“HOW I WORK 8 - The Taboo Topics about creating for Self Publish clients - Pt2”
Or... How to scare away most potential clients in just a few minutes.
Or...The main differences between working for established Publishers and Self Publishing indie clients
and why that is important. Read Part 1 if you haven´t yet to understand the context.
"IT´S MY BOOK! MY VISION!"
Taboo Topic ONE - The remotely controlled artist - Part II.
I have 28 years of professional experience and I´m still learning to navigate the Self Publishing waters when I encounter a TYPE 2 client which is undetectable at first glance.
I cannot even imagine what it will be like for a new illustrator that is starting now to even have the bad luck of getting one of this as a first client. One bad encounter like that and a young illustrator risks getting a bad reputation just because he´s knowledgable enough to recognize a really bad technical "vision" from the get-go but has no other option but to quit the job to avoid being forced to create bad work; leaving the "client" to spread around the web how non-professional that person was or how the illustrator lacked the necessary skills or professionalism to achieve - "the vision" which is always perfect.
Particularly a young illustrator fresh out of school or not, but already having been born in the internet era and not even realizing the illustration world from some years now has become divided between the traditional market where we professional illustrators used to work for established publishing companies (with real professional art directors) and the brand new field of amateur publishing with the arrival of Self Publish and Print on Demand where when it comes to TYPE 2 clients, art-direction only means - "My vision!"
An art director friend of mine once when his publishing company hired me the first time years ago, told me, that hiring an illustrator should be the same as going to the dentist or leave your car at the mechanic.
We don´t go to the dentist or to the mechanic and demand our teeth to be designed or our car to be repaired based on how we think they should do their job.
Are you going to teach the dentist how to fix your mouth and ask for specifics on how he should design a tooth if you have one replaced?
So why hiring an illustrator should be different?
It´s actually not; in the traditional professional publishing field.
Illustrators are hired on the assumption they are professionals that know how to take a concept and bring it to the most professional looking level. The personal taste of the employer most of the time has nothing to do with it. It´s a company, and there are people in there that fully understand that it´s all about making a concept work and be commercial enough to sell copies, pleasing all sorts of personal tastes out there and not being focused on how just a single person thinks the project should look like based on personal taste.
So illustrators are hired to make a book work, illustrators are hired because the employers understand exactly how a project done by that person will look like even before the contract is signed and work starts. Illustrators are hired because they are skilled in taking a written concept and can bring it to life in a controlled quality context where personal taste matters very little or nothing at all.
Once again only on the new Self Publish market we find TYPE 2 clients that don´t understand an illustrator should be hired for his portfolio instead of just being hired to be remotely controlled.
Professional companies, hire illustrators based on what they showcase on their portfolios.
And most important, that artist portfolio reflects not only the pretty pics he does but also how skilled that person his at his job. Something that in the Self Publish client market is rarely recognized beyond the fact some people can do pretty pics.
When a publisher/company hires a professional illustrator is because the people in that company understand that the illustrator will be able to do for them the same he did for other clients. And they recognize that for that end result to work, the artist needs to be free to put his own creative input into each project.
Art Direction when I´m working for a company working with a real art director does not mean I´m being told what to draw or how to specifically draw something that needs to be that exactly like that. Exactly "like that" does not exist in that context. What exists are - directions to follow - and sometimes a specific color mood to achieve.
Art Direction from professional art directors means that they know and recognize what is an artist's best technical points and they guide that artist in certain directions so he can paint or render what the project needs. It´s never about, - paint me that thing exactly as I see it in my mind because I´m paying for it.
An art director is not someone that keeps telling exactly how a character should be like to the infinite detail but tells the artist that based on what that person has showcased in his portfolio that it might be good if he can paint detail in a certain way ( general or specific direction ) to achieve one of the effects he´s already good at creating in other pics for example.
Or - let´s try a different color to balance the overall color mood of the book, or maybe we can find a different composition for the scene. It´s never about - draw me this with this specific line direction, or ... don´t use that line width because I don´t like it.
With an art director, contrary to a self publish TYPE 2 client it´s never about... I want you to paint this eye in this exact way as I see it in my mind, this line needs to have that curve, now delete that extra line because I don't like it, now add that glow effect and then remove that color, etc.
