It's been a good while (update)



  • @Eric-Castleman Welcome back, Eric! And thank you for your thoughts. I'll be leaning towards a literary agent and it's good to know an illustrator should have a couple manuscripts off the bat. I feel like I have a ton of good ideas for books, but the follow through is the hard part.

    If anyone on this thread wants to start a critique group together, let me know. My critique group is all writers...and me. It'd be nice to have some fellow artists around 😉



  • @Eric-Castleman @smceccarelli What great information! I have a question or two (maybe more than that) for you two. I have seen myself more as an author and less as an illustrator, but I have grown in that area and would ideally like to write and illustrate young adult novels and/or graphic novels, and I have a few ideas for longer children's easy reader type books. Are there literary agents for guys like me? For example, I have already written one fantasy novel and am halfway through the sequel. I would love to include illustrations, cover art, and maps for it along the lines of Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings or Paul Stewart's Edge Chronicles. I have very rough ideas for a graphic novel with some character development and a plot outlined, as well as three very rough book dummy ideas for easy readers (my Inktober mice being one, and my advent book being the second. I also attempted once upon a time a bible character ABC book that would need to be completely reworked.)
    What direction should I move in? Should I be finishing up my stories and attempting to professionally illustrate them and have them ready to go?
    Should I have finished manuscripts ready to go?
    Are there any volunteers to be my critique group/beta readers? What would be the best way to develop a critique group? How did you go about it?



  • @Eric-Castleman thank you for the advice. It is so interesting to hear your story.
    @smceccarelli thank you for sharing. Your story made me think maybe an illustration agency will suit me better, as I think I will need a bit more help with promotion, and contacts with potential clients. My goal is similar to yours: make a living by making the art I enjoy, whether it is writing, illustration or both. I have seen some of the illustration agencies also represent author/illustrators. I know the 30-40 percent cut is hight, but I would be glad to do so if I can find someone who helps me to get more assignments that fit with where I want to go with my career at this moment :-).


  • SVS OG

    @Eric-Castleman @smceccarelli So good to see you both here on the forum again - thank you for the great information too!!


  • SVS OG

    I remember you well. Thanks for stopping in and sharing your knowledge. Great insights!



  • @chrisaakins all agents are different in this respect I assume, but my agent allows me to move between PB and GN pretty easily. Even though I signed as a picture book author/illustrator, my agent put out a call to her clients to consider graphic novels since they are trending. Another artist who has my agent is now going from PB’s to YA and it didn’t seem like a problem. However, a point of discussion in our critique group is how some authors and illustrators seem to maneuver through different genres seamlessly, while I have heard that it is very easy to get pigeonholed as a non fiction artist if that is what you start off doing. It is one of the mysteries to us atm. Idk if people who are able to go from PB to YA are just outliers or it is very much possible for anyone capable.



  • @Eric-Castleman Thanks for taking the time to respond. I am hoping that if my work is good enough, it won't matter. Now I just need to start finishing stuff and putting together a portfolio.



  • Hi! It's nice to meet you. I'm new to SVS so never saw your posts before but I'm so happy to hear that you got an agent and making progress to your goal! I personally believe author/illustrator is a longer harder road but will be more rewarding when you reach it.

    I would love to hear more about how you ended up landing a literary agent. I definitely want to go down that route as I already get illustration work on my own but I really want to author/illustrate and don't mind if it takes longer. Did you have any writing resources that helped you with the creating manuscripts?


  • Pro SVS OG

    @chrisaakins As @Eric mentions, most literary agents have a range of ages and genres on their roster. My agent spans board books to YA, so she would not be put off by a writer who writes different genres. I heard publishers are a little bit more reluctant to have an author write in different genres because they cannot rely that much on creating an author brand - which seems quite fundamental in driving sales nowadays. But I think this is more true for YA and adult fiction than for any other genre (though, if I look at super-famous GN creators, like Raina Telgemeier or Dav Pilkey, it would be odd to see them suddenly start writing picture books...).

