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Newbie seeking some advice about possible agent interest

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Hello everyone,

I'm really hoping that this is in the right place but I was wondering if I might get some advice. I've recently finished a digital dummy for a picture book and have been sending it off to agents.  I had a response today from an agent who said that they loved the story and everything seemed really positive....

...Apart from the fact that my MC (a penguin) 'basically doesn't look like a penguin'! Agent pointed out some things that he didn't like about the penguin, including colouring (he thought that as a chick the MC should have lighter colouring) and thought that my overall colour palette was too dark. He did, however, go on to ask if I had considered some other 'renderings' of my MC, and said that he was really interested in seeing some more samples if I had considered some other renderings.

I am chuffed to bits to get any kind of response at all, and am hoping that his writing that he can't offer me representation 'quite yet' means that he thinks we're not a million miles away, but my question is what to send back to him.

I work almost entirely digitally so changing colour palettes shouldn't be too stressful, but do you think he wants an entirely different MC? I have some early prototype versions, but they aren't quite as polished as the others. Should I just change the colouring and see if he likes that?

Sorry that's a bit of a waffle, but any feedback on what people think I should send him would be really appreciated!

Tadgh

PS I also wondered... I sent him a dummy of my second book, with a link to my website containing samples from my first. Should I ask if he had a chance to view the first? Should I just send him a dummy of that one too? Is that too pushy? Sorry for all the questions!
#1 - April 25, 2013, 03:47 PM

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I have no idea but I'm looking forward to reading what others say. It's interesting to hear about the author/illustrator process of querying! Part of me wonders if it's more difficult... because there are two skill sets you're pitching, your writing and your illustration. So this must make you feel pretty amazing!
#2 - April 25, 2013, 04:15 PM

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Tadgh,

I've been in this position before. An editor loved the concept but wanted me to try and change the art style, add more detail to the MC, and a different color palette!  It would seem they didn't like a thing about it, but that's not true. If they didn't see something with potential, they wouldn't bother asking.

I would do exactly what they're requesting, and in this case, it sounds like the agent would like to see some other styles to this penguin. I'd show the penguin in at least 3 different versions, the first one being the same one with different coloring. And two other very different looking penguins but with the same polish. Even if it takes you some time, it's worth putting in the effort.

In my case, I did sell the project! (I'm not talking about my Penguin book, though!) And turns out,... they liked the original version best. But STILL,... I'm glad I tried the variations in art style! 

Best of luck!!!
#3 - April 25, 2013, 04:37 PM

While I haven't been in SYoon's shoes with an agent, I can answer this from a designer's perspective. When we work on designing new covers (for textbooks) we provide a minimum of three comps to try out variations on themes or even completely different concepts. This can reveal things you thought were working, but then realize were not. This also provides the editor a way to respond and select elements that they like AND think would help sell the product. (Now if only I can get myself to do the same with my illustration projects, I think I'd see my skills jump!)

I think SYoon's advice on what to do is spot-on.
#4 - April 26, 2013, 05:02 AM

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Huh? Guess I have two thoughts- I guess one is to re-evaluate your penguin, if an agent or editor says it doesn't look like a penguin. That can happen to all illustrators- a good thing is to shelf something and come back to it and see if it still looks like a penguin to you- actually your whole dummy- shelf it for few weeks  and see if you can remember the original inspiration for it, if it is still true. This isn't a race with a time limit, agents, editors, art directors just want  work that wows them.
so Second- remember editors and art directors are still very open to looking at dummys- bypassing an agent altogether- So if you have really "spit polished" this dummy and really are in love with it, don't change it too much for one agent.
#5 - April 26, 2013, 06:49 AM

Thank you everyone so much for the advice- Salina in particular I have seen you respond to a few of my requests for advice so thank you.

I am going to go with whats recommended here and go back to the drawing board a few times with my MC. I hadn't ever really come across the opinion before that he doesn't look like a penguin; he is stylised but I had been pretty happy with the style so a small part of me is wondering whether I'm just not what the agent is after. Colour palette was a different story- I had always pictured the story happening at night (for some strange reason) so it is rather dark. I had thought that gave it a nice tone, but there was always the concern that it was not bright enough for a PB. We shall see.

My dummy is at least vaguely 'spit polished' and I had been really happy with the overall feel (aside from slight concerns about the dark palette). It is with some other agents (nothing heard yet though), so I guess I'll see if any of them come back to me whilst I'm exploring some other penguin options.

Thanks again!
#6 - April 26, 2013, 08:49 AM

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Tadgh,

I'm glad I was able to help! And when I suggested preparing 3 different penguins to show this agent, of course I just meant character sketches with full color,... NOT changing out the penguin in your entire dummy (in case I wasn't clear).

Good luck and let us know what happens!

:cheerleader
#7 - April 26, 2013, 11:14 AM

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I'm glad to hear you are getting somewhere. I loved your book that I was fortunate enough to critique. All I have to say is good luck and you deserve every success.

 :shootingstar
#8 - April 26, 2013, 11:18 AM
Seek ye out of the best books...
http://dewdropsofink.blogspot.com

Thanks J.Swann, it's actually a completely different one to the one you critiqued, if you are interested in seeing it just let me know!

