Welcome to our ‘Insight Spotlight’ column, where we share insights from industry experts in some of the hottest markets out there. This week we are pleased to offer expert advice from Megan Tingley of Hachette Book Group
Primary Market: Children’s book illustration. This market is all about creating a memorable character, such as Eloise, Frog & Toad, Madeline, Cat in the Hat, Pigeon, etc.. Also an intuitive sense of what kind of details kids will invite readers to look at the images more carefully and draw them into the world and a sense of humor.
How can this market be lucrative for an artist?
Creating a character that can sustain a franchise/series that sells and backlists forever cna provide a lifelong source of income via royalties. Conversely, if an artist works quickly, she/he can also have a very lucrative career doing multiple work-for-hire projects, including “ghost art” for an established series with ancillary projects (for example, doodle books, journals, etc. for a popular picture book or licensed brand.
What kinds of products/offerings are a growth sector for your company?
Strong concepts with immediate parent appeal that can stand out and sell in a mass market environment (Costco, Target, Walmart). Appealing to a busy parent who wants a quick and low-priced book purchase for their child the telegraphs immediately but the title, concept, and cover what it is. (Example: this book will teach my child verbal/math/ skills in an accessible, fun way.) But this is very difficult!
What do you look for when buying new art?
Fresh look, character resonance, playful appraoch to integrating text and art. Visual storytelling ability. Distinctive personality – bring your own quirky interests to your portfolio (are you obsessed with insects, cheese, geography, math, animals? Explore that in your portfolio – it might lead to an actual book idea. I have developed several picture books based on greeting card lines that had a unique humorous or emotional theme.
Is there any rhyme or reason to why some products sell well and why others don’t?
There’s no accounting for taste! And trends are hard to predict/follow. But it’s important to be aware of trends. For example, I don’t know why, but pandas have been become extremely hot. The zoos have panda cams, all the street vendors in NYC were selling panda hats, airports are selling panda flight pillows, kids are obsessed with pandas (including my own daughter). A smart artist would be observing that phenomenon and capitlizing on it by pitching stories and designs featuring pandas.
What is the one thing you wish artists would do differently when pitching art to you? Or what do you love that they do when they pitch to you?
Show me pieces that reveal their own personality and interests — not what they think I want to see. I am deeply interested in an artist’s personal passions as I think that’s where all great ideas and art come from. If you have a lifelong love of dinosaurs, babies, or history, I want to know about it and see it! I love if they develop a really unique character and show them in a variety of scenes/settings. This helps me see the potential of developing them as a picture book artists.
What one piece of advice do you have for artists trying to sell their first piece of art in that market?
Don’t over curate your portfolio — each person who sees it is going to respond to differrent styles and ideas so diversity is good. I can’t tell you how many times I have become enamored of an odd piece in an artist’s portfolio and they have said “how funny that you like that piece, I almost didn’t include it in my portfolio.”
Megan is one of the top women in children’s book publishing in America, overseeing the Little Brown Books for Young Readers (LBYR) publishing program at the Hachette Book Group, which includes novelty and picture books and fiction and nonfiction for middle readers and young adults.
Megan also acquires and edits select titles for her eponymous imprint, including the bestselling series The Twilight Saga and The Mysterious Benedict Society, as well as many picture books by US Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman, and artists Todd Parr and Naoko Stoop. During her tenure as Publisher, LBYR’s titles have been honored with the Caldecott Medal, two Caldecott Honors, several New York Times Best Illustrated citations, and selected for the annual Society of Illustrators exhibition and the New York Book Show.
Find out more at hachettebookgroup.com
Megan is one of the esteemed judges on the Global Talent Search judging panel.
Want to learn more about making more commercially viable art whilst staying true to yourself? Join our acclaimed online course ‘Make Art That Sells‘, led by top agent Lilla Rogers. Next class starts March 2 – find out more and register here!