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CAT Agency Representing Illustrators of Children's Books
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Cycles are what life seems to be all about. If you live long enough, and stay connected to a business or interest (or person!) long enough, you’ll see the ups and downs…and often the round and rounds of styles, procedures, concerns, and policies. When I started in the children’s publishing business in 1990, I was told by the agent I worked for, that the ‘best of publishing’ had passed. (WHAT?) I have seen many ‘best’ years come and go since then. Also at that time it was suddenly (again?) all about ‘diversity’. If a story was written by a Nez Perce American Indian then the editor was looking for a Nez Perce Indian as an illustrator! We wanted to find good African American, Asian, and Hispanic artists. Didn’t matter that a white artist was fabulous at painting black children, they didn’t get the job often! That is just as messed up. It should be about what’s best for the book or project. But more diverse books were published, and that was good for the industry and good for the readers.
That was over 20 years ago! Yet in PW end of Sept I read again about “overwhelming white” and “lack of diversity” as being a “bit eye-opening!” Have they been shut all this time? I’m shocked that this is again a huge thing; big topic at conferences and conventions, and book fairs. 60% of the responding survey publishers thought it was ‘a big issue’. Why isn’t it less so today after almost 20 years of being ‘an issue?’ New crop of editors and AD’s and writers and illustrators just tuning in?
Another ‘issue’ is the still under payment of WOMEN in publishing! also something I’ve been tracking for over 20 years. Working for myself as an agent, I’m less effected by that as a woman. ( I am by the under payment of ARTISTS, but that’s another long story!) According to the same PW piece, women are 74% of the publishing industry, and yet women averaged a salary of $60,750 in 2013 to the men’s average of $85,000. For some jobs the difference is in the tens of thousands. (female AD’s make more generally it says! ) Talk about an ‘issue’ that shouldn’t still be an issue! I have a daughter and two daughter-in-laws and each of them works full-time (two have 3 kids and a full-time working husband too!) Why on earth would they be paid LESS for their labors and hours in any industry?
So we’ve two issues cropping up ‘suddenly’ that really have always been here and are still here. When will the talking stop and the fixing begin? I feel like painting up a sign and taking to the streets! cycles….Up and Down….Round and Round!
diverse female friends by Priscilla Burris
One of the small pleasures I treat myself to is visiting the book stores of every town I visit in my travels if possible. I figure I’m ‘working’, right? I was able to visit two on the Outer Banks NC last weekend while visiting and saying goodbye to summer.
One is the sweetest tiny bookstore in Buxton NC…lower part of Outer Banks, very near the Hatteras Light House Point we love so much… good fishing normally and the best beaches! (skunked this year….)
and the second I revisited was the Corolla Light Bookstore in the northern part of the Outer Banks. (Do visit the Sanderling Resort and Spa if ever near there!)
They are so adorably old fashioned..and yet very modern and up to date too. Just a pleasure all around and remind me how LUCKY I am to love reading as I do and have children’s books be my livelihood ! Work, Work, Work, …..
Just learned of the HUGE Book Fair in Princeton this Sat. So if you can get there, and like book fairs, (who doesn’t) this one is a must!….lots of BIG names…including our very own Melissa Iwai and Anne Rockwell with their TRUCK STOP (from Viking). stop and say hello!
CONGRATULATIONS NICOLE TADGELL illustrator, and author Susanne Slade, and Charlesbridge for a wonderful addition to youth non fiction!
I’ve been noticing….. month after month we read in PW and other reports about publishing still being down or at least margins down. BUT KIDS (to YA) is always UP! Last 6 months of 2014 has been very good generally. While adult publishing is a minus or single digit, Pic bks, kids fiction and non fiction and brd bks are up double digits compared to last year at this time!
There was a quote in the PW Sept 1 2014 issue from Devin Wenig president of eBay Marketplaces I liked: ” I think the last two years…have been extraordinary in the sense that technology has deconstructed…retail.” This sticks with me as basic truth. He continues: ” we’re past the tipping point.” It’s a fact, and it’s being dealt with now. It’s all about ALL the ways to find and buy whatever (BOOKS) phone, desktop, store or library. The pub. industry is trying hard to catch up…using technology to keep connected and offer service. Just as it should be.
from Priscilla Burris…the bottom line….
We at CAT agency are so happy to help Launch the wonderfully friendly new series about the Hamster Humphrey and his Tiny Tales from Penguin Putnam! See his first two books here, and a little video about how he is created by our artist PRISCILLA BURRIS https://vimeo.com/104481200
Writers and artists work so hard at conceiving, then executing wonderful stories and images for potential picture books, only to be left holding rejection letters and wondering “WHY NOT?”
