Next 3rd Thursday: Agents
Eric Castleman last edited by
Such a great topic!
I want to know if there are any known industry rules of what not to do when approaching an agent that are just understood but not really written down..
Are there agents that we might not want to work with? Not asking for names, but more so wondering if there is such a thing as an agent who is unrealistic, or maybe they are full of it. Idk if this is even possible, I just rather know if this sorta thing exists so I can avoid at all costs.
What is the relationship like between an illustrator and an agent? How often do you hear from them, and should we be keeping in contact a much as possible, or just let them hit us up when they have something?
How do I prepare to get an agent? What should I have, and when do I know I have what it takes to fuflill my side of the deal artistically? I am the type of person who loves to practice, and worry I am never ready to take the next step. I tend to be very hard on myself, and never accept my work as good enough, which helps me motivate myself to get better, but it also works against me in thinking I am ready to take the plunge.
Anywho, thanks, Lee!
For me the big question is mutual expectations - what should you expect an agent to do for you, what is a nice-to-have. What expectations does the agent have on you (apart from the obvious one: being able to finish projects to a consistent level of quality and on time).
And also (though this is maybe a too specific one) the new scene of literary agents representing also illustrators.
I did not mention this elsewhere (and maybe this is not the right place) but I have just signed up with a literary agency that also represents illustrators. The probably very unusual part is that they have reached out to me after seeing my work on social media. This was so different from all I had heard so far, that I took a whole month to look into it - the record of the agency, who they represent, the curriculum of the specific agent that reached out to me. I reached out to three illustrators they represent and got their feedback (overall positive). I had two 1-hour long calls with the agent and some contacts with the head office. After all this research and interaction, I felt very comfortable giving it a try. The setup is not the one traditionally described in books and forums, but it has been mentioned by Will Terry in one of his videos as increasingly popular. For me it has a lot of advantages and some drawbacks and I would be curious to hear more about this particular type of working relationship.
Eric Castleman last edited by
@smceccarelli so happy for you! Though I am not surprised that you were sought out. Your work is really good. Keep us updated!
andyjewett last edited by
@smceccarelli Congratulations Simona! That is so great!
@smceccarelli Ditto with the others: A warm & joyful congratulations!
@Lee-White Thank you for this topic being addressed.
In addition to the many great interests others have noted above, it would be good to hear of the downsides to having an agent. I know @Will-Terry has some great thoughts about this, particularly in regards to contractual constraints & obligations. It would be good to get other issues to consider as well. Plus, a checklist of what to look out for and guidance on how to resolve these potential issues (hopefully before they become a contracted issue!).
I’m interested in thoughts on having multiple agents (e.g. one agent for publishing/gaming/etc. work and one agent for advertising/editorial/etc. work); whether that is possible, advisable, and what issues to prepare for.
I think that the key issues for me are:
When am I ready & when should I seek an agent (I copy/pasted some of your advice on this from a previous post below)
With so many agents, how do I best filter out which are best for me (and how do I even find the “right” agents when there are so many out there - It’s easy to know about Shannon Associates or Andrea Brown Lit, but there are many small-to-mid agencies that might not so readily visible) (Large agencies like Shannon Associates or Bright Agency builds confidence over their capabilities, industry relationships, professionalism, & “trustworthiness”; however, this also drives questions as to the attention they give to representing each artist specifically/intimately, so how do I determine whether a large agency or small agency/individual is best for me?)
What are the pros/cons, mutual expectations, contractual & other issues to consider & prepare for, etc. (one point to cover would be on contract dissolution should the illustrator seek to move on to another agent or not being represented at all - including any expectations of client engagement restrictions and continued payout to agents post-contract-dissolution)
What is the illustrator-agent-client engagement process (e.g. marketing, RFP & negotiations/end-client contracts, agent/illustrator Account Executive duties (account management), agent workflow involvement, billing, taxes, conflict resolution (including typical litigation/arbitration responsibilities & expectations), etc.)
Since I’m assuming that you will likely be recording this, I’d expect that you wouldn’t want to be so negative on or give too much endorsement of specific reps, but it would be nice to have some agents or resource lists identified with any commentary possible.
1. There is no reason to submit until you get the kinks worked out of your portfolio. To submit too early "just to see what happens" wastes the agents time and makes it seem like you don't know what they are looking for. Agents want people who are profitable out of the gate for them OR they see a huge potential with their work and are willing to get it to that next level. Those artists are typically at about 90% entry level and just need a few slight tweaks to be industry ready. Or, the work is already pro level and they just need to be introduced to the right people.
2. Submitting too early will give the art director an impression of you that may not be changeable as time moves on. (first impressions are strong!). You want that first impression to be "OMG! this artist is awesome!" Not "eh, it's ok, but they need polishing".
Hang in there and really figure out where you want your work to go. Sit with it and take time with it. It will develop naturally and you will know when you are ready. Signs that you are ready are things like:
• You are winning contests that you enter.
• you are getting scholarships for your work
• people are asking to buy your work
• you are being contacted for interviews or artist spotlights, etc.
• people are wanting to hire you
• experienced people (like me, will, jake, or your instructors) are telling you to get your work out there or introducing you to connections
If none of these things are happening, you probably aren't ready yet.
