The Do’s & Don’ts of building your illustration career - Steven Malk Owner of Writers House – An agency representing writers and illustrators of children’s’ books.
Steven lives and breath's children's book publishing and is the 3rd generation in a family that own children's book store. He has a lot of pragmatic advice to give.
Do your homework:
a) What are other illustrators in the field doing
b) Learn what came before you.
c) What made the classics
d) Stay up with what is contemporary and popular (but follow your voice, heart)
e) Understand why something works
Don’t look for short cuts (You need to make a long term commitment to illustrating for children’s books)
Do think carefully about your portfolio.
Select your pieces carefully.
Every piece should count.
There should be logic to your portfolio. It should make sense.
Think about what you want to viewer to experience and feel when they look at it.
The whole is greater than the parts.
Consider the atmosphere of your portfolio.
Should have character & personality
Your portfolio and the pieces should have strong design and layout sense, perspective, etc.
Do not use the same portfolio pieces for multiple fields. Know who your audience is and pick your pieces that make sense and show your unique voice.
Do not ask publishers to make big leap. They are going to be spending a huge amount of money to produce a picture book and they need to feel confident that you can pull off the art work that will bring the story to life with your unique vision in collaboration with the author and the publisher and it will make a profit. And hopefully this first book will be the start of a longer trusted relationship.
You need to show that you can clearly work with the principles of a published children’s book.
Good idea to illustrate from a public domain children’s story to show how you handle sequential storytelling and other art skills required for a publisher to trust in you.
Should be clean, organized, easy to navigate.
Does it represent you. IS it distinctly you or could it be any artist.
Try making your promo post card with sequential art
Attend as many conferences and professional workshops as you can about children’s book publishing.
Is this a career or is this something you want to do on the side (dabble) while you work in animation, illustration, greeting cards, etc. Steven was very emphatic about this as he was last year when I heard him speak and he is right. Although he represents artist that do work in other art fields these artist are still committed to children’s book publishing and it is a serious part of their career path 110%.
Do develop your own point of view.
Have your inspiration and DO mention them in your query letter, but have your own point of view.
Mention who you like.
Describe your work.
Link to your website
Publisher really DO like writer/illustrator’s these days.
DON’T GIVE UP
A good final “don’t” to remember.
Steven likes Greg Pizzoli’s website:
A wordless book Steve likes is Suzy Lee’s “Wave”
A very good article about the revolution of e-books and publishing: