Tamilyn Francis – Agent
How do you source your illustrators at Arena Illustration?
We’re a very small agency so we don’t take on many illustrators. We recruit new illustrators in a variety of ways, through email submissions, client recommendation or student shows. I can’t quantify what exactly we are looking for in a new illustrator but we like artists who can draw well and have a unique visual language. We also like to recruit artists who offer something different from our existing list, but it’s essential that they are right for our client base.
Adam Stower – Troll and the Oliver
How, initially, should freelance illustrators approach your agency?
We prefer email submissions as long as the attachments are low-resolution jpegs. We ask illustrators to include a short summary of why they think their work would fit in with Arena’s existing artists and why they think they offer something different.
We do also accept submissions by post, as long as they enclose prints of their work only (no original artwork) and a stamped self-addressed envelope if they want their samples back.
Frances Castle – Guardian Edinburgh International Book Festival
How do you feel the agent and artist relationship works best?
Like all successful relationships the one between an artist and agent must have good communication, trust and understanding to work well and have longevity. Getting an agent does not instantly guarantee work, but once established, most artists appreciate the luxury of being able to concentrate on the business of creating whilst their agent concentrates on finding them new projects, negotiates contracts, schedules and fees on their behalf and bills the client and chases them for payment. Personal work can really feed into an illustrator’s commercial work; we actively encourage it and think it’s essential for an artist’s career to progress.
John Howe – Gollum
What are the first three things you do when a commissioner approaches you for an illustrator?
It’s probably best if I explain the whole process of commissioning. When a commissioner contacts us to find the right illustrator, it’s important that we find out exactly what sort of illustrator they need for their project. Based on our knowledge of our artists’ work, as well as their schedules, we’ll try to suggest a few illustrators to choose from and will supply PDF portfolios of relevant work for the client to present in-house. However, a lot of our clients know exactly which illustrator they want which saves us a lot of time as they’re already familiar with the artist’s work, but, if the chosen illustrator is available, we will still give the client relevant samples for presentation.
Once the illustrator has been decided on and depending on the nature of the job, the next stage is usually negotiating a fee, rights/contract and agreeing to a schedule. For jobs that demand a quick turnaround, it’s vital that we get these terms in place quickly so the illustrator can be briefed as soon as possible. Our understanding of how each artist works best and how long they might need for each stage, helps us decide on a suitable schedule for them. As members of the Society of Artists Agents (SAA), it’s our policy to never agree to letting our artists work for free, so even if a client wants an artist to do a sample illustration before they offer them the job, we will negotiate a fee for that too.
Our clients are encouraged to speak to the illustrator to help them understand the brief but we like to oversee the rough stage, negotiate amendment fees if necessary and then ensure that the artwork is delivered on time and to brief.
Finally, once everything is approved, we invoice for the work on behalf of the artist. That’s not always the end of a job, as agents we are sometimes needed to negotiate an extension to an existing license, chase clients for royalty statements and any number of other things related to a job so it’s essential that we keep our records up-to-date.
Jonny Duddle – Pirates Next Door
How do you feel the landscape of commissioning is changing?
Since I’ve been an agent, the landscape of commissioning illustration has constantly changed and as an agency it’s important for us to keep up with the times. Illustration today moves faster than ever, clients want work quicker and they want the flexibility of being able to change things at the last minute and whilst we always try to accommodate their requests we make sure we agree to realistic deadlines and amendments so that our artists don’t feel over pressured.
Another drastic change to the industry is the contractual side. As publishing companies become more global, we find that they want to pay the same fee for a worldwide license as they have paid for a smaller territory in the past, and they also want more uses to be included in that license. For instance, 10 years ago book publishers may have asked for a UK & Commonwealth paperback license but now they want e-book rights included in a Worldwide license so it’s very important that we understand the true, intrinsic value of every territory and new usage and charge accordingly.
It’s not only about keeping up with the times, we also have to think ahead and make sure that we embrace new technology fast and look for new avenues to sell our artists work in.
Levi Pinfold – Black Dog
What are the three key elements that illustrators should look out for in Arena Illustration?
We are passionate about illustration and the rights of our illustrators and our vast experience and friendly approach gives us a unique understanding of the industry, valuable to both our artists and our clients.
We liaise closely with other SAA member agents on a regular basis which gives us a wider network of fellow industry peers, with similar ethics who are willing to give advice, support and share important information.
Our reputation is important to us, so when we take on an artist it’s vital that they share our sensibilities and want us to help them build a career, we’re there to listen to them and understand the goals they want to achieve. It’s a partnership that, with nurturing, will hopefully last many years and by understanding our illustrator’s strengths and weaknesses we can advise them on how to adapt to new markets. We also encourage our artists to participate in events, talks and other socially aware activities to broaden their knowledge of the industry and engage them with their peers.