There’s not an artist alive who hasn’t experienced rejection. Everyone has had to run the gauntlet of editors, agents, publishers and art directors. Most advice on this subject centers on ways to cope with the emotional toll of receiving rejections to your submissions – it’s important to know how to deal with rejection.
And while licking one’s wounds may aid in the heeling process, it doesn’t help you get published. In fact, many of the most well-adjusted people never get published. More often, it’s the anxiety-ridden artists who focus on the business at hand, not on their emotions, who get ahead. Bet no one ever told you before that you could make dysfunction an asset. I’m full of ideas that defy convention, but work. Stick around.
There are specific things beginners can do to increase their odds of getting their work in print. Mostly, it means taking on a professional attitude, and presenting yourself professionally to other pros, clients and publishers.
The first thing piece of advice is the most obvious, but least followed: Do not submit your work until it’s ready. As they say, you have one chance to make a first impression. It’s hard to convince a publisher, who thinks your work isn’t up to their standards, to take another look at your stuff with an open mind and enthusiasm.
So how do you know when your work is ready for prime time? Artists are notorious for being fond of their least successful pieces of work. If you’re submitting to a publisher, that means you’re submitting to a business entity. And they want one to make their money back, and then some. Yes, they want to make quality, but if they don’t make money, they can’t make anything. Your portfolio can be your personal expression , so long it’s also commercially appealing.
Now, some people think that being commercial means selling out. No, actually, it means that you’ve found a way to interest more, rather than fewer, people in your work. A graphic novel like “Death Note” doesn’t have the most commercial storyline. But it’s done so well that it’s become a huge international hit. Now it’s considered a commercial property.
I recommend that you show your work to others and get honest feedback. (Your mom doesn’t count.) That doesn’t mean you have to show it to competitive or jealous people. And you don’t necessarily need to show it to experts in your field, either. The average person is the one who is buying most of the graphic novels. That’s what you need: opinions from people who represent the typical buyer of your work.
When I worked on comic strips, I had a small coterie of friends who loved hearing my gag for the day. They would rate it for me. Then I would go back and re-edit, before submitting it.
Today, although most of my feedback comes from editors, art directors, and publishers. I also have some non-pros from whom I seek out opinions. And I’ve also begun to look for feedback on social networking sites for artists. The young, aspiring artists on those sites typically have definite ideas about what like in a drawing. You can engage colleagues there as well.
But remember, you’re the final judge. Don’t let someone decide for you what’s good and what’s not good. Instead, allow others to be influences.
One last note about what to put in your portfolio: let’s say that you find Sci-Fi difficult to draw, nonetheless, you managed, over the course of three months, to create an insanely good Sci-Fi piece of artwork. Do you include it in your portfolio? I would advise caution. Here’s why: What if you were looking for work, and showed your portfolio to a publisher? And let’s also say that this publisher is prepared to pay a good sum for this particular assignment. Now, suppose that, out of all the pieces in your portfolio, the publisher selects the Sci-Fi piece as the style he or she most prefers. And the publisher wants 3 finished pieces delivered in next 20 days. You can’t do it! You just spent 3 months finishing one piece! The lesson is: only show the stuff that you can do well, and do relatively quickly.
I hope that’s been helpful to get you started in the right direction.
Your Cartooning Sherpa,