Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Card Designs

I have been designing cards (Christmas and birthday presents) over the past month and now that they have all been opened and properly ooed and awed at I can now share them with you.

The first set contains some of my favorite scenes from CSU-Channel Islands.

Next are some of my favorite scenes from around University Glen.

The following are fountains from around CI, U-Glen and San Diego.

And just in time for Christmas 2011 here are two sets of Christmas Cards.

All five sets as well as the individual cards found in all the sets above are available for purchase at http://curtistaylor.biz/zencart/ .

In the next few days all the images used in these new cards will be available as prints (8.25” x 8.25” image size) and as downloads.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Licensing Agents

It has been a busy month! I have been to an illustrators meeting, updated the SoCal region of SCBWI website umpteen times, and updated my website. Instead of writing or drawing any new stories I have been busy writing and illustrating my family’s holiday card designing and producing 20 new greeting cards (available in January) and my blog quietly reached 1400 hits. Last but not least I queried no less than 25 licensing agents.

Licensing agents sell the temporary rights of use to your artwork. The companies that purchase the rights can then use the artwork on t-shirts, napkins, greeting cards, etc. The artist is then paid a royalty minus a commission for the agent. I found a list of agents here:


That list contains quite a diverse collection of agencies and you will find agents who are looking for anything from cute and cuddly to nature photography. You are sure to find your niche and the good news is that it doesn’t take more than a minute or two before you know if your artwork will fit “what they are looking for”. Most of the firms on that list have online submission forms which make the query or submission process very easy. A quick Google search and you can find the agent’s website and their submission guidelines are usually easy to find. Generally all they want is contact information and a website.

Happy Hunting . . . Holidays.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

They Draw and Cook

Back on November 28th, I talked about a few things I was doing to get my name out there, AKA marketing. Well, the results are back in for two of those efforts. And while I would have preferred different outcomes (being picked for the book or a finalist for The Food Network contest) I am thankful for the exposure these contests provided. Below you can see my Russian Tea Cake recipe but I encourage you to visit They Draw and Cook and look through their recipe collection. There are some really yummy concoctions ranging from drinks to dips to candy crunchy things.

You can see my Spam Musubi recipe here. It will be posted on They Draw and Cook sometime in January and I will let you know when that happens.

Thanks again to They Draw and Cook for giving artists this opportunity to reach such a big audience.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Card Design

Last week I talked about getting my name out there and I Talked about a holiday card design that I submitted to Kate Harper’s blog. Well the submissions are up and you can view all the great card designs at http://kateharperblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/editor-picks-christmas-cards-with-new.html. You will see my penguin card about 25 cards down the page. That holiday card and others can be ordered from my store.

While I was resting a bit from a week of “marketing” a rejection or two I decided to get knee deep in my family's Holiday letter.  Lately I have been in charge of illustrating the Taylor Holiday letter.  This year my theme is nesting dolls and here is a sneak peak at ME as a nesting doll.
Can you guess what I have been interested in over the last year? BTW that will be my new profile (the face anyway) probably until the next holiday letter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


The recipe I submitted to They Draw and Cook wasn’t picked for their compilation cook book. I am rolling with the punches today and trying to remember there must be a silver lining here somewhere.

One could say “Hey you had fun designing that recipe.” I did.

Or “You had your 30 seconds in front of an art director for a publishing company.” I did, give or take 5 seconds.

Maybe even “When the recipe is posted in January it will get viewed by a much larger audience than I can reach now” Most certainly.

I would probably sigh and nod and say something like “Yea, your right. Also, I have a holiday recipe that will be posted sometime this month that was fun to design and it will have 30 seconds in front of an art director and it will be viewed by a much larger audience. But I think the best part of this rejection is that I get to share the recipe with you today.”

No go out and enjoy a Hawaiian treat. It really is good!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Updating my Portfolio

I spent a few hours today updating my portfolio for an upcoming illustrators meeting and I realized I didn’t have any of the updated Pet My Dragon? illustrations in there. So I carefully picked out a few of the pages that I thought would give a prospective agent/editor/app buyer the flavor of the story. It was quite nice to look back at those illustrations and smile instead of obsess that I shoulda done something else. I guess I AM done with those images.
In the coming weeks I will be updating my print and digital portfolio and I will share those images with you when I do.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting My Name Out There (aka marketing?)

Lately I have been taking advantage of any contest or blog promotion that will get my name and illustrations in front of new people. Here is a short list of what I have been doing in the last two months.

1. In October, I entered my first blog contest that was hosted by They Draw and Cook. I found out about the contest just a week before the contest ended and I didn’t look at the specifics until there were only two days left. Finalists from this contest will be published in a compilation by Weldon Owen Publishing. I just got word that they will be announcing the finalists this week and either way (win or not) I will post my recipe Spam Musubi here for all to see and maybe try. You can see a sample illustrations below.

2. Yesterday, I entered my second contest hosted by They Draw and Cook which is themed around the holidays. I did a comic book version of Russian Tea Cakes. (Title illustration below) This one is particularly exciting because it is again going to be viewed by art directors from Weldon Owen Publishing and The Food Network. Not only will the recipe be shared on The Draw and Cook but each day one lucky recipe will be posted on The Food Network’s The FN Dish with cross links back to the artist’s website.

3. Also yesterday, I also submitted a holiday card design to Kate Harper’s Blog. Kate Harper is a greeting card designer and maintains a blog for card designers, artists and writers. Her blog has a couple of thousand visitors a day and she will post a few submissions each day for all the visitors to see. You can see my submission (penguin with ice cubes) and some of my other card designs @ http://curtistaylor.biz/zencart/

These kinds of “marketing” opportunities are out there but you just have to dig a little to find them. I am taking each opportunity very seriously because I know I am not going to find the right person at the right time if I don’t keep trying.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Appdate 2

I know the app puns are probably getting a little old but I couldn’t resist. I had a short conversation with my app builder yesterday and he told me that things are progressing nicely. The static pages are almost finished and when they are he will start adding the animation pages, vibrations and sounds.

