Getting Published

AsherD · January 19, 2004 10:16 am

The road to being Published is a singular journey, filled with more rejection than you can imagine. The Illustration field is full of talented people that have degrees in art and design. Does that make them more qualified than the self-taught artist? Not at all. Publishers and editors really aren't interested in Art Theory or Personal Statements that invariably attach themselves to illustrators with degrees. They don't care if an illustration is done totally in one program or if it is rendered in a 3D generating program and then post worked nine ways from Saturday in Photoshop. Hobbyist level programs vs. Professional programs are just background noise to them. All they want is a suitable illustration for their publication. And they want it yesterday. In freelancing the portfolio that lists a prestigious art school might get a closer look, but it will not guarantee a commission. In fact, the degree only matters if you are looking to be HIRED ON as an employee. In getting that Elusive Commission, what does matter is the ability to deliver what the publisher wants. While that might sound simple, I can assure you, it isn't. You need the uncanny ability to take a minimum of information and crawl into the publisher's head and produce his unique vision. Finding teeth on a chicken is easier. One thing I can promise you, the publisher will invariably change What S/He Wants as often as the Dow Jones switches directions. Depend on it. To get published you are going to have to do a few things.
  • Research -- Genre is everything
  • More Research
  • Get rid of the ego -- Genre is everything
  • Really Listen
  • Firmly establish your genre -- because it is everything
  • Develop thick skin
  • Get out of your own way -- Genre is everything Now, this is NOT a critique on anyone's art. But if your entire portfolio consists of nothing but Doe Eyed Naked-or-mostly-so Vicki in a Temple with a sword, replete with flying hair or a variation thereof, get ready for a LOT of rejection. There are a few e-publishers that buy this sort of art, the wages are VERY small and they want exclusive rights. And with the current volume of the aforementioned genre, the competition is fierce for those measly pennies that can be pried from those parsimonious purses. There is nothing WRONG with the NVIAT images. I think they are a fun and easy on the eyes. But unless you are Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta, Luis Royo or Julie Bell, you aren't going to be selling many of those. I don't recommend agents, but if this is the genre you want to do, I strongly suggest you find one that specializes in cheesecake and pin-ups. If you do your research, you will find that photos dominate the genre, not computer generated art. The trend towards electronic submissions is still painfully slow in the art world. Publications for printed images would just rather see and feel the image than look at it on a monitor. There are three reasons for this (or so I'm told). First Reason: Publishers are ignorant about RESOLUTION. An image looks great on a screen. It looks VERY different in print. Colors are less vibrant, the images are not as sharp and the sizes are deceiving. Second Reason: There are a lot of wanna-be artists out there. Anyone with a paint program and a little time can churn out hundreds of images that are not suitable for publication. Yes, all their friends think they are Savants, but 99% of the time it just isn't so. Electronic submissions net an editor THOUSANDS of poor quality or just flat out garbage images a day. Third Reason: Attachments are the devil incarnate. Most publishers have a limited amount of mailbox space, and since images of suitable size and resolution can be upwards of 30mgs in file weight, a lot of images might be bounced. Add to this, the increasing and ever present chance of embedded viri, you can understand the bias towards electronic submissions. On to Genre... When you submit to a publisher, you need to have it clear in your head what they buy. Avon and Harlequin buy Romance Images of the PG or G rated variety. This means fully clothed people in standing positions. Warner and Mira publish Romance books of the bodice ripper variety. That means you can show a shirtless male and a female with a bit of skin showing and they can be lying down, or slightly suggestive (hence the term "bodice ripper"). Tor and Bantam publish Fantasy and Sci-fi (Space Operas) and Westerns (Oat Operas), and most of these are still PG or G rated. If you submit anything that is not within their buying genre, you will get rejected. Research is as easy as spending the day at Barnes and Noble. Just take a whole day and look at the books. Note the publisher on the spine. Find more books by that publisher. You will get a very good idea what they are buying by comparing the covers. Take a pen and pad of paper with you, as the publisher addresses are generally listed inside the front cover on just about every book right next to the Library of Congress numbers. While you are jotting down publisher names, take the time to compose a description of the images for that publisher. You will find they are all very similar. You will want to at least mimic that when you send in your portfolio. This will save time later when you get the commission and you are asked for a storyboard. Some authors have a choice in what images are used to grace the covers of their books. These are the authors that have many books published. Just look for the stack of books by one author. You might want to pick up one or two of these books at read them to get an idea of how the story is visualized. Prolific authors mean many possible commissions. A very sneaky way to get around a contrary publisher is to contact the author and create a friend. You will, of course, have to read everything by that author and be able to discuss their stories at length. This isn't necessarily the drudge it sounds like. You could practice illustrating different scenes in the book and get the authors opinion. The more you please the author, the easier it will be to impress the publisher. And now about commissions... Be prepared to scream. Frequently. Publishers will ask for THE most Irritating Changes. And they ask for a LOT of them. Now you can spend your time arguing, but since they have the wallet, it's just easier to do the said changes. Beware of becoming known as a Difficult Artist. Even if you are the best artist they have, Publishers are egomaniacs and will simply find someone else to deal with. Learn to keep your mouth shut and do the requested changes. You can illustrate just how wrong the changes are while still appearing to be accommodating. Eventually, the publisher will trust you enough just to assign you the image and leave you alone to create. And that is your goal, after all. Cheers and happy campaigning, --Terri Lindsey

