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Over the last year or so I’ve been working on portfolio pieces and some new jobs that produced new portfolio pieces. While the jobs produce mostly “kid oriented” work my portfolio work has been heading towards expansion of what I do. In this economy I thought it necessary to go after anything that my skill sets would handle. One has to eat?, right? As I started to rework my portfolio I realized I need representation (if possible) in areas that I am not already represented in.(I have an agent for children’s book work primarily) I didn’t quite know how I would go about this but it kept rattling around my head. At the same time I was and I am marketing myself through emailing campaigns, videos and postcards. I use Mailchimp to send out campaigns every 4-6 weeks with a list of 1800 or so contacts. What I like about Mailchimp is you get metrics that tell you how the campaign performed. You know how many opened the campaign, how many clicked through to your website, etc. I found that makes me feel good that I’m reaching people but I’m still not sure how many times you need to make an impression on someone before they may use you or how long it takes before you can convert a contact that showed interest into a sale. I will find that out sooner or later.
Okay so back to the representation issue. I asked my good friend Joann Miller at The Directory of Illustration what she recommended. She told me any rep who buys ad space in the directory is probably making money for their clients and those would be the first ones to approach. Logical. So I put together an email campaign along with a carefully picked subject line and I sent off my first six inquiries last Friday. All six reps that I chose were different. Big reps from New York, one from Oregon, one with offices in Paris, Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco, etc. The breakdown: I composed a short letter saying who I was with relevant links to my websites or blogs and I had an email promo like the one posted above and another one that had newer less “kid oriented” work.
Within a day I had three responses. One, the sole proprietor from Oregon politely told me she was stocked with the correct amount of artists and could not take on anyone else. The second, Simon Bollinger from Shannon and Associates wrote me back that he was aware of my work. Usually unless his agency had interest in an artist they would not. FYI, I asked Simon if I could post his comments and refer to him specifically in my blog. This is his response “Thanks for being gracious enough to ask (most would just go ahead and blog away). I don’t have any problem with you mentioning this exchange, but you should know that our normal process isn’t to respond to every submission. We get dozens of submissions every day and at the moment we’re only able to respond to the ones we’re interested in. I responded to you because I know of your work and because Jo Ann referred you and I felt you were owed an explanation.” I’ve included this to let you know that it is imperative that you ask for permission to mention someone in your blog. The consequences of not doing so could be harmful to you and it’s not mindful. The third agency said they had some interest and my portfolio would be reviewed by their committee and they would get back to me. The other three have not responded yet.
I’m writing about this process because at some time or another we illustrators go through this process and since I’ve done it a few times and I’ve had three agents over the years I thought you may benefit from following my journey to find a new one. So, I will keep writing about this process until it’s logical end updating you with as many views of the process as I can. Along the way I am going to ask the agents about their process and see if I can get some good information about picking an artist, going after clients and follow up as well as any aspect of the process we all as illustrators can benefit from. Perhaps my study will turn into an article for the Illustrators Journal digital magazine, we’ll see.
My last thoughts on this process is this, Artists Reps and their companies are in business. They are not there to coddle artists or hold their hands. They are trying to make money for their clients and themselves. They don’t know who you are so their response should not be taken personally. The better reps know their business well and they know the clients well and if they think you can help them and they can help you they will respond to you. Don’t be discouraged by rejection, it is not personal. And do not depend solely on an agent to find you work. You need to be extremely pro-active. Work on your portfolios, create postcards, email promos and videos. If you don’t know how to make a video learn how. iMovie is very easy to use and all the information needed to learn how to use it is out there, just google for it. Lastly, I welcome you comments (Susan and Liz) and if you need my help in anyway let me know and I will respond. Oh and if you’re an artist’s rep and you like my work contact me. (never pass on an opportunity to promote!)