How Do You Want to Work?
How do you want to work? This ties in directly to what we just touched on with solo brainstorming versus group brainstorming. There are a lot of different ways to work, and how you work is really personal and really suited to, you know, just you and who you wanna proceed. There's not one right way to do it. So I'm gonna detail a whole lotta different ways to do it. And the first thing I wanna talk about is probably the one that people like, think of the most like, obviously, which is authoring a book of your own work. So I'm gonna give you some examples. This book I Fought the Law is a photographer, Olivia Locher, who shot 50 photographs in which, in each photograph, she broke a law from one of the 50 states that is a ridiculous law, a blue law, a law that you can hardly believe is still on the books. In some cases, they've actually been overturned. But they're all hilariously weird. I forget the state, honestly, but in one state, it is illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back p...
ocket. So that's the cover image of this book. The reason has to do with people in the Old West stealing horses. They would put food in their back pocket, and then they would just walk outta town, and the horses would follow them, and then they could say, oh, I didn't steal the horse. It just like, followed me home. (Bridget laughs) But this law is still on the books, and somehow, it turned into an ice cream cone at some point. So, that's her work, her project, her book. Her name's on the cover; that's it. The second one is from illustrator Jon Burgerman. His book is called It's Great to Create, and it's 101 projects. It's more in that how-to category. He's got a really wild, amazing, overflowing imagination and sense of cool projects, so he just gives you tons and tons and tons of things to do, you know things like, everything from drawing exercises to things like putting eyeballs on mailboxes, you know? So it's all of this just creative fun. He wrote that book. The third example I have is the artist Jeremy Fish did a book called O Glorious City. He was actually the first ever artist in residence at San Francisco City Hall. In honor of the city hall building's hundredth anniversary, he made a hundred drawings over a several month period while he worked in the actual building of city hall. So this is a collection of his drawings from that specific project celebrating both San Francisco City Hall and the City of San Francisco as well. So, these are all examples of an author, a visual creative being the author of a book of their own work. In broad strokes, what you have to think about if you wanna do this kind of book is what is the unifying principle here. Is it the fact that it's you? You're the unifying principle, your name, your work, or is something else, something thematic? Basically, to put it nicely, people need to be at a certain point in their career before the fact that it's them and their name makes sense as the leading edge of a project, you know. In order for it to be the great big book of drawings by so and so, you probably need to have heard of so and so, if that's like, the point of it. It's for that person's fans; it's for people that love that person's work, versus a project that is thematic or topical or on a particular subject, which, I'll just go back for one second. As you see, all of these are, and this is a place where mid-career or emerging artists can really shine, 'cause you don't have to have heard of those artists to be interested in those books. You may have heard of that artist. Maybe you're a fan of those artists, but even if you're not, if you're interested in city hall, if you're interested in making art, if you're interested in things that are funny, (Bridget laughs) then you might come to that book for that reason. Things to consider when you're thinking about authoring this type of book, and this is similar to what I was talking about earlier, are your interests, your personal project, your passion projects, the things you work on when no one's paying you, the things you make the time to work on yourself. Your audience, you know, if you're, and we're gonna talk a lot more about connecting with audience in a bit, but if you're connecting with an audience either online, on social media, or in real life, face-to-face, you know, what are people gravitating towards? What are you doing that everyone loves or is interested in or asks you about all the time? Where you are in your career, that's the earlier point about are you the leading edge or is the subject matter the leading edge, and when I say leading edge, I mean like probably in the title. You know, would your name be in the title, or are you the author, and the subject matter is in the title, as well as this concept of a secondary audience. I mean a secondary audience beyond a fine art audience, and I'm gonna talk about that a good deal more down the road, a preview. Okay, so, a few more examples, and some different kinds of visual books that are not monographs. A monograph is a book of an artist's work that's just, it's that artist. The big Annie Liebovitz photography book is a monograph. These are other kinds of visual books. One is a thematic collection based around a passion project or a personal passion. We're gonna be talking to artist Lisa Congdon a little later on today in an interview, and her book The Joy of Swimming came directly out of the fact that she is a lifelong, avid swimmer and cares about swimming and wanted to do a book on swimming. Similarly, single subject illustrated nonfiction, so I've got a photographer here who did a book called Aging Gracefully, which is all portraits of, photographic portraits of people over 100 years old, and again, this was basically nonfiction illustrated that he got interested in, you know, this topic. And last, how to, an instructional, like the Jon Burgerman book I talked about earlier and this book Creative Alchemy by Marlo Johnson, which gives you all kinds of crazy exercises, again, a little bit like the Burgerman book does. His are more like art projects. Hers are more like shake you up, get you out of your normal, everyday thinking kind of ideas. When you wanna do this kind of book, you wanna consider content. Where is the content coming from, and what is it? Do all, some, or none of the images currently exist? Have you already made a whole big body of work, and that's what you're imagining is going in this book, or have you made one image and you think, ooh, this, this right here, this is what I wanna now expand into a whole book, or have you done nothing, and it's just a glimmer in your eye and an idea that you've got in your head? How much text would there be in this book in addition to images, and who is writing that text? Are you writing that text? I have some illustrators and authors and visual creatives who are also writers and write their own text. I have ones who have literally said to me, I write like a third-grader. I won't wanna write. I make pictures; that's what I do. So, then they maybe wanna be working with a writer. And is that a writer you're already working with, that you're, you know, your friend who's a writer and you guys teamed up, or is it a to-be-determined writer? Or is it some preexisting text? I think I've got a few examples in here later on of people illustrating, you know, a classic body of poetry, or, you know, an existing set of words that you wanna make pictures for.
