SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI Exclusive with… Chad Beckerman

 

This summer Chad W. Beckerman joined the CAT agency. He brings over 20 years of illustration and design experience to the agency. After studying illustration as an undergrad at RISD, Chad went on to be a Designer at Scholastic, a Senior Designer at Greenwillow Books, and then became the Creative Director at ABRAMS Kids and Comic Arts, where he spent 13 years overseeing the design of 250 books a year–from picture books, to novels, to graphic novels and art and entertainment books. Chad is behind the aesthetic of over forty New York Times bestselling and award-winning books including the blockbuster Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney; the Caldecott honor and Coretta Scott King Award winning Trombone Story, illustrated by Brian Collier; and the Newbery Medal honor books 
El Deafo and Heart of the Samurai

He executed the design architecture for countless series including Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger, The Questioneers (Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, Ada Twist) by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs, The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, The Sisters Grimm, and Jared Chapman’s Vegetables in Underwear.

Chad’s greatest joy is working with illustrators, and as an agent he is busy curating and cultivating a unique group of artists who are inspiring and innovating in children’s literature. Chad represents illustrators and author/illustrators from all over the globe, who create artwork for all ages and genres.

In addition to representing illustrators, Chad offers packaging of picture books, graphic novels and middle-grade series books through his design studio CWB Art & Design (www.chadwbeckerman.com).

Chad lives in Brooklyn, NY.

 

 

 

 

What was your path to agenting?

My path started when I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration, which I have used for the last 20 years to art direct and design for illustrators. As the Creative Director of ABRAMS Kids, I combined my love of illustration with an understanding of how illustrators work. Being able to look at an illustrator’s portfolio and get an understanding of how they solve problems visually was/is a huge asset to helping form partnerships with illustrators in the pursuit of helping them get the best out of their work. Having this kind of trust was–and still is–the best feeling in the world.

I had the opportunity at ABRAMS to find new talent like Nathan Hale ( Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series), Jared Chapman (Vegetables in Underwear series) and John Hendrix (Drawing is Magic and Faithful Spy) all of whom have a clear visual voice. These folks are not just illustrators but creators of their own content. 

Once I left ABRAMS, to start the CWB Art & DESIGN STUDIO, I found that I missed helping illustrators create book projects from the ground up. I began reviewing illustrators’ portfolios and dummy books in an effort to help them focus on how to find their voice, and to help make choices that would result in producing work that was also marketable. This led me to Christy Ewers! During the New York SCBWI gala last year, we talked about how I might be able work with some of her illustrators at the CAT agency. I then invited Christy to speak to my Professional Practices class at MICA about acquiring and working with an agent. We spent a lot of time talking about how being agent is the best of both worlds; working with publishers, editors and art directors to create books for children and young adults, while also having the opportunity to guide, support, collaborate with and advocate for the artists creating the content. I joined Christy at the CAT Agency, and the rest is history!

 

 

What are the qualities in a submission that make you say YES! I have to represent this author or illustrator?  

First, I check to see if I connect immediately with how the art looks.  Second, I look very closely at subject matter. I am interested in illustrators producing work with themes that interest them. 

 

 

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”— Howard Thurman

 

I am looking for the illustrators that are first true to their visual voice and then can fit it to the market.

Three, I am looking for an illustrator who is a creator. Someone who is drawing everywhere they go, someone who needs to be pulled back rather than pushed forward.

 

 

How do you work with your clients? What can they expect from you as their agent?

My number one goal is to highlight and grow an illustrator’s strengths to get each illustrator on my team to achieve their next creative level. All the while focusing their work to have a long career that evolves over time.  Each illustrator is part of my team as well as the larger team at the agency. I promote within the agency that each illustrator shares their successes with each other as well as feeds off the collective knowledge of the group. We work off a slack team that helps foster this collaborative environment. 

 The first thing I ask all of my illustrators to do is to work up a list of 100 things they love to draw. This is a trick that I picked up while working with John Hendrix on his book Drawing Is Magic

 

“If you find what you love to draw, you’ll find your visual voice”—John Hendrix

 

This exercise allows each illustrator to help find what makes their work unique by highlighting the subjects that they love. It allows me to understand each of them on a personal level, and it gives editors and art directors a peek into each of the illustrators’ heads.  

 

 

Jamie Green : http://www.catugeau.com/#/jamie-green/

Fumio Obata : http://www.catugeau.com/#/new-artist-fumio-obata/

 

In addition to the above, I offer my twenty years of experience behind the scenes of publishing that help me guide my team to make more educated choices about the work that they are pursuing and how to handle the work they are getting. 

 

What’s on your wishlist?

I am looking to fill out my team with unique creators who are diverse in backgrounds, styles, and interests. I am most interested in graphic novels, picture books, and middle grade projects. I would specifically like to see graphic novels with cross-cultural relevance as well as graphic novels that have a nonfiction and historical reveal slant, picture books that highlight humor, and middle grade projects with new takes on sports, horror, and historical nonfiction themes.

 

During the month of November, you can query Chad @ chad@catagencyinc.com.