My favorite being, - do not use any of your painting brush-strokes or textures that you have ALL OVER your portfolio ( and which are part of my style but that does not seem to matter ); because I don´t like those. Paint in another way, one that actually reflects - my vision -; here, paint something that looks like this drawing this other artist did.
When an illustrator is working for a publishing company, working with an art director there´s no way he will come across one of the most common and useless time-consuming demands many TYPE 2 clients tend to throw at illustrators out of the blue and then even ask for endless revisions on these "details", pushing it more to the left, to the right, etc. Sometimes for days on end. Something that usually starts with - "I don´t care if it´s not seen in the printing page at all, I want you to go through each page and add this specific color pixel (to something) or paint this detail because it matters to me and I want to know it´s there when I look at the book even if it does not print well because of the resolution."
The most difficult thing there is to make a TYPE 2 client understand is that sometimes personal taste will ruin all the chances for a project to succeed. Particularly nowadays when people seem to function based on LIKES.
I´ve lost count of all the bad decisions I´ve seen thrown at promising projects simply because the new Self Publish authors go into Facebook children´s book groups and ask for the opinion of everyone there. 99% of the time the majority of the opinions are based on personal tastes that commercially are disastrous, but because then all amateur authors gather around that person - "throwing love" - all over, that person assumes that all those LIKES and "supportive" people really represent the best choice for the project. After all, if everyone in the group commenting says they love the direction - and know - how the book should look like then they must be right. Right ?....
My favorites are those comments that say, "I would never buy the book if it was like this or like that...". 99% of the time those personal tastes are the ones that make for the worst decisions. Simply because the person honestly asking for an opinion actually believes those opinions on that thread actually represent reality when it comes to goo choices on book publishing.
This is very noticeable particularly on cover choices, illustration styles ( when they are nothing but amateur drawings with no chance of commercial success (but lots of "love" and "likes") or when the person asks what makes a good children´s book.
But there´s nothing on a Children´s book Facebook group that will generate more unanimity than when those wanna be self publish authors shout - "It´s my book, I´m paying for it, the illustrator should do what I want!" - These always bring the house down when it comes to LIKES and - "You go girl!" comments. And these are the reason Self Publish or Print on Demand is so snobby attacked by articles, publishers, art directors, and people in the traditional publishing field in general. Everyone understands that the reason the Self Publishing market tends to be inundated with really bad products nowadays is that the web and the amateur publishing world is inundated with wannabe authors like that. TYPE 2 clients.
And nobody is surprised when these authors simply don´t make it anywhere because the reasons are in plain sight. It´s just the "love" they get when "everyone" supports their "logical" view on FB Groups simply creates the illusion that they are totally on the path to publishing success when there´s not a chance that will happen within that context.
Online support in FB Groups can be great if you are actually creating a real professional product but it´s the most devastating thing if you have a really amateur book but you´re "so loved" by everyone in your support group that you are convinced your position on how to create a book and publish it is the right one.
I can guarantee you that the next post this type of author will post will be something like - " I don´t understand why nobody is buying my book when everyone I know loves it and thinks it´s great with a beautiful story, lovely illustrated... I simply must be doing something wrong...help !"
Inevitably the replies from the same "support group" will be something like, - "Don´t give up, your book is awesome, people just don´t understand", etc.
In short, none of those people will even realize the problem was that only professional-looking books can succeed out there and it´s very easy to spot an amateur inferior product in the market, in particular from people who buy a lot of books.
But above all what aspiring authors online don´t seem to understand is that a Self Published or a Print on Demand book can also feel like a professionally published work. The problem is that the solution has always been in their hands but they usually start the foundation of the project by looking at it as a TYPE 2 client looks at the whole thing.
There´s a reason "Vanity Press" is called "Vanity Press".
Many times it´s not about the book, but about the author and that is why the project is doomed from the start. Instead of being based on professional production values, it will be based on - "a vision" and nothing reflects more on that than the way Vanity Press TYPE 2 clients approach the illustration process right at the start.
At this point you may argue, that - "If I let the illustrator paint what he wants, it´s no longer my book, my vision.". So the question is why should "the illustrator´s vision" take precedence over the original client "vision" ?...
It´s simple because there is no illustrator´s vision if the illustrator is professional enough.