The app will have a “Read to Me” option where the text on each page is read aloud. While I really enjoy the sultry sound of MY voice it doesn’t sound so great recorded. What’s better than an adult reading a story? A child reading the story, of course. So I had the brilliant idea of recording my children as they read the story. Pro’s: They are mine so I don’t have to worry about consent forms and they work cheap. Con’s: I don’t want to pay for studio space and I don’t have the equipment for professional sounding audio. Both of which are very big concerns as I don’t want this app to sound amateur in anyway.

I tried to set up a makeshift audio studio in a coat closet. I figured it had lots of echo reducing clutter that would produce good quality audio. It might have worked except the combination of the Windows’ Sound Recorder on my laptop and the Guitar Hero microphone from the Wii underperformed spectacularly. So I had to figure out another route. I needed to find an option that would be less expensive than renting a studio.

I started researching microphones and came across one by Blue Microphones called the Snowball that sounded like it was designed for my project. It was designed for podcasters who need a cardioid and/or an omnidirectional microphone and want professional quality audio. I do love this microphone. It has special settings on the microphone to turn off the extra microphones inside the receiver which cuts out almost all of the background noise except the desired audio. Very easy to use!

The next step was finding a good audio program that was cheap or free. I tried a couple of programs that said they were free but in fact they were scaled down versions and wouldn’t record MP3’s unless you bought the upgraded version. Then I came across Audacity. This is an open source program that has a complete set of audio utilities and it is free, though a donation can be made to the creators. The only drawback to this program is that it downloads incomplete and you have to do additional downloads if you want to save your audio as MP3’s. The good news is that the directions for downloading these updates are straight forward and the installation is a breeze. Also, this program is very easy to use. Probably the best part of all of this was that I didn’t have to rent any kind of studio. In fact, I had just purchased the microphone and while my son and I were waiting for my daughter to get out of school decided it would give the microphone a test run. I sat in the driver seat, positioned the microphone on the armrest, and my son sat directly in front of the microphone in the back seat. The audio was so good that I decided to record all of his speaking parts while we waited. It was a fairly quiet parking lot so there wasn’t a lot of external noise to contend with and my car has wonderful acoustics. Thank you Honda!

Enjoy these audio sneak peeks:

Do you wat to pet my dragon?

Love this dragon wagon!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Agents and Editors and Publishers (Oh My!) Directories

Searching the interweb last night I cam across this directory or directories on Gally Cat http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/directory-of-galleycat-directories-2_b12782 

Lately, I have been finding lots of agent contact info online especially through Facebook and Twitter.  Sometimes you have to dig a little but usually you can get to their agency and find their submission guidelines without jumping through many hoops. The best part is that it is free!

I am starting to find more and more directories of agents, publishers and such online that I am starting to wonder if I will need to buy the 2012 Illustrators Market. After all, I can find just as many agents and publishers to reject my work this way and it doesn't cost me a thing:-)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Graphic Novels v. Comic Books

Is it a graphic novel or comic book? Is there a difference? I found this explanation at Wise Geek:

There are several standout differences between graphic novels and comic books. Typically, you could observe that the standard comic book is usually thin, with a paper cover, and it continues, begins or concludes a story that has been addressed in other comic books. Both the graphic novel and the comic book tell their story primarily with pictures and some words, but graphic novels tend to cover one story only in its entirety (though there may be sequels).

So with that tidbit in mind I guess I am introducing my new COMIC BOOK project: Bus Stop Adventures. I am planning on this becoming a three story series (maybe more) based on the imaginative adventures of my son as we walked home from the bus stop. A walk that should take a few minutes that was almost always drawn out to a half hour because any object (a stick, string, a piece of bark, etc.) would engage his overactive imagination.

The “official” pitch: 
Bus Stop Adventures is intended as an early reader comic book series for boys. Each edition of Bus Stop Adventures follows an imaginative young boy home from the bus stop and each adventure focuses on a discarded object he finds along the way.

The Whip is the first issue of Bus Stop Adventures and focuses on a piece of discarded twine. After discovering the twine which becomes a whip, the boy creates an imaginary adventure that takes him deep into a jungle in search of a missing idol. His guide, a disguised archeologist, tries to sabotage the boy’s efforts to claim the idol for himself. The guide’s efforts never work out the way they were planned and eventually they backfire on him. As you might guess, the boy retrieves the idol and is able to deliver it to the museum.

Enjoy this preview!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

App, app and away!

II am going to make this short and sweet today since I have been up since 3am but I wanted to introduce my app to you right away. My first contract, my illustrations and story put together with a really cool app interface is more than my brain can handle and still rest properly. At some point this week I will crash and probably pretty hard but for now I am riding the high as long as I can.

Synopsis: Pet My Dragon? is a story about a preschool aged girl who takes her dragon for a walk in the park. She cheerfully asks the other children she meets if they would like to pet her dragon. The sharp teeth, fiery breath and the long spiky tale are just a few of the reasons they all decline the girl’s invitation. One child looks past all the “dangers” and notices the dragon’s soft belly. All of a sudden the dragon doesn’t seem so dangerous.

The app will be available in the iTunes app store around February and will cost $1.99.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My iPad/Phone project

When I started this project (turning one of my stories into an iPhone app book) there were only 19 illustrations including the front and back covers. When I finished up yesterday that number had grown to 79! How did that happen? Originally “Pet My Dragon?” was intended as a picture book with the 19 illustrations spread out over 32 pages so without any additional illustrations it would have been presented like a slideshow. I didn’t think that original format would have been all that entertaining on an iPad. Besides, I wanted to take advantage of as many iPad features as I could so this book didn’t become just another “slideshow” but a true multimedia experience. Really, what is the point in turning it into an app anyway if you don’t take advantage of those features?

