It's been a good while (update)

  • @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?

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    @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?

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    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?

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    @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 🙂

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    @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!

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    @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 🙂

  • Moderator

    Congratulations! Thanx for the status update. You give us hope. 😃

  • Banned

    great information .thanks for updating

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    @smceccarelli hi Simona! It’s so good to have you back. I absolutely adore the books you’ve worked on recently. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to ask how many of your books were found by your agent and how many of them did you find by yourself. Also, how did you find them? What methods did you use? Postcards? Emails? Networking? Etc? Thank you so much.

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    @Nyrryl-Cadiz Hi! It's nice to touch base with the SVS community now and again!
    So....that's a simple question but there's not a simple answer. I do a lot of "marketing" myself and always put my agent's name everywhere. So, if somebody contacts my agent, is it because of something I've done or something she's done? Hard to say, and, in the end, not important. My agent negotiates all my contracts regardless, and she always gets more money and more time for nearly every project - and that's a huge credit to her and fully justifies her cut, even if I was responsible for getting most of the work.

    Also, the quality and type of contract counts. The two best and most prestigious contracts I've ever done are 100% her doing. I would have never been able to get those by myself, regardless of how much I market myself: big publishers don't generally go hunting for illustrators on social media and probably get thousands of postcards - there's jobs you're just very unlikely to get with blanket marketing.

    I talked about marketing in old posts, but here's my experience so far. I don't do postcards: I did one postcard volley one or two years ago, never got any lead, it's super expensive and takes a lot of time. That's the experience I've heard from a few other illustrators, so I stopped doing that. I print postcards to hand out in person and my agency does one postcard campaign a year, where they send several postcards in an envelope (from all their artists) and take care of all the addresses, shipment, etc...

    I'm moderately active on social media, though my posting schedule is inconsistent. I got a couple of good leads from social media - the majority from Behance, which is by far the most serious and highest-profile platform for creatives in my opinion. I'm also on, but I'll probably cut that next year, as I only get leads from self-publishing authors from there (if you're interested in those, that's a good place).

    The absolute top source of contracts for me is in-person networking (which is also the major way my agent goes about it in NY). I go to the Bologna Book Fair every year and I added the Frankfurt book fair last year - but any occasion to meet and chat with art directors and editors, show your portfolio and hand out your card is good: whether is a workshop, seminar, SCBWI event, meetup, whatever. I also have a growing network of published writers, who can introduce you to their editors and publishers either in person or online - so chatting up to writers is also a good strategy. That's expensive, of course - with one visit to Bologna I could do 5 or 6 postcard campaigns. But from every visit I get 2-4 contracts, and those breed more as publishers get back for the next one or talk with other colleagues, or book previews come out in the secret channels that publishers use to share that stuff 😉
    So, my feeling is that, as much as we are in a super-connected and open world, the major source of business is still very much personal connections and word-of-mouth. Maybe that's just the way humans tick - we prefer to work with and trust people we sort-of-know rather than complete strangers, no matter how good...

  • @smceccarelli, great feedback - thank you!

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