Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Email dissing

I was just fumbling through my email box looking for that one needle in the haystack note. I finally found that one needle, but I also found several emails that I opened and read, but never responded to.

I get many offers from authors who've visited my website. I am greatful to those people who take the time to view my artwork. And I thank those who send notes with offers. I am flattered. All that said — and I hope I don't sound snobbish now, but — I'm at a different place in my career today than I was maybe 15-years ago. Then, I was itching for any opportunity to illustrate any book that might have any possibility of being published. But I scratched that itch many years ago. Guess I just ain't as itchy no more. Not to say my excitement level about illustrating children's books has waned — that's far from the truth. But I am now more selective in the offers I receive.

Recently, I received an offer from Harper Collins. Did I accept it? Of course! I may not be very itchy, but I'm still kinda hungry. And a book deal with Harper makes for a nice meal.

Typically, publishing houses acquire picture book manuscripts from authors. An author does not need to find their own illustrator before approaching a publisher. Approaching a publisher with an illustrated manuscript is not going to increase an author's chances of getting noticed. In fact it may detract. Art is subjective. What an author thinks is good appropiate art, may not be good, polished, marketable artwork in the opinion of an editor, agent, or art director.

So, am I saying that my art is less than polished, and marketable? No. A brotha's art is polished. Still, I too need to be particular about the manuscripts my art is associated with. If a manuscript is presented to me by an agent or directly from a publishing house — first of all, it's practically money in the bank. Second, it probably represents a quality that better matches my level of expertise.

Publishing houses typically have their own talent pools of artist from which they choose. They choose the author's manuscript. They match the manuscript with an artist. It's my goal to become a part of those talent pools.

When an author approaches me directly with an offer to illustrate their books, in most cases, that's a clue that maybe this manuscript isn't a good match for me. That's not always thee case. I know of many authors and artist who colaborate directly before presenting their ideas to a publisher. Pam Munoz Ryan and Brian Selznick are an example. So unless an author's name is Pam Munoz Ryan, Kathi Appelt or anyone else who's already sold a zillion-and-one award-winning titles, it makes better sense for me to get offers from editors. That's not a slam on the manuscript or the author who is approaching me. It's just that an editor or agent is probably the conduit I need in helping me discern what manuscripts I should be considering.

Now, all that said, dissing your email still isn't cool. I honestly try to return every one. I apologize if yours is one of the six unanswered notes I just found. I'll get to them right now.

I'm off to answer emails.


Unrelated thought for the day: I do love Paul's art, but... are you kidding me?

14 comments:

The Archivist said...

I think you have stated your point in a clear and assertive manner. After all, you want to illustrate books, but you don't want to ruin your own chances by being matched up to stuff that doesn't match to your expertise.

Don Tate II said...

I hope that post didn't come across too pompous. I didn't mean for it to. But now that I'm re-reading it, it's not sounding quite right.

Rose said...

Sorry to burst your bubble but you did sound kind of pompus. Considering the fact that there are plenty of authors who did their thing until they proved that they could sell,then the publisher's came aknocking.What if their illustrators turned them down?...Now that they are best selling authors, would those same authors remember to get them (illustrators who helped them) more work. For instance Terry McMillian, E.Lynn Harris, Kim Roby Lawson, and so many more who began as self publishers. In this industry you know yourself that its' hard for African American writers as well as others to get a deal, but when they do, will they not support those who supported them...just a thought. On your post you basically said that if the authors' work did not come from a publisher it probably was not quality. Trust me there are plenty of folks who can write but don't have a publisher.....does that mean their work is a lesser quality?..No it just means they don't have a deal..now we understand that your work load or requests has increased from higher paying clientele therefore you would probably have no time to do work that pays less..right! (Better said wouldn't you say?)

Don Tate II said...

@ Rose: Actually Rose, I think I am talking apples, and you are talking oranges. I'm specifically speaking about children's publishing — specifically picture book publishing.

E. Lynn Harris and Terry McMillian would not be associated with at all with an illustrator, unless the were doing a picture book. There are illustrators who do their book covers, but believe me, none of them would have a say, or probably care who illustrated their book jackets unless they were self publishing. I agree what I said may have sounded a bit pompous, but, also, much of what I said is common knowledge among authors and illustrators in this particular business of children's publishing.

