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Twitter Chat with Penguin Art Director Giuseppe Castellano – RECAP

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On Thursday February 21, 2013 from 3-4 pm EST Giuseppe Castellano  gave an impromptu Question/Answer hour on Twitter.

Giuseppe Castellano is an award-winning designer, illustrator, and Art Director at Penguin US, where he oversees the imprints of Grosset & Dunlap, PSS!, Warne, PYR, and Poptropica.

This Twitter chat was geared to allow burgeoning Illustrators to fling questions at him about anything they liked. He used the phrase #arttips as a way to organize the discussion and even managed to have the #1 trend on twitter for the duration of the discussion and quite a while after. His number of followers jumped from 600-900+ in the process as well! An amazing event for Illustrators and a milestone for Giuseppe in many ways.

Castellano

After the event we recognized that there would be a need to have all the questions catalogued and put in one place to make them easier to browse and absorb. So here they are. Below you’ll find the questions organized into categories for your ease of consumption. If we missed anything let us know and we’ll be sure to add them in. Please note that some questions were redundant and we combined some answers when deemed necessary. Enjoy!

SUBMISSIONS

Question: How long does it take you to look at a postcard & file Artist in “Contact Now,” “Save for Later” or “Recycling”?
Answer: If I get a postcard I like, I file it in one of my neatly organized folders. It gets looked at repeatedly over time.

Question: Is it a good idea to send multiple cards to a single imprint if there are several ADs/Editors listed?
Answer: Yes. More eyes the merrier.

Question: When u file postcards, u have them organized by style? Age group? Theme? Wondering how easy to be found afterwards
Answer: Theme. But that only works for me. Someone else could do things differently.

Question: Should an illustrator send postcards to all the editors & ADs at a publisher? Or is that like postcard spam?
Answer: Postcards can go to the AD and editors of one imprint. The more eyes that see it the better.

Question: What is the single biggest mistake you see Illustrators make when submitting to you for consideration?
Answer: Single biggest mistake? Not doing research on the imprint. Waste of money if I get photography submissions.

Question: What character(s)/scenes/elements do you see too much in art subs, and what are you looking for most recently?
Answer: I see a lot in submissions. The ONLY reason I keep or trash anything is the quality of art. Subject matter means less.

Question: Is there a time of year that you’d tend to have more projects and it would be more beneficial to send postcards?
Answer: There is no down time (anymore). So, we’re always on the look out for artists.

Question: How effective are email submissions (if the imprints calls for both) vs postcards?
Answer: Emails vs. postcards: Send postcards, follow up with emails. They both get looked at, good or bad. Sending out postcards is still an excellent way to intro yourself. If I’m interested, I then go to your website.

Question: You’ve said postcard mailing should be about 3 times a year. How often for promo emails?
Answer: Promo emails… about the same. 3-5 times a year. It’s free, so you can do them more than postcards.

Question: Can you tell us the average number of postcards you get in a month? What percentage goes in the slush pile.
Answer: What slush pile? I get 10-15 cards a day, and look at every one of them. I trash most of them.

Question: What do you think of getting sequential postcards over time that tell a story?
Answer: Forget sequential postcards. I don’t have the time or brain capacity to keep it straight. That being said, I like the different art, I just won’t get the story in your postcards.

DUMMIES

NOTE: Folks, regarding dummies, show a few color pieces and sketch out the rest. The sketches should be easy to see. Not chickenscratch.

Question: Are dummies for board books made the same way as picture books? Do you have a preference?  An editor recently told me that my work is good for board books and I’m very open to it. I’m just not sure where to begin! Any advice would be fab!
Answer: Dummies are the same for board & picture books. The quality of the dummy doesn’t matter (to me) if the art is good.

Question: Author/illustrators? How do you feel about packages?
Answer: It doesn’t work that well honestly. Very rarely are author/illo combos picked up (with us).

Question: What if the author/illustrator is the same person?
Answer: Author/illustrator same person? Better chances, don’t be surprised if they want another illustrator if they like the text.

MAKING THE GRADE

NOTE:  I don’t want all of you to draw like Bernini. But you do need to know the fundamentals before you can screw with it.

