21 Dec 2016
Today, we are bringing something a bit different to our blog. As you know, we don't just announce improvements and promos in our blog, but also try to bring valuable content. Until now, this usually consisted on interviews with other artists and illustrators. But we didn't really had the chance to talk about the other side of the table: the people hiring illustrators for editorial projects.
Recently, we were at Feria Liber 2016 and we had the chance to do precisely that: we talked with a log of publishing firms focused on illustration about what they look for in artists, and which are the best ways to approach them for work.
One of these conversation was with Edu Flores, from the publishing firm Apila Editions. Apila is a small publishing firm focused on children illustrated albums, born in the Art School of Zaragoza. As Edu says, they created Apila to "be able to teach things we actually had done": knowing the publishing market first hand, creating their own firm with their own resources.
One of the first things we talked about is the kind of Illustrated Album made at Apila. Edu told us that when they receive proposals that "smell of being pedagogical stuff", they just reject them. The main mission for an illustrated album at Apila must be telling a story with which the children can feel moved and identified with. Of course, comunnicating values is needed in a children book, but always through storytelling, which must be the core of the whole thing.
Edu admits there has been a sort of children illustration boom, and that they receive much more proposals that they can process, although they always try to answer to everyone. This illustration boom has also brought bad things, such as some style standardization. That's why Apila always looks for unique illustrators with a distinguishing style. This is a bit easier to find on illustrations that are not 100% digital, and it's usual for Apila to work with illustrators that only use "real" techniques, or a combination of that and digital techniques, at most.
About approaching editors with new ideas, Edu says that "email is the most inmediate way to do that". It is very important to be as brief and succint as possible, both in the email text and in the illustration portfolio or attached material. The person reading our proposal is also trying to process emails from a lot of other artists, and we are seriously under the risk of overloading them. It is better to be brief (both textually and visually) and straight to the point.
Edu also talked about an attitude he sometimes finds on beginning artists and that can really be self-defeating for them: they approach editors with a kind of "don't steal my idea" attitude. This defensive way to do things, that sometimes gets to the point of the artist not wanting to show her/his work, will make the editor just pass instantly on them. Apila, as the vas majority of publishing firms, don't want to steal anyone's work. It's very difficult for them to process all the proposals they get, and making them "struggle" to see an artist's work just makes no sense at all.
We are talking mostly about illustration, but Edu really emphasizes that "that is only half of the formula". It is key to work with good writers, and writers that can make a story work in a brief, limited, and demanding format such as the children illustrated album. As Edu says, if writing was a boxing combat, "a writer can win a novel over points, has to knock out on a short story".
We don't want to finish this post without talking about the Primera Impresion (First impression) prize, organized by Apila Editions. The aim of this prize is to give a first chance to illustrators with no publications so far, working with them and paying them just as Apila does with well-known artists. This creates great opportunities that kick-start the career of the selected artists. Edu highlighted the success cases of Olga de Dios, winner of 2013 edition, and Canizales, winner of 2016 edition with "Guapa".
The final advice from Edu is "talk less and do more". Right now, there are a lot of events, workshops and fairs around illustration. They bring positive things, but our main focus should be on creating stuff, starting new projects, and show them to the world in every way we can.
Thanks a lot for this great conversation and advice, Edu!
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