I know that photographer Edward Weston did that exact thing, famous old style photographer, Leaves of Grass. He went out, and Leaves of Grass. For that particular process, is that, how would you say, what would be the best way for someone to go out and sort of figure out if they can, from a copyright perspective? Like, what's the best way to start a project like that?
So you're gonna wanna research copyright and public domain, and I'm not gonna try and summarize it right now, because it's a little complicated, 'cause it's different in every country. But basically, do some Googling, do some research and find out about the laws around something being in the public domain. As a general rule, it's usually pretty safe to assume that anything before the 20th century is likely to be in the public domain, but again, you have to research and check of course. So, older things that are in the public domain, once you've established that they are, they can just be reprinted, republished. Anybody can illustrate them with anything, and you're good to go. When there is either a living artist, when something is still under copyright, not in the public domain, more recent, again, look up the exact rules about this, but when it's not in the public domain, still under copyright, if there's a living author, you're gonna need to contact that author and/or their publisher to get permission, or in many cases it's the estate of a deceased writer, and then you're either contacting the estate or again, the publisher. And I would say, it could go either way. I could see pitching to a publisher and saying, hey, there's this amazing text. I've already got permission to illustrate it; let's go. That would be kind of wrapping it up in a bow and making it perfect for a publisher. You're already set. I could also see a possibility of saying, this text exists; I'm interested in pursuing getting permission for it to illustrate it. That's a little more tenuous 'cause you don't yet know if you're gonna get that permission, but if it's a really great idea, I might be willing to sort of go along for the ride with someone and see if we could make it work. Authoring a book featuring the work of others. So this is another thing that visual creatives are really well suited to do but don't always think of, because if you have an eye, if you have an aesthetic, if you have, you know, a visual sensibility, that applies not only to your own work, but also to other people's work that you're finding out in the world. So, here's some examples of what I mean when I say that. The first one is a book called Artists and Their Cats by Alison Nastasi. She's actually a journalist, and she started gathering and slowly snowballed, you know, and then more and more quickly snowballed into a huge collection of images of famous artists with cats. This is a thing, a real thing. A lot of artists are very inspired by cats. I think artists and cats have a certain temperamental sensibility that they might share sometimes. So this is literally a book of photographs. She then had to go get permission to use all these different photographs. She pulled the book together; she wrote the text. She's the author of that book, but none of the photographs are her own. Similarly, similar but different, The Where, the Why, the How is a book authored by three authors, Julia Rothman, Matt Lamothe, and Jenny Volvovski, and they're all illustrators and designers, and they know a lot of illustrators and designers. They're in that community. So they reached out to 50 different illustrators, and they gave them all real science texts. They also reached out 50 science writers to write these pieces of science text, explaining all kinds of science concepts, from micro to macro, gave the text to the illustrators, and the illustrator's job was to write it, was to illustrate it. So you end up with a book that includes both the text and the illustrations, so it's full of all this fascinating science facts, illustrated in all kinds of ways, and the illustrators were all over the place. Like, some were very literal, I am going to make a diagram of this science fact. Others were like, oh my God, this is quantum mechanics. I don't know. I'm drawing a pink elephant, like, aah. So, it's a really fun book in that way, and again, the three authors, I think they actually each did contribute a piece. They are three out of the 50. But the majority of what they did was collating this huge body of work. Similarly, Creative Pep Talks, which is a book that pulls together a bunch of different artists' tips and tricks and pep talks for like, what to do when you're feeling discouraged, when you're feeling blocked, when you're not sure what to do with yourself, when you just feel down about making art. You know, all of these different artists are you sending you encouragement. So, the next question is, is this type of authorship right for you? It is not for everyone. It is great for some people, not for others. It is best suited for people who are a couple of things. One is organized and detail-oriented, because you are herding the cats in the proverbial saying. It's literally about like, okay, I've got a hundred photographs. I have to get permission for all of them. I need a spreadsheet. Who did I write, who did I hear back from, who do I have to follow up with, who hasn't sent in their thing yet? You know, there's a lotta that kind of work. If that sounds like your cup of tea, this could be for you. If you're like, oh, God, that's like, the last thing I wanna do, then, you know, there's plenty of other ways to author books for you. Also very group or community-minded, again, like that thing about the group brainstorm. If you're the kind of person who likes to work in collaboration with others, this is perfect. If you wanna be head down in your quiet, creative cave, then maybe this isn't for you. What we talked about, some