by Catherine Lee
Edited by L. Fernandez
Christina Tugeau is an artist’s agent. She founded the Christina A. Tugeau Agency LLC in 1994.
Here’s a happy terrific woman that loves her agency adorned with a full set of wonderful artists. Perhaps we can all get inspired to love the job that we do. I hope you love the read.
1. Start Agency
I had been working for 3 ½ years with another agent in the industry, and when it became time for me to leave, I decided to start my own agency. I’d fallen in love with picture books and the people who make them! That was in March 1994. The first year I hustled a lot… but by end of the year I was making money and truly a rep! That’s when the ‘shaking nerves’ started for a time! I’d DONE it!
2. First Artist
Stacey Schuett was one of my first artists in the group…. She had done a bunch of books, and I just happened to catch her when she felt she could no longer rep herself well. My first blessing! I think the world of her as a person and an artist still! Over 18 years!! There are several still with me who came on early, but change is inevitable and not a bad thing for an artist or an agency at times.
3. ARTIST Qualities
There are several… but I have to NOTICE their style, and know it’s THEIRS! Whatever the style, it needs to be professional…comfortable and sure. The right sort of samples helps that of course. And then I have to believe they will be a team player…a pleasure to work with for me and my clients. Life is too short….
4. Man’s World?
I was not scared of a “man’s world” at all. I worked with a woman agent before I left to start my own, and many of the editors and AD’s are women. The men are lovely to work with as well…I never felt any problem with my being a woman, or a bit older for the industry start up maybe, or NOT living in NYC. People were welcoming and open and helpful. Still are!
I launched the agency with a mailing announcement and 10 artists, TONS of cold calls (we didn’t have the email and such then) and visits to meet people in NYC and elsewhere…still do that. Relationships and face to face is invaluable.
I mentioned I started March of 1994 and it was sudden. An overnight decision to DO IT! I had save a few thousand dollars in case I decided to do this, but it was financially a brave thing to do. I was paying for one of my sons college education at Syracuse (my artist JEREMY!) at the time, and my husband had to pick up that last year’s slack! He did and that made it possible.
It’s been over 18 years now, and it’s ebbed and flowed. My very best years were 98-2000 (UNREAL!) and then things started slowing a bit. Of course in ’08 when EVERY biz crashed, we did notice a big slow down which is troublesome as it’s not a lot better yet! But I’ve been supporting us as my husband has been developing a new on-line biz, so it’s still ok. I want MORE WORK for my artists, but reps can’t MAKE WORK, only try to find it. The slowing of the educational market to a crawl has hurt a lot as it was about 50% of my biz, more of some reps. Thank god for my true love – trade picture books.
I won’t answer that question, but can tell you some of the most ‘popular’ at this time with clients! And that changes with the years and what they think will sell.
Patrice Barton, Priscilla Burris, Nicole Tadgell, Stacey Schuett still (!), Martha Aviles, Heather Maione and my son Jeremy Tugeau.
I do work in an small pleasant, efficient office at home…always have, but for last 8 years it’s been in Wmsbrg VA instead of NY border of CT. It’s a wonderful commute! But I have to be, and am, very disciplined. Having your own biz is a 24/7 deal though….I can take off to play golf, or help out in one of my grandson’s K class, do the laundry, or take a biz trip and extend it to pleasure too, But then I have to still get everything else done! Each day is different…. I get over 100 emails every day so that is the first thing and a consistent. I answer everyone. Especially if it’s an artist looking for representation. Just a note, maybe a hint or two, but I owe the industry and the artists this attention! Many jobs come in by email now…or requests, so that IS my morning and my all day off and on.
