Friday, February 27, 2009

Tracking them down

Anyone who is anywhere on the radar of publishing right now knows that the industry is taking its lumps with the rest of the economy. This has been particularly frustrating for those of us who spend time marketing their artwork (or writing) to publishers. Editors and art directors have been moving around and being let go at an alarming rate. Trying to keep up with this so that I can send out my own postcard mailers has been quite the internet scavenger hunt. Last night I finally pieced enough together to revise my own contact list and get January's cards in the mail..... only a month behind.

If you are doing the same thing, here's a list of rocks I turned over to find out who has gone where:
I started at Harold Underdown's Purple Crayon website.
Then I moved to Children's Book Biz News. This is Anastasia Suen's very informative blog, you do have to search the archives a bit, but on it I found this nugget from Publisher's Weekley: Where They can Be Reached Now.
I couldn't forget CWIM editor Alice Pope's blog
and I scanned back through my weekly PW Children's Bookshelf e-mails and checked Galley Cat. Now I'm waiting anxiously for the SCBWI Newsletter to see what the Publisher's corner says. I bet they could do a whole special edition of Publisher's Corner this time.

I also did a fair amount of Googling people's names just to see what I could come up with, and managed to find a few folks that way. As a parallel story to this I have been looking into buying a mailing list as just another place to get some contact names. Never let it be said that at any point in my career have I not done due dilegence in researching a potential market or marketing tool. So my research into lists led me to this conclusion: Not very many illustrators have bought mailing lists, but a whole bunch of 'em are interested in it. Just about everyone I talked to too who hadn't bought a list asked me to share what I found out. Well I'm still in the process of getting some list answers but when I do I will post it here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taxes Schmaxes

This week I've been working on getting my/our tax info together. Its really all my info. Jim Dear's is a lovely simple W4 that comes all nice and neat, all the boxes filled in by somebody else. Mine is a manilla folder full of receipts and bill stubs that has to be sorted through, added up and recorded. And I don't even do the actual filing. Oh no, we have an accountant who's job it is to remind me of any deductions we may have missed. FYI for any other freelancers out there, especially those with kids - I've been delighted to learn that you can deduct all of your out-of-pocket medical payments. If you have kids in any kind of daycare you know those co-payments can really add up.

Sometimes seeing all these end of the year totals can be a bit mind boggling. For example, in 2008 I spent $671 on mailing costs! Good grief that's a lotta postcards. I do hope they all find their way into the hearts of an art director out there. Of course the one that always gets me is how much we spend on health insurance. Our total premium payments were over six grand, with my puny self-employed health insurance being about half that. The reason I say puny is that my deductible on that plan is the same as the amount I pay in premiums. Yet we keep this insurance around just in case Jim Dear finds himself in the unemployment line (and we are without the cushy state sponsored insurance that his job provides.) Crazy as it is, if I had to go out and buy my same insurance now it would be twice as much. Don't get me started on a policy rant but something has got to give in this country when it comes to health insurance costs. How many people are not following their dreams of entrepreneurship because huge insurance premiums for crappy private policies make them fear for the ability to take care of their families?

Most of us artists don't like thinking about our businesses as a business... we just want to paint. But every year as tax time rolls around it comes with a reminder that if we are not making money doing this, it's not a business, it's a hobby. So while I'm sitting here sorting through scraps of receipts and scribbled notes in my checkbook, I'll be thankful that while 2008 was not a financially fabulous year for the Fabulous Illustrator I do still have a business, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'll leave you with a list of some of the things you can remember to deduct in case you are looking for a way to bring down Uncle Sam's share:
• mileage (just remember you have to also have a count of total miles driven)
• local and state taxes (don't forget to deduct any sales tax or business license fees)
• homeowners or renters insurance (if it insures where you do your business you can deduct a portion of it)
• medical expenses
• day care expenses (unfortunately only a portion of this as well)
• membership fees for professional organizations (see another good reason to join SCBWI, and don't forget those conference fees)
(disclaimer: I'm an artist not an IRS agent, so be sure and check these with your own accountant. If you get audited its probably not a good idea to tell them you filed your taxes based on what you read on a blog.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Small Fry's first REAL drawing

I'm so excited, today after lunch Small Fry did his first "real" drawing! By real I mean he actually was trying to draw an object instead of just making lines on paper. Usually when i ask him what his drawings are he says "they're just drawings." But today he said "its a person!" And here it is...

He pointed out to me where the head and the hair was and the tummy and the toes were. I realize I'm biased but this is not bad for a 3 year old

I convinced him to let me scan this in before nap time. I think he was happy to avoid nap for a few more minutes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Illustration Friday - Time

Story Time Passing

read to me mommy

When I think of "time" the first thought that jumps into my head is of time passing. Watching my kids I'm excruciatingly aware of this: I always think "they won't do that forever." It doesn't help that time can pass in the blink of an eye - one day you have a newborn the next day he's starting kindergarten - as my pediatrician recently told me "the nights are long, the years are short."

Here a boy asks his mom to read to him, but she sees that in the time it takes him to crawl into her lap he has already grown into a teenager.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Back at the drawing table and the Making of a Monkey Man

Well this week I'm supposed to be back at work. I've mostly been catching up on reading blogs, reading my daily digests from my Mid-South chapter of SCBWI, and making a to-do list. Two things on this to-do list are: 1) finish redesigning website and 2) work on Baby Sprout's name picture. On the first I had started on a new site design before baby was born, its been on hold except when I could work in bits and pieces between feedings. But now I'm almost done so stay tuned for an announcement of the new site in the next couple of weeks. I'm working on a "Books" page with covers of the books I've done and I've gotta work on some kinks with my hosting folks but then it really REALLY should be up by March. On the second to-do item: when Small Fry was born I had this inspiration to do an illustration of his name, not like illustrated letters but how I thought his name might be interpreted artistically. It helped that Small Fry's middle name was after a dear family friend we lost just before he was born and I was feeling very emotional about that and wanted to memorialize him in some way. His image turned out to be a more literal: with an image of a baby, an animal for what is first name meant and an animal for our lost friend.

So when Sprout was on the way, of course I knew I would have to do an illustration for her. Sprout is not named after anyone, hers is a "concept" name, meaning we just liked the concept of the name - what it means and where it is derived from. This turned out to be a bit harder to illustrate, than Small Fry's more literal interpretation. For the record here are both the Fry's illo and Sprout's sketch. Unfortunately I can't explain what these mean without revealing their true identities but if anyone wants to take a stab at what their real names are be my guest. FYI to those of you who know their real names keep your fingers off the keyboard.

This is Small Fry's:

This is Sprout's:

Both the kids have real Southern themes to their names, see if you can spot the Southern stuff in these. If anyone gets reeeeaaally curious about what they mean, e-mail me and I'll explain.

While I was not working a lot of stuff happened in the kid's book world including the announcement of this years Caldecott winner, The House in the Night illustrated by Beth Krommes. I was impressed that she works in scratchboard. I feel like this is a medium you almost never see. SCBWI held its mid-year conference in NY. Read the official blog here. And finally here's a really funny video shown by Jarrett Krosocka about life in the picture book bidness. I especially love the dream sequence at the beginning:

BOOK BY BOOK: the making of a monkey man from Jarrett Krosoczka on Vimeo.