I wish I had answers…it would make an agent’s job much easier! But I do have some possible reasons to share with you today. Number one, your manuscript (ms) and your images (dummy) need to be as ready for publication as possible. Not just a ‘good idea.’ Those are everywhere. Not just a few sketches, but a well thought out flow of visual story telling. OK, now you are ready to be ‘snapped up.’
There are good market reasons that even the BEST stories might get missed or rejected by well meaning houses. First of all keep in mind that picture books are VERY expensive to print! When the economy is down or slow (!) it’s likely that houses might not do as many. When the dollar is weak, as it is now, it’s more expensive to print even in China! Fewer books means more care in selection.
PREFERANCES also vary yearly and are very cyclical. “Spunky” over “quiet” etc. What was ‘hot’ last year, might not be this year. Your story might have been perfect for last year, but not this. But remember it might be perfect 3 years from now again! This past year or two, more novels have been published than picture books. They are all the rage, and without pictures, much cheaper to print. Yet picture book sales have held their own, proving that they ARE worth the expense in the long run.
Speaking of the long run, the Back List effects what they take on new. Editors need to bring in books to ADD to the bottom line, and which promise to ADD to the strong Back List for the house. Often they ‘borrow’ from that back list and redo books that are strong. This all means they won’t be able to publish all the new stories they might want to. I’ve noticed that this seems to be a trend these days (which is nice for illustrators!). They are constantly ‘balancing’ their lists as well as adding to the imprints list balance. A Publisher may have 2-4 lists a year. Each tries to add balance and income, minimize risk and loss. The “P & L” (profit and loss) is ALL important these days! They project several years in advance! Your book might not pass that test. They want to add new writers and illustrators, but will they ‘last?’ Will they produce on-going to add value to the imprint? And of course, the bottom line: will they sell well?
Another trend I see is ‘in house’ ideas being developed, particularly for series ideas. They go through the same scrutiny as other proposals, but that might make it harder for ‘outside’ ideas to be considered. Often writers worry as well that their ‘ideas’ will be ‘borrowed.’ That is possible of course, but I find it rarely a problem in this honest, supportive industry. That does bring us to another LEGAL point that might mean they do NOT take on your dummy. Many houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. One legal reason is that they might find themselves turning down an idea that is actually being developed in-house currently! This can LOOK like a ‘stealing of ideas’, when it is pure coincidence. If you look at new lists in stores, you will see how often this does happen even between houses! Two ‘bird’ books, or three ‘princess’ books etc. that are too close in feel. Trends happen and it’s like a wave at times! So houses protect themselves by not taking on ‘outside’ ideas at all. Therefore, your ‘perfect dummy’ won’t even be looked at by these publishers.
It’s a tight market these days, and the stakes are high. Do your best, understand it’s NOT personal, and keep trying! A good story, well done, will find a publisher at the right time.
and I had to share this ‘artist’s block’ image of my 21 month old granddaughter, Billie….. we all know the feeling! (thanks Christy!)
by Priscilla Burris for June 27…
SUNGLASSES DAY!!! ENJOY!
This image just in from CA CAT artist Priscilla Burris…. it’s of ‘her’ HEIDI HECKELBECK sitting in front of a new Coffee/Book place near Disneyland apparently, called INK AND BEAN, and it’s all about books and coffee! how perfect is THAT! So as Priscilla said, Heidi had to go over and check it out. Wish I could join her! The series about Heidi, written by Wanda Covens and published by Little Simon, is now in it’s #13/14 book and growing… very popular young “witch” who everyone loves to read about apparently. And no wonder! …. lets ALL join her for coffee this summer at the Ink and Bean! Or BOOKS OF WONDER, (NYC, 18th street) or any other coffee and book summer hang out!
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I’m a bit late in congratulating our CAT artist Martha Aviles (in Mexico) for her SILVER MEDAL Honor from the SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries. This award for STONES FOR GRANDPA from KarBen/Lerner publishing, is in the younger readers category. CONGRATULATIONS all!
ALSO, Priscilla Burris illustrated a wonderful trade picture book that just launched…. EDGAR’S SECOND WORD written by Audrey Vernick from Clarion. It’s so endearing and might help an older impatient sibling should you know one! congratulations Priscilla!
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Time seems to be just running away this long awaited spring! Part of the race for CATugeau Agency was run in NYC recently…the first visitation trip Christy and I have done together. Thank you to the wonderfully welcoming editors and AD’s at Penguin Group’s Grosset & Dunlap, Dial and Viking for letting us practice on you! :) I think Christy thinks this is all FUN! and I think I agree.