And thanks again SYoon, I have been having a go at character sketches, and did send some samples to the agent with lighter colour palettes..... but I don't know. The more I think about it, the more I actually like the illustrations the way they are, and although the darker palette may not be as classically PB as I may like, I still think it has value. I don't know, I am certainly open to this guy's suggestions as he is the guy in the know, but I want to stick to my guns at least a little bit!
#9 - April 26, 2013, 04:57 PM

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I wanna see!! I WANNA SEE!!!!! :)
#10 - April 26, 2013, 08:14 PM

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Congratulations! Getting a response like that is great. :muscles

Something I encountered while working on revising a book dummy with an AD through a program, was learning not to get too attached to the way I saw my character early on. I had emphasized a certain trait a bit too much and was told it was distracting. I thought it added character to my character.  :-\ But, after re-doing my character throughout the book dummy, I grew more attached to the likability of the new images and could see how it gave the character a broader range of appeal.

While the agent may want a bit of change, your vision could go through another round of adjustments once accepted by a publisher. But, it will still be your character as all the work comes from you. It's important to stay true, but also to try to step back a bit and embrace what you feel may work to enhance the vision.
#11 - April 27, 2013, 10:56 AM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
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Excellent advice from Cynthia K!  I couldn't have said it better. Yes... to not being TOO attached with your first vision and allowing yourself to grow!  Even as established as I am, I never say no to trying new variations on something if asked by an editor. I'm always happy to revise--- both for text AND art.

Kaleidoscope went through an unbelievable transformation from the original submission dummy. Almost everything about it was changed-- after it was acquired. At first, I worried it wasn't "my" vision. But like Cynthia mentioned, all the revision work came from me... and it turned out to be more than I had EVER imagined it to be on my own. I am soooooo incredibly grateful to my editor who saw beyond what I had originally done.

Just keep an open mind, T! It's not about "sticking to guns."  It's about being open to change, open for growth, and being easy to work with. I have a reputation of being very easy to work with because of my attitude on revision. This gets me a lot of work. As a business, it's worked for me.
#12 - April 27, 2013, 11:06 AM
« Last Edit: April 27, 2013, 11:10 AM by SYoon »

Thanks again SYoon and Cynthia for the sage advice! I have been working on some different versions of my MC and am planning on sending some different versions to the agent in the next day or so. I'll let you know if there is good news!

Thanks again,
Tadgh
#13 - April 29, 2013, 03:28 PM

Just on the outside chance that people may read this in the next couple of hours- I've had an email from the agent asking to arrange a time for THE CALL this very afternoon, which I am as excited as I am nervous about! I was having a little look on the blueboards here and found a thread on questions to ask, but if anyone has any additional top tips to add to that I would love to hear them!
Exciting!
Tadgh
#14 - April 30, 2013, 08:42 AM

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 :hairdude and  :goodluck

 :yay
#15 - April 30, 2013, 08:59 AM
Seek ye out of the best books...
http://dewdropsofink.blogspot.com

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Go get um, Tadgh! That is FANTASTIC!  Good luck and we hope to hear your news soon!
#16 - April 30, 2013, 09:03 AM

Good luck!  :paint
#17 - April 30, 2013, 10:40 AM

aodle

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Wow! That's so exciting! I loved your story AND your penguin. Not a big surprise to me that you're getting a call!!!  Can't wait to hear how the conversation went.
#18 - April 30, 2013, 11:32 AM

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Congrats!!! Most important advise- if they make an offer of representation-  you have TIME- time to get off the phone and think- how close does this person fit your ideal of an agent- see who their other clients are- Time to check in with any other agents who are considering your work so they can make an offer- think of how you want your relationship to work- weekly correspondence vs just when there is news, all the info about who is not interested in your book or just the high points-
make sure you take the time to think through if this is the right agent for you- there are more agents  in the world that might LOVE your penguin!
#19 - April 30, 2013, 12:36 PM

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Oooh just read this! So excited for you! Hope it went well!!
#20 - April 30, 2013, 05:47 PM

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Extra powerful  :muscles  good thoughts and wishes as your story is on it's way!
#21 - April 30, 2013, 08:09 PM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
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So Tadgh, how did the phonecall go?

Curious Debbie
#22 - May 11, 2013, 04:34 PM
DebbieOhi.com - Twitter: @inkyelbows - Instagram: @inkygirl

Agented!
Things have been rather busy recently (both in picture-book and in real-world, job-related (teaching) world), so sorry for not penning thanks earlier, but I decided to go with the agent and am now offiically represented! I'm really excited to see what happens, the agent seems great and said all of the things I was looking for in the phone call (even if I was a bit of a stumbling wreck). I still have a hankering for my original version of the MC, but am really curious to see what the agent suggests in terms of further revisions and want to see where I can take my Little Penguin.

Thanks again for all the wonderful messages of support and advice, this really is a wonderful community.

Go Little Penguin!

Tadgh
#23 - May 12, 2013, 05:25 PM

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Wow, that's amazing good news! Congratulations! Can't wait to hear the full story. Yippeee!
#24 - May 12, 2013, 05:50 PM

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Congratulations! :drum: :dancer
#25 - May 14, 2013, 06:27 AM
Fur Balls & Feathers & Fins, Oh My! Animals Are My Kind of People
 www.cynthiakremsner.com

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