Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Curating your work, Part II, by Mike Ciccotello

Last time I wrote, we spoke about curating your work for a website. Now I’d like to share my experience of curating work for social media, specifically, I want to tell you about my Instagram experience. 

At the NJ SCBWI summer conference, I met two art directors, Maria Middleton, Random House, and David Dewitt, Little Bee. Both art directors said they have searched for new talent on Instagram. If you are an illustrator looking for work, that little bit of information should make you think about having an Instagram account.

Here's a preview of my Instagram feed.
If you are an Instagram user, you know that you can search users, tags, popular stuff, not so popular stuff, it’s endless. You can view new images people have posted when you click your home button, or you can swipe right and view what people you follow are liking. It’s visual. It’s cool. And like most social media, it can eat hours of your day if you’re not careful.

The thing that sets Instagram apart, in my opinion, is Instagram offers a unique visual experience, The 9 Image Grid. When you view a users feed, within the Instagram app on a smartphone, you can see 9 square images, 3 across and 3 down. Typically, a user will post one image per square that doesn’t necessarily relate to the other images. A dinner plate, an adorable dog, pictures of kids… you get the point.

Now, what if we played with that space? What if we pushed the boundaries? Instagram is always 3 images across with a portrait orientation. So, what if you take a 3x1, long horizontal image, cropped it to 3 squares, and post each square image separately? What if we took it a step further and cut up a 3x2 image or a 3x3 image? I once posted a 12x3 image… that’s 36 square images. 

I have seen photographers use this technique and thought it might be interesting to try. I wanted the whole feed to flow from one group to the next. 

I have been influenced by this idea of an “infinite canvas” many years ago when I met Scott McCloud at NY ComicCon.  Years after that conversation, I saw this amazing comic by XKCD, titled, Click and Drag.

I understand Instagram doesn’t scroll left or right, and every feed has a starting point. But being able to infinitely add imagery is pretty cool. I tried it out and kept up with it for a while. I posted Monday through Friday, at least 3 images a day. I had to take a little break due to deadlines etc., but I’ll be back to posting just in time for INKtober.

Once you start posting in a format like this, you need to always post in 3’s, to keep everything in order. If you only post one image, it throws the feed out of wack and the images won’t line up until you post a third image. 

I didn't invent this, I just put my own spin on it. Look at Dave Pilkey's Instagram feed. He’s shifted away from it a bit, but if you scroll down his feed, you can see ways he has played with the space. 

Consider the images you post and what they look like as a group, rather than an individual piece. Each post could be an individual piece, but maybe there's an overall color pattern you could follow, or textural element. How would you use this space to curate your day-to-day art gallery?
  • Plan your grid of images ahead of time. 
  • Look into tools like Tail Wind or Instagrid. 
  • Use photoshop with a grid overlay to see what goes where.
  • Post the last image first and keep working backwards.
  • Always post three images at a time.
If you have questions, please feel free to comment.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Instagram ( @ciccotello) to see my upcoming INKtober posts and how everything evolves. I’ll be speaking at Johnson & Johnson Corporate HQ next week talking about my current show, Wishes and Daydreams. If you or someone you know works for Johnson & Johnson, stop by the show and send me a message. I’d love to hear from you.

Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Drawing Process by Barbara DiLorenzo

This blog has been such a great outlet for sharing thoughts on the field of children's literature. I'm grateful for my fellow bloggers on Drawn to Picture Books that keep the focus on the process of drawing. I can tend to shift to politics–especially in this charged atmosphere. But although I had prepared an entire piece on comparing and contrasting what happened in Charlottesville, VA with the protection of art in WWII Florence, Italy–I realize this audience is smart enough to know the difference. These thoughts belong on a different blog–and perhaps I'll post that essay on 

Getting back to the nuts and bolts of picture book making, I've chosen to share the drawing steps for a new piece. I am fascinated by restaurants and the people that work behind the scenes. So I've been noodling (ha!) with a book dummy on the subject for some time. The Society of Illustrators has a Members Open show this fall with the topic of food–so I'm using this as an excuse to create a final piece to go with the book dummy. 

The first version of the dummy had a penguin and a polar bear. I don't have a concrete reason for picking the polar bear other than I doodled a chef polar bear with a penguin overlooking at an SCBWI conference many years ago. I know, I know. North and South pole creatures don't meet naturally. I had a back story to explain this in the first version. But despite loving the characters, I realized this was forced. I still think the characters should be animals because children can't open and run a restaurant–but anthropomorphic bears and penguins can and still be relatable to kids. 

