Well isn’t this Agent CAT looking smug!? And what is with that title?
At the beginning of May, Christy and I attended the Springfield, MA NESCBWI Spring conference where we did MANY portfolio reviews and duel presented a ‘class’ on Portfolios…. what to pack, and what not! We had a marvelous time there, meeting new people and reconnecting with others from our past (mostly my past, but she’s fast catching up and ahead!!) One of these was an artist I had remembered from a review of his portfolio a couple of years ago. He nicely came up to say hello and reminded me of this (I did remember his work!) and then asked me if I remembered what I’d said to him. gulp. I see and meet with a LOT of artists, and say a LOT of things ….so, NO….I didn’t…. but I was sure he did remember… and would tell me.!
“You told me I didn’t need a Rep!” then silence. Gulp again. Now, this statement is not surprising, I’ve given many presentations over the years about agenting and how, when or IF you should try for an agent. When I meet to review an artist portfolio that I know isn’t right for OUR agency, but is ready for an agent, I will often state that and suggest they begin their search. (I don’t too often recommend agents because it is such a personal journey and match….only the artist with the agents can travel that journey.) So the statement wasn’t surprising, but somehow the tone was…. I wasn’t sure if he was happy, insulted, surprised, disappointed, etc. etc. I didn’t know how to respond as there were other people around and we didn’t have time to delve back into the meaning I might have given that statement a couple of years ago. BUT I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO FORGET THIS!
So I want to chat more on NOT NEEDING AN AGENT. This is a very giving, sharing industry. It is still possible, though difficult I know, to represent yourself as an artist. I do encourage a bit of that in the beginning so an artist becomes familiar with the industry standards, its wonderful people a bit, and the challenges repping yourself might bring. If then, an artist feels they want help, and are willing to pay a commission for this help (it varies widely folks…ask!!), and have a portfolio, on-line and physical, that is near perfect and ready to present, then begin your search! It’s wonderful to be part of an agency of artists! Ours is rather like a supportive family these days. Others are not so ‘hands on’ and that might be just the right mix for you! It can be harder to find an agent than a publisher at times. There aren’t a LOT of us, and we do fill up now and then. But being with an agent makes you less isolated with your art and ideally more connected in and with YOUR industry. It can help you keep on your career track as well.
I mentioned that I do remember this artists style and work. He is hard working and professional in his approach and I felt ready for an agent’s input and help I think….but he also seemed very connected, good at working a connection, involved and engaged. His was not a style we were looking to add to our agency, so I suspect what I’d meant by that statement was that HE could AGENT himself, if he wished, as he also looked for an agent. He was capable and almost ready. So he didn’t NEED an agent, even if he wanted one. I’m unclear still if he did want one, but that doesn’t matter. The point is, he, and other artists, don’t NEED (as in MUST HAVE) to have an agent. Self agenting can be very effective. Frankly, save a day a week for this task….change ‘hats’ on that day. PROMOTE! order postcards and send them out, do business, organize ‘office’, read contracts, check royalties, reach out to former contacts. It’s an eye opener, and very healthy to do this! I have written many articles about Agenting over the years…some are attached to this blog, and some I believe are still in the SCBWI THE BOOK in the artist information section. I hope you (and he) might try to find those and other articles about agenting….how it works and doesn’t. It IS helpful. But no, you do NOT ABSOLUTELY NEED TO HAVE AN AGENT. there…. I feel better!