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How to deal with enthusiastics without money

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PetravB

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Hey everyone,

There has been talked about this before I guess, I actually wanted to post this as a reply on that sticky topic about people mailing you about being interested in illustrations. But that is locked, so I'm starting a new topic, hopefully that's ok!

So here's the deal:
As an illustrator, even when I'm still a starter, I frequently get e-mails from people that wrote a story or who are interested in my illustrations in some way. But they're all just 'persons', no publishers, no companies, nothing commercial.

I love it that many people write and are enthusiastic enough to look for an illustrator, but so many of them don't know anything about the publishing world or about the costs/time of making illustrations. That's why many of these times I had to reply and explain and had to disappoint them, because it was too expensive for them or because they didn't really have a 'plan' at all, just a story. :sigh

How do I deal with these people? I haven't got the time and the motivation to explain this time after time (because, before some understand it, they first want to talk in real life and all). I thought about putting a bit of text on my website with more info about publishing and the costs of illustration, but I also understand it might look a bit arrogant or scare other people. 

Anyone has ideas? Any illustrators with experience on it?
#1 - November 26, 2012, 01:03 AM

I would definitely put it on the website as a FAQ, clearly spelled out, maybe with some book recommendations to basic books about publishing for children (or a link to a basic, well-written website which explains the process).  I don't think that's arrogant at all--it'll just save people time.  Those who are willing to pay and plan or whatever you expect from people who hire you shouldn't get scared off if you clearly detail what they're already going to do, anyway.  That way when people contact you, you can simply point them to that page.

If a flat-out "here's what I say when people approach me, and here's why" isn't to your liking, maybe a "day in the life" thing where you show how you worked with one particular client and in it, explain why these things take money, time, planning, etc. and how you just don't have time to chat with everyone who has an idea (and no money).  In other words, show how busy you are and why you have to carefully guard each hour you spend.

Stating it just like you did above (that you love how enthusiastic people are and it's great that they're writing, but you just don't have time in your busy day to discuss every project) seems like a fine way to make sure they know you're not being a jerk--just being a busy professional!
#2 - November 26, 2012, 05:26 AM

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Super advice from Jaina. It's not uncommon for writers and illustrators to have such a page on their sites. You may want to visit several to get ideas on how you want to say it.
#3 - November 26, 2012, 05:40 AM
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Jaina's suggestion is great. Chris Van Dusen is a great illustrator and has a FAQ page on his site. It's got some great information and may be a good example of how to cover questions by referring people to a section of your site.

  http://www.chrisvandusen.com/faq

#4 - November 26, 2012, 06:13 AM
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PetravB

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Thanks there :).
I thought about a FAQ too, but here is the funny thing...I asked the same question at a Dutch illustrators forum/group and they actually disliked that idea. Their advice was to make a standard mail that explains it instead of putting it up on your website, and whenever you get such an e-mail, you can mail them that standard mail back. Has to do with culture I guess (Dutch people are softies  :P).
#5 - November 26, 2012, 06:37 AM

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I have a such a FAQs on my web site. It certainly is more time effective than trying to answer every Clueless Bob when they email (or worse corner you at a party.)

I think if every artist had FAQs there would be a lot fewer Clueless Bobs running around. Sad fact of the matter though, is with a rather basic Google search 99% of their questions are answered. If only they took the time to do a tiny bit of research.

Don't worry about seeming arrogant. If you plan to be a professional illustrator, act and blog in a business-like manner. After all, illustrating and book publishing are business!
#6 - November 26, 2012, 07:20 AM
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I think the best advice has been given already. Have the basic questions and answers listed on your website. I don't do that though because I actually like the interaction with the client and it's better for me to ask what I want to see if it's a real job or just someone trying to feel out what it will cost when they decide to do the project.

On a side note: if this is bothering you at the beginning before you even really have gotten started in your career as an illustrator, you're going to be in real trouble later. I spend tons of time on the phone and doing paper work. It's just part of the job. You should get use to it. Knowing how to talk to a client is a HUGE part of it. I'd also say just because someone is not a publishing company doesn't mean they don't have money to spend. I think self publishers are a great market as long as you get the money thing out of the way in the beginning and have a good contract.

Plus I'd say dealing with the self publishers gives you some great practice for when and if the publishers are interested.
#7 - November 26, 2012, 08:10 AM

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Thanks there :).
I thought about a FAQ too, but here is the funny thing...I asked the same question at a Dutch illustrators forum/group and they actually disliked that idea. Their advice was to make a standard mail that explains it instead of putting it up on your website, and whenever you get such an e-mail, you can mail them that standard mail back. Has to do with culture I guess (Dutch people are softies  :P).
 

That is what I do.  Even though it's a standard reply, I do personalize it a bit in the initial paragraph, and thank them for their interest. If nothing else, they appreciate the friendly reply, learn something, and stay a fan of your art (I hope).  Plus, you never know if at some time in the future they will be able to meet your requirements or refer you to someone that can.

