Thursday, April 29, 2010

Should I or Shouldn't I .... have an agent or rep?

 Lately I have been getting a number of emails asking me if I have an agent or how to get an agent or if an illustrator needs an agent. This article is directed mainly at illustrators and those who write and illustrate their own children's books.

These thoughts are based on my own experience and opinions, so you must also consider the views of others who are much better known in the field of Children's Book Illustration.

Agency representation is a very personal choice on the part of the illustrator or author/illustrator. Just as you go about carefully choosing the agent you most want to represent you, the agent will have criteria for acceptance of illustrators and authors.

If you are just beginning to write and/or illustrate for children a great agent could give you a head start.    But devoting too much time to finding an agent shouldn't be a priority.   The best pathway to success is to keep your writing and your illustrating fresh, explore new ideas, work hard on any assignment that you receive and take the suggestions and criticisms of editors, designers, and art directors with grace and act upon them. Focus on your work and make it the best you can.  Attend conferences, workshops, and classes that will help you grow as an artist.

Many beginning artist/illustrators are out there searching for agency representation.  However, having an agent does not guarantee immediate success.  If you do feel you want to share your fees with an agent it is a good idea to make sure it is a top notch agent who works full time in the field.  Any choice other than the type of agency that is well respected and works full time at the business is not worth your time or your money.

So, for the sake of an example, let us say you found a great agent, the agent agrees to represent you and find suitable assignments for your type or art.  You now have someone or a group that will handle the contracts, negotiations, and submissions to houses that only accept them from agents.  

You will need to be prepared to accept the assignments given to you.  You can't be too choosy about the work that your agent offers you.  You will be asked to share in the promotional costs.  In addition you will need to let go of the business issues that are the responsibility of the agency. You will need to meet deadlines, take criticism, make changes and behave in a totally professional manner.  An upbeat and positive attitude are great qualities in an author or illustrator and are appreciated by the publishing community .

Your talent, if your nurture it, will create a pathway for you with or without an agent. Be the best you can, be excellent.


Kelly H-Y said...

This is a wonderfully informative post!

Andrew Finnie said...

Thanks Ginger "You will be asked to share in the promotional costs." Sounds a bit of a take to me that part. Like vanity publishing :)

The illustrations with the article are perfect :)

Ginger*:) said...

Hi Andrew, No it is only fair as the agency has to handle up to 40 or more artists. They take a percent of the illustrator or author fees, but it could never cover the total costs of advertising in the prestige annuals that go out to publishers. However, if you are good at the business side and getting good assignments, an illustrator, at least, can work as their own agent. It is most likely more important for a writer to have a literary agent to open doors in the publishing community.

Rena said...

Great post, Ginger!

Cheryl Lynn said...

This is a wonderful post. Great advice indeed. I'm looking for an agent, but I have put that on hold for now so I can focus on my portfolio right now. I'll pick up the search after I upgrade my portfolio.

Thanks so much for this great advice.

P.S. Your illustrations are fabulous.