Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 17, 2018

ASK CAT

On the third Tuesday Christina or Christy Ewers Tugeau of the Cat Agency will answer questions and talk about things illustrators need to know to further their career. It could be a question about an illustration you are working on, too. Please email your questions to me and put ASK CAT in the subject box.

chrisandchristy

What is the first thing to do if an artist wants an agent?

This is a GREAT and ‘basic’ question for artists and writers that could be a long presentation or course of an answer!  In fact it HAS been in years past!  We will attempt to simplify things here and then expand on any points in on-going articles if the interest is there.

The very first thing to do of course before going and looking for an agent to represent you in this market is be the BEST and most prepared children’s book artist in your style you can be! (and/or writer, but I will address artists mostly here now)  What does that mean?  You have done YOUR homework.  Studied picture books and educational materials at library and good book store, to see what is HOT and what is NOT today.  

Join SCBWI.org for a wealth of information about this market and the players, and a connection with other artists, editors, and art directors from around the world to help your preparation.  There are links to other artists sights so you can SEE your competition (friendly).  You will find also links to Agent sites and these you should study closely.  Analyze WHO each rep is by studying the artists they represent.  See the quality, the areas of concentration (maybe more TRADE book or more educational etc.)  Read about them on the site.  Link with their Instagram and Facebook and other Social Media to get a feel for the way they work and think.  Talk to other artists with them about their experiences! Some agencies are very large and ‘hands off’ and others are more ‘boutique’ with much contact and guidance.  Different artists need and want different amounts of interaction.  You need to know YOU and your needs.  Make a list of those you think might be a match for your style and personality.

One hint that I think is very important if a bit hard to hear:  Be brutally honest with yourself.  I mentioned KNOWING yourself as an artist and business person. This really is important ! The expectations you have for an agent, and the expectations they and the clients have for you, will be high.  This is a very competitive and professional industry!  As an fine artist myself, I understand how this can feel like you are standing on stage naked.  So be hard on yourself first and then you will find the process much easier as you are thoroughly prepared and ready.  One nice truth is that the people in this Kidlit industry are very very lovely….smart, talented, honest and approachable… more than lots of other markets.  You will find help and feedback and you will learn….meeting many many good and special people along the way.  So open yourself up and jump in!

As to the practical part of what you need:  an on-line portfolio = WEBSITE! it’s how agents and buyers SEE who you are! With maybe 20 wonderful samples it should show off the ‘you’ and your style you have perfected and most wish to present for representation and hiring.  About 12-15 pieces in a not too large physical portfolio (9×12”) is also a good idea (or conferences and possible visits with buyers and agents). Put in ONLY THE BEST!  N0 weak hands, or awkward compositions even if the rest is ‘wonderful.’  Do it again till it’s right.  Show characters (kids of all ages if you do that, and animals – show FACES!). This is a STORY TELLING industry and you need to show you can tell stories with your art. Best way to do that is to take a character or a few characters interacting, and show them in 2 or 3 narrative, sequential scene spreads showing a change of attitude, emotion, activity, situation and/or background.  This can SHOW the character(s) off well, and SHOW that you can do stories.  Getting the hint probably … SHOW, don’t tell.

Then it’s time for Self Promotion which you should do with mailings to your Client A and B lists (formed like the Agent lists by studying the on-line presence of each publisher and reading the Submission Guidelines). Do this while you are trying to find an agent.  It’s a lot easier to get an agent if you are published, and have a ‘record’ of keeping deadlines, being professional in dealing successfully with all the business end of this industry.  Agents will seldom take on an artist with no track record…it happens, but why make it harder for yourself. The agency represents you, but YOU represent the agency as well.  We agents have to be comfortable with what we are presenting to our buying clients.

We have found that 5×7 postcards (art on both sides…don’t forget contact info!!)  are generally most loved by buyers. Inexpensive for the artist, easy to post or save for the buyers.  Send out 3-4 times a year maybe. (we do!)  Keep a consistent style that they can recognize.  If they like it, they WILL keep it! sometimes for years!  Get jobs! develop relationships.  Another hint: even when you have an agent, these personal relationships are vital for you to make and keep over the long haul.

How to contact agents:  read the Submission Guidelines for the agents you are interested in.  It’s all on-line.  WE, at The CAT Agency Inc., like 3-4 good image examples of your style attached with a short letter of introduction  in an email with a link to your website .  That’s it.  We make it a practice to respond to every submission, and as fast as possible.  (though we understand most do not…it means ‘NO’)  If we are interested we’ll want to chat more, or have suggestions for further interaction with us.  It varies accordingly and might include out taking ‘you’ into NYC for a round of visits to get market feedback.  We like to stay a smaller agency (32 artists presently) so we really have to be impressed.  Timing can play a part, and it might be worth while to reconnect with an agency after a year.  You’ll know from the response or lack there of.  Don’t bug agents or buyers.  We/they are very busy people and you really don’t want to annoy. But it’s fine to be sure we received your samples and interest with a follow up email once if it goes too long.

So that’s the secret!  pretty straight forward really.  You take your talent to another level – prepare – study – make lists and great samples – do the contacting and self promotion and wait.  And while you wait you continue the above!  Keep making the sample images and improving, so you have new work to show off on those postcards.  Keep studying the constantly changing Kidlit world.  Read and talk and share.  Jump right in and join the fun!

(We hope this will generate new and more precise questions….bring them on!)

Thank you Chris for your efforts to answer these important questions to help the illustrating community. 

Please help keep this column going by sending in your questions.

NOW SIT DOWN AND WRITE UP YOUR QUESTIONS FOR “ASK CAT.” 

Hope this illustration by Adelina Lirius (http://adelinalirius.comwill inspire everyone to send in a question to Chris and Christy. 

Send them to kathy(dot)temean@gmail.com and put ASK CAT in the Subject Area.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Great advice, and the illustration is so sweet!

    Like


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