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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Editor Interview : Pooja Dadwal, Associate Commissioning Editor, Fingerprint! Publishing

Pooja Dadwal
There  are editors and there are still, other editors. But this particular editor does have a way with words. A true writing editor, is this one. Someone, who believes that an ideal writer cannot exist, actually should not exist.  So, in her words, 'The mould of the ‘ideal’ in the creative space shouldn’t exist', she says among the other relevant points, she makes. 

But, this space does not contain it all. So, this is only Part 1 of this Editor Interview. So, Read up, Folks and wait for more...

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

Nothing. There is nothing that I am looking for in a book. I approach it as a blank slate. What I look for—rather wait for—as I begin reading, is my reaction to it. The idea is to let the writer take me on a ride, and to not have certain pre-formed notions and expectations from it. 

Once I am done reading, I let my mind stew in the experience and form its opinion (What aids me in the process is all the reading, I have done till now). Mostly, my decision is instinctive and instantaneous—I know if I want a particular book, and my publisher and I push hard to make an offer—but sometimes, it’s not.

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

There is no such being as an ‘ideal writer’, especially in the times we live in. Where a diligent writing schedule works for one person, a manic writing spree can work for the other. How do you typecast, and, more importantly, why would you even want to typecast?

The mould of the ‘ideal’ in the creative space shouldn’t exist. Hence, everything works—a sloppy working schedule, erratic behaviour, genteel manners, a wordbank that would rival a dictionary, a simple writing style ala Hemingway, anything—till the time there is magic on the paper.

What you write should resonate with your reader. For me, in this case, the end justifies the means.

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

Sure. Let’s begin with commissioning: Once a manuscript reaches the commissioning editor, sent either through an agent or mailed organically (we are one of the few remaining publishing houses who are open to reviewing manuscripts sent directly from the writer), I review it (or send it to someone who is in our pool of readers) and decide if it’s something we want to publish.

Having made the decision of publishing a title, a contract is signed with the author. Post that, in some time (it could be months; heck, it mostly is) the manuscript is assigned to an editor and work begins.

Editing: This is one of the most important stages. A manuscript is read in detail, notes are made, and any substantive change, if needed, is discussed with the author. In case there are developmental changes needed to tighten the story (which need to be done primarily by the author) they are taken care of now.

Once this gets done, the line editing begins (minor developmental edits are also done at this stage). Once done, we approach the second stage of editing, where the editor reviews the problem areas and stitches together the entire ms (we send the edited ms to the author in batches, so that work happens in tandem). The file is then ready to be sent to the proof-reader.

Proof Reading: At Fingerprint! we have a ready pool of proofreaders who mark corrections which still remain in the ms. The file is then sent back to the editor, who makes changes as and where needed. After that, the file is sent for layout.

Layout: This is where the ms takes the shape we all are familiar with. The book, literally, comes together now. Right from the title page to the copyright page to dedication and acknowledgments (if any) to any other additional section which needs to be inserted, they all are inserted now. The layout designer picks the font, the style, etc, for the book and prepares various options to choose from.

Proof reading (second round): Once the layout is complete, the file is sent to the author and the editor for a final review. At this stage, we encourage both the author and the editor to take out prints of the final version and mark for any remaining errors. In case there are any, the editor sits with the layout designer and gets the changes incorporated. After this, the ms is sent to the press.

Cover designing: Sometime after the editing is done, work starts on the cover design. Various options are prepared and the same sent to the author and editor for their inputs. Once finalized, the back cover matter and blurbs are added.

Marketing: Depending on the book and the budget, marketing is handled majorly by the author and the in-house marketing team. As publishers, we help the author as much as we can in arranging interviews, reviews, book signings, book reading events, promotional material.

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

Read. Be a shameless reader. Read everything you can and everywhere you can. (I even managed to read during my wedding, just before I was called for the pheras. In case you are interested, I was rereading 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern.)

Bleed. Just bleed. All over your laptop, over your notebook, in noisy cafés, in quiet hotel rooms, make notes in your cell phone, write on tissue papers. While writing your first draft, don’t bother about anything. Don’t let the compunction of not knowing the best aesthetics or grammar stop you.

Once you are done with the first draft, set it aside and let it breathe. In this way, books are like wine. Go back to it after a few weeks have elapsed and then reread and begin tightening your work. Chances are you will hate what you have written (maybe not in entirety, but in places), which is a good sign. It shows you know what you want. With that serving as a guideline, get back on the table and start editing (yes, you are the first editor of your work). Read-write-edit. Repeat. Till the time you are passably proud of your work.

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

Everything and nothing. Nothing and everything.

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

Favourite: Well, everything! If you mange to find a calling in something you are really passionate about, it’s like going from one party to the next; the fun never stops. For me there’s nothing I don’t love or am not excited about when it comes to being an editor, but the one thing that gets my juices flowing is the scope of improving a manuscript—it could be a line, it could be a chapter, it could be half the book.

The responsibility and the ability to be able to gauge that and make a book reach its utmost potential is something that excites me and always keeps me on my toes (as this requires a lot of reading and researching on my part). Good thing is I am always trying to better my craft. I am always at school, learning.

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