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Querying an Art Rep/Lit agent with a twist

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I’m seeking out an art rep as a published children’s book illustrator, but here’s the dilemma; I am also an aspiring picture book writer.  How can I phrase my email query letter to let the agent know that I illustrate but am also looking for representation in my writing down the road?  And should I be even mentioning the writing at this point if I have no finished manuscripts that are ready for review?

I read though the great advice given on this board on a post from DLacy, which was very useful but my situation is slightly different.  I’ve heard time and time again that certain agents are very interested in author/illustrators.  I'd like to raise a flag to those types of agents to make them aware of all my capabilities up front.

Any thoughts?  Thanks in advance for any advice for this situation.
#1 - March 22, 2015, 12:40 PM

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I would work on putting together a dummy you both wrote and illustrated and then approach agents who rep author/illustrators. If you're querying, they'll want to see something before making a decision on whether they feel they can rep you effectively or not. When you have a dummy or two ready to go, then just say you are looking for representation as an author/illustrator and in the section where you include published past works mention the books you have illustrated.
#2 - March 22, 2015, 02:42 PM
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Derek! YOUR WORK ROCKS MY SOCKS!!!

If you're open to illustrating someone else's work, I'd say query RIGHT now as an illustrator. You can still write your own text later.  Have you sent Lee & Low samples of your work? PLEASE do so, ASAP!!! Your Inuits are beautiful!!!

Someone will represent you in a heartbeat!! :paint
#3 - March 22, 2015, 03:13 PM

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Derek! YOUR WORK ROCKS MY SOCKS!!!

I definitely laughed out loud reading this Dionna!  Thank you.  You are too kind!  I took a quick look at Lee & Low, great tip!  I'll be sure to submit there.

That seems to be very sound advice from you both Wendy and Dionna, regarding them making a decision on whether they feel they can rep me effectively or not.  As it stands with my available time, I think that I will have to submit as just an illustrator for right now.  I have quite a many stories in progress, but nothing in final stages ready to submit.  I'll just make sure that all the agencies I'm querying represent author/illustrators as well as illustrators, then I can approach them later about my writing too. 

Or, if the agent responds positively to my initial email just based on my illustrations alone, do you think it would then be an appropriate time to mention that I have goals to write too, but don't have any manuscripts ready yet?  Or still not?  However, I guess it's true that, that particular agent may like my illustrations, but not my writing.... tricky.

More advice please.
#4 - March 22, 2015, 03:50 PM

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It sounds like you have a good plan of attack! And why not mention it later? But your illustrations are the foot in the door. Of course, you could tell a wordless story...and not worry about the words. Your illustrations can do ALL the work showing you can tell a good story.
#5 - March 22, 2015, 05:05 PM

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Thanks for the additional good points Dionna.  This much is true, too.
#6 - March 22, 2015, 05:11 PM

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In my experience, agents who rep author/illustrators ask the illustrators they are considering if they are interested in writing as well as illustrating. I don't think your situation is as off-beat as you assume.
#7 - March 22, 2015, 06:20 PM
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Good to know Wendy.  Thanks!
#8 - March 22, 2015, 06:24 PM

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I have a distant acquaintance who is an illustrator. Originally he had an art agent who found him work, but took a 50% cut. He got tired of that and found a literary agent who shopped mss he submitted to her and took a 15% cut. He then did a very successful kickstarter project and now does things on his own and with the literary agent.

I also know licensing agents get a 50% cut, but can still be a really smart move if you're interested in licensing. I didn't know much about this, but attended a class at a conference recently and it was fascinating.

