Whoever came up with that rubbish obviously never had a week like mine! I just lost a mountain of dosh and I already miss it like a dearly departed friend. Okay, when I say ‘lost’, the aforementioned spondoolies never actually made it into my bank account, but it was certainly heading my way and, well, now it isn’t.
Let me explain.
July 2012 -We receive an email from the Australian office of an ‘International Educational Publisher’ – one of the biggest. They want six illustrators to work on 36 books, each illustrator completing six books. Woohoo! Happy days. So we direct them to our site and ask them to select the ones they’d like to work with. This they do. We couldn’t be happier. Then they ask if the one’s they’ve chosen are Australian. Er, no, they’re not, but they are all used to working in different timezones. We never heard back.
October 2012 – I get an email from the same publisher asking if I’d like to work on six books. They ‘absolutely love’ my work apparently. The deadlines are ‘tight but do-able’, around 130 illustrations over the next four months, but I’m used to burning the midnight oil and I like the sound of the brief. Plus, they’re paying thirty big ones. So, ego suitably rubbed and carrot dangled – I’m in!
All six books revolve around a central character, a wacky little 9 year old boy and his sidekick girlfriend. I start putting pencil to paper. They love my work. What can possibly go wrong?! First draft complete, I wait for feedback. It comes. They like it, but could I make the characters a bit ‘funkier’. “Funkier clothes-wise or funkier face-wise” I ask. “All-wise” I’m told. No problem. I funky him up a bit and re-submit. I’m told it’s ‘going in the right direction’ but it’ll have to be ‘circulated’ for feedback. Uh,oh! The dreaded ‘circulation!! Design by committee. Eek!
Meanwhile, the lovely lady I’m working with sends me some artwork from the other illustrators working on the books in the series so I can ‘get a feel’ for it. I recognise one of them. No names mentioned, but I like his work. He’s good. (and he’s British!) A little bit of competition for me. I like that too.
Plus, they love my work. What can possibly go wrong?
The feedback arrives. My characters are ‘too cartoony’. Very strange. You wouldn’t expect that from a cartoonist!! Alarm bells ringing, I ask which style of mine they’d seen to make them select me in the first place just to be sure there isn’t another ‘Nick Diggory’ here in Oz. They send it over. Yep, that’s me alright and hey, it’s the same style I used in my first sketch. What’s going on here? They love my work – don’t they?
So I pull out all the stops. After all, there are thirty big ones at stake! I take on board the committee’s comments and send them not one, but two spreads all sketched out and I even add some colour so they know exactly how I’ll be doing the final art.
And I wait. No need to buy extra candles just yet.
Then it comes. The committee don’t think I’m ‘quite right’ for this series after all. Thanks for your time. Here’s a 100 bucks for your efforts, please leave by the nearest exit. I’ve been rejected!
So what have I learned and what have I gained from the experience? I know what I haven’t gained. Thirty G’s!! But money isn’t everything (no, it isn’t. Really it isn’t.)
I know you should never count your chickens before they’re hatched.
I know it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around or how much experience you’ve got, you’re always the ‘new boy’ (or girl) to someone and you still have to prove yourself. Treat every commission as if it were your first.
I gained a great contact in the freelance editor I was working with. She runs a small, independent publishers here in Oz. I like what she does and I can see myself and the agency working with her in future.
What else did I learn? Oh yes, next time we have a storm and the power goes off, we’re all out of candles.