Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Which I Wave the Magic Clue-by-Four

I'm working to become a children's book illustrator and would like to know how to set up meetings with art directors/publishers. I'm planning a trip to New York and Boston but don't know how to go about contacting publishers in these cities.
I'm glad you asked this question! The answer is no.

It would be a wonderful world if we had time to meet with every hopeful writer or illustrator who wanted to visit our offices and talk to us in person. It would also be a world in which there were about 15 more hours in every single day. And a world in which we were a hell of a lot less scared of stalkers.

We get regular phone calls from people who just happen to be in town! and thought they'd call us up! and see if they could drop in to show us their work!

Most of these people are simply not a great fit for our publishing list, and so are a waste of our time. And a few of them are CRAZY.
I've sent out a bunch of postcard samples of my work.
That is a good idea.
Generally the publishers websites and the book "Children's Writers and illustrators Market" advise against calling the publishers.
Reading publishers' websites and CWIM is another good idea! You're on the right track. Now all you need to do is believe what you've read.
I'm also wondering, should I bring printed copies of each of my self published children's books with me or incorporate the best images from each book into one portfolio? Thanks for any advice you can offer.
You should do none of those things. You should not visit publishers. You should not introduce yourself as a self-publisher.

Instead, you should (a) mail samples to publishers and (b) create a web portfolio. If CWIM or any of the other fine resources out there have other advice, take it.

18 comments:

Sarah Garrigues said...

I am surprised that someone who has already invested time in reading CWIM (at least enough to know that they recommend against calling publishers directly) still believes that just showing up at the office is a good idea. Also, if the questioner had spent time reading your blog, he would have known not to wave his self-published books at publishers. I guess I shouldn't be surprised after some of the other 'Slush and Punishment' examples you have posted.

ae said...

Some publishers do have drop-off days if you want to make the trip. Look at their websites for specifics. Or look at the Children's Book Council website and of course, the CWIM.

Mail postcards and samples two or three times a year, and don't give up... and always improve and target well (which means loads of research).

beth said...

*sigh* The answer is RIGHT THERE in the book and online! It's hard, but we've all got to remember that we are NOT the exception to the rule.

Lisa Schroeder said...

"And a world in which we were a hell of a lot less scared of stalkers."

LOL - what a nice world that would be, huh?

shell said...

Sigh, I remember when I was just getting started back in the mid-80's there were a lot more houses where you could just call and make an appointment. Some were drop-offs but many art directors did personally see illustrators. That, as observed here, has pretty much dried up.

Tricia said...

I usually lurk, but I must say that this title popped up on my screen and amid the guffaws soda practically came out of my nose.

I do love reading your blog. It's not only informative, but highly entertaining. Thank you for making my day (yet again).

working illustrator said...

Like shell 1:45, I remember showing my portfolio in person. Those days are gone. for. good.

I don't think, from this questioner's note, that s/he's thinking about just dropping in, though... sounds more like s/he wants to make appointments.

That said, echoing everyone else here when I say: send mailers, develop web resources. You don't need to visit offices anymore and here's the thing: that's good news .

For anyone outside of New York, this puts you in the game in a way that was once much less possible. The magazine/editorial illustration world is filled with people who live in cheaper, easier places than the East Coast and do just fine.

It's a better use of your time and resources to stay at your desk, make good work and put it out there in the ways that are available to you.

Save the trip to New York until you've got a contract and a pile of finals to deliver.

Nancy Coffelt said...

It was 20 years and 9 books after my first contract that I went to my first face to face meetings (set up by my agent)in NY.
Two were already my editors but the other 4 were new to me.

I was struck one, by their graciousness, and two by their graciousness when they were obviously so busy and a half an hour was a LOT of time to flip my way.

I don't like to call my editors instead of dropping an email unless it's absolutely necessary - not that I don't like them - I just know they're BUSY.

Anonymous said...

Early in this century (before the twin towers event) I was in NYC for the SCBWI conference and mentioned (by e-mail) to my editor that I would be there. She immediately said she'd be out of town. She also wasn't at another event I attended a few months later.

Now that you explain the fear editors (etc.) have of us writers/ illustrators, I understand -- slightly. It just seemed strange to me that she'd be trying to avoid a 60 year old lady like me. It would have been nice to meet the person at the other end of our e-conversations.