people work best alone; some are natural collaborators. This is definitely a much more collaborative model. So, some different kinds of multi-collaborator books. Organized around a theme or subject. This is a book, Pantone on Fashion that we did with Pantone. It had a couple of authors. The authors pulled together a ton of imagery from like, the history of fashion, and we had to do a ton of permissions to get all of the stuff in the book. Organized around a question. This is a really fascinating one. Did this book with The Thing Quarterly. It's called The Thing The Book. If you're not familiar with The Thing Quarterly, please Google them, because they're amazing. The Quarterly doesn't actually exist anymore, but you can still find out about them. They're so cool. They basically got a whole bunch of contributors, all different artists and writers, to think about what is a book? What is a book? How does it function? What is it for? What does it do? And each contributor write or made a very specific part of the book. Literally, somebody got to make the end papers that go in the front and the back of the book. Somebody designed a ribbon bookmark with text on it. There's an index that's a fake index that's actually a short story. You know, the page numbers were designed by an artist. Every single tiny detail in the book is actually a contribution from somebody. And that came out of this question about like, the nature of books and bookiness. Or, organized around a medium. So, Paper Cutting is a book that rounds up, I think it's about 25, amazing artists all working in the media of paper cutting and creating amazing, amazing work so it, you know, goes through profiles of a bunch of different artists and shows their work. So, again, as always, when you're thinking about your ideas, think about content. How many people would you ask? The examples I've shown go everywhere from maybe 20 contributors up to a hundred. What's the scope of what you're picturing doing? How much work would you want from each? Are you asking for each illustrator to create one new original illustration, or are you, you know, gonna show a whole, big portfolio of somebody's work? How would you select your roster of talent? If you're saying these are the 25 most amazing paper cut artists working today, what's your metric? How are you deciding that those are the 25 that you wanna go after? Probably actually you want a list of about 30 or to go after, 'cause some people are gonna say no. And, again, always, what's the text? Who writes it? This is this balancing act that we're doing as visual creatives, where yes, you can author a book by making visual content, but there is probably also a text element of some kind, and where's that coming from? Several of the examples I've shown, you know, it might just be, like for example, the I Fought the Law book with the ice cream cone, it's short captions next to the images, and two guest essays up front, you know, one by a museum curator and one by a critic, so bringing in those text elements. So, the next one I wanna talk about is a writer and an artist co-authoring a book together. So, written person component and a visual person component. So, some examples of this that are interesting. First up, I have the Circadian Tarot, which is art by the artist Michelle Blade and text by the writer Jen Altman, and they worked very collaboratively together to create this book with all the tarot cards. So Michelle Blade created brand-new, original art, her interpretation of every card in the tarot deck, and on the facing page, there's a description of what that card means. The idea was you would use the book like the single draw method of tarot, where you would just pick a page one morning, and that would be your card for the day and would illuminate things for you. So we also of course need a text illuminating things for you, 'cause if you just see a cool image, you're like, I don't know. Unless you're a tarot expert, you're not gonna know what that means. So we got this amazing text as well, and the two of them worked very closely in concert to make sure that what was shown in the images and what was said in the text made sense together. 'Cause there's obviously a lot of different ways you could interpret those kind of original archetypes. Earth and Space is a book we did with photographs from NASA. This is a fascinating fact. All the photographs that NASA creates of space, unless they were created by a particular photographer, but when they're shot automatically from a telescope or a space station or whatever are in the public domain, because they're paid for with our tax dollars. So they belong to the people, which means anybody can put them in a book, any kind of a book. But we wanted to work directly with NASA. NASA's name is on the cover of the book. We wanted them involved. We didn't just wanna sort of like, slap some photos in a book. So first, we had to get NASA's involvement. Then we got a writer who, amazingly, I found a writer, Nirmala Nataraj, who's both a photography expert and has a science, like, an astro science background, which is kind of an amazing find. So someone who could help curate the images and choose which ones and then write text explaining to you what it is that you're looking at when you're seeing these amazing nebulae and star fields and things, and we also got Bill Nye to write an intro to the book. So we were bringing together visuals from one place, writing for somewhere else, you know, kind of weaving it all into a cohesive whole. Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk is a book written by Danielle Krysa, otherwise known as The Jealous Curator, popular blogger in the art world, and she wrote a book about how your inner critic is a big jerk, and how to defeat it. And then we got Martha Rich, the painter, to illustrate the book. So again, in this particular case, Danielle and Martha were very much in close contact talking about what to illustrate, where the illustrations should go, which points that she was making needed to be illustrated, and by what. But, as you will see, that is not always the case. So, we get to that in a minute, because, in fact, we'll get to it right now. Sometimes, an artist and an author are in cahoots from the beginning. They're, you know, working, working, working together to create this cohesive whole, like a couple of the examples I just gave. Other times, the matchmaking between a writer and an artist happens on the publisher's end. So the publisher is pairing up a writer to go with an artist or an artist to go with a writer. This is especially common in children's publishing. By far, the most common thing that happens in children's, I am not a children's publishing expert. I'm just gonna throw that out there right now, because I always get a lot of questions about children's publishing, and it is a very different business than what I do. But, I know a little bit from my colleagues who sit around the corner. So, but one of the most common things in children's publishing is writers are submitting manuscripts. They're saying, here are my words for this children's book that I want to write. But especially if we're talking about picture books, of course the illustrations are gonna be a huge part of it. What's most often happening is the publisher is acquiring the manuscript from the writer and then figuring out who the best illustrator for this text would be and hiring that illustrator as well to come on board and create the visuals. Often the writer and the illustrator don't have that much to do with one another. The two things are created kind of independently. It works well for, in addition to that model, this concept also works well for the preexisting text model that we were just talking about. You have a Whitman poem that you wanna illustrate. I have, you know, I at one point wanted to do a book of Shakespeare sonnets, and we found an illustrator to illustrate that for us. Or, when, on the other flip side, an artist has a really great idea that they wanna do, but they don't wanna write the text for it is the thing I was describing earlier where you're saying, like, I'm an artist, not a writer. I wanna create these images; I know exactly what the book concept is, but the publisher needs to hire a writer to actually create the text element. That's another thing that sometimes happens. Or, conversely, the writer and the artist cook up an idea together. This is another one of those super collaborative endeavors and could be for you if you like to collaborate with others on project, especially if you're a visual creative and you have friends and connections who are writers and you kind of wanna cook something up together. If you really wanna focus on the visuals and aren't interested in thinking about text, and you wanna find someone who can do that piece, or vice versa, you have a book you wanna write, and you want someone else to come on board and create the visuals. I've even seen that happen with people who are artists and illustrators in their own right, but for a particular project, they really wanted to focus on what they have to say in words, and if someone else was gonna illustrate it, that was great, but they were really there for the writing piece on that particular project. So, these are all times when collaborating directly with someone on the other craft side might make sense. Okay, so some different kinds of collaborative books. You have a writer coming up with an idea and finding an artist or an illustrate or a photographer to work with them on it. That's what happened here. Writer Brook Smith had written a sort of narrative poem and reached out to the illustrator Brian Rea, best known for New York Times Modern Love, and asked him if he would be interested in illustrating her poem, and he was. So by the time it came to me as a book proposal, they were both already attached to it. It was a joint project from the two of them. A visual creative has an idea and needs a writer to write it. This happened with Time and Tide. This photographer Christian Chaize photographed this same beach over and over and over again at different times of day, different seasons. He's French. He doesn't really speak English at all. He didn't wanna try and write in English or work with a translator. What he wanted to do was just get a writer involved to help him, you know, with the text element of this book. Or a writer and artist who are coming up with a project together, and that happened in the case of this book Typewriters, where there was a photographer who was interested in photographing typewriters. There was a writer who happened to be a typewriter collector. So they worked together. The photographer photographed the typewriters in this guy's collection. He wrote about them, and we came up with this sort of visual index of all these vintage typewriters. Again, considering content every time. Is one person sort of driving the bus on this project and the other one is helping out, or is it truly a partnership requiring consensus on decisions, where you're gonna be together? I think hashing that out with someone from the very beginning is gonna be essential to think about how you're gonna make creative decisions. Who creates the work first and who second? Is someone writing something and then someone's illustrating it? Is someone illustrating something, and then someone else is writing for it? What's the order? Or are they somehow being created simultaneously, passed back and forth? And really, just logistics of a project. How will you communicate? Is this an in person, sit down at the coffee shop project? Is this a Skype project, and how are you really gonna connect, and having reasonable expectations for that I think is really important from the beginning.
