Friday, 12 June 2009

Finding an illustrator

Suddenly my publishing project has got real. I have hired an illustrator. In the process I have discovered there's one thing worse than being rejected (something with which we authors are all too familiar) and that's having to reject someone else.

When my first possible illustrator fell through, I was quite down for a while. In retrospect it had all been too easy. I had stumbled across a young art student on the recommendation of an internet friend, and everything seemed hunky dory at first. The only downer was he was often a bit tardy responding to my emails. Finally he admitted the reason was he didn't really have time for the project - well at least he told me before it was too late.

It took me a few weeks to pick myself up and have another go. I was finally inspired to take action when I had a couple of recommendations from contacts on the Lewis Carroll discussion group on Yahoo. In the event, finding an illustrator turned out to be a much less painful process than I had expected - at least, in some respects.

By this time I had become aware of a number of web sites where you could post projects inviting tenders from folks all over the world. I was a bit intimidated by the idea but decided I had nothing to lose as the site I had chosen made it clear the service was free to the "employer". So I went ahead.

In only a few days I had received more than 20 offers. These seemed to be divided into two categories. Some were from professional design studios, or full time designers, who had mistaken my budget of "up to 500 dollars" as being per picture rather than for the whole project. One studio, who had correctly interpreted my budget, took the trouble to write and tell me off for offering such a derisory sum but I was vindicated by the other responses. The majority of the responses were from individuals who were more than happy to take on the whole project for sums considerably less than my asking price.

Typically these were art teachers, students or others for whom this was a little bonus on the side rather than their bread and butter. They were darned good artists, though. A browse through their portfolios revealed some stunningly good pictures and illustrations. I was genuinely spoiled for choice. Meanwhile, one of my Caroll group contacts had also got back to me with some pretty good artwork and an unbelievable level of enthusiasm - at times I thought this lady had more confidence in, and enthusiasm for, the project than I had.

It was a really difficult choice but I finally had to go with an art teacher from New York. Her sample sketch of a scene from my first chapter was the closest to my mind's eye picture and the other artwork in her on-line portfolio convinced me she was more than good enough for the job. Oh yes. That was something else I got ticked off for. Apparently it was against the rules of the web site to ask prospective illustrators to provide a sample. I was supposed to go purely on their portfolios - though how I was supposed to tell from their illustrations of other things how they would interpret my Alice, I don't know. Anyway, against the rules or not, I got away with it. Several of those who tendered for my project did provide a rough sketch of my "Alice and dog" scene and it was these sketches which helped me most in making my final choice.

So what was the hard part? Saying no to those clearly very talented and enthusiastic artists who didn't win the contract. I didn't have time to respond to all but I felt I owed it to those who had so nearly made it, particularly the lady from the Yahoo group. Call me an overly sensitive old what's it but I find it really hard having to turn people down, particularly if they are clearly so enthusiastic. I'd rather have a dozen publishers' rejection letters any day than have to write one myself. I wonder if publishers and agents find it similarly agonising. Nah. They have to write so many, they must be immune to it.

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