I think she finally met me after my book (our book?) had won so many awards. Before that, I had a better working relationship with the marketing department, than with her. The head of marketing and I still greet each other like old friends whenever we see each other at ALA.

And yes, in the 'olden days' illustrators spent several days in NYC dropping off portfolios at publishers. They might not see anyone but the receptionist, but this was the procedure. Editors and Art Directors would remove pieces and contact information that they wanted to keep on hand in a 'tickle file' that they'd look through when they were choosing illustrators for books.

Thanks for updating us on the new procedures. All done on websites and e-mail? in-ter-est-ing.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Oh no, I didn't mean we're afraid of the authors we're already working with!
I love meeting my authors; it's a great chance to build my relationship with them.
We're afraid of the crazies in slush-- or who SHOULD be in slush, but are too nuts to even figure out that there's a way to submit besides showing up on the 50th floor.

christine tripp said...

I'm not surprised this illustrator has asked about setting up portfolio reviews with AD's. It's still spoken of by many illustrators who used to do it on a regular basis. As mentioned by others already, it was common for the houses to have portfolio drop off days, the illustrators would make their rounds, leaving a number of portfolio's and pick them up at the end of the day, or the next. There were other's that allowed for appointments to show.
I suppose the security factor has come into play these days. I am also wondering, how many AD's are there anymore, with each pub house?
Cut backs must have effected them too and yet the work load is the same, so no time to do portfolio reviews. Also, those were the days PRE computer/internet. Now, if a postcard peaks the Ed or Ad's curiosity, they can browse the rest of the illustrators work on-line.
Too bad really, how exciting to trudge around NYC hustling for work. Reminds me of the stories the old cartoonists tell me, of specific drop off days at NYC magazine offices, 100's of them sitting around in waiting rooms, then going out later for drinks to drown their sorrows or celebrate their sales.
hummm, now I'm feeling really, really old!

ae said...

The trudging...well not really. It is tiring to trudge the city.


I'd rather spend my time producing than trudging, subway hopping and waiting to pick up.


The internet trudge is a blessing.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Some publishers, at least, are still doing portfolio drop-off days. There may just be one per month, though.

And calling ahead to see if you can drop in does count as making an appointment. And I'm still not interested.

Anonymous said...

Last spring I did portfolio drop offs at about 5 houses, and, miraculously, was able to make appointments to meet 3 people in person (2 AD's and 1 editor). Here's how I accomplished it: For drop offs, I called the main numbers, waded through the phone tree to the art department, usually reached a very pleasant, young sounding assistant to an assistant who would tell me the drop off days and protocol for getting into the building (it's HARD, post-9/11.

The personal meetings were the result of networking. In each case, I had either had a referral from someone who is presently working with the editor or AD, or else I had met the her in person at a conference. I wrote polite emails, 2 months in advance, and included one low res image, and a link to my online portfolio. As I had heard all the groaning about how this never happens, I was stunned when all three of the people I met emailed me back and were incredibly gracious about setting up a meeting while I was in NY.

So it's not impossible!

Abigail
http://www.abigailmarble.com

Editorial Anonymous said...

Thanks, Abigail. That's a good story of how to go about it.
:)

Kristi Valiant said...

I did the same thing as Abigail last year, and I was able to meet with one AD and two editors as well. I called a month beforehand to the main phone line at the major publishers and asked about portfolio drop-off days. Sometimes the first person to answer the phone knew, sometimes they passed me to the Art Department. Most publishers had one day a week that they would accept portfolios in the morning, and I could pick my portfolio back up in the late afternoon.

Shadow Bird said...

If I'm itching to go somewhere with portfolio in hand, I would rather attend conferences or conventions than to trudge door to door through a big dusty city.
The last SCBWI conference I attended was a blast and my portfolio took 2nd. place!
Everybody is in the same heightened mood and I like the positive energy that buzzes in the air.
That can be rare in an appointed portfolio review when an editor or AD usually has 100 things on her/his mind.

www.pat-ann.squarespace.com

kathy hare said...

wonderful! it's refreshing to find a blog with such frank advice..