6 Questions with Penguin Random House’s Head of Publishing

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By Karan Bajaj

Chiki Sarkar leads Penguin-Random House in India and was named one of World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders (I don’t what the latter means but it sounds pretty fancy, right?). She’s also my editor for THE SEEKER and has been a terrific partner in the publishing process—an enthusiastic cheerleader, an unrelenting critic, a deep, thoughtful editor, a savvy business leader—all-in-all a dream publisher for a writer. She agreed to do a Q&A for aspiring authors who visit this blog:

KB: Chiki, I was incredibly impressed by how quickly you made an offer for THE SEEKER after reading it, barely two days after submission. How can you tell when a book is “right” for your list? Do you view the book as a reader or as a publisher before you decide to buy it?

CS: Always always as a reader. If you love a book, chances are that others will love it too. And remember, an editor has to be a wide and informed reader – so in a way we are super-readers. I never trust an editor who doesn’t read a huge amount. It’s the foundation for everything.

KB: Have you ever had a “gut” feel that one of your author’s books will find a place in literary history? What made it so special?

CS: You know we think all our books are special! And we’re heartbroken when they don’t find success.

KB: I’ve been delighted by how thoughtfully you nurtured THE SEEKER to its current state. I’m curious. Are most authors receptive to editorial feedback or is it an uphill battle to get them to see your point-of-view?

CS: You were an amazing author to edit and I found myself in awe of your openness to changing your manuscript. Some authors are good at this, others less so. On the whole the more established you are, the less likely you are to want people fiddling with your work. Many writers also have a particular person/s they trust and listen to such as a friend or a spouse who give them their feedback. They then don’t demand the same attention from their editor. The editor’s role in the book, then, is to publish it well – give it a good package, garner support for it within the company and outside.

KB: It’s been 5 years since JOHNNY GONE DOWN was published. Has Indian publishing changed since 2010? Is there a genre more in demand now than before?

CS: So much. There’s been a rise in homegrown commercial fiction and non-fiction and where once international bestsellers dominated the charts, you find the top ten bestseller list populated by Indian writers. Indians want to hear their own stories.

KB: A lot of aspiring authors visit my blog. What is the one thing you wished they thought about before they sent in a submission to you?

CS: Writers always ask to meet me so they can talk about the book before they send me the manuscript. It’s just not necessary. For an editor the work has to speak for itself and meeting the author before we have begun to read the text is not only a waste of both our times but achieves the opposite.

KB: Finally, is there a book you’re wishing someone would write in India and hasn’t crossed your desk yet?

CS: Oh so many. We still don’t have enough good works of popular history, no great thrillers, not enough big idea books.

You’ve heard from Chiki—she’s waiting for your big book. And if decide to write it today, don’t forget to sign up for my full video course on How to get a Top 5 publishing deal.


This is the first time I’ve offered a video course and the response has been delightful. Signing up is free!

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