So I got to work reformatting the illustrations for “Pet My Dragon”. The display dimensions for the iPad are 1024x768 pixels. The original illustrations were nearly twice that length so each spread had to be clipped considerably. Sometimes the spread just needed to be split into two different pages. This wasn’t too difficult since all my illustrations are done in Adobe Illustrator but it was time consuming. The next step was planning the animation for each page. I was able to do a lot of cutting and pasting here so I didn’t have to totally redraw every new illustration. I used a stop animation style of animation to embrace the simplicity of the illustrations and enhance the inner child of the story. So each page turned into 3 or 4 pages with small variations on each page to show motion as if it were in a flipbook.

The whole process took about a week to finish. I know that isn’t necessarily a long time and I know that it could have been a lot worse. Anyway, I am glad that the major reformatting is done. I am sure that there will be little things here and there that will need my attention but I am looking forward to working on other projects that are begging for attention.

When I wasn’t reformatting Pet My Dragon? I was reading a lot of iPad books/graphic novels. When you get a chance you should check out these titles: Ghost Boy, Twisted 1, Robot 13, AR01, CrappyCat and Jellaby. You can find all of them except Jellaby in the app store and most of them are free.

Sunday, October 17, 2010



My hit counter just went over 1000 today. A big little milestone to be sure especially when you look at the hundreds of thousands of hits some blogs get. But ya gotta start somewhere. I have a lot of fun checking the stats for this page from time to time. You can find out what platforms are being used to view your blog. You can see what country the hits come from. Or if I really want to put myself to sleep I'll watch the "right now" hit counter, well, not move.

However, I wanna know more about the people from China and Russia who are visiting my blog. I'm not getting enough hits from them to make me think they are trying to steal any of my secrets. Heck, I don't have any secrets here anyway but it is interesting that there are enough hits there to qualify them as "following" or maybe better yet "stalking".

Anyway if you haven't viewed your stats (found in your dashboard) you should go and take a look. It really does make the world seem a lot smaller.

Monday, October 11, 2010

They Draw and Cook

Last week I submitted a recipe for Spam Musubi at They Draw and Cook. They were collecting illustrated recipes on their blog from artists with the hopes of publishing them published. There were around 40 recipes posted the first time I visited the blog so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get one of my illustrations published. After all with 40 entries the chances were pretty good that I would make the cut. Artists could illustrate the ingredients or procedures or maybe even illustrate both. The artist really only had one rule to follow, the illustration had to meet a specific size format and be mindful of the gutter (the area where the pages are bound together). Each recipe that was submitted before the deadline was going to be posted on their website and I had hoped to post a link to my recipe in this blog entry but as of this morning it still hadn’t been posted. For good reasons though, in the three days leading up to the deadline they received nearly 150 entries.

The submissions for the “recipe book” will be picked in the next few weeks and when they announce the recipes that made the cut I will let you know. Obviously, I am hoping that my recipe makes the cut but if it doesn’t I will post it here. In the mean time check out the recipes that have been posted. There are some tasty recipes there not to mention some great illustrations.

Correction: If I had looked closer I would have seen the "older posts" link at the bottom of the page.  There were well over 100 recipes the first time I look at the page.

Addendum: I received this e-mail yesterday
Hi - Just a quick note to let you know that we have received your recipe artwork (SPAM should pay you!) and will email you again on the day we post it to the blog. IF your recipe is selected to be printed in the book (!?!?), you'll probably know by the end of October (stay tuned to the blog for updates on that!).

Thanks so much for taking the time to illustrate a recipe and to share it with us and the world - this blog is full of super fun and amazing art and it's all because of people like you.

Thanks again,

Nate and Salli

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Let’s Get This App Party Started!

Yesterday I had a really great conversation with a small (so small there isn’t a proper name for it yet) app book maker in Boston. I will be reformatting my book of my called “Do You Want To Pet My Dragon?” to fit the iPad and iPhone formats. The finished app book will have options that will allow the child/parent read the book and an option to have the story read to the child. It will also have sounds, hidden buttons (little surprise motions or sounds) and a small amount of animation. I will be spending the next week or two reformatting the pictures and the book could be ready for downloading in as little as two months! So this gives you time to go out and get an iPhone or iPad just so you can support me:-)

As you may know I have been researching the electronic book market for a few months and I am really excited to get the opportunity to do this. I will blog about the process of reformatting pictures and other e-format issues in the next few days. In the mean time you should download these books (some of my favorites) from the App Store: Ghostboy, Robot 13, Crappy Cat and Atomic Robo . These books will give you a good idea of what is possible.

So, that’s all for today because I have to get to work.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My first cross post

A small but possibly significant milestone.  This blog got its first mention from an outside (non-family) blog. 


Google alerts brought it to my attention, thanks Google. Looking for many more mentions in the future.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Illustrator Crit Groups

I just got back from my first illustrator group meeting today with a recharged battery and I am already looking forward to the next meeting. It was a small gathering with two established illustrators: Siri Weber Feeney and hosted by Carol Heyer and two other “pre-published-but-not-for-long” illustrators Linda Silverstri and Christy Botkin Reeves. Lots of great art! We spent a few hours looking at everyone’s portfolio, talking about contracts, agents and different illustration markets. Take a look at these websites and “Oooo and Ahhhh” at their art or better yet purchase something if it’s available to support them.

Speaking of different illustration markets I have begun looking in different markets (other than picture books) as well. I will still be seeking publishers for my books but I am also starting to look for ANYBODY who will buy my images. I spent the last two weeks researching and sending out submission to all kinds of greeting card companies. I am hopeful that I can find a company that will enjoy my illustrations as much as I do and want to print them on cards AND pay me. I recently updated my website so you can see my new greeting card designs that will be available in my store soon and will remain there until they are picked up by a national company.

