Book Publishing Secrets: A Conversation with Dilruba Z. Ara

We’re talking to authors from all walks of life about their experiences in publishing their books.  Some have smooth paths, some rocky, but they all share a common goal – to see their name on the cover of their creation.  It’s interesting to read what path they decided to take to get there and my guest today is here to tell everyone what he/she did in order to make it all happen so that other writers will learn a little something from the experience.

Today we are talking to Dilruba Z.  Ara,  author of the literary fiction,  A List of Offences.

Dilruba Z. Ara was born in Bangladesh. Nurtured on Greek mythology by her father, and hearing Indian fairy  tales as bedtime stories from her mother, Dilruba had her first story published when she was eight years old. While in university at the age of twenty, she met  and married her husband, a Swedish Air Force officer, and moved to Sweden, where she obtained degrees in English, Swedish, Classical Arabic and linguistics. She now teaches Swedish and English in Sweden. An accomplished, exhibited artist, her paintings have been used as the covers for the Bangladeshi, Greek, and U.S. editions of A LIST OF OFFENCES.

Visit her website at www.dilrubazara.com.

Thank you for your time in answering our questions, Dilruba.  Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to write a book?

I have written since I was a child. My father was a well-known writer, and writing my own book was never something that I thought would be unattainable. As strange as it may sound, I have always known that I would be writing novels, among other things.  It is in my blood.

Is this your first book?

Yes.

Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?

As soon as I was ready with the manuscript I sent it to a few agents in the USA. Within a few days, three called back. I chose the most passionate one ‒ Doris Michaels. She loved the book, and sent it out to quite a few publishers in the USA, all of whom found the book very beautiful, relevant, etc., but too slow paced.  I had worked hard with each word, and I didn’t want to cut it down to fit their demands.  So, I took it to The University Press Ltd, the leading publishing house in Bangladesh, and met the publisher myself. Upon reading the letters from the various US editors, he took the manuscript and asked me to wait. So I waited, outside his closed door. After about three hours he reappeared, with a contract. That was how it started. Then it was sold to Spain (Maeva) and Greece (Oceanida). In parts of South America, it even made the top ten listings, together with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Quite a few English language copies were made abroad, and the book was reviewed in different newspapers and magazines, including the Chattahoochee Review, USA. It has also been used as project material and studied at different universities. I have felt very happy about that, but at the same time I have been feeling restless, as the English language version has not been available to general readers outside Bangladesh. So, I decided to have my rights back. My publisher is a kind man and he understood me.  Now I have published it independently. By the way, only last week I heard from my Spanish agent that Maeva would like to renovate the pocket book and e-book rights of A List of Offences.

What lessons do you feel you learned about the publishing industry?

That to get published in the UK or USA, you have to choose a subject matter that is very topical, and different. And you have to be fast paced.

If you had the chance to change something regarding how you got published, what would you change?

I wouldn’t receive the money up front. Instead I would ask my publisher to use it to promote the book.

Did you credit any person or organization with helping you get published?

Yes, my first publisher Mr. Mohiuddin Ahmed of The University Press Ltd., Dhaka, Bangladesh.

What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?

Trust yourselves.  If you really want it, you can make it. The harder you try, the luckier you will get.

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