Question: What makes an illustrator stand out to you?
Answer: What makes an artist stand out? Their ability to draw. Everything else follows. (Not being vague on purpose.)

Question: Want to know the single biggest reason we don’t use an artist?
Answer: Single biggest reason we don’t use an artist: their inability to draw. Simple as that.

Question: Want to know the second biggest reason?
Answer: The art is GREAT, but we don’t have a book for it (yet). So keep sending cards, and emails. Because it’s about ability + need

Question: So if artist can draw what is your #2 reason for pitching postcard in trash? Or what else is holding back artists?
Answer: If they can draw. Then if the style isn’t right for my imprints, it gets pitched.

Question: Can the Illustrator know why they are rejected?
Answer: Can everyone please forget the word “rejected”. FORGET IT. It implies finality, and nothing is final. Keep trying.

Question: A silly question, but do you recommend life drawing practice to improve drawing/observational skill.
Answer: The best question this hour: Do you recommend life drawing. A. It’s the single most important thing you can do.

Question: Do most illustrators have to evolve style wise as their careers progress?
Answer: Do illustrator’s have to evolve in their careers? I can’t say. If they have to, they should. But if they don’t have to…

Question: How often (if ever) do you hire someone for a PB that doesn’t typically do that work, but whose style fits?
Answer: I love hiring illustrators who’ve never done a format, but their style is great for it. They usually do better.

WEBSITES/PORTFOLIOS

Question: So, in terms of style, how do you think an illustrator should showcase different styles in a portfolio?
Answer: Your site should be broken down by style. Keep it simple though. (B&W, Digital, Traditional, sketches)

Question: What if you have mid grade + young adult + picture book art? Do you separate those into sections too? Or do you need different sites?
Answer: FOLKS! Hold IT! This is a good question: Don’t break your site down by genre. Who’s to say what style works for what genre!

Question: I have 2 styles on my portfolio site with 15 illustrations in each. Would that be a good number? For example?
Answer: As many pieces as you feel is positive about. Quality over quantity. Though, 10-15 minimum I’d say.

Question: Would you say the more work shown, the better? Can’t ever have too much?
Answer: You CAN have too much on your site. I saw one last night that was great for 25 pieces, then the last 4 bombed. So which is it?

Question: Do you prefer to see one style on a website or is okay to show a couple?
Answer: Show as many styles as you want on your site. Why people don’t (who can) baffles me!

Question: “Why people don’t baffle me!” I have often been told that having multiple styles makes illustrators less desirable.
Answer: Folks, you’ll hear a lot of advice that’s contrary to mine. That’s fine. Make your own call based on all advice. A note on multiple styles. If you’re excellent in more than one style, SHOW IT. Forget what they say at conference. I mean really…!

Question: Is having a downloadable tear sheet on your website a good thing? or useless…?
Answer: Downloadable tearsheet: FORGET ABOUT THEM! We download pieces we like and make contact sheets.

INDUSTRY PRACTICES

NOTE: A note about digital: Forget what you’re reading. From my POV, digital is an integral part of our workflow. So is traditional. What you read out there is so full of falsehoods, I jump up and down sometimes. Traditional is very alive and well. Sorry folks, tradition PUBLISHING vs. digital PUBLISHING. Both are integral parts of our day to day.

NOTE: Most art I get for books is created digitally. I do still get actual paintings and drawings from time to time. Smells amazing.

Question: If you get rejection that suggests change, is it bad etiquette to make the revision & send back  the art even if not requested?
Answer: A NOTE ABOUT REJECTIONS. Nothing is final. If you get a rejection, take that as a spring board to improve, not sulk.

Question: How much impact do paid portfolio sites have in your search for artists?
Answer: It depends. If you think the money is worth it. Be my guest. I look at them. But I also look at free blogs/sites.

Question: How often do you search for new artists versus tried-and-true?
Answer: New vs. Tried and true. We use both. I like new because then they become tried and true and I’m proud of that.

Question: Do you ever (or does the industry in general ever) do sample projects with new illustrators?
Answer: We sample a lot. Especially with new artists. We pay though. If you don’t get picked, you at least get a port. piece.