I have also been following up on some leads in electronic books. I am particularly excited electronic books because I think the expansion of this market is only going to get bigger and it involves two things I love to do. 1. be a tech geek and B. Illustrate. If you have an iTunes account search the app store for graphic novels or books and take a look at some of the free examples to see what I am talking about. There are some great examples of picture books and graphic novels available right now and it will only get better. One of the most exciting aspects about this market is that there is almost no format to follow and an electronic book will only be limited by imagination.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Favorite Picture Books

It’s been a couple weeks since my last entry. It is amazing how the time flies. The last few weeks of summer vacation (my kid’s not mine) have been pretty crazy and I have been chomping at the bit to get back to business and back to a work routine. At any rate I am glad to be back with a list of blog topics.

Last week I went to a regional meeting for SCBWI. We were supposed to pick our favorite children’s book and bring it to the meeting. I found it very hard to pick just one and in fact I picked 8 and that was after only one of my boxes-o-books. I still have two large crates to go through. This is what I brought:

Where the Wild Things Are, Maruice Sendak
One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor Pinczes/ill. Bonnie MacKain
Big Black Bear, Wong Herbert Yee
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Mo Willems
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, Patty Lovel/ill. David Catrow
My Friend Rabbit, Eric Rohmann
Counting Crocodiles, Judy Sierra/ill. Will Hillenbrand
Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems

That list got me thinking about the other books that didn’t make it on the list just because they were in the other two crates. It took a while (I should have been doing other things I am sure) but I pulled my other favorites out and started my first official Favorites List. Remember that this is purely subjective and some of the books listed represent a significant period in my life and that is why they belong on MY list. If you disagree with any of MY picks then do so quietly. If you agree with my picks then by all means shout it out from the top of the nearest hill or facebook. My lists aren’t static and will be changing, especially if any of my books get published. I will mention any additions here so you can stay on top of any changes to this very important list. I will start with the books listed and categorize them as I see fit, it is my blog after all!

Picture Books: (in no specific order)
Where the Wild Things Are, Maruice Sendak
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Mo Willems
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, Patty Lovel/ill. David Catrow
My Friend Rabbit, Eric Rohmann
Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems
No David, David Shannon
Buz, Richard Egielski
The Spider and the Fly, Tony DiTerlizzi
The Greedy Python, Richard Buckley/ill. Eric Carle
Piggie Pie!, Margie Palatini/ill. Woward Fine
Wet Dog !, Elise Broac/ill. David Catrow
I Wanna Iguana, Karen Kaufman Orloff/ill. David Catrow
Officer Buckle and Gloria, Peggy Rathmann
Max’s Dragon Shirt, Rosemary Wells
Hey, Al, Arthur Yorinks/ill. Richard Egielski
Parts, Ted Arnold
That’s Good! That’s Bad, Margery Cuyler/ill. David Catrow
Double Trouble in Walla Walla, Andrew Clements/ill. Salvatore Murdocca
The Boy Who Lived With the Seals, Rave Martin/ill. David Shannon
Miss Nelson is Missing!, Harry Allard/ill. James Marshall
A Bad Case of Stripes, David Shannon
Verdi, Janell Cannon
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, Judith Viorst/ill. Erik Blegvad
The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch/ill. Michael Martchenko
The Stupids Die, Harry Allard/ill. James Marshall
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst/ill. Ray Cruz
The Dumb Bunnies, Sue Denim;-)/ill. Dav Pilkey
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, Richard Scarry
The Hallo-Wiener, Dav Pilkey

Rhyming Picture Books: (in no specific order)

Big Black Bear, Wong Herbert Yee
Counting Crocodiles, Judy Sierra/ill. Will Hillenbrand

Wordless/Nearly Wordless Picture Books: (in no specific order)
Time Flies, Eric Rohmann
Hiccup, Mercer Mayer
Deep in the Forest, Brinton Turkle

Teaching (ABC, Counting, Time, etc.) Picture Books: (in no specific order)
The Grouchy Ladybug, Eric Carle
Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles An Animal Counting Book, Christopher Wormell
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault/ill. Lois Ehlert
My Little Sister Ate One Hare, Bill Grossman/ill. Kevin Hawkes
One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor Pinczes/ill. Bonnie MacKain

Friday, August 13, 2010

PB Market Woes (picture book not peanut butter)

Unfortunately for me the market for picture books is in the toilette. I knew this going in and in fact my first agent contact explained that to me before I even submitted anything to him. In his defense and two other agents that mentioned the difficult picture book market place they all emphatically supported picture books. They love ‘em so what’s the problem? One of the reasons given (besides being cyclical and vampires) was shelf space. That’s right shelf space. You see, you can cram many more MG (middle grade) or YA (young adult) books into the space of one picture book. It makes sense, the MG and YA books cost nearly as much as a picture book and yet take up so little space. So when it comes down to money you know how the die will roll. Less shelf space for picture books = smaller market for picture books.

Last week there was a very interesting Marketplace (American Public Media) segment about Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble was targeted in one of the panel discussions I mentioned earlier as a major factor in my market woes. http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/08/04/pm-barnes-woes-signal-book-biz-transition/  I am not sure what a world with less Barnes and Nobles means for me. Is it a movement back to customer centered independent book store or does that mean the PB market will be getting smaller?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Agents as Career Managers?

I have always felt I wanted and maybe even needed an agent before publishing. I viewed and agent as someone with the expertise and insider info who could market my stories to a variety of publishers. I also wanted someone who could look out for my best interests once I got to the contract phase. I learned that I should be expecting a little more from an agent.

