The first step is to establish whether the publisher accepts work from freelance artists and their requirements for an artist’s submission.
Before you send publishers examples of work, do your research and make sure that the artwork you send is suitable and applicable. It is better to send several examples of your work to show the breadth of your artistic skills; up to 10 or 15 designs is a good amount, preferably as jpegs or pdfs at a decent resolution. You should also provide links to your website and blog. Be sensible when sending work, don’t send lots of very large files in one go as email attachments.
Some publishers prefer to see finished designs while others are happy with well-presented sketches. The ability to work digitally is important, some publishers are reluctant to scan and implement non-digital designs. The publisher is usually looking for a distinctive style, creative thinking, market awareness and professionalism. If they like your style they may bear you in mind when commissioning new ranges.
A golden rule is to never send originals when sending submissions by post. Instead send photocopies, laser copies or photographs. It is a good idea to include at least one design in colour to aid visualisation for the publisher.
Remember that publishers work a long way in advance. Christmas ranges for example are launched to the retailers in January; Spring Seasons ranges (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter and Father’s Day) are generally launched in June/July. Development of a range may take up to six months prior to launching.
When Interest Is Shown
Some publishers respond to artists straight away while others prefer to deal with a pile of artists’ submissions on a monthly basis. Following up your submission with a phone call is natural; however do avoid badgering immediately after – remember that publishers receive numerous submissions and that this can be a long process. Do not be disheartened if you hear nothing for a few weeks.
When a publisher does contact you, it may be to request more submissions on a specific design style or of a specific character. This speculative development work is usually carried out free of charge.
A publisher interested in buying your artwork will then issue you with a contract. This may cover aspects such as: the terms of payment; rights of usage of the design (eg. is it just for greeting cards or will it include gift wrap, stationery?); territory of usage (most publishers these days will want worldwide rights), ownership of copyright or license period.
The Association of Illustrators is a membership organisation providing professional support and advice for illustrators. It publishes The Illustrator’s Guide to Law and Business Practice, a comprehensive guide which covers all aspects of the law likely to affect illustrators. It contains recommended terms and conditions, advice on calculating fees, how to write a licence agreement and more.