8. Most exciting:
I still just love the industry! Probably the most ‘kick’ I get is when newly printed PICTUREBOOKS arrive from a publisher! To see the result of so many months/years of back and forth…it’s like Christmas! You’d think I illustrated them! I don’t find any of it dull or boring (oh yes…keeping my Quickbooks up to date…have an acct. to help me do that too) I even enjoy invoicing and contract viewing etc. I don’t like ‘fires’ or discord which is why I try to be firm but easy to work with. It doesn’t help my artists if the buyers don’t like working with me!
9. SCBWI talent
I have found many of my artists at SCBWI events YES! I know they will be professional and knowledgeable! It’s always a wonderful surprise to find someone who I must have! I present at a couple of events a year just for the pleasure of the ‘maybe.’ …and I love to teach and help artists ‘get there.’ I write a blog and articles for SCBWI newsletters (mid Atlantic and NYC metro) as well…and just updated the SCBWI ARTIST GUIDELINES….out with their Aug. conference in LA.
10. HOW to get a REP
It can be as hard to get a rep as a publisher. There aren’t a lot of us, and several have recently retired. (trying times?) And it’s so subjective a match. I tell artists to contact us with samples in jpg and a link to website for more. NO need to MAIL samples unless we ask. EASIER that way today. We’ll often know in an instant if it’s a possible match or not….as do buyers. And it might not be a fit THIS year, but maybe with some more work, next year it might be. Market changes…our needs change. There are lists of agents/reps with SCBWI and other sources. STUDY them and their groups, talk about them to other artists, and clients. Find a match for YOUR type and needs… and go for it. Don’t give up…listen and learn!
11. What want:
I always want quality of drawing, color, composition, character, conception, and unique look. HUMOR is always big, and hard to find! I’ve got 33 artists now and I won’t take more then 35 (40 made my head spin on my shoulders!) But I make changes now and then as the year flows. (for reaching me, see above….)
I DO rep writers too…but artists/writers. We hook with the art, but I’ve sold many books written by artists and their partners. LOVE THAT! I try to have dummies to show EVERY time I go to NYC. Editors want to see them, and I see editors more than AD’s I think! I was a lit minor (art major) in college, and I’ve read a TON of kids books but I’m NOT an editor. I admire what Lit agents do!
Would I change industries?
NO! this was a perfect match. And it came from something tragic in my personal life. When in late 30s I became very sick with Asthma, brought on by the oil paint and turp I used in my fine arts painting. I was just beginning to win local shows and get some interest in galleries. I was told that ENDED NOW. I went through some hard rediscovery for a few years, trying various ways to stay with the arts, but not use the materials I loved so, but when I started working for this other rep in 1990 I found my calling. I’ve felt especially grateful ever since. Something to keep in mind…. Be willing and able to alter paths in life!
13. Artist Tip
“LET THE ART DO THE TALKING!” “Can’t get hired if they don’t SEE you!” and “ Good drawing, Good color, Good composition!”
No b/w photo! Attached a color. Also the AFTER BEA BLAST I sent out this week with books we’ve done this spring and some from FALL…showed at BEA. I added a recent one from Jeremy, my son too which is a book he’s working on and it’s his son George as model! Also my new Dir. Of IL. Add for this fall…. Several artists there. enough?
I am married 43 years! To my first love and best friend Bill…HS sweethearts, but went to separate colleges and ‘expanded’…then got married Winter after my graduation. Three grown children and 6 ½ wonderful grandkid later! My son Jeremy is one of my artists, and his wife Nicole runs the agency www.Tugeau2.com
check them out!! Wonderful. We’ve two ‘stray’ cats….Gorgeous tux male adopted us in 2001 and a starving female yellow tabby (rare!) 3 summers ago. Both fabulous personalities and friends! I have no favorite color…I love all color in its place…but YELLOW always makes me smile! Coffee ice-cream and Gray Goose martinis do the same! (not together!) I’m now 65 years old and a very happy, lucky, blessed person. Thank you for YOUR interest!
The Management would like to thank Christina Tugeau for granting this interview. For more about Christina: www.catugeau.com and https://catugeau.wordpress.com