New York Trip

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 09:51:55 EST
From: Kjatt
Subject: Re: illustration: tips for NY trip

I did this last spring. It was an enormously frightening thing to do. And at the same time it was exhilerating. My biggest concern was that they would laugh me out of their offices after viewing my portfolio. Never happened of course.

I took two portfolios to NYC; one for presenting in person and one for those dropoff appointments. With the personal portfolio, I included original artwork and tear sheets from magazines, etc. I believe that I had no more than 15 of my best pieces. Enough to show my style and range without being overwhelming. For my dropoff porfolio, I included no original art but samples of printed pieces, color xerox's and color laser output (again only about 15 pieces). I also included a sample pack for then to remove and keep on file.

I got my dropoff back several different ways. One with a form "not interested" letter, one with a very nice letter from the AD saying she liked my stuff and was keeping it on file and one that was a form letter saying they liked my stuff but had nothing that would fit my style right now but were keeping my stuff on file.

At the in person showings, I was a nervous mess. I was so conscious of "how busy ADs are" that I rushed through my portfolio much too fast. In the first couple of appointments, the ADs were nice enough to let me know this and went back through one more time. By the time I had finished all my appointments, I felt I was warmed up and ready to do it all over again. Maybe this May when I go to New York again I'll find time . . .


Subject: Re: illustration: Meeting AD's personally

Well, for my two cents worth I'd chime in with a yes and a no.... make that a firm maybe.

Ideally, yes, one is at an advantage to meet an art director face to face. But it will by no means guarantee you success any more than the contents of your portfolio. It's just a way stronger impression. I'd advise doing the promotional mailings at all times... and then making up a careful list from any positive response you get from that, to carefully plan a visit.

After all, Virginia is a lot closer to New York than many other states.

I remember going around to nearly every publisher in New York, back when I lived in the NYC... and the results were inconsistent.

Usually I was disappointed with the "portfolio interview'.... sitting around like a shoe salesman... into the back office... flip, flip, flip... through the pages and then out the door. I think that for magazines it is a huge advantage to be 'in town'... because of the tight turnaround times.

I would say I received little in the way of suggestions from most of the the art directors. I received lots of polite flattering comments... sometimes the art director would have completely forgotten the appointment. Just because and art director has met you, doesn't mean they're ever going to call you on that ground alone.

As for the one single doubt they're right... I'm still searching for that one... John

Showing My Portfolio in NYC
by Phyllis Pollema-Cahill

This May I spent four days in New York City showing my portfolio to children's publishers. I started by sending written requests for appointments in January to twenty publishers who already had my samples on file. I wrote again in March and enclosed a sample of my work. Not all were prompt in responding, so in late April I started making calls. I was able to meet with nine publishers and drop my portfolio off at seven more.

I had several objectives in making the trip: to show them my newest samples, to meet them in person and hopefully come across as someone they'd like to work with, and to strengthen the possibility of them calling me with assignments. In addition to new samples, I brought a couple they'd already seen hoping they'd recognize them and make the connection that I'd been sending them my work for some time already.

Following are some points I found helpful:

Requesting Appointments
Start early and avoid the dates of national conferences by checking the trade journals. Have their catalog and be familiar with their line. See only those publishers who have expressed an interest in your work. It would be wasteful of their time (not to mention very disappointing to you) to invest the time, energy and money only to be told, "Your work isn't appropriate for our line".

With your written request for an appointment, enclose a sample illustration and a self-addressed stamped postcard for their response. Suggest a date and time. Don't schedule appointments any closer than 1 1/2 hours apart. I tried grouping appointments by location, but found it rarely works. Call to confirm appointments one to two weeks beforehand. Try calling early in the morning to get through to a person instead of voice mail. Also confirm that you have their correct address (including the floor), the cross streets and correct side of the street.

In Advance
Get a subway map and study it thoroughly. Walk or run and climb stairs to get in good physical shape. During my trip I walked about 5 miles a day, plus stairs, and it was exhausting. Get a good detailed map showing street numbers. Photocopy the section you need and mark the exact location of your appointments in a contrasting color. Type up your schedule with the contact name, title, address, directions and phone numbers. SCBWI has a NY Buddy program that is very helpful. They will send you a list of affordable hotels and restaurants plus the buddy you're assigned can give you advice and moral support.

Transportation in the City
The most difficult part is getting around the city. Traffic is awful and the sidewalks are congested. Buses and taxis are slow. The subway proved to be the fastest way to get around. It seemed safe during the day and fairly clean, but it takes time to figure out. Buy a metro card which can be used for the subway and buses - rides are $1.50 each. Consider bringing your spouse or a good friend. My husband helped me get from appointment to appointment and was very supportive. If you have a question, New Yorkers are very helpful.

What to Bring
Travel light. I use a small portfolio that holds twelve standard size color photocopies and my resume with a list of my published work. I labeled the photocopies with when and where they were published. I also carried a separate case with extra photocopies, printed books and tearsheets, a credit card, phone card, some cash, my schedule, city map and subway map. Bring a dummy book if you don't have printed books. A compass is very helpful to show you which direction to head when you step out of the subway stairwell. Don't forget an umbrella if rain is forecasted.

What to Wear
Absolutely, positively wear comfortable shoes with cushioned soles. After the first day I quickly resorted to black tennis shoes. Dress casually in layers. Wear clothes that don't show dirt that you might pick up from public transportation.

The Appointments
Allow 45 minutes of travel time between appointments. Find your appointment location at least 15 minutes early and sit in a cafe, drink something and relax. Don't expect to get in immediately. I waited up to 30 minutes and in two instances was stood up. Receptionists can tell you how to pronounce names properly. I thought I would be nervous, but wasn't. At that point, I'd done all I could to prepare and now it was time to enjoy meeting new people. Give the art director or editor your portfolio and let them page through it at their own pace. Offer them samples to keep that you've pre-labeled with your name, address and phone number. Ask if they know of anyone else who might be interested in your work.

Appointments generally last 15 minutes. I had a couple that were 30-45 minutes and consider those to have been the most promising. Many remembered my logo and illustrations I'd sent them. Take notes immediately afterwards to help you remember the person, what was said, questions asked and ideas about how you could follow up. Write them a thank you note as soon as you can.

Drop-off Portfolios
Some publishers only see portfolios on a drop-off basis. You usually drop them off at the front desk, mail room or messenger center before noon and pick them up after 2:00. I prepared 3 drop-off portfolios using cheap, plastic folders. In the front plastic window I placed a sheet with my name, address, phone number and a very brief note thanking them for reviewing my work and instructing them that the samples in the back pocket were for them to keep. I also included blank lines where I wrote in the name of the art director, when I would pick up the portfolio and left space for them to write comments. Bring an extra drop-off portfolio in case of loss or damage. In one case the art director was out sick. In other cases my portfolio was seen by an assistant rather than the person I had addressed it to. They will usually enclose a letter giving you feedback.

What was the end result of my visit? I'm waiting to find out. I've talked to illustrators who received contracts while in NY. I felt it was promising that two publishers talked with me about upcoming projects. It was a good experience to meet them in person. I hope that by making the trip it shows my determination and commitment. If I go again I will definitely allow more time between appointments, send my drop-off portfolios through the mail from home and spend my time in NY just for in-person appointments, and wear the most comfortable shoes possible.

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