Friday, April 28, 2006

Conference Notes

I went to the NY Illustrators Conference on Monday. I thought the dummy reviews were really helpful so I have a few thoughts on those below. I also posted my notes from the panel discussion.

Dummy Review Thoughts
It's all subjective. I had 4 dummy reviews on the same story. There were a few comments that were universal, so those are things that I need to change, but there were also conflicting opinions on some things, and that's where it all comes down to personal taste. So basically you have to decide what's right for your story, and whether you agree with the critiquer or not.

Another interesting thing was that 2 of the critiquers didn't have many suggestions for my dummy. They basically liked the story and illustrations. Since that didn't take much time, I was able to show them a second dummy. They both liked the second dummy better than the first. The second one is much more rough, and still needs lots of work, so the fact that they liked it better gave more credence to the changes for the first dummy suggested by the other two reviewers.

Panel Session:
Lily Malcom – Art Director at Dial
* Been in the business for 12 years.
* The PB market will come full circle. It’s a tough market now, so they have to focus on the bottom line more, but they are still looking for fresh new talent.
* Doesn’t want to see landscapes, still life paintings, etc in a portfolio
* Likes to see people, animals, emotion (humor, sadness,etc.), visual narration (with different levels of stuff going on in a scene).
* Acceptability of digital art depends on style. She doesn’t like just computery art, but if it’s more than that and shows some art sense, that’s good. Also like combination of digital and non.
* Portfolio mistakes: too many styles in one portfolio, with only 1-2 pieces in each style. If you have multiple pieces – enough to really show that you are capable in each style, then it’s it’s ok to show more than one style.
* Lily gets 10-15 art samples a day, and many are repeat artists that she has worked with before.
* She has Tuesday portfolio drop offs.
* It’s not always that the illustrations aren’t good, it’s more just whether it’s right for Dial or not.
* Marketing and sales has a say in illustrations/books, and Barnes and Noble sometimes has a say in it too.
* On the other hand, marketing and sales are in the field and can bring back insight on market and what’s selling.
* Publishes first time illustrators a lot (3-4 new illustrators out of about 20 or so books a year).
* Send in complete PB ms when subbing.
* Illustration beats a query letter. SASE for sample returns if needed.
* Loves double whammy of author/illustrator, but try not to walk away if they want text and not art.
* Do homework and see if the publisher will take your kind of work.
* Look for honest criticism (other artists, critique group, etc. not mom or friend who knows nothing about kids books)

Edward Necarsulmer – Agent at McIntosh & Otis
* The market will cycle – stay confident.
* Doesn’t like cartoony / computery images. Digital should be part of the process, rather than the only thing.
* Likes lighter, funny, every day things.
* Cautious about art, but likes portfolios that show versatility, people, movement, etc.
* Reps both art and text. Has maybe 1 client who is illustration only. The other illustrators are also authors.
* Marketing role is important now. It’s reality, and you need sales and marketing in your corner. The editor is also a sales person for your book.
* Calls the slush pile the "discovery pile"
* Play to your strengths.
* Will look at SCBWI stuff. Prefers query first, and make sure to include SASE!
* Loves author/illustrators
* Art should speak for itself, but query can be helpful to say why you chose to send your art / ms to them
* Advice for new illustrators: don’t give up, try to have ills appear in a way that he understands – cohesive fashion / narrative / part of story
* McIntosh &Otis reps Ed Young

Michele Burke – Editor at Knopf/Random House
* 4 years in the business
* Remain optimistic
* Likes to grow authors & illustrators with the house
* Doesn’t like cartoony / mass market art
* Likes art that tells a story, character driven, very expressive, narrative
* Collaborates with designers and not opposed to digital art
* Portfolio mistakes: stuff that’s not child friendly or appropriate for kids books
* Keeps an open mind about all other art
* Most things go to art department, but she does get some things and keeps an art file
* 1/3 – 1/2 of what she looks at is new
* Each season they have a brainstorm / artfest session to find illustrators for the PBs that don’t have them yet.
* Marketing and sales has input, especially for novel jackets. They are in the field, have experience, know what sells, and why or why not.
* Gets hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts a year, and publishes maybe one of them
* Loves author / illustrators, and likes to see the whole PB ms right away (no need to query first)
* Do your research, read and look at books, and see where you want to be.
* Do what you enjoy and feel you are best at and not what the market is telling you to do