An author/illustrator is a desirable combination. Submit the ms with a dummy to literary agents and you should be fine.
#9 - March 23, 2015, 07:17 AM

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From what I've heard, art reps take 30% or more, while most lit agents just do the standard 15%. (Although I heard of one that had a different percent they took depending on whether you wrote, wrote and illustrated, or just illustrated, but I don't think that's common)

But many lit agents represent illustrators. And if down the road you also want to write, I'm sure that would be cool.
#10 - March 23, 2015, 08:44 AM
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Thanks Pons and Artemesia for those little chunks of useful information!   8)

50%!?!  I've heard as high as 35% from certain art reps but wow, that seems like a lot.  And on the other end, 15% seems quite low.  I'd wonder just how diligently that agent would actively be finding me new work.
#11 - March 23, 2015, 09:59 AM

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Good agents love their clients' work and are passionate about it. My situation is a bit different as my agent reps both my writing and illustrating, but my understanding is an agent would get you to do up something like a postcard mailer, and then they would send to art directors. I didn't do this as my agent submits dummies for me, but I did provide her with a bunch of high res images for a client catalog they had printed. Also, a good agent more than earns their 15%.

You might check out query tracker. It's a good place to start doing agent research.
#12 - March 23, 2015, 10:20 AM
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Good agents love their clients' work and are passionate about it.

I'm super excited and ready to land a good agent who is passionate about my work.  I don't want to be that artist on the rep roster of 200+ artists that doesn't get work. 

I love the title of your new series by the way!  Sounds like a hit.  And thanks for sharing more about your experiences Artemesia.
#13 - March 23, 2015, 10:40 AM

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Thanks, Derek!  :thanx

And no problem! There's a lot to know about the industry, and you've found the best place on the internet to learn! We have an awesome community here.
#14 - March 23, 2015, 11:06 AM
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Agreed! :yup
#15 - March 23, 2015, 11:36 AM

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Derek, be sure to check SCBWI's THE BOOK for literary agents--like those at Andrea Brown--who represent writers and illustrators. (It's under the resources tab, but make sure you're logged in on SCBWI and not just here.)

Also, I suggest you click around the SCBWI Illustrator Gallery and find other illustrators who have work you personally connect with, and check out their websites. Most tell who they are represented by. Then you could approach those agents as per their submission guidelines. Your website and online portfolio is oh-so ready to go!
Happy illustrating! :paint
#16 - March 23, 2015, 02:18 PM

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Again Dionna, thank you for the useful advice!

I've got a list of just under 100 agents and a large chunk of them come from there.  I like it because I know all agents listed are reputable, meaning they go to the top of my list.  I already have my postcards printed and ready and my email query mostly ready.  I'm just collecting the last details of all these agencies and then I'm going full swing into the submission process.

Thanks to all who've chimed in to help me out here.  You guys rock!  :yourock
#17 - March 23, 2015, 05:37 PM

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Would anyone be willing to comment on my Illustrator email query letter?  Here's what I've got:

Dear Ms. / Mr. _______,

My name is Derek Douglas and I am a published children's book illustrator, a graduate of the classical animation program at Sheridan College institute and I am currently seeking representation.  I have a vibrant and graphically-crisp, character focused illustrative style and I specialize in children’s books.

>Insert section about what makes me want to be represented by their agency<

Please accept this invitation to review my online portfolio.  As well, I would greatly appreciate any comments or feedback you are willing to share.

Portfolio link: http://www.rightsidestudios.com

In advance, I thank you for your consideration.

Kind regards,
Derek.
#18 - March 24, 2015, 11:32 AM

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Aw man, you went to Sheridan?? I really wanted to go there, but when I was applying their illustration program was full, so I ended up at Humber taking graphic design.

I think your letter sounds great. I wish you lots of luck!
#19 - March 24, 2015, 11:36 AM
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Thanks a bunch Artemesia! ;D
#20 - March 24, 2015, 12:33 PM

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I am not an illustrator, so I hope more illustrators will pipe in!

I say you should include what you like to draw, what your preferred style/medium is, and maybe list specific "characters" you've drawn. I also think you should include what published work you've done--your illustrated book covers, posters, or whatever work in the children's field. You MUST also include, in my opinion, that you feature persons from various ethnic backgrounds, and (if it is relevant) your own ethnic background. Let your query show the fun that is contained within your illustrations! Make your words entice the reader of your query to click on your link!

The following is how I would begin the query,  but again, I am not an illustrator, and, of course, you would need to really polish the approach with your own shine! I am so excited for you!!!! You're going to be posting good news REAL soon. I just know it!

