Note: This is not a review, just an unprofessional and unethical experience I had with this agency. This post is intended for the aspiring authors who are looking forward to get published and might get an interest shown by this agency.
So, here I am sitting at my laptop, typing these words with a feeling of perfidy in my heart and the pain of the hopes shattered. I am pretty sure all the aspiring authors out there would connect with this. The blissful moment when you complete your story and finally have some peace of mind for yourself, you marvel at the words you have written, the plot which has been beautifully weaved by you, the characters which you have so dearly created and nurtured throughout the story. You literally become a god of a small world created by you! A sense of accomplishment sinks in, but not for too long, because in front of you lies a daunting task of getting your story published which will make all the hard work you did for writing your story look like a cakewalk. Considering you have written a genuinely novel story and not the usual and umpteen number of books written on ‘love story’, ‘love triangles’ ‘story of my marriage’ ‘story of my divorce’ and myriad of books written on the topic of relationships, you sure will grab attention of a few publishing houses and agents. So, you start approaching the publishing houses, some ask you for upfront payment of Rs. 1,00,000 – Rs. 1,50,000 ( in the name of vanity publishing or partnered publishing. Please don’t go with them. They sure will publish your book but it will be no better than the hordes of other books flowing into the market and your story will get lost into the crowd way before you will know it.) Some will tell you about the different *packages* they have to offer. These packages generally start from Rs.20,000 an can go up to Rs.1,00,000. These are basically self-publishing packages and you can decide to go with some of them but then you are majorly on your own.(sure thing that in these packages the line that 100% profit will be yours looks lucrative, but for a new author it is very uncertain of how much profit he/she will be able to make). So, after self publishing and vanity publishing programs, you try your luck with some big publishing houses, like, penguin, westland, harper collins. But your mail is rarely replied by these big houses and your story gets deposited beneath the pile of stories of numerous other aspiring authors. These are all traditional publishing houses, meaning, they will invest their money in your story. Now, when someone is going to invest their money in you, you gotta be good! You have to have online presence, you should have followers, works published or some literary credibility to your name. All these things are not mandatory for your works to be considered by traditional publishers but these things matter because if these big publishing houses are going to invest their money in you, they will surely look for returns out of you and your work. It doesn’t mean that if you don’t have all the things mentioned above, you won’t get published by these big and traditional publishers.For the latter case your story needs to exceptionally good and unique, like Amish Tripathi got published by westland. He was a new author and his books did marvel for him and his publishers. But the credit of his success doesn’t go entirely to him, it also goes to his agent, Anuj from Red Ink literary agency. Now, this bring us to the role of literally agents and my experience with 2 of them.
Literary agents are not a mandatory thing in India but many traditional publishers prefer the stories coming from literary agents, because it acts like a kind of a screening process. Like if Mr.X is a literary agent, he will have a reputation and rapport with editors of various publishing houses. Now, if your story gets the support of Mr.X and goes to a publishing house Y, it won’t get stocked under the pile of stories of numerous other authors, in the mail box of submissions@Y.com, it will straight go the mailbox of editor@Y.com. The editor will consider your story more carefully as it comes with the endorsement of Mr.X who has good rapport and relations with the editor. So, literary agents do play a considerable role in the publishing industry.
