INDUSTRY KNOWHOW Who's who in publishing? Part 2: Art

A publishing house can seem like a confusing mess of titles and roles that don't really mean anything to anyone. Words & Pictures Co-editor, Ellie Brough, sheds a little light on who's who in a publishing house and how they can help you get that book deal. Part two: Art.

For the author or illustrator trying to get past those big, imposing gates to the world of publishing, it can seem like an impossible task. Can you just walk straight up and knock? Who should you be talking to? Is there a chain of command you should be following? Or an elusive back door that you haven’t heard of? Surely there must be some trick to getting someone to unlock that gate?

One trick is knowing who is who, what they do and how they can help you. In this post I'll reveal who's who in the art department....

The Art Department

Creative Director: in a design team, this person oversees all of the creative activity on an imprint. This means that they have final say on illustrators commissioned and styles pursued, but they’re not necessarily the best person for you to approach… While Creative Directors will hunt for artwork and illustrators, they also rely on their team members to gather and present new potential. So anyone from design assistant to art director is worth approaching!

Art Director: This person oversees particular projects and works closely with illustrators to produce a book. Generally, they’ll work closely with a designer and illustrator and provide direction on style, content and layout. Art Directors have a huge say in artwork commissioned as well so they’re definitely good to keep on your radar!

Senior Designer / Designer: As with editors, the slight differences in titles here shouldn’t confuse you as essentially all designers do the same thing – they are the ones who lay out the text in a book and set a style and template. As an illustrator, the designer is going to be your main contact in a publishing house, they will collect feedback and report back to you and they will hold your hand all the way from pencils to print.

Design Assistant / Assistant Designer: a designer in training. The assistants help with the admin of the department, and help other designers manage their workloads. They will tackle those niggly little design problems, like making sure all text is aligned correctly or that all the pictures are on the correct layer. They also might manage their own titles, learning the tricks of the trade. All designers have done their stint as the assistant.

Design teams work closely together and above all love illustrators and art. They all have an opinion and different tastes and you can bet that if they like your work, they’ll be passionate about getting it in a book. So if you happen across a designer in the wild, here are some tips for getting noticed:

Tips for success:

Pack light Unless you’re at a portfolio review, no one will have time to look through your whole portfolio. Pass on a few postcards with clear contact details.

Prepare If you want to illustrate picture books, then illustrate a couple of spreads of a well-known story. You’ll show you can interpret a story, draw characters and handle a spread – everything a designer needs to know.

Be Brave Be ready to hear no. Designers know what they like and what they don’t and they can tell from a very brief glance. Accept that they’re not the designer for you and move on to find the person who will be passionate about your work.

Ellie Brough is a co-editor of Words & Pictures.
Twitter: @elliebrough

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