Couple questions to slip in about collaborative stuff. One of our, can you give our students an idea of, if they're an author, the best ways to actually get out there and find an artist to work with?
That is a really good question. I think most often what I see, it's one of two things. It's either people working within their personal networks, so they're, you know, if not actually friends, like hanging out friends, they know one another, colleagues, you know, friend of a friend, connection, that they actually just know personally; that's one. The other I think is more aspirational and maybe a little harder but can really pay off. I think that example of the poet reaching out to quite a well-known illustrator and just being like, hey, I love your work. Here's this thing I've written. Are you interested in writing it? Odds are probably, you know, you will get more no's than yes's in that model, but when you do get a yes, that's amazing, 'cause you could get someone who is already well-known, beloved, you know, people are gonna come to the book for that person's work as well as your own. So I think if there are artists and illustrators that you stalk on Instagram that you love, that you admire their work, and you can find a professional and appropriate way to reach out to them cold, it's a gamble. Do you have to sort of be prepared for probably a fair number of no's before you get a yes? Maybe, but I think it can also be worth doing, especially if you have that, I always talk about sort of the art receptors in your brain, that there's certain art that just personally works for you. When you see it, you're just like, yes, that, that is a thing that speaks to me. And if you know of an artist that you already feel that way about and you wanna reach out to them cold, like, I think it's worth the risk.
Speaking of, I have another question on top of that from Lisa Conklin, and she would like to know how you solicited photographs for your This Is Happening book and what your process was.
Oh, wow, okay. That's going way back, all right. My very first book that I was the author of was the first ever book of Instagrams, like, ever. Yeah, I think it was like, I don't remember, 2009 or something. And it looks so dated now, oh my God. But it was the style of the times. And what we did for that book, we wanted to just do a roundup of the current state of Instagram photography. I think Instagram had been around only for like a year or two at that point. And we did a call for entries. So we put out a public call. We used Chronicle Books' social channels. We tried to spread, I think we sent a press release. We sent this call out as far and wide as we could, not just me personally as an individual, but the publisher putting their muscle behind it as well. I believe we got something in the neighborhood of a thousand photographs submitted by just random, regular, everyday Instagram users, of which we selected a hundred, I believe, for the book. This was a long time ago, so I'm trying to remember numbers. But yeah, in that case, we really did do like a public call for entries, which was fun. That's not something I had done before. The last model, I think it's the last one, that I wanna talk about is being hired as a freelancer by an editor or an art director, because I think for a lot of people, if you just wanna see your work in book form and you're not necessarily dreaming of being an author in the advance against royalties traditional sense, this is another great model for a lot of creatives, especially starting out in the freelance world. So, for example, the book A Christmas Carol is the Charles Dickens book. We wanted to do a beautiful illustrated edition of Christmas Carol as a Christmas gift book. And we hired the illustrator, whose name I will probably butcher, Yelena Bryksenkova, who's an amazing illustrator that we had had our eye on for a long time. I thought her work was just beautiful and hired her to create illustrations for this as a freelancer. The art of Beatrix Potter, we wanted to do a roundup, a big, serious art book of Beatrix Potter's art, which had never really been done before, which is kind of amazing. And so we brought in freelance writers to write text for it. And last, Design School was doing, this was a book that was actually curated, the authors of this book were a couple of Chronicle Books designers who brought together all of this cool text and smarts, both things people had learned in design school and quotes from design school professors about the art and craft of design. And we hired an illustrator to do little portraits of all the people who were being quoted, sort of McSweeney-style little like, cute line drawing floating heads throughout that book. So, a reminder of the difference between an author and a freelancer. An author is paid in advance against royalties. Royalties are potentially passive income that happens in the future once the book has earned back its advance. Oh, I'm gonna pause here and interject something, because people ask me this a lot, which is, what if your book doesn't earn back its advance? So you're paid X number of dollars. The royalties are earning up, but oh, darn, the book didn't do as well as we all hoped, and it never quite gets up to that in the black threshold. People worry that maybe that means they have to pay back whatever's left, and the answer to that is no, you don't. That money that you got as an advance is your money. Presumably you have long since spent it, it's gone, and that, you know, is the end of that. So, hopefully someday you get royalty checks, but if you don't, no harm, no foul, everybody's good. Yes.
