Three kinds of ‘authors’ you’re bound to encounter at this year’s JLF (also, your basic dos and don’ts)

Three kinds of ‘authors’ you’re bound to encounter at this year’s JLF (also, your basic dos and don’ts)

A literary agent’s guide to the aspiring author at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Rajasthan Folk Dancers perform eve of Jaipur Literature Festival at Diggi Palace in Jaipur on Wednesday. Express photo by Rohit Jain Paras 20.01.2016
This year’s JLF is on from January 21 to 25. (Express photo by Rohit Jain Paras)

You get great carpets in Jaipur. They originate from Kashmir to Marrakesh. But to succeed in acquiring one you must have the heart to journey into the guts of the Pink City and drive a hard bargain. The book deal hunters at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) aren’t like the carpets, they are everywhere and mostly cost nothing. Three kinds who are commonly spotted at JLF:

Literary enthusiasts at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Thursday. Express photo by Oinam Anand. 22 January 2015
Literary enthusiasts at the 2015 Jaipur Literature Festival. (Express photo by Oinam Anand)

The Enthusiast
She has her third draft of her manuscript ready, it’s high quality because her mom and friends have told her so. She attends every event, jumping from event to event in the same time slot. She will ambush anything related to publishing that moves. Before the editor or agent knows it, they’ll have the hard copy complete with the bad cover design thrust into their hands and a WhatsApped link to DropBox from where the whole damn thing can be downloaded. The back cover will have glowing endorsements from Mediocre Writers 1, 2 and 3.

Ben Okri being mobbed by fans at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Saturday. Express photo by Oinam Anand. 21 January 2012
Poet-novelist Ben Okri being mobbed by fans at the 2012 Jaipur Literature Festival. (Express photo by Oinam Anand)

The Networker
He’s a banker or consultant or (insert random corporate title). He’s been hearing about JLF for ages. It really grinds his gears that his friends have been sending selfie shots every January from the event while he’s been poring over sales forecasts. As he’s paying his EMI online for his holiday home in the hills, an epiphany strikes – time to give this writing thing a shot. The last book he read was Chapter 3, 8 and 22 from Marketing Management by Philip Kotler in his MBA course. Before coming to JLF he’ll work the phones, send out LinkedIn requests, FB friendship requests, even Tinder requests, to find publishing connections. He succeeds, he lands up in front of an editor and says, “I’m writing a book about India and it’s unique because as you and I both know no one’s really written something about real India.” If he isn’t getting a response he’ll try to clinch the deal with “My company will buy 3000 copies if you publish it.”

Jaipur literature festival. Express archive photo.
At the Jaipur Literature Festival, there are times when you simply just take a break. (Express photo)

The Aloof
He has been on the scene for the last three years, three years ago he was The Enthusiast, but it didn’t work out. He’s been turned down so many times that he’s become a raging drunk in his home in one of Delhi’s Enclaves. However, he knows the scene — and the scene kind of knows him. He places himself strategically near the media centre and will orchestrate bumping into editors. Out of politeness, they’ll ask him what’s he working on and with practised enigmatic ease he’ll say: “It’s the story of a boy who wants to hurt the world in ways that can’t be imagined.” Then he’ll wander off hoping for a call back.


Everyone at JLF wants something – editors want to hang out with famous writers, famous writers want India to love them, the sponsors want crowds and the media wants stories. Most importantly all of them want to have a good time. Nobody wants the aspiring author; the poor chap is placed firmly at the bottom of this want chain.

So, if YOU happen to be one of the authors at the JLF this year, here are some basic things to keep in mind:

* Make sure you do your homework, research editors and literary agents. If you can’t find them online read acknowledgment sections of books for names.
* Set up chats in advance. Don’t call them meetings because that sounds scary.
* Score an invite to the publishing parties. There will be something going on every night; you could get in if you know a friend of a friend. * Try not to run to the bar as soon as you get in. Do it when everyone else is doing it.
* Go for the book launches at JLF, there are 15 of them this year. They tend to be sparsely attended and someone from the publishing company will be there. If it’s boring at least you’ll get good Karma points from the author.
* Dress in something you will be remembered. A lot of book selling is author selling. Remember to wear something different everyday otherwise you’ll be referred to as “Here comes the girl in the white sari, family heirloom accessory and red lipstick again.”
* Buy some books its good for the soul. I’m talking to you Mr Networker.

* Make a long-winded pitch about how you’ve written this exquisitely delicate novel that weaves in the entire tapestry of human emotion since the Big Bang and it is set in Kerala which clearly means it could win the Booker.
* Lie in wait at Handi restaurant and bushwhack an editor as they bite into their laal maas.
* Track down the chief publisher, they have a range of duties that they need to perform and you aren’t one of them.
* Only go to all the famous writer sessions, they’ll be packed and you won’t make any headway. Most of the audience at these sessions are there for those selfies with the stage in the backdrop.
* Approach the publisher at the party before they are a little drunk. (Make a smooth pitch once their judgement is impaired.)

If all else fails, there’s always the carpets.