Neharika Gupta – Insights from the Publishing Industry in India

Neharika Gupta - Insights from the Publishing Industry in India

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Neharika Gupta worked as an editorial assistant and dabbled into social media before deciding to spill the beans into her debut novel ‘Adulting.’ Here’s a fun conversation with lot of tips from publishing.

You have tapped into the mostly-unexplored-world of publishing and social media in India. How did the idea of the novel germinate?

I was actually advised against setting my book in the publishing world by an editor at a different publishing house but I did it anyway. There’s lots that can happen, I know, having worked in publishing for a year. With creative personalities on one end and deadined-editors on the other, things can get entertainingly dramatic. That’s how the idea emerged and I also knew the space. 

The rise of the social media influencer fascinates me. I thought it was a very frivolous job role till I explored it in depth. There needs to be a lot of content out there, multiple times a day. One needs to have their personal branding in place. One needs to put out content that works. 

Having worked as an Editorial assistant, would you like to bust a few myths about publishing houses in India? Or do you think there’s truth in the myths?

Here is a little tell-all by yours truly:

  • There is definitely a slush pile.
  • Writers have tantrums, sometimes justified, sometimes not.
  • We editors are more relaxed than journalists a magazine or a newspaper because of the turnaround time. But high-profile book events can be stressful.
  • There are less men in the editing side of things than you’d think.
  • This industry loves their wine and cheese parties. Sometimes they start and end in office. 
  • A by-line means nothing to us. We have a big part to play in a lot of books where we may or may not be mentioned.
  • Our highest praise is when an author tells us we should be writing.
  • We editors are good salesmen of our books. After writing enough AIS sheets and blurbs, we have elevator pitches, a one paragraph and one page synopsis learnt up.
  • We have a superpower of skimming through a book and knowing what it’s about in five minutes.
  • We have a cursory knowledge of what every book in our office is about.
  • We are more clued into publishing trends than you’d think.
  • We know what orphans and widows are and how to get rid of them. (This is editorial jargon, not a politically incorrect statement.)
  • We know what an oxford comma is.

Aisha/Ruhi/Tejas – which character was the easiest and which one the most difficult to write about?

Ruhi was the toughest. It was her coming-of-age story really. Aisha and Tejas got into trouble and got out of it. But Ruhi made big life decisions in the book. Walking out of a job she didn’t like, risking her relationship with her mother, breaking up with the self-professed love of her life. Ruhi lost her best friend and boyfriend through the course of the novel but was still acting with more agency than Aisha and Tejas many times.

Tejas was the easiest character to write. I just picked up my diary and changed the gender around (I’m kidding). But he was the easiest, being a writer and all. I could look into his head more easily than the other characters.

Tell us a little about your writing process. Do you have a full time job besides writing?

Wake up. Coffee. Write. Repeat. x 5.

Writing full-time for a couple of years, but may look at working in the publishing industry in 2021.

What do you think will appeal the most to the readers of ‘Adulting’?

The characters. Tejas is an author, Aisha is a social media influencer and social media manager. Ruhi is the managing editor of an indie publishing house. While it is a niche industry, the work and challenges will find parallels with people in creative professions, social media roles, or those who handle teams and anybody who comes across office politics.

In addition to this, my characters are very relatable because they touch upon the current generation’s challenges of dealing with negative body-image, social media addiction, solving creative blocks in an information age, having an identity crisis such as being in the wrong job or in an unhealthy relationship. The book at its core is about the journey millennials are on while trying to take responsibility for their lives. 

What are you writing next? Do you intend to explore different genres?

Yes. Wait for it.

Your tips for aspiring writers.

Write. Read. Write more.

Set a regular time to write. Stick to it, no matter what, for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. I use the pomodoro method to time my writing and breaks. It takes the dilly-dallying of my mood out of the picture.

I come back the next day to revise it. And the day after that if required. Mornings are the best in my opinion. Find the time when you’re most creative. This may mean waking up 30 minutes earlier or sleeping 30 minutes later than usual.

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