So, now that we know about various publishing methods and the role of literary agents, let’s come to my experience with two of them. I contacted many literary agents, from some I received a straight forward negative response for my story and from some, namely “The book bakers” and “purplefolio literary agency”, I received a positive response. “The book bakers” charge upfront amount as per their company policy and I am pretty sure they are gaining momentum as many aspiring authors are getting published with them. I received an enthusiastic response from Suhail Mathur of “The book bakers” team. Meanwhile I had also sent my manuscript to Urmila Dasgupta of “Purplefolio literary agency”. As I received positive response from Suhail (The book bakers), I asked Urmila to provide her views on my story, whether she is interested, needs more time, or couldn’t read more than one page of my story, she didn’t reply to my mail. I didn’t say anything as she had asked for a 4 weeks time to evaluate my manuscript. Slowly, 4 weeks passed, she didn’t reply. So, I signed a contract with “The book bakers” and paid the fees of their agency. 5 days later, Urmila from prurplefolio, replies to me that “We have read you and we would like to represent you” This message took me to the cloud nine. I was very happy. Grabbing the attention of a good literary agent is as difficult as grabbing the attention of a traditional publisher. But there was one problem, I had already signed a contract and paid a fees. When I told Urmila about this, she said, “she can’t work with me if I have already signed a contract” Fair enough to say this. I was in a dilemma. Urmila has a beautiful website, authors she has represented and testimonials from them, while “the book bakers” don’t have a website, nor the list of authors they have represented or the testimonials. So, I took a risk. Even after paying the fees and signing a contract with “The book bakers” I cancelled the contract. The good thing with Urmila was that she was not charging any upfront fees. She was working like a literary agent should work, she was taking commissions from the advance and royalty which I would get for my book, if published via her. I told her “I understand that working with you doesn’t guarantee a top publisher as you can’t force someone to publish my book but can you assure me that in the worst case your negotiation skills will be the savior.” She replied, “Of course, if I can’t sell you then it will be a huge loss for me too. And please have a look at your previous contract.” So, trusting her I cancelled my previous contract as her credentials and background are good, but later I realized that all this was glitter.
2 months after cancelling my contract, I didn’t have a signed contract from her side. I kept insisting, she kept postponing it. She kept saying, “this week I am not in town, I will get back to you next week” and to silly reasons like “My internet is not working in my home, someone hacked it” (oh! come on, everybody has internet access on their mobile and when your mail contains “replied from my iPhone” at the bottom, it is hard to believe that you might not have internet access on your phone and didn’t get the time to read my mails) So, almost 3 months passed, every time I used to call her she replied, “I am currently busy, can’t talk right now, I will get back to you” (She never did) So, rare replies to my mail, no returned calls, no response to whatsapp messages and no enthusiasm or update on my story from her side and 3 months passed. I didn’t contact any other publisher as I trusted her. A total waste of 3 months. After 3 months when I started sending some strict warnings in my mails and messages, her reply was, “I think I changed my mind”. Now, take a moment to analyze this response. After 3 months, after your insistence that “I want to work with you, I like your work” and after your assurance of “get on board and let’s start working” this is not the response the other person is expecting. I mean what kind of professionalism are you trying to display? These are your ethics? In her defense, she replied, “If there isn’t much response from publishers then even agents loose interest. I think you should work a little more on making this more gripping.” Getting a response from publishers in your damn responsibility and if you think that my story needed a little more work then why did you even said yes to it? The sequence of events describe the following things about purplefolio:
- Urmila didn’t sign a contract with me for 3 months because she was waiting for a publisher to say yes to it. Now, when even after 3 months a publisher didn’t reply positively, she CHANGED HER MIND.! So, you wanted a win-win situation for yourself. But for me, you made me cancel my previous contract which could have published my book by saying that “I want to work with you but I can’t work with you if you already have a singed contract with someone else.” These are the ethics of these literary agents who are looking for nothing but trying to earn money just based on their contacts with publishers and earn from your hard work. They don’t have a passion for books nor are they interested in really providing a platform to authors.
- When she replied that “Maybe you should work a little more in your book” this means that when you read my book and agreed to work with me, you thought it was in a good shape and needed no improvements. Considering the 10+ years of experience you boast of on your website, I think you would have known it at the time of reading if my story needed improvement or not. This means 2 things, either you didn’t read my story and didn’t invest time in thoroughly analyzing and you just wanted to make some quick money by sending a good story to publishers or your experience is not worthy of boasting.
So, all this said, I have asked her to give me in written that my story will be totally discarded from your side and will not be used for any further purposes, she has not replied and not given me any assurances for that. (Nothing new, now I am kind of habitual of no response from her side)
The crux of this story is : Some people might have got benefited by working with her, but from the internet comments and from my own experience I feel that this is not an agency which new authors should look forward to. There is no transparency and honesty in their work. And as the internet tells you so less about these agents and how it is like working with them, I think this post needed to be written. Their website and all the testimonials might seem promising but I just want to say that, “ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD”.
Hope this helps someone in making their decision and all the best for the rest 🙂
P.S. If anyone wants proof, I would be happy to give.