Question: Do you prefer to work with agented illustrators?
Answer: Agented vs. non-agent. We use both. No preference (honestly).

Question: Do artists & AD’s have conversations over the phone anymore while working on projects  or is most communication via email? Is phone ok?
Answer: I’m a HUGE phone person. And yes, we do talk on it. Especially when discussing art changes. It’s the best way.

Question: I know it varies, but what would you say is the average time span given to illustrate a 32p book?
Answer: Varies a ton. But 3-6 months for covers, 6-12 for interiors. Our books are typically on the shorter end. 2-3 months for covers, 4-6 months for interiors. Depends greatly.

Question: Why does it take 3 months or more to get paid from publishers?
Answer: A note about payment: It take longer than I like. We have a lot of moving parts when it comes to payment. Stick w/ it. Bugging your AD or designer for payment is FINE. It’s our job to pay you. It’s your job to follow up on income.

Question: I’ve heard that bigger publishers are shifting towards less royalties and more work for hire. Any truth to that?
Answer: Royalites vs. WFH: I haven’t seen a shift. Depends on imprint, publisher, project, etc.

Question: Do successful books set trends for art styles that publishers start looking for or receiving as samples?
Answer: Yes. But we don’t hit the brakes on other styles.

PROMOTION/SOCIAL MEDIA/EVENTS

Question: Who should an illustrator follow/like/comment on Social Media? Other llustrators, Art Directors, other creative types, magazines?
Answer: Follow other AD’s, editors, agents. Everyone who speaks to #kidlit , #publishing.

Question: Illustrator on tight budget best 3 ways to promote themselves?
Answer: On budget, best 3 ways to promote: Print your own postcards. Email people. ROCK social media.

Question: How important is a mailing list vs a blog?
Answer: Mailing list vs. blog. Why one OR the other. Do both. It’s your job.

Question: Do you have plans to attend any conferences this year? What would the “dont-miss” pub event be for illustrators?
Answer: I can’t say yet, but I’m attending a very big conference in the summer

NOTE: Why other AD’s don’t do more of this is strange to me. But whatever, more illustrators for me to talk to!

Giuseppe does plan on having future events of this nature and he will continue to tweet advice tips under #arttips.  So be sure to follow him on Twitter @pinocastellano to stay appraised of what he has going on!

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24 Comments

  1. Michael Kline

    I worked with Giuseppe on a project for Penguin and he always gave me very straightforward comments which I appreciated.

    Reply
  2. Chris Jones

    Great Recap Wilson!

    Reply
  3. Lisa Berkshire

    Great advice, really direct and honest and easy to get the point that it’s just best to keep on trying. And Postcards!

    Thanks

    Lisa Berkshire

    Reply
  4. Michelle Campbell

    Thank you for the very straight forward advice, informative indeed!
    Regards
    Michelle

    Reply
  5. Robin Howard

    Thanks much for the summary. You rock on putting such great resources at our fingertips.

    Reply
  6. Maryn Roos

    This is a great resource, thanks for putting it together!

    Reply
  7. Jan Watford

    This is some of the most extensive information I have seen for illustrators. Thank you so much for posting this. It is very helpful.

    Reply
  8. Cyb

    … weird that the blog title is named after the font used itself :)

    anyway good article

    Reply
  9. Twitter chat with Penguin Art Director Giuseppe Castellano - Illustration

    […] External Link: Twitter chat with Penguin Art Director Giuseppe Castellano […]

    Reply
  10. Leah Jay

    WOW, this is really great information…. I always believed I should target my style to book level, but I learned that art quality is paramount, and where to use it is for the publisher to decide. I also didn’t know postcards were so important STILL — even in this digital age. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Reply
  11. Joanne Roberts

    Wilson, thanks for all the work you put into this recap. Some of my colleagues are not up on Twitter, so this is a great resource I could forward to them.

    Reply
  12. Tracy Campbell

    Wow, this post was packed with awesome information. :-)
    Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Virginia Rinkel

    Wilson, thank you for putting all this together. It’s been very helpful. I’m not on twitter, so this is invaluable to me. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  14. Carolyn Le

    Hi Wilson. This is a great post. It’s informative and encouraging at the same time. Thank you for putting all this together.

    Reply

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