I had the chance to sit in on panels with three different agents Josh Adams, Michael Bourret and Steven Malk. All three talked about the usual duties of finding a publisher and contract negotiations. However all three talked about being so much more to their authors. They talked about managing the long term careers of their authors and illustrators. I have to tell you that I am especially excited about the prospect of a career manager. After all, I am a writer and an artist who would prefer not to be a starving writer or artist. Another interesting comment from Michael Bourret was that he wanted the author/illustrator to consider all options (including other agents) even if he has made an offer to represent a particular author. He wants it to be a perfect fit for him AND the author. I got the impression that all of the agents were seeking that perfect match. After all, they want a long term profitable relationship just as much as author/illustrator. This means that they are going to be very selective (some receiving 6000+ submissions a year) so that they will also be able to support any client with all their resources.

I had a chance to visit with Michael Bourret after his panel and I finally understood one important thing. I have a very picky sense of the art I would like to hang in my house. Oh sure, I can look at other art and think “I appreciate that piece but I would never hang it in my house”. This is also is true for agents. They may appreciate a story or the artwork but if they don’t love it then how can they fully represent an author/illustrator.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Staying Relevant in the Digital Age

This was an incredible keynote speech and relevant not only to the children's book industry but all of publishing.  It is an age old dilemma.  Sit back and follow or step forward and lead.  Sure you don't want to be the beta or laser disc but you can't have any say if you aren't at least in the fray.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Web Presence

On Monday I attended a panel discussion with Jill Alexander (author of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY and Michael Bourrett (agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) that covered what you should expect after your manuscript is accepted. Among other topics I was glad to hear them talk about the importance of a web presence. What is a web presence? A blog, a website, a Facebook page can be your web presence. Whatever your choice is it needs to be a hub for librarians, schools, local news outlets, etc. who are interested in your books so they can track you down.

This web presence can be as fancy as you can manage but it must be easy to navigate. They also agreed that it is important to have this presence set up before you get published. The reason being is that you don’t want to be navigating the world of edits, rewrites, signings, etc. and have to worry about setting up a website.

Obviously for me this was nice to hear since I am a ways off from publication right now and I have these things in place. I will be moving almost everything to my website in the next few months to help centralize my web presence. I will be adding an e-mail address to my web domain soon and I have installed blog software to my website (although I won’t be moving this blog there anytime soon) to help round out my web presence centralization.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


It was a fast paced four days to be sure. Over the next few days/weeks I will share some of the important information I was able to digest. I know I will be blogging about current market conditions, peer critiques, graphic novels and of digital media formats.

But for now, I am finding it a daunting task just to put an order to all the conference goodies I picked up in the last four days. I was fairly selective but still there are business cards, illustrator “take-aways”, notes, receipts and the ever important doodles that have to be organized into potential publishers, potential agents and new friends.

I will be trying to find a happy medium over the next few days between blogging about the conference, organizing submissions, my kids and writing a new story that is starting to take over my brain.

Ok, now back to work or maybe just a few more minutes on facebook.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Conference

Tomorrow I will be attending the SCBWI summer conference in LA. It is a four day conference that will cover many aspects of the children’s literature biz. I am enrolled in the graphic novel class and boy am I looking forward to that. I hope to blog a little during my lunch break but I may not get the time. I will be following tweets from the conference and you can follow my tweets @ ctillustrator.

In prep for my graphic novel class I posted some roughs of two practice stories that have been polished and can now be viewed on my website and click the comics icon. I will announce new additions here but I will post any new comics I create in the next few days on my website.

Alas, my e-store isn’t open yet. I am still working a few kinks out but hope to have it open by the end of August. I should’ve known that I wasn’t going to get it running in under a week. I will certainly announce its grand opening.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

curtistaylor.biz v1.0

I’ve got a new home on the web (http://curtistaylor.biz/)! It is still under construction but I wanted to open it to friends and family so you all could “kick the tires” and make sure everything is working properly.

Let me know how it looks on your monitors (Does it fit? Do the colors hurt your eyes?). Is there something that you find annoying with the layout? If the link doesn’t click then it isn’t set up yet.

I am really excited about the store that I am setting up. I expect the store will open by the end of the week with a limited number of items however new items posted all the time. Prints, posters, cards and downloads for mobile devices will be available. I will be using Zen Cart and so customers will be able to use PayPal or credit cards to purchase items from the store.

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Submission Letters

Lately I have been rewriting some of my submission letters in an effort to be prepared for a possible final rejection from my one and only contact in the biz (besides you mom). So it is time to make more contacts and writing submission letters is how I am going to get started.

I thought I would post them here as examples of “what to do/what not to do” for future visitors and/or for any critiques. Given that I have read plenty that there is no one right way to write a cover/submission letter I thought I would share mine that are true to my style. The letters are as straight to the point as I can be (I have read that submission letters should be no longer than a page given the fact that the agents/publishers get thousands of submissions every year and just don’t have time or energy to read more) and both the publisher and agent letters follow a similar format.

Both letters start with a professional greeting and statement of purpose then move to a description of the story. I will spend a paragraph describing the illustration styles of the dummies that I included and books that they are similar to. This is a place for me to personalize the submission by referencing popular titles or titles in their catalog that are similar to my proposal. I also make sure the recipient understands that I will let anyone else illustrate my story. Lastly, I thank the recipient for taking the time to review my work.

These letters have not been sent so I encourage any comments that you may have. I am not opposed to making these letters better.


Dear XXX,

I am an author and illustrator seeking your representation for my children’s story Do You Want to Pet My Dragon? which is intended for the picture market. I learned of your agency in XXXXXXX.