What percentage of books don't make their advance back, and then how do you determine which books might sell better?
You know, I don't know the answer to the first question. I wish I did. That would be a really interesting stat to have. If I said a number, I would just purely be guessing. But it's definitely the case that some do and some don't. Of course, what I want is for every book to earn back its advance, every book to be an unqualified success. But if I could achieve that, I would literally be psychic. If I could predict the future and know what was gonna resonate with people in the world, I'd be really, really good at my job. But unfortunately, all we can ever do is make an educated guess, and we're looking, I'm gonna talk more about all of the factors we're looking at when we're thinking about what to publish, what not to publish. But we're wrong sometimes, you know? We do our best, and something we thought would really resonate in the world didn't, or something happens in the world. You know, everybody gets distracted by some event, current events or something outside of our control the week that the book comes out, and, you know, things do happen, and you cannot promise. It's a gamble, every book is a gamble, and I kinda sometimes think of myself as a little bit of a professional gambler. (Bridget laughs) But, I think we only are buying something and signing it up and making it and selling it, which is a lot of work for everybody on our end, and on the author's part, if we feel confident that it has a really good shot out there in the world, and then we just work as hard as we can to make something amazing, work as hard as we can to promote the heck out of it, and then hope for the best.
Do you have a top-selling book over the last few years that you can call out and be like, holy moley.
Holy moley. Part of the reason I'm interviewing Lisa Congdon is that her, one of her books is the answer to that question. It's called Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, and it is a book of illustrated quotations that she did that are all inspirational, inspiring, you know, get you out there, live your life, good stuff, and I signed it up. She wanted to make it. We all thought it was a great book, but it exceeded all expectations by a mile. It got picked up by all different kinds of retail channels, bookstores, gift stores, museum stores. I think it was in Target. You know, it was everywhere as a graduation gift. And gift-giving occasions, which I'll talk a little bit about more later, are a huge way that books are sold, especially visual books. Yes, people buy them for themselves, but they often, often are buying them as a present for someone else. And if you become sort of the go-to graduation book or the go-to Mother's Day book or holiday book or whatever it is, that can result in some amazing sales. Mmhmm. Okay, so, we kind of already talked about this, but just a reminder, that's how authors are paid. Freelancers are paid a flat fee and may or may not retain copyright to their work. And when I say freelancers here, I'm talking about freelance writers, illustrators, photographers, you know, who are contributing content to a book. We also work with freelancers in all other kinds of ways. We work with freelance graphic designers to design books. We work with freelance copy editors and proofreaders to check text. Like, there are a lot of different kinds of freelancers involved in the publishing industry, but I'm talking about freelance content creators right now. So, how to make freelancing happen. If this is a goal for you and you're listening to me talk about brainstorming book ideas and you're like, no, I'm not really ready or wanting yet to come up with my whole own original slew of book ideas, but I do wanna get my work into publishing, this is the way to go. Getting freelance work is absolutely all about putting yourself out there and hustling, honestly. Making yourself findable, I know a lot, a lot, a lot of art directors, designers, and editors who find new talent primarily on Instagram. You know, just making your work readily, visually available in the world, forging connections, going to conferences, talking to people, attending any kind of, this kind of thing right here that we're doing today, you know? Getting out there, making yourself findable, educating yourself, and putting yourself forward, and then submitting to portfolio reviews. Most publishers that do visual content will, on their website, have instructions for illustrators and photographers and graphic designers of how to submit a portfolio, where the design department, the art department, monthly or quarterly or whatever, reviews the portfolios that come in and put some on file of like, oh, this is an interesting food photographer. Next time we have a cookbook and we're looking for a food photographer, you know, we'll have our little folder of, you know, people to consider. So, submitting your work, getting yourself out there. Some different kind of books involving freelancers. So, Catmas Carols is an old, deep Chronicle back list title. It's really classic Christmas carols with all the words changed to be funny about cats. Jingle Bells about cat bells, you know, this kind of thing. It's really cute and funny. It's been around forever, but we wanted to do a new, fresh edition that felt up-to-date and modern, so we hired the illustrator Gemma Correll as a freelancer to do new illustrations for it, bring it out in a new edition. Colorful Home I brought in just as a classic example of an interior decor lifestyle book. This isn't the category I work on, but this is a, you know, vibrant category of publishing, where most often, a photographer is hired to go around and shoot all the homes of all the different, you know, people's interiors that are gonna be featured in the book. All Hail the Queen, this one isn't out yet, but it was an artist who had the concept and wanted to author a book about historical queens, and we hired a freelance writer to write the text for the book. So those two worked in concert together. So, yeah, the designer or art director would be hiring an illustrator to do something like the Catmas Carols book, and as I say, it's particularly common in, particularly for photography in categories like lifestyle, decor, interiors, cookbooks, all