I’m in the air somewhere between Alabama and North Carolina returning from a visit with the young man we’ve hired to illustrate our next children’s book. It’s been almost ten years since publishing Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy, and a lot has changed.
It’s no longer necessary to hire someone within driving distance. I could probably do the entire book without meeting our illustrator, copy editor, printer or anyone else we work with, in person, but call me old fashion; there’s something about looking a person in the eye and shaking their hand.
If anything my experience hiring an illustrator has taught me that some people probably communicate better in person. I hope so.
There’s a common misconception that publishing a children’s book is easy. After all it’s a children’s book. Novices soon find out that is exactly why it’s not so easy.
Nutcracker Publishing received over a hundred applicants for our illustrator position, reviewed all of them, interviewed a handful, and ultimately offered the job to Andrew Handley, a graphic design aritist from Madison, Alabama.
Andrew graduated December 09 from Auburn University with a BFA in Graphic Design. He’s just beginning what we believe is a promising career. We’re thrilled he agreed to illustrate our next children’s book.
Besides talent and digital computer skills, one thing that set Andrew apart was his communications abilities. As I’ve mentioned, today it’s not necessary to meet a prospective client in person, but this makes how you come across via e-mail even more important.
From a Publisher’s perspective, listed below is some advice for prospective illustrators. But it could be applied to aspiring artists of all types.
• Publishers, small and large, often do not disclose the name of their company when advertising a job. Why? Because rejection sucks, and despite our best intentions some applicants will be mad enough and unprofessional enough to bad mouth you/your company and/or send harassing e-mails.
• If all it took to illustrate a children’s picture book was being a talented artist I would not be advertising for one. Today it’s simply not enough to be able to draw the old-fashioned way, but you need to be able to transfer that talent to a computer.
• If you want us to respond then follow directions. One applicant sent me a rather nasty e-mail about our inability to communicate due to our non-response to his e-mail. We had responded, and he failed to follow directions. There’s a good reason clients ask for a quote and sample of your artwork. We don’t want to waste your time if we can’t afford you or if you are simply are not right for our project.
• Talent will not compensate for a bad attitude. Believe me I know what rejection feels like. If you want to succeed in this business-- get used to it. Competition is fierce, and even if a client loves your work there will probably be something they’ll not like, and ask you to change.
• Act professional. Just because you didn’t get the job doesn’t mean we didn’t like or even love your work. Maybe you’re quote was more than we could afford, or maybe your art style just wasn’t right for this particular project. Or as in our case, many of our artist submitted great work, but Andrew’s take on our character was just as we had imagined it ourselves.
• Be gracious when rejected. Ask us to keep you in mind for any other opportunities. Chances are the publisher you queried has other opportunities or colleagues looking for a recommendation. I know I’m hanging on to one of the illustrators I rejected. While I didn’t hire him to illustrate our nuke book, he’s perfect for another project.
• Do not blow smoke up a publisher’s butt. Maybe if I was a first-timer I might have considered the artist who advised me that today’s economy was the perfect time to publish a children’ s picture book . Well perfect for him maybe as he gets paid regardless of the success or failure of the book he illustrates.
• Do not allow anyone to blow smoke up your own butt. Today’s economy means times are difficult. Many seasoned professionals are unemployed. Before you quote a publisher what your college professor has told you is the starting salary for a professional illustrator, you might want to ask the seasoned professionals what they are making these days.
• If you are indeed a seasoned professional then don’t make a rookie mistake. One of the self-professed seasoned professionals I queried copied my e-mail address and included it in a mass mailing he spammed me and several hundred other unhappy recipients. The e-mail address I used was flooded with people who sent him notifications to delete their e-mail address from his mailing list. Not the way to attract clients.
• Spam is another reason publishers and/or prospective employers don’t always advertise who they are when they run an advertisement.
• If you’re answering an ad for employment, follow directions. Most publishers will understand if you need additional information before submitting a quote. However, in today’s market it’s imperative that an illustrator have something to show that’s on-line. Don’t bother responding to an e-mail that asks for sample art unless you can comply.
Nutcracker Publishing is a very small company. It's run by one determined woman. (I'm that woman.) Most the time I work alone, and when I get the opportunity to venture out and hire someone to work with me, I want someone who “gets” me. Life is bitchy enough, and I think you'll agree if you and a prospective employer can't communicate via a simple e-mail than you shouldn’t be working together.
Rejection bites, but remember those bitter bites are what makes success taste so sweet. Good luck!