Do You Want to Pet My Dragon? is a story about a preschool aged girl and her dragon. While taking her dragon for a walk in the park and the girl asks other children she meets if they would like to pet her dragon. The sharp teeth and claws and the long spiky tale are just a few of the reasons they all decline the girl’s invitation. One child looks past all the “dangers” and notices the dragon’s soft belly. All of a sudden the dragon doesn’t seem so dangerous.

The illustration style used in this story is similar to the Mo Willems’ Pigeon series and Lucy Cousin’s Maisy series. The limited vocabulary used in the text facilitates a repetitive pattern and promotes early word recognition. The target audience for this story is preschool aged children. I would like you to consider representing me on this project.

I have included the manuscript and a PDF dummy of the story for your review. The illustrations were created in Adobe Illustrator and so they can still be edited down to the smallest details if needed. Also, I am not opposed to letting someone else illustrate the story if you feel the illustrations are not marketable.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work. I look forward to your response. This is a simultaneous submission.


Dear XXX,

I am an author and illustrator seeking a publisher for my children’s story Lost which is intended for the picture or board book market. I learned of your publishing company in XXXXXXX.

Lost starts out simple enough with a routine trip to the store for a small boy. This is something the boy has done a hundred times before and he knows the drill. He has to follow directions; he has to be polite and helpful. If he can do all those things then he knows he will get to walk through his favorite part of the store. The boy exceeds his mother’s expectations and is rewarded with a visit to the toy aisle. In his excitement the boy forgets to keep track of his mother while he is looking at the toys. When he turns around to show his mom a toy that has caught his interest he realizes she isn’t there. The once benign store morphs into a frightening landscape filled with strange humanoids that panic the small boy. (Spoiler Alert) After a brief but panicked search the boy and the mom are reunited at the end with a special “aw” moment.

I have included the manuscript and a PDF dummy of the story for your review. The story relies heavily on the illustrations to set the mood and express the emotions of the boy who becomes lost in a store. The digital illustrations of Lost are similar to the “cut-out” style illustrations found in Lois Elhert’s Fish Eyes and Linnea Riley’s Mouse Mess. The illustrations were created in Adobe Illustrator and so they can still be edited down to the smallest details if needed. I am not opposed to letting someone else illustrate this story if you feel the illustrations are not marketable. If you like this illustration style I am available to illustrate any other stories you might have.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work. I look forward to your response. This is a simultaneous submission.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Maps

Lately I have been using a nifty little tool called a book map to help me edit and rewrite my completed stories. Basically it is a storyboard. I can layout a story, rearrange spreads and get a better feel for the flow of the story.

Carol Heyer @ http://www.carolheyer.com/ was kind enough to forward along her version of a book map and I have used it to map out three new stories and edit two others. Along the left margin of her book map she has included four different setups that can be used when a picture book is published making her book map quite versatile. Thanks Carol. She has given me permission to post it here all I ask is if you use it or share it please give her the credit or link to her website.

I modified Carol’s book map a bit to better serve my purposes. I always like books that have unique cover art and unique inside front and inside back cover art. I think that those unofficial “pages” should be used to enrich/extend the story so I added a few extra panels to accommodate that. My book map isn't as versatile as Carol's and I may have to revamp mine at some point but this is the setup that felt most natural to me. Feel free to use my map if you like but I ask that you give credit to me or link to this blog.

I have also been researching illustrator websites and blogs. I came across this useful link and wanted to share it with you: http://www.meghan-mccarthy.com/illustratorsguide.html

A new record.

The following was written a couple weeks ago and then I got really busy with a rewrite and I am now just getting back to it…

I set a new personal record last week, four rejections in two days. How was I so productive? A few weeks ago I was researching handful of publishers that were going to be attending the LA Times Festival of Books. A quick Google search and I was able to find their contact info. One of those publishers accepted e-mail submissions. I have a submission packet set for each of my stories and so it was relatively easy to personalize a cover letter and attach the necessary files to an e-mail. I submitted two stories in two separate e-mails. The website guidelines stated that it would be six to eight weeks before I should expect a response. Just a few hours later I received a response. The personalized rejection letter responded to both of my submissions and caught one very embarrassing typo. I responded with a gracious thank you for taking the time to review my work and also for editing my book. The next morning during my run I thought I might as well send in another submission. After all I got a speedy response so I might as well and at the very least I will know the response fairly quickly. The third submission was returned within fifteen minutes with a rejection and comment about bright and rhyming verse. I just so happened to have one of those types of stories and submitted that immediately. What did I have to loose? Within ten minutes and probably closer to five I received a response. 4 for 4! That is pretty good for anybody. I responded with a light hearted response and thanked him for all his time.

Oh well, I am four rejections closer to a acceptance.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Portfolio Review

I attended my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) seminar and portfolio review Saturday. It was a small gathering of people who are interested in advancing their careers in as a children’s book writer or illustrator. It was nice to get out of my “bubble” and have some fresh eyes look at my stories.

The seminar topic covered marketing both before you are published and after. Why do you market before you get published? This is how you get your first book published. Conversation centered on creating a “packet” of art and info. This “packet” could be a folder, flyer, post card or all of the above. I have experience mailing submissions but it was clear that I could more. Some tips:

1. Only send your BEST images. Take another look at your choices and narrow cut the weakest.

2. Arrange illustrations by style if you have more than one.

3. Limit styles of illustrations to two or three per submission.

4. Send updates to contacts quarterly with new images and/or styles to remind publishers/agents that you are still around looking for work.

5. This was my “nugget” from the session. Make sure you state that you are willing to illustrate someone else’s work or that you are willing to sell the story separately (if you are) and/or that you are willing to rework pictures (if you are). I thought that this was a given but was convinced otherwise during this seminar.