Visit my portfolio and you'll  meet an A-Z assortment of characters from the mischievous Bernie the Beaver who graced the pages of Canada: Our Road to Democracy, written by Alister Mathieson and Marianne Ilass and published by Humber Press in 2014, to Dolly, the little gal with a great, big mouth. You'll be introduced to Native Americans, athletes, explorers, historical figures, and moose that like to tiptoe into cafeterias. ADD ONE MORE SENTENCE WITH DETAILS OF HOW YOU CREATE YOUR WORK. USE VIBRANT VERBS TO MATCH YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS.
 
#21 - March 24, 2015, 01:27 PM
« Last Edit: March 24, 2015, 01:29 PM by Dionna »

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Umm... that's awesome Dionna!  Such great advice.  Do you mind if I use this as a framework for my query?  Also, thank you!  :thankyou
#22 - March 24, 2015, 05:39 PM

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Of course!
#23 - March 24, 2015, 06:12 PM

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Let your query show the fun that is contained within your illustrations! Make your words entice the reader of your query to click on your link!  USE VIBRANT VERBS TO MATCH YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS.

Dionna, I have truly taken your advice to heart and have created a new query letter.  I think it speaks from my unique voice.  I may have taken it too far, but I've made it a rhyming query.  Dun, dun, DUNNNN!  Yes, i'm fully aware that many agents may not and probably will not like it, but I want to be authentic to who I am, which is an aspiring writer who loves to rhyme.

I'm thinking that the best place to post this new rhyming query would be a place where it can be critiqued by other writers like you.  So, I'm starting a new topic discussion over in the Queries & Critique Requests forum.  Would you mind if I used your above quote over in my new topic discussion to explain my situation to the other writers and members?

Thank you once again Dionna.:thanx  I hope you'll hop over to the other board to add your very valuable advice.
#24 - March 25, 2015, 12:11 PM

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Not at all! Quote away. But be warned, rhyming is probably not the best way to go...infusing personality, voice, fun, yes, but rhyming--that's most likely a no.

Looking forward to seeing how others react to your query, and hopefully, your work!!  :flowers2
#25 - March 25, 2015, 01:30 PM

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Derek, I'm not an illustrator but I'm chiming in to say that your original query (which is above) is professional and says everything you want it to say, and I'll bet 99% of agents/editors who receive it will click the link to find out more about you and your style.

And I agree with Dionna. I'm pretty sure even Dr. Seuss would not get away with a rhyming query, and would at best get 25% of editors/agents to click on a link to his website. And that's the point - you want them to get to know your work as a whole, not see your query as your "work."

Good luck! I hope to be posting a  :yay for you on the Good News boards soon!
#26 - March 26, 2015, 04:24 AM
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I think after all this said, I've landed on the same conclusion.  Thank you both for your honesty.  Using the rhyming query, although it was a lot of fun to do, would have severely limited my chances.

This community is filled with some pretty amazing and supportive people.  Thank you Mrs. Jones and Dionna.
:thankyou
#27 - March 26, 2015, 08:42 AM

Derek


I don't think it's uncommon at all , in fact I almost consider it a norm for illustrators to try and dabble in writing as well. It almost feels like the natural evolution after someone's been illustrating professionally for awhile. That's my take on it anyway since I'm in a similar situation, and my rep has been the one pushing me to write. So for agents, I doubt they will think differently either. My advice would be to target agencies that represent author/illustrators and you should be fine.

In your query I would just add a simple sentence stating that you are interested in writing. Other than that, I would keep it simple and professional. Agents are busy and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they only read first 2 lines and just scroll down to your portfolio. If they like your work they will contact you and then you can go into more detail about what your goals are.

Good luck

Donald
#28 - March 26, 2015, 12:03 PM

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Totally agree with Donald.  :yup
#29 - March 26, 2015, 12:08 PM
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So, so glad illustrators have spoken!! Send your query out today, Derek, so we can all celebrate your further succeses soon.
#30 - March 26, 2015, 12:47 PM

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