‘I am not surprised by the success of any of my books; there’s a reason why we took them on in the first place’ Kanishka Gupta
Bookaholicanonymous is immensely privileged to have this exclusive conversation with Kanishka Gupta
Kanishka Gupta is a literary agent, author, consultant, and publishing commentator. He is the founder of Writer's Side, the largest literary agency and consultancy in South Asia. In less than seven years since forming Writer's Side, he has represented more than 400 authors. In fact, according to Publishersmarketplace rankings, he is currently one of the highest individual dealmakers in the world for English books. He is also the youngest literary agent in South Asia. His first novel, History of Hate, was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2009.
From being a published writer to a super successful literary agent, your journey in short
Publishing is a close-knit industry, incestuous and impossible to break into. I think I just kept at it and a point came when some publishers grew tired of my insistence and started taking me seriously. The agency has grown because of word-of-mouth, although we still pick up a lot of books from the slushpile. I believe I am as good as any international agent in the subcontinent and in regional markets. I still haven’t figured out the publishing markets in UK and North America though. This year we made our first trip to Frankfurt and met dozens of editors from all over the world. Let’s see what comes of it.
Are you writing something now? Or you are in your happy space?
I have a strange poetry collection coming out from Speaking Tiger. My publisher calls it a fictional diary. Only time will tell in what form it gets published. I don’t know about happy but I am definitely more content due to the hard-won recognition over the last few years.
What do you think is needed to be a literary agent and a consultant?
You need to be open to all genres and not just restrict yourself to literary or commercial writing. The market demands and editors’ tastes have to take precedence over an agent’s personal tastes. We do all kinds of books ranging from commercial fiction and graphic novels to even academic texts. This is not a market for boutique or exclusive agents simply because the advances continue to hover in the range of 50,000-2 lakhs due to smaller print runs and lower price points.
Who has/have been your guiding light/s through this journey?
I have a small circle of friends (I don’t trust easily) but they’re good friends. Over the years, I have greatly benefited from the counsel of Ruchira Gupta, Namita Gokhale, Shobhaa De, Rahul Soni, Sheela Reddy and Arunava Sinha.
What are the 3 things you look for in a manuscript before accepting it?
We believe in meritocracy. Sifarish and pedigree means nothing to us unless it’s a good read in the first place.
I know it will be difficult...but who are your fave WS authors?
Josy Joseph, Anees Salim, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Sabyn Javeri, Bhaskar Chattopadhyay, Shubha Mudgal, Ali Khan Mahmudabad, Nadia Akbar, Numair Choudhury, Pradeep Damodaran, Hussain Zaidi, Shandana Minhas, Sheela Reddy... The list is endless. Frankly, all my authors are my favourites.
Which authors/books surprised you with their success?
I am not surprised by the success of any of my books; there’s a reason why we took them on in the first place. If anything, I am at times deeply underwhelmed by the response (both critical and commercial) to many of our books. I hope this changes in the coming years.
Bookaholicanonymous wishes Kanishka and his literary agency all the best in the coming year, may it be the best year!
His website: www.writersside.com
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