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Mita Kapur (CEO of SIYAHI, India's Leading Literary Agency)

About Her

Mita Kapur is the founder and CEO of Siyahi, India’s leading literary consultancy. She also conceptualises and produces literary festivals and events. Her first book, The F-Word, is a food book, memoir and travelogue. She has edited Chillies and Porridge: Writing Food, an anthology of essays on food. As a freelance journalist, she writes regularly for different newspapers and magazines on social and development issues along with travel, food and lifestyle.

Mita, welcome to a candid chat with me, Deeba

  • 1.
    You are the founder and CEO of the India’s leading literary consultancy, Siyahi, share with us some challenges and incredible moments of the agency.
    Siyahi pioneered the agent-author relationship with the publisher being the fulcrum in an extremely professional and empathetic manner. Fortunately publishers in India were very welcoming because they knew we were fully committed to streamlining the process and making sure that only quality content lands on their tables. The challenges were many – we cant run an agency on a set business and revenue model. The mindset of authors is still bent towards acquiring a non-Indian agent although it’s gradually vanishing now. Siyahi is rather ferocious about the kind of books that pass its muster and that itself is a huge challenge. Our rejection rate is 97.35%. We are also focused on projecting our authors in the international market and that is not as easy as it sounds although we have managed decent number of sales in the past few years.
  • 2.
    You have played a pivotal role in many Literary Festivals? Can you share with us some of your most rewarding moments?

    The most rewarding moments are when you see an active, engaged and informed audience involved in a healthy discussion at the end of every session. When I see the youth attending a festival not because they have been herded there by their teachers but because they seriously want to listen and learn. When I see them casually chatting with authors not because they want a picture or an autograph but because they read her/his book and were wondering ….

    When I see genuine book deals being done, when I see those books published and selling well. When I receive emails requesting if we could think of xyz author for the next edition because they read a particular book and were keen to listen to the author. When I see writing clubs and book reading clubs take birth, retreats and book launches happening in a place where they were unheard of. Then I feel I am justified in being as mad as I am.

  • 3.
    Your part memoir debut, the ‘F Word’ has received creamy reviews. Share some crispy, chewy and flavorful moments, from writing to publication?

    That book was a journey. I wrote the first three chapters and forgot about them. The day I re-read them, they went straight into the trash can, as an agent I had rejected my own writing. It took me a few days to convince myself that as an agent I’d always tell my authors to get up, dust their bottom and move ahead, rewrite, rework…..so I did just that and my publisher, Karthika loved the few chapters I sent her. There were people like a close friend who jibed at me saying the book will become a generational thing because eventually my daughter would complete it and then my husband threatened to write soft porn and sell a few million copies if I didn’t put myself on a deadline – finally made the book happen. I wrote it for my daughters-that was reason enough. The chewy moments were when I tried and retried each recipe to be deadly sure-that was the trying part.

  • 4.
    Coming back to Siyahi, I have read that you have reduced the acceptance of fiction manuscripts from new authors does this reflect the overall publication scene in some way? Is the market getting skewed towards non-fiction?

    The quality of fiction is sadly questionable. The current market scenario is leaning towards current narrative non-fiction. At Siyahi we are paranoid about committing ourselves to an author and then not being able to deliver. We as an agency value what we do, we are not here to tom-tom about how many books we have helped birth or how many authors we have. We are here to make sure that each author is cherished and her/his writing is appreciated. It doesn’t make commercial sense but if I was running Siyahi with that attitude, it would have shut long time back and I’d be running a restaurant/s which would definitely pull in revenue.

  • 5.
    How do you think literary festivals help the aspiring authors? How can they benefit the most from these festivals?

    They do help the reader-author connect. Also definitely helps boost sales of books.

  • 6.
    After a few literary agents and publishers have rejected a writer, what do you think should be his approach to still get his publishing dream fulfilled?

    That's a tough one to answer. I can easily say that they can go down the self-publishing or publishing on amazon, kindle route but that does come with its own challenges – promotion and distribution (in case of POD) are issues that aren’t easily tackled.

  • 7.
    Should he shred his manuscript to tatters and start from scratch on the same storyline after visiting a few writing retreats or workshops after honing his writing skills and revisit the manuscript, should he get the manuscript professionally edited or should he trash his manuscript and think of a new storyline?

    Should he shred his manuscript to tatters and start from scratch on the same storyline after visiting a few writing retreats/workshops


    attending workshops, provided they are being done by a specialist who is well reputed for her content, is a great idea. starting from scratch is not as bad as it sounds. Sometimes it really works wonders.

    or should he get the original manuscript professionally edited


    which is the next step.

    or should he trash his manuscript and think of a new storyline?


    Starting from scratch is not as bad as it sounds. Attending workshops, provided they are being done by a specialist who is well reputed for her content, is a great idea. Sometimes it really works wonders. Next step is to get it professionally edited. And if the feedback he gets is that of trashing it, its not a bad idea to go back to the drawing board.

    An author should understand that the creative process is like being on a trip, some days are good and some days simply don’t work out. It’s not a failing or a blot on her creative potential at all.

  • 8.
    Which hat do you feel most comfortable in? Which is more akin to the ‘real’ Mita? The Author, The Columnist/Editor, The Literary Agent or a Lit. Festival Curator/Organizer?

    I must be an amalgam of all – all of those things are done by me because I love doing them so it’s apparent that I slip into these roles without much effort. The common denominator is commitment, dedication which I know I have enough off and it aint going nowhere.

  • 9.
    On a personal front, what does a weekend mean to you? Your favorite pastime besides cooking that we know makes you not only happy within, but makes you sound perky to your friends on the phone too?

    Siyahi works on Saturdays so technically its only Sundays that we are off – means a mix of sleeping in late in case I’m not going for an early morning run, still love to curl up with Sunday papers, or just be quiet in my room and read, doggie haircut in case needed, just lounging around at home with my family because we hardly see each other during the week. All this happens if I am not travelling for work. Seems ages since I sounded ‘perky’ – sigh.

  • 10.
    There is one question that I throw at all my guests (laughs), what is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
    Fresh coconut water.
  • 11.
    What are the key points that an aspiring author of ‘The Write Scene,’ should keep in mind to enhance their chances of finding an agent or a publisher?
    Make sure your cover letter is well written, not bccd, addressed correctly and not dear sir even if you are writing to a woman – grrrrr. Follow the submission guidelines for your own sake. Send a clean, proof read document. Be as creative in your writing – sometimes the synopsis reads so well but the actual writing falls flat. Be honest. Read.


If you want to know more about our guest, please visit their website below:

Website: Siyahi


Mita Kapur (CEO of SIYAHI, India's Leading Literary Agency)