of those kinds of things. We're hiring freelance photographers to shoot the work for those kinds of books, and it works both ways. We're hiring both freelance visual creatives and freelance writers, as you can see. And then, yet again, my shout-out to non-book formats, journals and other gift formats. So, this is something people don't always think about. They think book, book, book, book, book, but there's a lot of other kinds of cool publishing out there. Here are some examples. This is author Leah Rosenberg, who's an artist who works, almost all of her work is around color. She's involved in the Color Factory, if you guys are familiar with that. She's one of the three main people on that project. So all of her artwork, which takes many different forms, focuses on color, and she created this thing called the Color Collector's Handbook, which is a journal for, every page has a color. You go out in the world, you find that color in the world, you journal about what you found. You know, this shade of yellow, this shade of yellow, whatever it is. So, she created a guided journal around this concept of hunting for color in the world. This thing, The Never-Ending Notepad, is ceramic. It is not a paper product at all. It looks like a notepad, but it is made of ceramic. Interestingly, dry eraser markers work on ceramic, who knew? So you can make your lists, and then you can wipe them off and make your next list again the next day. Very eco-friendly, and this is with an artist who had designed this thing that looked like binder paper. You know, she had done this line drawing that was really charming and compelling, 'cause it looked like note paper, and that was her, and she had the idea of doing it on ceramics. So that's her project. And then the artist Katie Daisy, I did a book with called How To Be a Wildflower a few years back, and it did so well, another one of these breakout successes, that we did a bunch of product off of that book using some of the same art, including, in this case, putting new art on the barrel of pencils. So these are just to give a a tiny glimpse into the wide range of non-book cool gift formats that exist. Often, talent for format is gonna be sought out and hired by either an editor or an art director. Both me and my design colleagues do this type of work. And often, we are scouting. You know, we are looking at art shows, at Instagram, at, you know, anywhere we can find artists to find who we wanna work with in this regard, but for that reason, clever pitches are exceptionally welcome, because they're kind of uncommon. It's not like a competitive category like cookbooks or children's books where the proposals are just flooding in all the time. Not many people think to pitch this kind of project, which makes it, if you get a good one, it's exciting as an editor to be like, oh, here's a really good idea for a guided journal that someone wants to do. Now I don't have to come up with something. It's already here and it's wonderful. Content-rich formats, like guided journals, are especially welcome as proposals, whereas an art director can pretty easily find an illustrator to put some art on a blank note card. When it really is something content-rich like a journal or a deck of cards, prompts, or something like that, you really need a creative mind behind that. And the other thing that's very welcome are interesting prototypes, physical objects. Here's a really good example of this. So, Letters to My Future Self is an extremely bestselling series now. This was the first one. It has spawned many, many others. There's Letters to My Mom, to my dad, to my baby, to the graduate. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. You've probably seen them around; they're everywhere, and it started with author Lea Redmond sending us this, which is her prototype, where she literally, you know, got crafty and got some cardboard and got some string and put something together, and you can see how similar the end result, like, this is the published thing. This is what she made as her book proposal. And we hardly had to do anything, honestly. I mean, it was like, look at it, it's brilliant. It's already great, but we just now have to figure out how to recreate and mass-produce this one-off thing that she's so carefully made. So, getting something physical that shows a great concept is awesome. Some different kinds of illustrated gift formats, heavily or lightly guided journals. There are a million of these out there. I'm sure you've all seen them and know them, but just one of the many examples is Listography, which is a journal for making lists. So every page has a list at the top and an illustration on the side and a place for you to make your list. You can either do it alone or in groups. I was once on a car trip where we had to do a list in the car of things you got in trouble for as a child, which is maybe the hardest I've ever laughed in my life. (Bridget laughs) Stationery, post cards, note cards, blank journals. When I say stationery, I just mean anything that is attractive and you're meant to write on it and doesn't have written content. So, for instance, this is Animal Friendships note cards. This is an artist named Ashley Percival who we'd had our eye on for a long time, because she makes these utterly charming illustrations of animals, and we finally realized, oh, what we should do is these note cards where it's, you send it to your friend because they're friends. Some of them are like, predators and prey that are friends. It's really sweet. And last, thinking beyond paper, like I mentioned, ceramic or pencils or other things. This is one that we're immensely proud of, and I'm really just happy to be able to show you. The book March, volumes I, II, and III, by John Lewis, which is a graphic novel telling his story. It was a big bestseller a year or two back, and we got the opportunity to do the ancillary gift product based on, we didn't publish that book, but we published the product based on the book. So, this is actually a set of two enamel pins, little lapel pins. One of them says march, and one of them says good trouble, necessary trouble, which is his sort of tagline. And it comes in a little box, so here we are, making something that is not a book at all but is a fascinating way of presenting content. Yes.