Maybe you could let us know "how you know when you are ready for an agent" Thanks @Lee-White
Mara last edited by
@smceccarelli Congrats!! I had an agent with a good reputation reach out to me on LinkedIn. I ended up signing with ABLA instead but it does happen. This is why it is good to have an online portfolio and to share your work online, you never know who is looking.
mattramsey last edited by
Our next third thusday will be on the topic of agents. What questions do you guys have regarding this topic? I'll try to include them in the webinar.
I recently listened to a topic about this and I was left with this question:
Would any agent be interested in reping a part-part time illustrator? Or would I just be wasting his/her time?
That is, I have a full time job plus 4 small kids. I could maybe do a couple small projects a year but there are certain really busy times when it wouldn't work out. Would it be at all feasible to have an agent constantly searching for work for me (showing my portfolio, etc) and I'd be turning down 80% of the work?
Should I just continue on my own until such a time where I do have more time to take on projects?
I bet I'm not the only one thinking about this issue but I've not yet been able to get a good answer on it.
@mattramsey I have a 50% job and 2 small kids and I have been completely transparent about this when talking with the agent that is now representing me. It did not seem to be a matter of concern at all - indeed it was not even a topic. At the end of the day it is a business relationship - the agent is doing a service for you and you are paying him/her. Since her pay depends on the amount of work you can get done, she needs to balance the amount of effort she invests vs the return she gets. I got the feeling that agents are more concerned with artists not performing on a project they agreed to (which affects their reputation as agents) rather than artists turning down projects.
Actually what is happening to me now is that my agent is advising against taking a project I have procured because the terms are not good enough. So she is actually suggesting I turn down a job, although she would get money from it and did only very limited work. I find this to be a very good start, actually!
@mattramsey that is an excellent question. I am hoping to have my agent there with us during the session, so I can ask about that.
If I were to answer it, I'd say it would be a tough sell to sign a part time illustrator. When an artist turns down work it can get frustrating for a client and if they are turning down 80% of the jobs offered, it could be a strained relationship. The x factor there is that if you are good enough, an agent will still probably sign you. It's based on two factors, the first obviously being money and how much an agent can make from you. But the other thing is reputation. If you work looks good on an agents site and bumps up their status, it can be a good thing. Then when a client comes for you and you can't do it, the agent should be able to redirect the client to someone else on their roster. This happened a lot at Shannon Associates which was my first agent.
Thanks for all your questions guys, keep em' coming! Also, if anyone is at the point of needing or wanting a rep (be serious here), please post a link to your website. I may have my agent critique some of the work from an agents perspective.
@Lee-White Wow! I'd love to have an agent's perspective on where I'm at now. I have received some professional advice and thus have some work I intend to do in the 1st Quarter (maybe 2nd too), but I would like to be shopping myself in 2017 sometime (probably less to Picture Book right now and more to Middle Grade / Young Adult as well as packaging & product imprints, marketing & editorial).
My site is at: http://www.QuietYell.com
Kelly Lane last edited by
@Lee-White Cannot pass that up You gave me a really nice review of my portfolio site when i first put it up which i really appreciated! one thing you mentioned was
"That brings me to my crit of your overalll site. As an art director, I would like the work, but have no idea how I could use you. It's not really children's book, it's not really editorial, it's not portraiture, it's not concept art, etc. I couldn't really figure out how I would use you. And that can be a great way to think about it moving forward, (provided you want to do this for a living. If not, just do what makes you happy).
This obviously has stuck in my head - my hope would be to find out if there could be a home for my style of working - or if there is the possibility that there is a rep somewhere that might be interested in this type of work and if so how to go about finding them - i think i have maybe 12 or so more Wizard of Oz pieces to do so i will be working this way for a while yet - but afterwards, if there is no home for this type of work, i would like to focus on what would make my work a better fit for publishing - anyways ... definitely throwing my website into the ring for this kevinlongueil.com
@Lee-White Another question about agents came to me:
How can we help the agent? (This is a more post-agent-illustrator-relationship question but may imply some things important to do/prepare beforehand)
What is it that an agent may need or want (or not want) in order to help them be “the best agent they can be.”
Obviously, there are things like “deliver when and what you say you are going to deliver to a client” and “don’t bad mouth clients”, “act professionally”, etc., and while it is good to get a response of such things, I am talking about how to help the agent in ways like:
• How many new, relevant pieces of work are beneficial to an agent per month/quarter/year? (I’m assuming that a “stagnant” portfolio is unhelpful and that “fresh new work” is helpful, regardless of whether it is contracted or personal work)
• How much self-marketing efforts are helpful? (I’ve heard, that some agents even contractually discourage self-marketing)
• What information and/or approach on the illustrator’s website, marketing material, & social media accounts would help/hinder an agent? (such as a more personal bio vs. strictly professional one, blog entries, client listings, personal-vs-exclusively-business social media posts, personal information (perspectives, interests, experiences, etc.), and so forth)
I’m sure there are many other areas where an agent can be helped or hindered (e.g. with proposals, contracts, availability & acceptance rates of projects, project postmortem documentation, thank you cards, etc.) and maybe others here could chime in on some thoughts.
It just seems to me that it is important to support the agent as best as possible (and definitely not hinder them) throughout the relationship and am interested in knowing how to aid in “supercharging” their efforts.
@Lee-White You are amazing. I am no where near ready for an agent, but it is so wonderful of you to do this for your students