    Non-fiction writing is commissioned, not pitched, so there one would need to create a writer’s brand for that genre (which takes years). I’m not sure you’d be pigeon-holed as a non-fiction illustrator, on the other hand. I illustrate both fiction and non-fiction and that has not been a problem, though I don’t think the publisher who commissions me non-fiction would suddenly commission me to do fiction....but there are so many publishers!
    As I joke with my writer friends: authors are often bound in marriage to one or two publishers, while illustrators are more promiscuous 😉

    Maybe the trick for you would be to perfect one or two manuscripts in a chosen genre (GN is trending right now, so that may be a good pick) and go hunting for an agent with that. I don’t see examples of GN art on your Instagram channel, is that something you would like to also do art for? You may be more advanced in your writing journey, and there’s no obligation to present yourself as a writer/illustrator until you’re ready for that - you can get a literary agent interested on your writing only. Indeed, most literary agents represent more writers than illustrators or writer-illustrators.



  • @smceccarelli @Eric-Castleman I wonder if you guys could share some tips on how to form and run a critique group.

    1. Would it be beneficial to have people in the same critique group work in the same types of books (e.g. everyone is working on a picturebook dummy), and are interested in similar genres (e.g. animal/nature-themed picture book)?
    2. How many people are in your critique group?
    3. How do you structure a critique session?

    I have never been to a critique group, so I do not really even know what I do not know. Is there anything I should keep in mind when starting a new critique group?



  • @xin-li @Eric-Castleman @smceccarelli
    I would add to @xin-li 's question

    • do they all need to be in the same place/skill level? Or is personality a better fit?

  • Pro SVS OG

    @xin-li

    Maybe @Eric-Castleman can give his view as well.

    Based on my experience, 4-6 people is a good number. More becomes too impersonal, less may give too little input. We do not work on the same type of books, though we all work on children's books. Our styles are wildly different but all equally developed - I'd say we're more or less at the same skill level and we don't use the critique group to learn or discuss fundamentals (apart from when we pick on each other's negligence with regard to fundamentals - but that's part of the fun and strength of a critique group!).
    Professionally we're more or less at the same stage of the journey, though we may have different goals and different ways to go about them.
    I think diversity is a big strength - you want to have different perspectives - but it has to be give-and-take on all sides, so everybody has to be able to contribute something of value to the others. I think we're very balanced in that respect. In a way it's like Will, Lee, and Jake: their art is very different, they do different things and their career setup is very different, but you can see how they complement each other and each contributes a different and valuable viewpoint. @chrisaakins - we also have wildly different personalities. That's actually what makes it a lot of fun: we disagree on almost everything and therefore learn something new with every discussion 😃

    We don't have a "critique session". We're set up on FB and FB messenger and we just post whenever we have anything to post. I've been on many critique groups and that's probably the one thing that makes this one the most successful of all. Waiting one month or two weeks to get feedback on something is just plainly useless for me - either the deadline has passed or the time I had available to work on something has long gone. With no fixed schedule, anybody can get feedback anytime within hours (sometimes within seconds), and it's very much like working in the same room.



  • @smceccarelli thank you so much for sharing. This is really really helpful for me. A follow-up question: Do you do an in-depth critique of each other's manuscripts and picture book dummies via FB messenger as well? Is FB messenger sufficient for that purpose?


  • Pro SVS OG

    @xin-li We use a private FB group for that. You can upload files to FB, so it's easy to exchange word documents and use the in-line comment function, as well as give comments to the post itself. You can upload pdf docs for dummies too or use some kind of online flipbook link. We use messenger for single images and everything else.



  • @smceccarelli thank you. I will try the same setup :-).



  • @xin-li said in It's been a good while (update):

    @smceccarelli @Eric-Castleman I wonder if you guys could share some tips on how to form and run a critique group.

    1. Would it be beneficial to have people in the same critique group work in the same types of books (e.g. everyone is working on a picturebook dummy), and are interested in similar genres (e.g. animal/nature-themed picture book)?
    2. How many people are in your critique group?
    3. How do you structure a critique session?

    I have never been to a critique group, so I do not really even know what I do not know. Is there anything I should keep in mind when starting a new critique group?

    Thanks for asking this. I was gonna ask similar questions 🙂


  • SVS OG

    @smceccarelli i still haven’t received your invite for more than a year now. 😅😅😅



  • @Eric-Castleman @smceccarelli any thoughts on benefits or disadvantages of being in same country or same continent ( in terms of critique group members?). We're really picking your brains here so thanks for answering all these questions being fired at you!


  • Pro SVS OG

    @Coley That does not play any role, I'd say. We're all in different countries AND continents. And even those who are in the same country are thousands of miles apart! Markets are different though, one has to be aware of that.



  • @smceccarelli thanks! That's sort of what I thought but was curious if I had missed something, thanks 🙂


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