The polar bear, paired with penguins, started to look more racially specific than I wanted. And since the polar bear was the one in the know, teaching the penguin what it takes to open and run the restaurant, I wasn't happy with the unintended message. I could use a Grizzly or Kodiak bear instead, but there are so many sweet brown bear characters already out there. And there's the geography question. So I did some research, and discovered that Le Cordon Bleu, the premiere French cooking school, has a location in Peru, in South America. Perfect! I lived in neighboring Bolivia for 6 months, so I am familiar with the cuisine–and penguins live in Peru! So I started to sketch the most ubiquitous animal in that region–the llama! I remember being on a bus from La Paz to Tarija, and watching llamas running outside in the countryside. They looked so funny with their silly oversized ears bouncing as they ran. Definitely a fun character–though I defer to Anna Dewdney's LLAMA, LLAMA series as the best version of a llama in children's literature. 

I also decided that though the penguins could remain, the main penguin needed to be swapped with another character. So I sketched a goat. Soon their personalities started to emerge in the sketches. 

After sketching quick then detailed versions of the goat and the llama, I had an idea of where the story would go. So with the opportunity to do a finished piece, I looked through and decided to combine these two sketches. One included the polar bear, now just a line cook–and penguins as both servers and chefs. But the main characters are now the goat and llama. 

I combined the sketches in PhotoShop, moving elements around and creating a more interesting composition. As I write this though, I see I still have a change to make. The goat looks more interesting facing the original direction.

Although I'll go back and tweak the goat's position, this is the version I sketched on watercolor paper. I'll now use this as a color study. I'll be sure to post the next steps in an upcoming post. Stay tuned! 
And if you have any feedback, I'm happy to hear it. 

by Barbara DiLorenzo
Now booking author visits for 2017-2018!

Barbara is represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency.
Twitter: @wavepaint
Facebook: @BarbaraWillcoxDiLorenzo

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

KidLit Cares: Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort by Kate Messner - (This blog post only, written by Barbara DiLorenzo)

I had an entirely different post planned for today, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I'd rather use this platform to promote helping those affected by this storm.

Yesterday I found author Kate Messner's fundraising website KidLit Cares, where agents, editors, authors, and illustrators donate their services, books and art to be auctioned to the highest bidder for the direct benefit of Red Cross disaster relief fund. She coordinated this effort to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. She was successful in raising over $35,000 for their relief! You can read more about KidLit Cares here.

From Kate Messner's website:

People who write children’s books and work in this industry have a wide range of interests and talents. As authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, we do different jobs, and we love and create different kinds of books. But one thing we all tend to agree on is using your powers for good in the world.

We are heartbroken that Hurricane Harvey and related flooding is having such a devastating effect on those in the storm’s path. Today and in the weeks to come, the Red Cross will be serving thousands of families displaced by Hurricane Harvey and related flooding. Those families include so many kids who read our books. We’d like to do what we can to help, and that’s what KidLit Cares is all about.

My Donation

Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (Viking 2017) and QUINCY (Little Bee Books, April 2018).
She’s offering a painting of your child with the lion character from RENATO AND THE LION. Barbara will work with you to create the likeness of your child riding on the back of the stone lion.

Opening bid: $100
Auction ends: Wednesday, September 7, 2017 at 10pm EST.

If you’d like to bid on this auction, please visit the official web page for this item:

Please also visit the website of the 197 other auction items! Just click on their links to find details and to bid on the items.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Beyond Submission REJECTION by Diana Ting Delosh

Unfortunately, rejection is a part of an illustrator/writer's life. If you're creating and submitting your work, you're going to face it at some point. Even when you know it's professional and not personal, it may still sting. The only way around it, is to not submit ever. Chicken. As a veteran of the submission game, here are a few of my strategies to lessen the sting in random order.
Summer Raccoon Girl © Diana Ting Delosh
Ink & Watercolor.
1 - Submit. Yup, sounds counterintuitive but this actually works. It doesn't have to be the same project - just submit something, ASAP. Every one of your submissions represents hope. If you have a lot of submissions out it's more likely that something will come back accepted. Don't put all your dreams into one project submitted to only one company.

2 - Work on a new idea - even better fall in love with your new project. Keep your mind focused on something positive and moving forward.