- t
#8 - November 26, 2012, 09:02 AM

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Sneaking in from the client side of things, life is a lot easier when artists had FAQs or contact forms (forms that I had to fill out to give the artist an idea of what I was looking for, budget, etc.) on their websites--especially when I was brand new at this and trying to figure out what an appropriate budget looked like and how things worked.

I stressed out a lot more when artists didn't have that information readily available where I could find it. Mostly because I felt bad for potentially wasting their time if their prices were too steep for me at the time.
#9 - November 26, 2012, 10:49 AM

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I think you should have some nice resources on your website, sure. People who are legitimately curious and who have the desire to learn will be excited to find good information and possibly website or book links.

But the fact of the matter is, the TRULY Clueless Bobs will ignore what you put on your website. For those people, a polite but firmly worded form letter should suffice.

(Form letter tips: You can make a "canned response" in Gmail that you can send with one click - and adjust before you send if you want to personalize it or change it in any way. Or you could just have a sample in the drafts of your email and cut and paste when necessary.)
#10 - November 26, 2012, 09:19 PM
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Here's one reason FAQs are better than emails - emails, no matter how "form letter"-ish, are going to encourage some people to email back, thinking they now have a "relationship" with you. That's going to potentially mean even more of your time.

You'll still have to deal with people who ignore the FAQs (though frankly, I think it's okay to simply ignore those unsolicited emails -- but that's both a cultural call and a personal "how big of a pushover are you?" call, and many of us are too friendly/helpful to go that far. But if responding to these things start really eating into your work time (or family time or personal time or whatever), sometimes you have to do that. And anyone who doesn't basically understand and accept that is likely to be a time suck anyway.)
#11 - November 26, 2012, 11:03 PM
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I use a fairly standard reply letting the person know I work only with publishers but a FAQ page would be a great idea for letting the hopeful but naive authors know they dont need illustrations when subbing their manuscript. Many starting out still think they do.  After I have sent a reply to that effect, some write back relieved that they can save their money! For those that know this, they may reply back such, still want to know what you charge because they plan to self publish and then, as with many businesses, the cost, even your rough starting price, weeds out the serious from the dreamer.
#12 - November 27, 2012, 01:57 AM
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PetravB

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Here's one reason FAQs are better than emails - emails, no matter how "form letter"-ish, are going to encourage some people to email back, thinking they now have a "relationship" with you. That's going to potentially mean even more of your time.

You'll still have to deal with people who ignore the FAQs (though frankly, I think it's okay to simply ignore those unsolicited emails -- but that's both a cultural call and a personal "how big of a pushover are you?" call, and many of us are too friendly/helpful to go that far. But if responding to these things start really eating into your work time (or family time or personal time or whatever), sometimes you have to do that. And anyone who doesn't basically understand and accept that is likely to be a time suck anyway.)

Yeah I know that feeling that you try people to explain and they don't get it and keep mailing you. I think a FAQ would come in handy.
I still will read and reply the e-mails of course and yes there are actually people out there with a budget and a plan, so you have to keep your eyes open and ask the right questions.

Thanks so much for all your advice, that really helps!

#13 - November 27, 2012, 11:36 AM

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There has been talked about this before I guess, I actually wanted to post this as a reply on that sticky topic about people mailing you about being interested in illustrations. But that is locked, so I'm starting a new topic, hopefully that's ok!

For anyone that is interested, the original post is still there for discussion. http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=65291.0 We created a separate locked sticky post with Wilson's permission for reference purposes. http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=65324.0
#14 - November 27, 2012, 01:04 PM
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Thanks Artemisia! I also believe that Tanja shared this wonderful resource that you can send to a potential client that explains everything pretty well. (Resource is linked to at end of post) To be honest it would be great to use in tandem with the template I provided. It pretty much explains any questions they may have in regards to the ten questions I lay out.

You can have frequently asked questions on your site as well. I think that's an awesome idea and a smart thing to do!! But yep you'll still run into folks who do not and will not read those things. Much in the same way they did no research about publishing before approaching you.

It's still good to have a couple of resources handy that you can pass along should you choose. Truth be told it's not your responsibility to educate potential clients. But if you choose to, make it as easy on yourself as you can. Also consider a consulting fee if you end up taking the job on.

Here's a link to the article. It also has a downloadable free brochure that goes through a lot of what clients should know BEFORE they approach you.  EXCELLENT RESOURCE!!! We'll be putting up a post about it this coming week. (Got permission from the artist! Woo Hoo!)


HOW TO COMMISSION AN ILLUSTRATION
#15 - November 30, 2012, 11:27 PM

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Yes, it was a really great article. I already made Tanja's post sticky too because that subject comes up here so often!
#16 - November 30, 2012, 11:31 PM
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