Graduate student reflects on book publishing, literary goals

By Anna Ferkingstad

Anupama Sharma, a Wagner graduate student, achieved her goal of becoming a published author by the age of 30 with “Railonama.” The book, a short story collection published in August of this year, comprises a series of stories and poems about different journeys across the Indian Railway.

The concept for her book stemmed from Sharma’s love of traveling. With a background in technology, however, Sharma transitioned her own anthology into an online project that collected tales about the Indian Railway from people around the world.

Sharma received over 200 submissions for “Railonama,” but only published 45. A team of readers, who spent hours editing, helped Sharma narrow down the selection. Sharma said many of the submissions included unfamiliar information.

“You think you know a lot, and then you realize there is so much more to know about,” Sharma said. “It is important to be open, if you have a closed mindset then the world is different.”

The most challenging part about writing a novel for Sharma was finding a publisher and getting the word out about the book. As a first-time author, she taught herself the ins and outs of the publishing world through online research, and contacted writers asking for advice on finding a publisher.

“Finding a publisher is not easy,” Sharma said. “Just like when finding a job, references help you most. So, if you know someone in the company, go ahead and approach them. As the world is, some people are helpful, some are not.”

In addition to the actual production, marketing can strain a student. The process of creating “Railonama” spanned a year and a half.

“I had no idea how hard it would be,” Sharma said. “If it’s your first time as an author, there are a lot of things you don’t know about … there are so many publishers out there and there’s so many authors. It’s really hard to get their attention.”

Sharma used Twitter, Facebook and blogs in the beginning to spread the word about the project and her website.

“Being an author, once a book is out, you would want that tomorrow there are 10,000 sales,” Sharma said. “But I think it takes a lot of patience because people take time to read. Then they take time to come back and review.”

The recent positive responses Sharma has received on her first book have prompted her to consider a sequel. Due to the time-consuming process of publishing a book, however, she has decided to wait until she finishes her degree to work on her second novel.

“I might, based on the response I’m getting, but definitely not while I am a student,” Sharma said. “This time I’ll plan it out properly.”

Although Sharma did not always know she wanted to be an author, she is now considering alternative topics for additional works.

“Once you become an author … you are always thinking about the next topic,” Sharma said. “You learn about it’s not just about what you want to write, it’s also about what the world wants to read.”

A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 17 print edition. Email Anna Ferkingstad at [email protected]