Indian Literary Agents: Urmila Dasgupta,Purple Folio Literary Agency ep39

Literary Agent Urmila Dasgupta,the founder of Purple Folio Literary Agency. Urmila began her career in book publishing industry and was an editor with some of the top publishing houses with experience of well over a decade. She spent nearly 10 years in senior editorial positions with companies like Penguin and Oxford University Press before launching Purple Folio in 2012.She set up Purple Folio in 2012, which is headquartered in Mumbai. Her past professional experience includes working as a commissioning editor with Pearson Education and Oxford University Press, as well as Penguin Books India. Urmila has an graduate degree from Lady Shriram College, Delhi University and a master’s from Jawaharlal Nehru Vishvavidyalaya.
“Most print runs in India are less than 2,000 and it is almost impossible for Literary Agents to get their fees from the Author Royalties.”

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Discussion with Literary Agent Urmila Dasgupta

  • Urmila always had an aptitude for books and knew she wanted to be a part of publishing industry. According to her, reading gives her a pleasure that is unmatched to anything else in this world. Urmila had a brief stint with Rupa Publications before she started working as an assistant editor with Katha- a non-profit organization that works largely on translations of regional languages into English. She credits Katha for her grounding in translation and also here is where she got hands on experience in almost every segment be fiction or non-fiction.
  • Urmila has worked with almost every genre of book publishing in India. She feels that as a business, Childrens’ books, poetry and very few short stories do not work well for literary agents.
  • The career shift from being a commissioning editor to being an entrepreneur was a choice she made when her son was born. According to her, workplaces in India are yet not so supportive of women doing a corporate job after childbirth.
  • She always felt that authors had little or no knowledge about publishing and the contracts were heavily in favour of the publishers. This was her motivation for starting Purple Folio.
  • Publishing in India has come a long way from 2010. Flipkart was just ramping up, kindle was not even around and people actually shopped more from book stores. . She says that then publishing was not obsessed with best sellers’ only and commercial fiction. E-retail was very new and she thinks then the publishing world was very different.
  • Urmila says that whatever she did as a commissioning editor for a decade was replicated in her new role of literary agent plus a sales pitch that had to use with publishing companies.
  • Two challenges she sees for literary agents are : Lack of a set business model for literary agents in India, and secondly, there is very little or no knowledge about the publishing process. The model followed by Literary Agencies in western countries works well there due to the publishing economy there. If Literary Agents in India charge only the royalty here in India then they would would end up getting very little money.
  • She notes that a typical print run for books is 2,000 in India, and for an agent to get 15 percent from the Royalty (which in itself is less than 10 percent of the net price of the book) amounts to miniscule earnings.From reading manuscripts to tweaking the script and fine tuning it so that it is in a more marketable form is a time consuming process and certainly deserves a separate literary fee for the agent.
  • Being an insider from the industry she has done that been there so the authors must accept the fact that royalty based model doesn’t cover the professional charges of services a literary agent gives. She hopes that with her discussion on forums such as MyKitaab will make matters more transparent for the authors and they understand that the literary agents deserve the fee they demand for.
  • The workflow with Purple Folio is as follows: 1. The entire manuscript reaches them in a form that is acceptable to publishers and must include a 2 page synopsis of the book. 2. A descriptive yet concise bio of the author on a single page.
  • Urmila takes about 4 weeks to read and provide her feedback and suggestions.
  • Once the Contract between the author and Purple Folio is finalized, the next step involves negotiations with publishers and being by the side of the author and finding the best striking deal for them.
  • According to Urmila, there are four types of manuscripts: a. – A brilliant manuscript, which everyone will be willing to publish them. b. Scripts that would need some editorial help and professional assistance because c.Manuscripts which need professional touch (she calls this category music to her ears) And the last 4th category are people whose manuscript may or may not be written in a book, hence reading the manuscript is the important task for such people.
  • Book Recommendation: She says it’s rather tough to recommend a single book to read, she lists a few choices for readers here you like Kalkatta by Kunal Basu, Karishma Attari’s I see you which is a horror writing, Aparna Santhanam’s book Jelly belly on nutrition is also interesting read for women. She says she is also fond of JK Rowling and has read Gaurav Parab’s Rustom and the Last Storyteller which is dark humor. She also suggests people to read Indraneel Dasgupta’s “Another Face in the Crowd” and Aditya Iyengar’s The Thirteenth Day
  • Her advice to budding writers is to get a literary agent for professional help.
  • Urmila’s advice to authors: authors who are not committed to their readers shouldn’t approach her and the ones who simply believe in getting published without doing complete justice to writing then they should rather not approach Purple folio.
Resources and References mentioned in the podcast Ways to Contact Urmila Email : purplefolio at gmail dot com
This post was updated on 2016-03-30