SCBWI agent day

  • So SCBWI agent day is on October 7th out here in Los Angeles, and it is something I have been looking forward to all year. If you are unaware of what it is, it is a day in which you get to pitch your picture book dummies to agents.

    I have a few questions for everyone:

    • Has anyone been to agent day, and if so, how was your expereience?

    • I am concerned by the idea of getting rep’d as a author/illustrator, since it seems as though being just an illustrator would allow for more work, rather than having to produce a manuscript to then illustrate. I have seen how some author/illustrators illustrate books in between (e.g Dan Santat) and it seems that some who have literary agents rather than illustration reps must produce the book to illustrate in order to move forward. Does anyone know how any of this works?

    • how far do I need to take my illustrations for my picture book dummy? I was just going to do each image in black and white, and one or two as full illustrations. Does that sound about right?

    Thanks everyone!

  • Based on what I've learned talking with agents and published illustrator/authors, a good agent will sell you as an illustrator, an author/illustrator, and just an author...(if you are willing to let someone else illustrate your manuscript). If there are agents who won't pitch you as all three, you may want to keep looking.

    Those same agents and illustrators advise creating a dummy with rough sketches (the degree of rough is up to you) with 2 finished pieces. But you don't really need more than 2. Most agents and editors don't want more than that because they are afraid you will be too attached to your book illustrations to accept request for changes. They are looking for your ability, not a book....if that makes sense.

    Good luck!

  • Pro SVS OG

    Hi Eric! A literary agent will pitch you as a book illustrator or author/illustrator (if you write your own books) and typically take 15% of your earnings. An illustrator´s agent will pitch you for any illustrator job - not only for books - so theoretically can bring you more work. These take a minimum of 30% of your earnings - sometimes more. So, you do not need to write books to get a literary agent for picture books, but if you are interested in more than illustrating books you may want an illustration agent - knowing that they do take a considerably higher cut than literary agents. From their point of view it makes perfect sense: a book will earn potentially much more than any single illustration job and, if it sells well, is a source of continuous income, while an illustration is often a one-of thing.
    Also, the agent will take the fee on any of your activities, regardless wether he/she brought the job to you or not. Again, it makes business sense, because you cannot prove that it was not the agent who posted the key sample that caught the attention of the AD, or dropped your card at a showcase.
    So, for example, an illustration agent would require some contract jimmicks in my case, because I am under contract as AD with another entity for which I do a lot of illustration work and which requires me to exclude working with a whole branch of business in my freelance activities...(non-compete clauses). So I was happy to sign with a literary agent, who only tries to get me book work and can only get involved into other types of work "upon my specific request to do so".

    Long story short: an agent is a business partner, you need to evaluate the mutual benefits and pitfalls of the partnership as you would do in any other business arrangement. Apparently, you can also have multiple agents for different types of markets/nations -as AD, I hire illustrators who have three or four different agents listed on their contacts.

    As for dummies, it was a learning curve for me - my first dummy is on tour right now. My agent wanted the whole book as sketches only (and not very polished either) plus three finished illustrations: one full spread, one (or more) vignettes and one half page. She did not want the cover to be one of those (maybe because the cover is such a sensitive thing for the publisher). Additionally, she wanted a separate illustration which is not part of the book but is in the same style, to "prime" editors before contacting them. Maybe each agent has their own preference and process - this one was new to me, though I can see the sense of it now.

  • @Joy-Heyer @smceccarelli thank you both for you great replies! This really helps me figure out the direction I want to go. I came to SVS as a someone who wanted to write stories, and hoped that I could get my drawing skills up to a level that could make it possible to do both. However, I have fallen back in love with drawing, and would be interested in just doing that as well. So the idea that I could have an agent that would pitch me as both is phenominal.

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