Presented below is the telephonic conversation I recently had with a woman who, I am pretty sure, is never going to visit this blog. Even if she does, good for her.
"Hello, am I speaking to Mr Ghosh?"
"I believe you've published a book?"
"So how does one get published?"
I wish I knew the answer. Getting published, as far as I know by now, is a matter of luck. Sheer luck. It is not the same as applying for a passport, where success is guaranteed, even though you might have to wait longer than usual or bribe the odd clerk. You may turn out the best manuscript ever written but if you don't know a soul in the publishing industry, chances are very high that your manuscript will remain just that -- a manuscript. At the same time, the managing director of a publishing firm may be your childhood friend, but if you write third-rate stuff and pester him to publish it, chances are equally high that he will stop taking your calls and avoid crossing your path. Somewhere between these extremes lies the chance of getting published.
But who was going to explain all this to the woman. I advised her to visit the websites of various publishing houses and go through the submission guidelines.
"But I have already done all that. They all said 'no'. That is why I am calling you. You have published a book no?"
"So can you please give me the contact number of your publisher? I will talk to them directly. I want to get my daughter's stories published."
"How old is your daughter?"
"She is twenty. She has written some wonderful short stories."
"But isn't she too young? Maybe she should write some more."
"Why? If whatever she has written so far gets published, she will feel motivated to write more."
"As far as I know, you will be required to send in a synopsis plus three sample stories..."
"I know, I know. That is why I am calling you. The thing is, she hasn't written that many stories to be compiled into a book. So I plan to add her poems. She has written some beautiful poems. But that may still not be enough for a book, so I want to put in some of my paintings too. I have done some beautiful paintings."
"I know. But these publishers don't seem to think so. I have tried almost all of them. Now I want to try your publisher. Can I have the number please?"
"I don't have any number. I too had approached them through the website."
"Oh, is it? What's the website called?"
I told her.