When I went to the NY SCBWI conference a few years ago, I was excited about hearing illustrators talk and gaining inspiration.
This time, with my first trade book under my belt, I was much more business focussed. My little group kept saying I was channelling Leeza, who I met in NY, and who is the queen of networking. Well it's not so easy for me. I have to force myself to talk to strangers, but I figured everyone was there for the same reason so everyone's open to being approached. Plus, I had made these:
business card size mini portfolio
...so I figured I owed it to myself to be bold and hand out as many as I could.
And while I'm at it, here are all my promotional materials: portfolio, mini-folio, postcards, business cards.
So, armed with these goodies, I tracked down as many editors, publishers, agents, and all-around good people as I could....
I got them into the hands of Stephanie Owens Lurie (Disney-Hyperion), Justin Chanda (Simon & Schuster), Claudia Gabel (HarperCollins), Jennifer Rees (Scholastic) and by mail post-conference to Josh Adams (Adams literary) (who was actually the one I really wanted to talk to but could never find him) Anyway, some salient points from them:
• Your book will be judged against publisher's 'list' - it could be a great book but if they have recently published something similar, it may not be attractive to them (so much of this business is about timing!)
• Your pitch/query letter should capture in 30 seconds or less
• An agent or publisher wants to build the career of the author/illustrator
• They will help with grow and shape your career but will not be your shrink, or your mother. you still need to work hard and give them something to work with!
• The ideal author/illustrator: keeps their audience in mind always, is selective on publishers, willing to promote the book, and is open-minded about future technology.
• Many editors prefer to receive material through an agent, but gems are still found in the 'slush pile'
• Think about how your story could be converted/used on new technology and think globally
I should say there was a lot of discussion at the conference about ipads and the like and how it will change (or more likely 'add to') the role of the author and illustrator. What wasn't discussed was whether the digitisation of books will ruin the industry as it has the music industry - where companies lose so much money because the free proliferation of the art is so rampant, it is unable to be monitored. that means less money to promote up-and-comings, and less confidence in the printed market...... but i digress.....
One of the most amazing parts of the conference for me was on Day 2 at 8am: My one-on-one portfolio critique with the man who created this:
To say I was nervous is probably an understatement. I mean LOOK at that lion! You can see each inidividual curl. It's insane. He's an amazing artist.
But then the moment I sat down with Richard I was put immediately at ease. He is the kindest man you would ever hope to meet. Especially because, after introductions and niceties, the first words out of his mouth were 'I looked at your website - I really like your work!'
He proceeded to go through my portfolio and point out all the GOOD things I had done! What a revelation! I thought I was going in to have my folio picked apart. But I realised what he was doing was so much more valuable: this is what is working for you, this is where your voice is strong, work on this, develop this.
Of course he gave me lots of areas to work on, all completely on the money:
• My characters are all very 'happy' -- show a range of emotion & experessions
• there should be a story behind each image. (I heard this several times throughout the conference)
• Show some B&W work and even some sketches
• my images are all quite flat -- work on perspective
and then..... came my million dollar question.
I asked Richard if he thought my work was ready for an agent.
Yes, he thought so. I could talk to his agent who was at the conference.
so i did.
2 days later, I met for a glorious 5 minutes with Rubin Pfeffer from East/West literary agency. He said Richard had talked very highly of me (really?). He leafed through my folio and picked one image (which Richard liked too):
and said if I could build up a story around this little guy for him, he'd be interested in working with me.
so that's my homework assignment. I've already brewed a lil story around him on my 14 hour flight home. I can't tell you how exciting this is for me. Now I just need to follow through on this amazing opportunity.
So I have to say, that business-wise, for me, this conference was a definite success...
next post.... conference buddies :-)