We started with a very special, fun lunch at Westville Hudson with our four NYC artists. They surprised Christy with a silver pin with two cats sitting together! So perfect and she wore it all day! Thank you CAT gals…
left to right: Melissa Iwai, Lisa Fields, Christy Tugeau Ewers (coral sweater), Chris Tugeau (me!), Heather Maione, Nina Mata
The next day we started BEA at the early Children’s Breakfast…always special and inspirational. Then we ‘walked the halls’ seeing publishing people from out of town, and literally bumping into others from ‘town.’ Always fun. We loved seeing so many great children’s books displayed (though I might have picked up a couple of ‘advance’ adult books too!) We passed out lots of our BEA BOOK BRAG SHEET too. Here it is for you to peruse as well. We’re very proud! Hope you’ll check them out at your local bookstore.
So now the follow-ups are done, and we’re settling back into the ‘day to day.’ Oh I almost forgot - Christy and 6 other of our artists have a new email Blast about ready for June’s “Adopt a CAT Month!” How perfect is that? come back soon to see that one…. and of course, we wish all a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! image by Michelle Hazelwood
Well, things are looking better for books…at least kids books which seem to lead the markets often these days. A bit ago the first quarter stats were discussed in PW, and I wanted to share only a bit of all that. Stay positive. Trade sales are reported UP across the board in kids… 1200 publishers were feeling ‘solid’ in Jan 14. Divergent trilogy (which I loved!) was a big driver…congrats Veronica Roth and Katherine Tegen Books! and thanks!
They said the “surging children’s/YA sales’ were up 44 million in Jan where adult was up 10 million. GO KIDS! but UP is UP and all good. E book sales up 12% also…and is the largest selling format in adult books. I just bought a nook myself recently…. it’s light and easy to hold (becoming important even though I love a big fat hard cover too! Try GOLDFINCH on…yummy) and I like the back light. Nice as an option.
So lets jump happily into the spring books and next quarter. FINALLY it’s warm more than not everywhere. And BEA is next week! Christy and I can’t wait to attend…. hope there are some freebies left Friday!
And we wish you all a very memorable Memorial Day this weekend (actually the 30th, but hey….) Michelle Hazelwood has a fun piece to share with you….
This day is always a special one for mothers and their children…just an easy opportunity to THANK a love one in any small kind way. This is my first without my mother, and it is a mixed bunch of emotions I have to admit! But mostly all very good and immensely grateful. So I wanted to pass on this image of ANA OCHOA’S which does show the complexity of nature and expectations and dreams….something mothers live with and nurture. Enjoy the day ALL!
Last month I was visiting a son’s family in Cleveland OH and we visited our favorite place there The Cleveland Museum of Art. Even the 3 young grandkids love this fabulous building and their interactive kids room! just for grandma’s too! The show we went to see was Van Gogh “Repetitions.” (it’s on till May 26th if you can get there)
I got thinking about how we learn from practice as I gazed at this versions and variations on one of his own compositions and subjects. We see differently and deeper as we experience a thing, person or place repeatedly. Studying the differences and similarities between several of his repeated works gives us a new window into the mind and eye of this ‘well known’ artist.
On returning home to Williamsburg I was lucky enough to catch the last day of a small Caravaggio show at our own Muscarelle Museum of Art here on the campus of Wm and Mary. Caravaggio has always blown my mind’s eye anyway with his beyond realistic talents, but this too presented a repetition study of two similar paintings that might have been both by the artist himself…or not. Two unsigned versions of ‘Saint Francis in Meditation’. The viewer, after following the studies and exercises they presented, was to come to their own conclusion! The show also spotlighted the very fine and famous Caravaggio ‘The Capitoline Fortune Teller’ which was a true treat.
I couldn’t help but to notice the message I was to share with my artists and all of you readers! REPETITION = an intentional practice to learn and expand the opportunity to deeply know a subject. Illustrators of course conceive, sketch and revise then paint and maybe revise again on a regular basis. We forget perhaps that famous artists walked this same path over and over that we all walk. Dive in! Deeper! and again! Get to REALLY know your subjects to bring them more fully to the world to view!
my artist son Jeremy Tugeau and grandkids at the Cleveland Museum of Art new atrium…
|Our very own Christine Kornacki has WON the Children’s AWARD|
Announcing the 2014 Christian Book Award® Program Winners
The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) has announced the winners for the 2014 Christian Book Award® program. Presented annually to the finest in Christian publishing since 1978, the Christian Book Award® program honors titles in seven categories: Bibles, Bible Reference, Non-Fiction, Fiction, Children, Inspiration and New Author.