3. Focus on the process not the result.  Right now I'm challenging myself to submit something 4 times/month. It can be an art sample pack, promo postcards, website url, a Picture book dummy /manuscript proposal, whatever. The question, "Who am I submitting to and what" keeps me moving and the checking off  - "Yay, I did it" helps give me a mental boost.  It also makes me realize that I need to create more things. A challenge to try is: Submit 10 different things to 10 different places in 10 weeks. The closest I've ever come to meeting this challenge is 5 different things submitted to 10 different places in 10 weeks.

4. There's safety in numbers.  Nowadays most publishers accept multiple submissions, as long as you let them know. Research whom you think is a good fit for your project and submit. I do it in small batches in the hopes I won't hear NO from everyone on the same day. Now that could be depressing.

5.  Accept it when they say it doesn't suit their needs or they have too many hibernation stories at the moment. It's them not your project. Move on. Someone else may love it.

6. Wallow. When all else fails OD on the chocolates and hide under the blankets just set a limit. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself and your project, even shed a few tears - you're human - just remember to get back on track, ASAP.

7. Learn from your mistakes. Take a cold hard look at your project. Is there room for improvement?  Revise, edit as needed and send it to others.

8. Work on your craft. One day, you may be pleasantly horrified by some of your earlier projects and relieved that they were rejected.

9. Diversify. Learn new things. Your writing may be selling at the moment but your illustration may not, but at least something is getting a positive response. This also allows you to submit to different markets, maybe even discover a new source of income.

10. Adapt. There may be nothing wrong with your project. It could be something you can't help like the economy or the market. Be willing to repurpose your art. So the picture book market is down maybe adapt the story for an early reader or chapter book Or try working on art for an older market or something entirely new.

11. Try Semantics, for some reason, "they passed on my project," sounds a lot kinder to me than "they rejected my project." I keep a submission log and I find PASSED looks a lot nicer on paper then REJECTED.

12.  Celebrate the different levels of rejection. Give yourself a pat on the back if you get a personal letter from the editor vs the standard form rejection... or nothing. It should also be noted that in this day and age where most companies only respond when interested, a rejection is a concrete response. Thankfully, when E-submitting, some companies have an auto-reply so at least you know they received it.

FYI: This is an updated version of a post I originally published 10/15/10 on my Art blog. Hey it's summer. Here's the original post, if you're curious:  The Hare Illustrat√®re: REJECTION! - A few Antidotes

Twitter: dtdelosh

For your picture book creative process
Check out: 
The BIG ThumbNailer

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Free LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL ebook August 30 - September 5 by Patricia Keeler

LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL is FREE as an ebook 

August 30, 2017 to September 5, 2017

It's the end of summer and Lizzie has to go back to school, so I decided to give as many summer Lizzie ebooks away as possible! Oh, snap.

Here's what's real. I've been looking for new ways to market LIZZIE AND LOU SEAL since there are so few independent bookstores promoting new books. I had heard about BookBub being a marketing service, so when I attended Book Expo America I sat in on BookBub's workshop. I was suspicious, as no business outside the publishing house markets your book for free . . .
As an author/illustrator, this is what (I think) I've learned. Readers of ebooks sign up with BookBub for free at BookBub has a group of authors. BookBub sends emails to their readers each week presenting selected ebooks from their authors which are free or really cheap.

How do you become a BookBub author? First, you have to apply to be listed as one of BookBub authors. That's free. It can be a self-published book. For picture books, I understand you need more than 20 good reviews on Amazon or Goodreads to be accepted. I suspect they check to see how many social media followers you have too, but I don't know that.

Here is the link:

I applied and was accepted. Author/illustrators then want to apply for a Featured Deal. A Featured Deal costs $80.00. The tricky bit is that your publishing house must agree to make your ebook free or really cheap on the week that BookBub offers you.
©pkeeler 2017
If your publishing house agrees, that week your ebook Featured Deal will be offered to everyone that has subscribed to Children's Books on BookBub. That includes subscribers in the United Kingdom, Canada, India and Australia. Your free/cheap ebook will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google and Kobo.

When I was at Book Expo America, I talked to Sky Pony's marketing manager and a representative from BookBub about getting a Featured Deal. Everybody seemed fine with the idea. I applied for a Featured Deal and was accepted. I paid my $80.00 to BookBub.

BookBub has millions of subscribers, but the children's category is still getting going. I'm not sure how many children's books readers or authors BookBub has. I know there are some great picture books on BookBub like Lisa Falkenstern's gorgeous book STEAMPUNK ABC!
©pkeeler 2017
From what I understand, BookBub Featured Deals increase hard cover sales. That may be because ebooks featured through BookBub deals give readers more exposure to an author/illustrator's work. It may be that readers like to see the entire book before they buy it in hardcover, like in bookstores. I've started downloading any free BookBub picture ebooks that look interesting just to browse through them.

