I'll start by asking the first question: Michelle, what kind of mistakes do you see beginning illustrators or for that matter professional illustrators make as far as the business side of their careers?...and don't use my name :)
Michelle: I think that authors and illustrators forget that it is a business and they are the lead spokesperson. And yes, you are creating art, but in the end, you need people to buy it. Do tell people about the book, even if it seems awkward. Have your publishers information handy. Have your author visit information handy. Always have a business card with you. Of course, you shouldn’t become that person who can only talk about their book, but there is a happy medium. Most people you meet would love to know. Oh, and don’t get too caught up in reviews and Amazon comments.
Mighty Kwan said...
Michelle, with so many social arenas open for self promotion, what are the best ways for an artist to promote and sell their own brand and identity? Are things like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and DeviantArt preaching to the choir? Or are there other means of promotion that artists don't use as effectively as they could or should?
First of all, you do have to spend time preaching to the choir – especially when it’s a big choir. If you’re a new author or illustrator, the best place to build a fan base is with people who are already fans of your genre. If you’re established, your fan base needs to know when you have a new book. So, yes, you need to spend time on social media…BUT! You don’t have to do all of them and you shouldn’t be spending hours a day. After all, you do need to work on your next book. My suggestion is to start with one and see how it goes. All the various media have their own personalities and so do you. Find the one (or ones) that fit.
Basically, authors and illustrators need to be out there. You are the best spokesperson for you work…period. No matter how good a publicist is, they will never know your work better than you do. This used to be done through media tours and answering fan mail. Now, you can stay home more…but you still need to accept speaking engagements and go to conferences and other book events. You need to be part of the community, whether it’s online or in person.
Jack Foster said...
Hey Will, thanks for having Michelle on... and thank you so much Michelle for taking the time to answer questions.
Michelle, from the illustration side of children’s books, what would be the single most marketable aspect of an illustrator’s portfolio. I know that character design, style, color and quality all work together, but is there ONE thing that floats to the top? Also, I do not have an agent..... should I be considering one?
I know it sounds simple, but the ability to tell a story with your pictures. The best picture books have stories in both the words and the pictures. The illustrations are not necessarily literal interpretations of the text. If you haven’t already, go to the library and/or bookstore (preferably several and often) and take down 20 picture books. Sort them into piles of “doesn’t work” “almost works” “works” and “really works.” You’ll find a very diverse group of styles in each pile. Your job is to emulate the magic that makes the “really works” really work.
As for what I need as a marketer – a great book with eye-catching illustrations. Vague enough for you?
And then, speed. Publishers like illustrators that meet deadlines.
And yes, agents make life easier. It’s not always necessary, but it allows you to spend more of your time on the books, less on the paperwork. If you don’t have an agent, definitely have any and all contracts looked at by a lawyer that specializes in entertainment/publishing. You need to understand what you’re agreeing to and what you’ll get in return.
Marion Eldridge said...
Thank you, Michelle and Will for doing this!
MIchelle, I wondered if you could tell us a couple of characteristics of your dream picturebook from a marketing perspective. Or, maybe what types of books are in demand from a marketing point of view. Or, which are the easist to market. For example, holiday books, humorous books, etc. Sorry if that is three questions in one. Whatever is easiest to answer would be a great help!
Well, my dream picture book has amazing illustration and text and kids demand that it be read again and again—not very specific, am I? I think those perfect picture books are few and far between because magic is hard to capture. Artists should concentrate on finding and following a vision. As for what’s easiest to market – a new picture book by a New York Times bestselling illustrator or author! Other than author or illustrator name recognition, books with good hooks can be easier – back to school, holiday, cancer, bullying, etc. But there’s a big caveat, it still needs to be a good book and just because the topic is hot today, doesn’t mean it will be hot when the book is ready.
Phyllis Harris said...
Thanks for this opportunity, Will! This is timely since I just sent off a post card yesterday to Albert Whitman...well, actually it was the second time since I didn't realize Albert Whitman had moved to a new location and it came back in the mail. Oops! But anyway, I am an illustrator and I usually send post cards quarterly to clients I have worked with or would like to work with. I have been told to send post cards to either editors or art directors so I sent mine to Abby Levine. Does the editorial staff or the art director choose the illustrator for a project or is it more of a collaboration?
It’s definitely more of a collaboration. Our art director did a blog post you can find here -- http://albertwhitman.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/illustration-station-qa-with-an-art-director/
Thanks for participating guys - this was fun - and thanks Michelle for being so gracious and willing! You can visit Albert Whitman's blog right here!