Has nothing to do with higher paying clientele. The point is, I'm not going to get an illustration project by creating some pretty pictures and asking an author to write a story to help me sell them. It just doesn't work that way in most cases. If I approached an author with such a proposal, I'd give myself away as newbie illustrator who simply don't know the business.

Don Tate II said...

@ Rose: Also, one other thought. Listen to me being the only one posting comments on my own blog on a Saturday night...Anyway, most editors nowadays will only work with agented writers and illustrators. Not all, but most. They are using the same principle I am using. They are letting the agents act as sort of filters. Agents find the diamonds in the rough, sort of the way editors find my diamonds in the rough.

Rose said...

You are right. Publishers will only work with agents to even review manuscripts. Sorry. I don't know much about childrens' books, but I was actually thinking about book cover illustrations. Pardon me...for a second there I was thinking about how difficult writers have it and then I read your blog and it was sounding quite pompus...you see I met with three authors today who are seeking someone to publish there work and two of their works were quite good but they are getting straight up rejections letters. With those authors I listed I was speaking of their cover. I don't know for a minute there I thought you were an author too. ...

rindambyers said...

Don, I don't feel that you came across pompous or rude at all. I've read lots of comments by illustrators on the same subject that were actually, bona fide rude and arrogant. I thought you stated it PERFECTLY! I CANNOT believe that people are so rude as to approach you personally with unpublished writing for you to illustrate! It seems like then they might expect you to be responsible for the sell then as well...???!!

I promise, Don! If I ever approach you with an offer of a book manuscript to illustrate, it will have been sold already, and the offer will be coming through an editor and/or agent and probably both! That being said....I'm keeping you in mind, brotha, I'm keeping you in mind! Now if I could just find that little certain ideal humorous manuscript perfect just for you...in my stashes somewhere now...JKOL, JKOL.....(just kidding on line)

Rinda

Rose said...

I don't mean to beat a dead horse but I want an understanding. I have a company who does all my work and they are great illustrators, they are young men who are getting mounds of work here from writers, organizations both non-and for profit, universities and rap artists. So they are doing well. Don, please help me to understand this one...say for instance that I am an author....and to make money for myself I do my own thing...say I write a childrens' manuscript and go to five school districts and they agree to purchase more than 5,000 copies of my manuscript once the book is ready..to place in all their elementary schools libraries. All I need to do is hire an illustrator and then get it printed. Mind you say I am a business women who want to make my own money and I have a distributor.....I want to hire an illstrator and I pay them whatever their rate is.....would I be a customer for you....

See my response to you was as a business woman who looks for well written projects because I assumed that you had your own company. Now that's where I came from...you owning your company..

Remember Joe Buck, the great sports' announcer for the cardinals baseball team. His wife published a book on him last summer and she sold over 100 thousand copies based on what his book manufacturer told me out of her own mouth...but Ms. Buck self published. Oprah bought several of her books and even contacted her for the show.. What if Ms. Buck had sought out your services...what would have happened? You see how I misunderstood your post?

Rose said...

Sorry his name was Jack Buck...

Don Tate II said...

Hi Rose, good question. Depends. First off, money is money as far as I'm concerned. If you came to me as a self publishing author with a solid business plan (or even without a solid business plan) I'd hand it over to my agent. She knows these things better than I do. In fact, come to think, I was approaced earlier this year with an offer like this. This author was going to self publish a book, she had the funding, she had promises/orders from...whoever, I don't remember.I let her speak to my agent. My agent said no. Well, not actually no, she lets me have the final say on everything. But she advised me againt the deal, and I listened to her. I trust her business savy more than mine.

But technically, I don't have a literary agent now.
So what would I do in this situation on my own? Size it up. If the manuscript appeared to be something I felt good about illustrating, if the budget was right, if the terms/contract was in order, I'd probably take it, YES! Would I be weary about it? Yes, only because I've never worked this way before (books).But I have and always work this way with non book projects. Believe me, books dont pay that much, I do other things.

I'll have to do another blog on this to clear things up. Kinda wishy washy, I know.

Rose said...

Thanks for the reponse. Actually with the last response I understand more. Even though you are an illustrator you still have an agent. That's great. See I always thought illustrators worked alone unless they were employed at an agency or publishing house, etc. See that gives it a totally different light for those of us who don't understand how this works. Thanks Don for clearing that up. In this situation with an agent it makes a lot of difference.

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