Five finalists are selected in each category following a stringent judging process by judging panels specially selected for each category. The top scoring book in each category is named the Christian Book Award® winner. The Christian Book of the Year™ is chosen among the finalists to represent Christian publishing’s highest quality and greatest impact for 2014.
The Christian Book Award® program winners and Christian Book of the Year™ were announced at the ECPA Awards Banquet on April 28, 2014 at the Focus on the Family Headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO.
I just read the end of the submission guidelines for an Australian/International Picture Book competition, and these TIPS were there. Nothing new, but to read them all together is wonderful and possibly helpful to all. Thank you Kathy Temean (Writing and Illustrating WordPress Blog- check out for contest guidelines).
and PRINT THESE….then place above your writing illustrating space… and remember!
PICTURE BOOK TIPS
Golden Rule: don’t use too much dialogue, text or description. Let the pictures do the talking—don’t say what the pictures can show. Cut and cull your text. Be ruthless! If your text is 400 words long, it should be vibrant and intensely edited.
Think carefully about rhythm and flow—this is one of the most common obstacles between a work-in-progress and a publisher-ready ms. Read the work out loud and listen to the way the words work together. ‘Hear’ the beat and flow as you read, and adjust words as necessary.
Don’t attempt rhyme. It is not popular with publishers but if you simply can’t resist, make sure it’s infallible. Two rhyming end-words do not a perfect rhyme make. Rhythm and beat is as important as word rhyme—in fact, even more so. Don’t create awkward sentences with odd word placement in order to make a rhyme; rewrite the entire stanza instead.
Look at your word usage and sentence structure. Is it dynamic and interesting? Does it pull the reader along and make them want to read more? or does the reader stumble or become confused? Does it delight? Does it sound good?
Never talk down to the reader. Use big words. Use unusual words. Use a unique voice. Don’t patronise and don’t explain. Never hammer readers with morals. If you simply must use them, thread them through the story in an imperceptible way.
Unless you want your book to appear like an information brochure, attempting to educate children on social, physical, emotional and mental issues and conditions needs to be done cryptically and cleverly. Add humour. Create an unexpected storyline that intimates things in a subtle way and you will have a winner with kids.
Think about the plot. A good story leads the reader through conflict to resolution in a Beginning Middle Ending way, or in a Cyclical way. Things HAPPEN. Showing someone going about their day and going to bed at night is not a story. It’s an account. Write a story, not an account.
Have a protagonist. Your protagonist, or main character, does not sit by and observe—they action, take part and instigate.
Think outside the square. Cover unusual topics, with untouched themes (avoid monsters, fairies, trucks, mud, grandma dying, rainbows, farmyard animals, dogs and other overdone topics). Use different writing voices and story structure. Do something DIFFERENT.
Think twice about supplying detailed illustration notes. Too many notes absolutely do hamper your text; rely on the reader’s ability to imagine what your words are showing. Only supply notes if the text is very cryptic and needs ‘explaining’, and even then—make notes extremely short.
Look objectively at your story. Is it clear and simple or cluttered and confused? Be wary of submitting something that is wrapped up in your own head and unable to be deciphered by someone else. This happens A LOT.
Have an ending. A PB ending needs to be shocking, surprising, funny, quirky or in some way resolving and/or related to the plot. Around sixty per cent of the ms endings we have seen are either non-existent, confusing or dull. Go out on a top note, not a kerplunk. A great ending demands a repeat reading—and that is exactly what you want.
Write your book for kids, not adults. If you hit the nail on the head for kids, most adults will love it, too.
Keep it simple.
REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE WRITING FOR!
OK, this is my youngest granddaughter…a book lover already! Like my 8 year old granddaughter as well!
I just had to share this note our agent Christy sent an aspiring children’s book illustrator today. She was asking for advice, and this is like a mini course in what to do to find your style and get into the industry! It may not be rocket science, but it does take talent, industry knowledge and persistence!
“Thanks for your email. And congratulations on your interest in joining the wonderful world of children’s book illustration! Your first step is to visit book stores. Look at trade, educational and mass market books, and study the artwork (and the difference in artwork) in those markets. Compare it to your style. Is your artwork geared more towards the trade market, or more mass market? Then you’ll kinda know where you belong!
Move beyond pencil in your artwork. Sketches are SO important and good idea to show, but you need FINISHED SAMPLES. Lots of illustrations (color and black & white) showing characters, storyline, character growth and interaction. Show a consistent style or two. That helps you to be memorable. Work on samples that tell little stories – 2 or 3 sequential illustrations that have a story flow and book feel. Art buyers (and agents!) need to see this.