Graphic1709.jpgTerri Lindsey is a graphics artist, illustrator and web designer. Currently employed as Art Director for Faultline Studios, she oversees the illustration department and is the lead artist for Crown of the Emperor Collectible Card game. It is rumored that she lives on nicotine and diet soda, but none of our correspondants have returned to verify if this is true. --Nihil me terret Be sure to visit Terri's website,, and Renderosity Store...

Article Comments

buckybeaver ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 19 January 2004

Well said and pungently truthful. The bullet points are the hardest part. The easiest is becoming a difficult artist.

digitell ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 20 January 2004

VERY useful information! Thank you Terri for the help. This is what I have been looking for! Best of Everything, Christine Cartwright P.S. I have only done 1 pic of Vicki in a Temple! :)

spinner ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 21 January 2004

Hey, congrats on hitting the frontpage, girl :-D I've seen what you're saying first hand at one of Scandinavia's publishing houses - y'all better to listen to 'minky, cause she's spot on :-) (and hi digi, ling time no see :-) ) ~S

shayhurs ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 21 January 2004

Nicely done and thanks for sharing. No Vickis from me--I haven't loaded Poser on the machine yet (GRIN)

redwood ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 21 January 2004

great reading so true. I have learned to have a hard head and tough skin in the business of art for there are alot of good artist out there and publishers that are swamp with artwork.

Kismet_Queen ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 21 January 2004

Thank you for the valuable information. My goal is to become a published artist some day...and have had lots of questions on my mind about how to go about getting published and all that stuff. I cannot thank you enough for the insightful information and for answering many of my questions. Thank you so much!

rreynolds ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 22 January 2004

What is the format for submitting printed artwork? 8 1/2 x 11? Bigger? Matte paper or photo glossy paper? I'm surprised to hear that it is still a publisher's market more than an artist's market where there are more would-be artists than the market can absorb. I would have thought by now, with all the new content on the net, that things would have started shifting more towards a need for more art than ever before. There's a lot of good sound advice here. It's almost a wonder that any artist can be rewarded with enough money to make it worth dealing with all the changes that seem to be part of the business. At least changes are easier to accommodate with 3D art than 2D.

Rio ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 22 January 2004

Man If you guys still have questions, i STRONGLY suggest buying her tutorial, if you think this article is helpful, you'll be soooo pleased with the wealth of information, examples, tips and exact how-tos. its just awesome, and so detailed! this is just a tease! But a well spoken tease :) thanks for giving us a bit more to strive for Terri! great article.

crypticghost ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 22 January 2004

I have been pursuing my dream of being published, and I find the best way to see that goal through is to publish myself! anyone can be published, look at what the word means, it's not that hard of an accomplishment, I think what we all really want is to get paid in full, for what we love/like or get any sense of accomplishment out of. I hope that in the next couple of years, my website will offer all the eye-candy art products, that will break me through... the same type of art I've been buying from other artist for years. Finally, believe in yourself, have faith, work harder then the next guy, and as long as there is a single breath left in your body, don't give up on what you want in life, follow that and you will make all your dreams come true.

Hisminky ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 22 January 2004

Hi rreynolds, Rio is correct, there are detailed instructions and explainations for building your portfolio in the tutorial. As far as changes, some of my close friends that are traditional artists go through the same "this needs to be changed, and this and this too", which is why storyboarding is still used. It allows the traditional artist a way to avoid having to paint 9 different versions on expensive paper, using perishable supplies. It's GOOD practice to learn storyboarding, even if you are a 3D artist. The need for art is always there. The trick is to get paying gigs that cover your expenses, which is why I avoid the e-pubishing Erotica market. There is a decent demand for e-publishing, but the money just isn't there. An example: One e-publisher buys art for Oat Opera PDF books. They pay 35.00 for unlimited exclusive use of your image. You cannot use that image anywhere else. It takes me on the average of 3-6 days, with changes to produce that image. Not cost effective. One Print publisher I have worked for pays 650.00 for a one time reprint rights. 90 days after publication, the image is mine to do with as I please. See the difference? Terri

Taria ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 23 January 2004

Reading this I know that I myself may end up being one of those difficult writters to deal with. I'm to picky about the way I want things to look on how they tell the story without giving to much of it away. So this came in handy when knowing what artiest look for in writters so to speak and how they help get that vision of what they really want to see for their book.

Richabri ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 26 January 2004

Excellent post Terri - very informative and insightful. Your new tutorial on this is a wonderful resource and a 'must have' for anyone interested in breaking into the field of print graphics :)

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