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Monday, December 16, 2013

Editor Interview: Amish Raj Mulmi, Hachette’s Assistant Commissioning Editor

Folks, as you know we began our Publishing Interviews, earlier this month. So, now we move from the ‘comic books’ to the ‘books’, with this one. So, we go a step further in our editorial interviews...

In this one, the editor spoke to us about the process of editing, the importance of self –discipline, and what he could add to a writer’s work and the challenges an editor has to face, in the face of films, gaming and mobile devices, today.

What are you looking for in a book, when it comes to you?

The first reaction is whether the story grabs me immediately; the second is to assess the book according to the genre it’s meant for. 

What, according to you are the qualities of an ideal writer?

There are no rules as to what makes an ideal writer. The only rule that stands out amongst all writers of note is that of immaculate self-discipline: all writers take time out to write, period.

Could you explain the process, from writing, to editing, and finally, printing and marketing?

You’ve jotted down the process pretty succinctly: a book goes through all these stages, and no two books go through the process the same way. Some books require extra work on the writing, some on the marketing. Some also require extra effort in terms of production.

As a rule, a manuscript is considered a draft until a first edit is done; once the editor and the author are both satisfied, it moves onto the copy-edit stage, and there onto the proof. Meanwhile, appropriate covers are designed. Once the book is proofed and ready to go to print, the marketing kicks in.

What is the one thing, you would you tell an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many tips as you would like)

Read. Read as widely and as much as possible, and as different to the genre you are writing for.

Be your worst critic. All books are bestsellers in one’s mind.

Edit what you’ve written. Once you’ve written your ‘book’, edit everything. Like Hemingway said, ‘The first draft of anything is s@#t.’

Finally: Be ready for rejections. Do not quit your current job to become a writer, unless you have a fortune stashed away, or you’ve won the lottery.

What do you think an editor can add to the writer’s work?

It depends from work to work; no good editor edits a book as if s/he is writing it – the voice of the author must be maintained at all costs. Some books require extra effort, some less, but all books must be nurtured to perfection. 

At the end of the day, the book you’re publishing is the book you’d want to read.

What are you working on now?

Exciting, exciting stuff: political biographies, corporate thrillers, heart-wrenching literary fiction, brilliant crime-capers.

What sorts of project(s) are most likely to get an okay from you?

I do not restrict myself to a particular genre; I am open to anything that I think can work in our market.

Could you tell us about some of your upcoming titles? 

February will see a conspiracy thriller called Avatari that should have Dan Brown fans hooked. We will have Subroto Bagchi’s new business book that will be launched in September; the third instalment in the Aryavarta Chronicles, Kurukshetra by Krishna Udayasankar, will also be launched in the same month.

In February, we have a political biography of Narendra Modi by one of the most respected political scientists currently – Christophe Jaffrelot. He will be writing on the saffron wave that Modi has built up in Gujarat and subsequently across India during his campaigning. 

In July, we will see the launch of Fraudster, a magnificent corporate thriller that will keep its readers at the edge of their seats. Gritty and fast-paced, this is a debut by R.V. Raman, which looks at corporate fraud from the eyes of an insider – and will surely be related to by millions of readers.

What are your top three favourite books?

What are the best books I have read?

What is your favourite thing about being an editor? And your least favourite thing?

Favourite: Receiving the advance copies. Nothing compares to the feeling when you see a book you’ve carefully nurtured come to life as a printed, finished book. 

And of course, the book selling thousands and thousands.

Least favourite: having to trawl through marketing plans of a thousand different ‘bestselling’ authors who haven’t written their books but are sure the books will sell like hot cakes.

What are the main skills, an editor would need to do their job well?

Apart from language skills, a good editor will be able to differentiate between the commercial prospects and the literary value of a title. 

Editors must keep their personal reading choices aside while deciding whether to take on a book or not; a book has to be judged solely by its merit.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

In current circumstances, a bigger challenge that is facing society rather than just editors is that reading seems to have taken a back seat to films, gaming and mobile devices. The same goes for the media: there is very little space in the media today for books. Books don’t seem to be ‘cool’ any more.

In such a scenario, the biggest challenge for an editor is to ensure their books remain visible in the limited attention span that the modern reader has. 

Therefore, an editor today is not just ‘editing’, but is also clued into the various media spaces books get and is actively promoting their books on social media.

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