I felt I had a good working knowledge of author responsibilities once a book is published. I have watched my mother do it for many years. Basically, unless you are insanely famous, you are responsible for most if not all of the post publishing publicity. Press releases, library and school readings, etc. fall into your lap. This may be the most daunting part of the job and I am sure that it will have a steep learning curve for me. Marketing will certainly keep you busy but technology can help. Tech tips from the seminar:

1. Maintain a website and keep it updated. This may be the only thirty seconds an editor or art director spends at your website. Make it attractive and easy to navigate.

2. Maintain a blog and link to other blogs and request that others do the same. This networking may be almost as powerful as that pyramid scheme you participated your roommate pitched to you while you were in college.

3. Social networking. Take your pick but beware of copyright issues and take precautions to protect your work.

4. Use web applications such as Google Alerts to track any mentions of you or your illustrations/books on the internet.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just for Fun . . .

I did have fun drawing comic "shorts"  I will be doing a few more just to practice timing, layout and angles then I will start in earnest on a new graphic novel project.

I still haven't come up with a snappy title for a lactose intolerant Humpty or a militant mouse so if there are any suggestions let me know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Portfolio Advice

I recently (as in 20 minutes ago) joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  In addition to the networking and conferences available there are also smaller meetings designed to critique portfolios and/or manuscripts.  I found this link particularly useful and timely since I will be attending my first critique this weekend.

SCBWI  SoCal Tri-Regions


Promotional Cards

Well, that sounds like I have something to promote.  Maybe a better term would be "here I am, publish me" cards.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rejections, uh, what are they good for?

Absolutely (a)nothing (b)everything (c) somewhere in between? I am not jaded by rejections, yet, and read from the right point of view they can be pretty helpful.

Last week I received another rejection from an agent that I have been in contact with. Don’t worry mom, I won’t be dropping any names or burning any bridges. This isn’t the first rejection I have received from this agent and I am sure it won’t be the last. For now, I won’t dwell on the down side of the rejections because that just doesn’t help at all.

While the rejections (from this agent) still mean that the story was rejected I have been able to use them as a positive impact on my stories. Let me explain. I have been fortunate enough to find an agent that has taken the time to review work from me, an author who isn’t a client. He not only reviews my work but also takes the time to write a critique. The professional critiques have been very helpful.

Excerpt from my first rejection: “I think there’s much to admire here, but I think the story is a bit too simple as is…I like the simplicity of the words and the art, but there just isn’t enough narrative”

This was my first submission to this agent and my first professional critique. I took to heart that my work wasn’t complete junk and that with a rewrite I could extend the story. I put the book away (figuratively) knowing that my brain would work its subconscious magic and figure out a way to extend the story. It only took about a month for my subconscious to work its magic and in the process of the rewrite I reworked every illustration and added about ten pages to the story. The resulting story and illustrations were so much better than the original. Now it is time for a re-submission.

Excerpt from the newest rejection: “While I know this style of illustration is popular, I’m afraid I’m just not taken with it…With the less realistic look, it was more difficult for me to sense the fear of the dragon’s scarier parts”

OK, what positives can I take from this rejection? I look at this as a rejection of the concept/story not the art. I know he didn’t care for the art but I think with a rewrite can make a big difference. After all, there were only eight different words in the whole story. I know I can expand the text to accentuate the illustrations to better convey the sense of fear that was lacking in the original version. Again, I am going to put this one away (figuratively) also and let it simmer. I am certain that the “true” story will emerge.

Yesterday, I submitted my third story proposal and time will tell if I will have yet another rejection to reflect on.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Blog sites

It has been a busy week. Most of my “work” time was spent prepping for a six year old Harry Potter birthday party. The clip art today was a drawing that was repeated throughout invites, a marauder map prop and name plates. It was a lot of fun watching three boys and their Potter dramatic play.

Since the party decorations fell directly on my shoulders I didn’t have a lot of energy or time to do much illustrating or submission work. I did manage to get a submission sent out today but for the most part I was reading through a Google search of illustrator blogs.

I came across the Purple Crayon by Harold Underdown. This is a good blog for a beginner such as myself. There are many articles ranging from basic information to self publishing. Each heading contains many links written by Harold and when appropriate other blog authors. I haven’t made it through the whole site yet but so far I really like what I have seen.

That is it for now and my first resource link but I always looking for other resources and I am sure I will post many more.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Outta Nowhere

Nearly two weeks ago I was prepping for a trip back to South Dakota. I was organizing files I intended to use on a new graphic novel project. I figured I would be pretty busy but if there was any spare time I would be ready to go. Best laid plans and all.

The first diversion was a game called “Things…” by Hasbro. A Google search will turn up some sample questions. This game should be called is “Titles for your book…” We played the game on two separate occasions once with adults and again with my kids. Probably the most surprising comparison between the two games is that the answers to the questions were not all that different from each other. Innuendos? Now that was a different story but I came away from those two sessions with half a dozen answers/titles that are begging to be used.

The second diversion happened a few days later while I was drawing with sidewalk chalk. I was decorating the driveway of our hosts with mushrooms. Why mushrooms? My kids had discovered my first generation GameBoy and they have been playing Super Marioland like it was going out of style. I am not sure why they are so fascinated with the grayscale display or bad graphics but I am thankful for it now. I thought I would draw a few Mario-esque mushrooms to commemorate the rediscovery of retro gaming systems. As I was adding details to the mushrooms they started looking more and more like people.

That’s when I became consumed with this new project. I spent the rest of the day drawing new characters. Then I started with a story idea spawned from “Things…” It all came so easily that I couldn’t turn it away. I am hoping to get the preliminary art and dummy done in the next few days so I can start submitting this to agents and/or publishers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Never throw anything away.

I am a “purger”. I like to toss things in the trash, recycle or donate to the local Goodwill. I don’t like clutter. If it hasn’t been used in a while I want to get rid of it. I do have one exception, well maybe two or three but for the purposes of this entry I will keep it to one exception. Sketchbooks. Oh sure I have lots of bad drawings and there may even be a sketchbook or two that I would like to toss because they contain some really embarrassing drawings. When I look back at some of the things I was drawing 10+ years ago I get shivers. Why do I still keep them?