What happens is that the illustrator is doing his best to be technically perfect and many times that goal is totally incompatible with the author´s original vision as I mentioned before.
Therefore the illustrator is not trying to force "his vision" on the project, the illustrator is trying to make the technical negative aspects of the author's "vision" to render in a correct and professional-looking way. And sometimes that means that some details need to inevitably look like a bit different from what the author had in mind.
There are only two choices here, either the client understands that he´s hired a professional and that he´s doing his best to make the final product look professional, or not.
It´s not about competition for a vision, it´s about trust that a professional is doing the best he can to find the solution to all the problems a project presents. The same way you need to trust your dentist he´s doing his best to fix your mouth.
Everything a professional illustrator does is based on the authors requests and concepts if the author wants to give specific details on what needs to be rendered on each pic.
There´s just a big difference between, requests, creative notes, specific details required, narrative points to meet and just plain and simple remote 100% remote control.
I take directions all the time when I´m not working with TYPE 2 clients. Fortunately, there are plenty of TYPE 1 clients out there nowadays in the Self Publishing world too that acknowledge the necessity for the illustrator to be creatively free to do his job, and this does not mean the illustrator just does what he wants.
The best results happen when there´s a balance between what the author needs and what the illustrator can do based on that in a way that does not compromise his professional presentation at the end. Only TYPE 2 clients are incapable of recognizing that.
By this time I´m pretty sure, some people reading this are saying: - "I´m not like that. But I´m paying for the illustrations and I want the book to look like exactly as I have it in my mind."
Well, if that is the case, then don´t hire a professional illustrator.
Hire someone that actually draws well, wants to make some money, and does not mind just replicating visually what you have in mind. There are a few "illustrators" like that out there on sites like Fiverr for example and actually there are people that draw well. You just need to decide on your own if these people that draw well actually also have illustration skills or not.
Not everyone who draws well can be an illustrator, particularly a book illustrator but most people have no concept of this and so that is also one of the reasons they try to hire professional illustrators and then the friction starts to happen when they realize (or don´t accept) there´s more to book illustration than just having a hired-human-pencil following orders to create "visions".
Places like Fiverr are filled with (amateur) people who actually can draw very well and present themselves as illustrators but few of them are actually capable of doing illustration. They do drawings. Real well sometimes, but many of these drawings are not illustrations to be used within a book creation context.
That is why there are som many horror stories from kids who are just starting and inevitably meet a TYPE 2 client on crowdsourcing sites like those. Because TYPE 2 clients tend not only to have the need to remote-control the artist but they also want to have professional illustrations done real cheap.
So, if you are keen to have your book done specifically based on what you ALREADY know the book needs to look like and you are to have all the final creative decisions on your side, then hire one of those persons that do really good drawings instead of hiring an illustrator. Especially before hiring a professional illustrator.
This way you will be able to remotely control the person drawing to render exactly what you see in your mind and you will even be able to choose the visual compositions, the framing, and all that is part of the illustration process.
I can bet you most people who draw well but have no book illustration skills will be very happy if you just tell them what they need to draw.
Just be prepared to the eventuality of also having one of those Self Published books where all the pages feel stalled and where the characters are all drawn next to each other without any "editing" in scenes with no matter what visual structure the story needs as that is bound to happen if your "illustrator" is just a person that draws well and nothing more.
How to prevent this from happening?
Well, it´s very easy... instead of being a TYPE 2 client... be a TYPE 1 client.
If you want to spend your money on a professional illustrator you need to learn to become a professional-client.
I can guarantee you´re still be having your creative input and I promise, I or the professional illustrator you will hire will do his best to keep your vision intact. We just need to look at your book in the same way we look at the project if it came from a professional publishing company from the start.
There isn´t any reason why a professional illustrator cannot present a Self Publish client with a professional look for the book. As an illustrator, it really does not make a difference if I´m illustrating for a company or for a Self Publish client. The skills needed are the same, the work is the same, the project characteristics are the same. I just need to make sure the work conditions are the same.
If I´m a professional illustrator which treats either companies or independent clients in the same way, my only work demand is that my clients treat the project professionally too and therefore if I´m working for a Self Publish I need that person to be, or learn to become a TYPE 1 client instead of TYPE 2.
Let me show you what I mean.