I don't know how BookBub makes their money. Eighty dollars doesn't seem like much. Also, I don't know how to determine a BookBub Featured Deals impact on sales. I'm not even sure my Featured Deal will really happen. Here's hoping. . . 

Here's a YouTube desktop interview by Orna Ross from the Alliance of Independent Authors with Katie Donelan from BookBub.

Facebook:  PatriciaKeelerBooks
Twitter: @patriciakeeler
Instagram: @patriciakeeler

represented by Liza Royce Agency


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Curating your work, Part I, by Mike Ciccotello

So, you put together a beautiful illustration portfolio and attended a conference for children's literature. You had your work reviewed by art directors, and editors. Sure there are some tweaks to be made, but that’s no problem. It’s all part of the journey. Not only have you created a portfolio, but you've made promotional images regularly, participated in online challenges, and daily warmup sketches. Congratulations! Good for you. This is fantastic and you should be proud of the work you are doing. All of this is moving you forward.

Now, how do you present that to the world? Website? Social Media? 

Let's break this down in two parts. This post will focus on the website.

This past summer at the NJ SCBWI conference, I had the pleasure of attending, Building a Digital Portfolio, a workshop run by, Maria Middleton, art director, Random House. Her workshop spoke volumes with me. Curate our digital content. Treat your space like an art gallery. It’s not just about having a website, it’s about the whole experience. The examples she showed were clean, easily consumed, and simple to navigate. 

Shortly after the conference, I decided to revise the approach to my website and social media. If I want to work creating illustration for children’s literature, I should make sure that people know that. There was work to be done, but it was a lot of work. The only way it was going to happen was if I made the time to do it. I created a staged plan, starting with my website. 
Cleanup. Reorganize. Redesign.

Clean up your site. Don't hoard work that isn't relevant to what you want to do. 

Clean up.

The first thing I did was remove a whole bunch of old work from my site. There was too much. I was hoarding my old work. It had nothing to do with my children’s literature work… it had to go. This decision will be different for each person. I would recommend that if you choose to show the old, don’t let it out-weigh the new. 80% new and 20% old might be an easy way to think about it. Most importantly, just like a portfolio, only show your best work. Now I believe you have a little more lee way with a website, but still, it's an important note to keep in mind.

Come up with a simple way to organize your site.


Once I removed all the unnecessary imagery, I needed to reduce the number of sections on the site. I used to have multiple menu items. Now, there are three top level options: Art, Store, and About. This is directly from Ms. Middleton’s workshop. Keep your menu simple. You can reference my site to follow along -

This is how my menu breaks down
- Color – Current color portfolio work
- Black & White – Current black & white portfolio work
- Pen & Ink – Inktober and other fun
- Coffee Cup Doodles – Daydreams caught on a coffee cup
- Painting – Some of my older work
Store – Links to my online store
About – Contains my headshot, bio, and contact form
Finally, I developed a look. I went with a white background, placed imagery on paper/canvas with a slight drop shadow. I designed a simple logo that sits below the menu. The type treatment is reinforced on my business card and postcards. The image of me is in the favicon for the site and all of my social media. 

Each section contains a small gallery. The Color as well as the Black & White galleries are both designed on a similar paper and drop shadow. The Pen and Ink gallery uses a sheet of sketchbook paper. The painting gallery uses canvas and the coffee cup doodles are actual photographs of each cup. Eventually, I will phase out the Coffee Cup Doodles and the Painting section, and replace them with my 10 minute sketches, making my site completely children's literature focused. 

Why does all of this matter?

If someone happens upon your site, you want to put your best foot forward, right? The day I finished my site, I texted an author friend and asked her to take a look. She texted back saying she liked it and tweeted the link. Later that night, I got an email from my agent. She was contacted by an editor that came across my site (which I believe was connected to my author friend) and really liked my work. The editor bookmarked my site and hopes the right project will come along for me. I hope so too.

I realize our art needs to shine the most, and it should. But by following these simple steps, you can give your visitors a clear idea of what it is you do, where to find what, and how to get in touch.

Next time I’ll talk about social media and more specifically, Instagram. 

Represented by Rachel Orr
For more info contact 

Twitter: @ciccotello 
Instagram: @ciccotello