In terms of getting a prototype from someone, like Lea Redmond's book, how does that work in terms of the advance royalties, freelancer sort of relationship? Like, do you guys just then buy the idea from her and create it in-house, or does she still get an advance to kind of help craft it?
Yes. It varies from publishing house to publishing house, so I don't wanna speak to other publishers or other, like, models, and there certainly are some cases where you might hire someone as a freelancer to do some stationery or something like that, but for the vast majority of the projects I work on and that Chronicle works on, format authors are exactly the same as book authors. So, you know, Leah Rosenberg, Lea Redmond, Ashley Percival, all of these people are authors. In my mind, there's no distinction really made between are you authoring a book or are you authoring a set of pins; you're still an author. And that catches people up a little bit, because when you think of the word author, you don't think, yes, I'm an author; I made these pins. Like, what? But basically for me, an author just means somebody who is coming up with original intellectual property. I am paying them in advance in royalties, and we're creating something using their work.
And you may touch on this in the future, but in terms of that process, if the artist has already completed and created the project, do you still work with them behind-the-scenes to make it publishable?
So that's kind of the process.
Yeah, there'll be both an editorial process and a design process that will happen. I'm not gonna get into that a ton today, but just in very broad strokes, when you turn in anything, be it text or art, first, your editor is gonna work with you on it and have feedback and back and forth about, you know, what can make it better, basically, but it's always making it better of what it already is. I don't wanna turn someone's project into something else. I wanna just make it its very best self. Once I'm done, it gets proofread, and that, if we're talking about words. A lot of times people wonder, what does it mean to edit a book of images, because it's not sitting there with your red pencil marking grammar mistakes or whatever. It's, most often what it is is talking about image selection and image sequence, so what order do the images come in. You know, if you've delivered me a hundred and we're gonna do 75, which are the outtakes, that kind of thing, so doing an image edit, doing a text edit. Then when everything's all clean and ready, it goes to design, and the author is also, especially with something like this, that guy, they're gonna be very involved in that design process of like, okay, here's how our designer has translated this air mail concept. Does this make sense to you? Is this what you were trying to achieve? Do you see any, you know, issues? Like, let us know if we made any mistakes. I think we worked with an illustrator on the stamp designs for those, although I don't remember the details offhand. Does that answer your question?
Yeah, I guess my main question is like, if the person is already a designer or illustrator, how much does their work get then translated by the publisher versus just using their work.
Mmhmm, it varies. Sometimes, I do work with even, and not only on the format side, but on the book side as well, with authors who are graphic designers who actually have experience designing books, which is different than just, I'm a graphic designer and I do, I've done, you know, brand identity or web design or, you know, other things. But if someone is actually a book designer, we sometimes will do an arrangement where, normally, what you deliver for a book is art and manuscript. So, big folder of high-res .jpegs or .tiffs and a Word document. Like, that's your delivery, and when you deliver, you get paid. But sometimes, I will work with someone who's a graphic designer and wants to design their book from start to finish. And then their deliverable, yes, they turn in art and manuscript at a certain point for me to comment upon, but then later, they're turning in files, you know, printer-ready book files that we're gonna shoot off to the printer to have the book made. And obviously, we have a lot of design, you know, input and conversation and collaboration. I work very collaboratively with my authors, and I think that's sort of a hallmark of Chronicle Books and many other publishers as well, where we have a good deal of back and forth with an author about any of those decisions. But sometimes, it is the case that someone is actually designing the files themselves.