

At the Gopika Kapoor Spiritual Parenting Book Launch

Authors & Books

Sherna has worked with an enviable list of authors starting with Tara Deshpande who has a new title coming out later this year. She has represented Michael Benanav, Vanessa Able, Gopika Kapoor and Vijay Santhanam to name a few. Some of the books published under the Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency banner are:

Michael Benanav – Himalaya Bound

Michael Benanav – Men of Salt

Vanessa Able – Never Mind the Bullocks

Vanessa Able – The Nanologues

Gopika Kapoor – Spiritual Parenting

Gopika Kapoor – Spiritual Pregnancy

Vijay Santhanam – My Stroke of Luck

The process

So here’s how the entire process works – it starts off with Sherna reviewing a synopsis of the work including some sample chapters. “If I am interested in the title I may ask for the full manuscript or if the samples seem promising I speak with the author of the vision of the book and we brainstorm. After which we put together the details needed to send to the publishers and I contact the right publisher and imprint for the given work,” explains Sherna.

In fact, her years of experience as a Literary Agent, she’s found that of late in comparison to earlier submissions. There are more people who want to write and the market has changed a lot. Previously self-help books sold far more than they do today. Translated works from Indian languages today are far more than they used to be.

She also feels that today social media plays a huge role in promoting the titles and authors are more accessible to the reader. With Facebook and Twitter, a reader can give feedback to an author immediately and that can be of great help. Social media also acts as a word of mouth vehicle to spread the word on a title.

Michael Benanav – Luck of the Jews

Do authors need a Literary Agent?

Some publishers require that work is submitted through a literary agent. She further adds, “I think it’s a personal choice if an author feels he/she needs one to help out with negotiating contracts, contacting the right publishing house etc. or if they can handle it themselves then that’s fine too. I think it’s a matter of choice. I’ve worked with published authors for their second or third books as they felt overwhelmed the first time around and felt that I could provide support.”

For now, Sherna wants to continue working with the quality material and wonderful authors. For her, it has been very rewarding seeing a book coming to life and being on the journey with a writer metamorphosing into an author. The next title that she’s working on is a book on Indian cuisine by Tara Deshpande which has been very interesting and fulfilling for her to work on.

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The Caravan of White Gold

The Lifestyle Portal

Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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