Once you have a good portfolio of samples (black and white & color), build a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you will need one in order to easily show your work. You need to have an online presence. They can’t HIRE you if they can’t SEE you.
And then, get yourself out there! Get advice and feedback on your samples and portfolio from industry professionals and follow it. Listen to what people want and are looking for…and their honest critiques of your work. But most of all, have fun with it! Working artists are lucky because they get to do what they love! Have fun with the process of finding your style, and then enjoy working on your samples and building your portfolio. It should be a fun journey – not a mountain to climb!”
here is an aspiring artist by CAT artist Meryl Treatner
I’ve just always been amazed as I watch my children, and now 7 grandchildren, grow, learn, become themselves. The grands range now from 15 months (my agency partner and daughter Christy’s baby girl Billie) to my elder son Morgan’s 15 year old twin boys, Christopher and Riley, now in High School. (WHAAAAT!?) In between is their brother Coady, 7, and my other son Jeremy’s 8 year old daughter Ruby and sons, George (7) and Harrison ( 3 1/2). Lots to observe! And what I’ve noticed is HOW they learn … not only at the beginning, but into adolescence. They learn from play… and the practice, practice, practice that comes naturally with play.
Formal education is important and valuable of course, but it seems more and more it leaves little time for outside and free play. Unstructured time, or play, is the cornerstone of childhood. That ability is important all through our lives as we change, grow and attempt new things. Play keeps us learning, adaptable, engaged and excited about life.
I often encourage artists who are feeling frustrated, stiff or tired, to take up a new medium and just play with it. The end result isn’t important, it’s the process to cherish. Or go outside to a park and sit sketching kids playing without really looking at the pencil lines. That becomes the artists ‘play’. With practice and more play it will be impossible to stay stiff and frustrated. Like little Billie who is just learning to walk without holding on, we grow stronger and braver and happier as we learn by playing. Maybe we take spills, but we also laugh with the glee of a Gold Medalist at the Olympics! Got to run – PLAY TIME!
art by CAT artist Nina Mata….
Sometimes characters are just climbing the walls to say HELLO! …and for Priscilla Burris on a visit to Little Simon offices after the SCBWI Winter Conference, Heidi Heckelbeck, most popular child ‘witch’, did JUST THAT! (written by Wanda Cloven) Here are Ciara Gay (designer) Chani Yammer (Executive. AD) and Sonali Fry (Ed. Dir.) and many of the Heidi series books greeting Priscilla as she gets off the elevator! Such moments aren’t forgotten…. ever!
Just in time for spring, a grandma (!) sends a surprise package of JUST what you need to Frog Hunt…so off go Maggie, a wee lively gal, and Milo, a huge loving dog! Our Priscilla Burris brings the characters alive in her usual adorable and spunky way: do check it out…. and it just begs for more adventures! Kirkus Review loves it! as do others…. go Maggie and Milo! and happy Spring finally to all….
cover, and below author reading to class….
What do you need for a frog hunt? Big polka-dot boots, a book about frogs and one giant border collie best friend.
Maggi, a wisp of a girl with spindly legs and a large, wobbly head, is an excellent adventurer. She can’t wait to try out her new boots and search the pond for frogs. After a good night’s rest—and imparting forbiddingly specific instructions to her brother at the breakfast table (“Please keep the chitchat to a minimum. I’m in a hurry!”)—Maggi and her shaggy sidekick, Milo, are ready. However, after waiting “a million minutes” (or three) in the water, they haven’t found a single frog. With shoulders slumped and head bent low, Maggi declares frog hunting to be capital B-O-R-I-N-G. Until…Milo finds a frog! And another. And another. After 16 frogs total, Maggi and Milo rest. (Frog hunting is hard work.) As the sun sets and the palette changes to a dusky blue, the frogs quietly croak “good night” to their new friends. Debut author Brenning has created a charming duo; Milo’s steadfast loyalty (and joyful, lolling tongue, courtesy of Burris) fully balances Maggi’s quirky proclivities. A simple, everyday adventure is always better when shared with a friend.
Move over Ladybug Girl (2008), there’s a new spunky gal-and-canine twosome in town. (Picture book. 3-6)
Wanting to wish EVERYONE a very happy Spring/Easter week and weekend! Do believe it Spring is finally here…. in most places anyway. (sorry Cleveland!) Even The Cat has his ears on for the occasion!
CATugeau Agency is so proud to announce the launch today of I Pledge Allegiance written by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez and illustrated by our own PATRICE BARTON for Random House Children’s Books (Knopf). Seems a wonderful time to remind ourselves how lucky we are who can make that pledge…and share it with our children. ENJOY!
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from CAT artist: Michelle Henninger….