Advocate Art Judging and Panel member at SCBWI conference. Nov 25 2013

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If you are follower of the blog you would have seen that Advocate, keen supporters of SCBWI, featured at the conference and Mass Book Launch. CEO Edward Burns was honoured to be one of the panel members and was an integral part of the judging panel,he spent the day reviewing portfolios with other industry professionals from the Children's publishing world, he then went on to judging the Best Portfolio of the Show and participating in a Meet the Industry Session. Later that evening himself and LaB Director Caroline Burns were thrilled to be part of the Mass Book launch where 20 titles were celebrated and launched at this fantastic event, 4 of the 20 were Advocate Titles from the likes of Kim Scott, Steve Wood, Tom Bonson and Keino. See a glimpse of the days highlights and of the topics of conversation. Ed pictured with Igloo Books Art Director Strawberrie Donnelly, also pictured with Double winner- Alex Wilson who won best illustrator at SCBWI and  acclaimed author/illustrator Mike Brownlow. Whilst Caroline enjoys a successful launch with Kim Nye from Maverick Books and the author Alex Hemming for the launch of Black and White Club featuring the delightful work of  Illustrator Kim Scott. A successful Day was had by all. 1)    Is it possible to survive today as an illustrator entirely on income from any one job? What are the panel’s views on secondary rights, merchandising, art prints and other spin-offs from the original artwork? Who controls the secondary rights? The artist? The agent? The publisher? More than ever it is possible to survive as an illustrator, thrive even and dare I say it- do very well! The trick is to get to the point where you can wake up at the beginning of the month and know that you have the work scheduled for the next 2-3 months, a loose plan for 3 months after that and sure in the knowledge that there are series and themes that need extending so clients will be coming back. Maybe 15- 20 clients that use you periodically, plus a reasonable bank or images to resell. On top of that there will be new projects coming through out of the blue. Out of our top 100 illustrators Id say ¾ are in that position. How else are you going to convince the bank to give you a mortgage? Spin off rights can happen, but more than ever stuff is made specifically for stuff. So having a book cover fit a greeting card or work as puzzle or print for your lounge is unlikely. Its hard enough to design specifically for those things without them happening by accident. Sure if you do a Christmas book some images can become cards, or a look and find book can be a puzzle but most of the time art that can be sold again is designed that way. If you have a characters that can be made into a licensing program then it will need to be adapted with that product in mind. For financial security is important to have a strong secondary rights side of your own business that you are building up to complement your work for hire commissions so you are building your own library of interchangeable work. A very useful income because it will earn when you are not working, say during maternity or even after you have retired. We help our artists build a library of work. Finally if you can create your own story content or product idea’s then you will be able to be paid in royalties, this again gives an extended financial stream. Copyright law says the rights are yours, if you want your agent or publisher to manage the secondary right that’s a business decision that should be taken considering the % they take versus the likelihood they will exploit the rights as wide as possible. 2)    Ebooks and Apps: are publishers and illustrators actually making any money out of digital books? Ebooks maybe, apps- well no one is yet that I know of!. Until we can get over the lump of giving things away for a $1 or 69p or even free! it will be hard for apps of books to pay. Quality seems to be dropping as well, prices will have to go up.  Books as ebooks charged at good prices underpin great content. But there is also the increasing issue of too much mediocre content, especially with self publishing. Its controversial but we need “gate keepers” like publishers and book shops to weed out the bad stuff else people will revert to traditional purchasing methods.  3)    Trends: what does the panel think the industry needs more of? Where are the gaps that need filling in your agency or your publishing house right now? There is a stagnation a bit in picture books which is of concern, especially the high end arty market. Several trendy publishers have gone broke. Some would say they have been hit hard with ipads, and novelty books are being priced out as well and also a victim of ipads. Perhaps retailers are playing safe and opting for more commercial genres. I would like to see a return of interesting non-fiction reference, like Horrible Histories series. It seemed like Non-fiction reference was all but killed off when publishers decided that the internet and Wikipedia would mean the end of reference- true in a way… but too many interesting non-fiction reference books were axed as well. Especially boys stuff like dino, cars, monsters, ghosts and myths themes. Bill Gates foundation is pouring $$’s into early reading as well, so reluctant reading and first chapter books are on the up. Especially for boys.  4) To have or not have an agent: what do agents actually do for an illustrator for their cut of the fee?Can the agents list their services? Can the art directors tell us what they feel about working with agented and un-agented artists? Don’t have an agent if you really don’t want one, you can do it on your own. We take a chunk of money from an Artist, for that we do all invoicing, credit control, sales, contract checking and fee negotiation. Sure that is worth something- most business studies books will take tell you allow 10% for finance admin and at least 25% for sales costs, but if you are cool with doing that side or your partner wants to do it try that first. A good Agency will bring more than sales and admin as described. First they will get extra on top of the fee, since it’s hard to negotiate for yourself your agent should get you more for a job. Other than that the primary thing is that the Agency should make the right connection for you, give you more varied opportunities that suit you. Think of it like being in a dating agency, sure you can find your own partner where ever you circulate, but we have a database of 5,000 to chose from. Ie we have 5000 active clients so we will place the best dino artists with the best dino publisher and the best fashion illustrator with the best fashion publisher etc. 4)    Agents, do you have time to nurture individual talents? If yes, have you any examples?Every new signing comes with a full folio review, we have to agree how to package a folio, there is nothing worse than us putting work you have moved away from or is not naturally your hand in the folio as your masterpiece work. Its about selecting the right work also, many artists send work that is not appropriate for the age, or will put clients off for what ever reason so we present the right elements from their folio. Also filling gaps in their folio like different characters and genres. Artist’s are so often completely in the dark with what the industry is after. I remember when I started out, I would see a client not only to try and get work but to find our what they were commissioning. So if your agent is seeing lots of clients they should become pretty good at knowing what requirements they need and pass this along. Each agent here has 300 face to face meetings a year with artbuyers who in turn are in sales meetings where they hear back from their sales teams and books shops. We absorb that information and feed it back to the artists. Eye shape, colours textures, compositions, use of type, themes. 5)    Other than talent what qualities do they appreciate the most in an illustrator? A strong style, adaptability, an ability for self promotion? Strong style that has an application. Quick, they care about clients- perhaps even people pleasers. They want to achieve, strivers, grafters. Up- for it.  Good natured.  True professionals. If they can adapt they have longevity in the business. 6)    Style: Do you think it’s important to keep a consistent style from one year to the next? Yes- but it important people evolve. Remember some books are replaced every 5 years, you don’t want to be doing a style that people are re illustrating, it’s a design led world, if it was not we would not need half this stuff.