In the last post I mentioned outlining two new stories and working on character studies. The new stories will be assembled as graphic novels. As I was organizing the stories I knew that there would be three main characters but my illustration styling wouldn’t necessarily fit this format. I needed to create a new styling that would better fit a graphic novel format. This was a little unsettling for me and I wasn’t sure where or how I should start. Feeling a little frustrated and brain locked I did what any other SoCal resident would do. I went surfing. Let me clarify that, I have a surf board and I can stand up on it and ride an occasional wave. It is more about being in the ocean for me which may or may not seem odd for a person born, raised and a 37 year resident of South Dakota. So there I was, sitting on my surfboard being less successful than usual when it hit me. I have the character designs already.

Two or three years back I had spent a few weeks sketching some little characters. The freebie art today is an early sketch of these characters. A quick look back through my sketch books and I found ‘em. There in the pages of the sketch book were the characters that I would use for these stories. But that’s not all. I found little sketches long forgotten, that had been taped to the pages. If I didn’t have my sketchbook I sketched on any medium available: newsprint , white craft paper (my guess is it was a table cloth). I found one so wrinkled it must have been in my pocket for few days before it was carefully taped to the page. Anyway, the point is I didn’t throw them out or leave them on the table to be thrown out with the napkins I squirreled them away in this sketchbook for future use. That’s why I keep my old sketch books! One day I may be able to use those other sketches I was talking about. Oooo, I just felt shudder.

BTW, these characters quickly morphed into my portly “beertenders” like the one on my banner.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


In the last week I have received two rejection letters. One letter was a form rejection and the other a personalized form rejection. The difference?

The form rejection is just as it sounds, “Dear Author, blah, blah, blah”. I know they are a necessity do to the sheer volume of submissions art directors, publishers and agents must look through on a daily basis. I am sure there are thousands of people who think they can write and illustrate children’s stories. Yep, I am one of ‘em. Also, I am assuming that in tough economic times there are even more submissions than usual. How hard can it be to write and draw pictures for a children’s story for some extra money. Yep, me again! But let me get back to rejection letters. What gets me about some of these letters is that they can be so vague that you are left with the question “Did anybody even look at this submission?” While this is frustrating it does at least put closure on a submission.

So as unpleasant as a rejection letter seems it better than “Responds only if interested.” A submission here buys you six to eight weeks submission limbo. Then in eight weeks I guess it is time for me to move on. Probably the biggest reason I don’t like these is because no one has responded because they are interested. I like a little more closure then that.

The personalized form rejection letter is nearly the same as a form rejection letter except someone has taken the time to put your name on the letter, “Dear Curtis, blah, blah, blah”. This is a big step in my opinion because it is just one more thing that an art director, publisher or agent had to did that day. I take the time to respond to those rejections by thanking the person for taking the time out of very busy day to review my work and respond to my submission. I also use this response as a mini-re-submission. I include one more piece of art with the letter that is of a different style. Has that ever enticed a second bite? I can go as far as saying that it hasn’t, yet. However, I’ve already been rejected so what does it hurt?

These rejections really haven’t slowed me down. The first one did only because it is the first rejection in about ten years but even then it was only for the afternoon. The second one came during a creative blitz (this week) while I was outlining two new stories and started the character sketches for those stories. So I really haven’t had time to dwell on the second rejection which is good. Like my Momma says “Always have the next thing going to keep you busy.” Or something like that. Maybe she will correct me if I mis-quoted. BTW it works!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Working like a Pro?

I am not sure if I am since I am not a professional illustrator, yet. Over the last 8 months I have been reading a lot of reference materials and blogs. I find the blogs particularly interesting. Generally, they get to the point with no nonsense tips without the fluff (stuff that I don’t want to read) found in many print resources.

But reading between the lines is always where the true story lies. These blogs are all written by professionals. Some are written for professionals, some are written for amateur, wannabies like me. The important message here is “dress like the position you want to hold”. I want to be a professional illustrator.

So I work every day, sometimes in a very regimented “office hours” sort of way but also whenever the bug bites me. Having my office in the garage is convenient. If a flash of inspiration hits I can get a preliminary sketch or detailed notes written right away and ready for the next day.

Treating myself as a professional, I am protective of my “office hours”. I want to work during that time. I don’t want to do the dishes, the laundry or run errands. This is my time to “work”. Sure there are things that you can’t get around but that happened when I was teaching, also.

So I am trying to work like a pro. I guess once I get something published then I can compare my wannabe and professional working habits. I do think it will be nice to get paid for the work I am doing now. Although I know that will have its own professional challenges.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Who am I?

The synopsis: Born in rural South Dakota, attended kindergarten through the 12 grade in the same building and graduated with and elementary education degree from the University of South Dakota. I wrote my first children’s story and met my wife at USD.

I got married after graduation and a year later my wife and I both landed professional jobs. I started teaching kindergarten in Sioux City, IA and my wife accepted a job at USD. I taught kindergarten in Sioux City at the same school for 14 years. In that time I wrote several stories and started illustrating them (those first illustrations are embarrassing) and occasionally I would send them off to publishers. All of those ended up as rejections and looking at those illustrations it is not hard to see why.

Around 2005 I started a master’s degree full of art classes designed to help me achieve an art endorsement for my teaching license. I spent the next five or six years honing my art style and didn’t write any new stories until this year. I learned many new printmaking techniques and learned what it means to become an artist. I had all but forgotten about those stories and was focused on becoming an art teacher when my degree was complete.

Then my wife accepted a new position at a university in Southern California. So we packed up the car and moved to Cali, California that is. Move to Cali, when the world’s third largest economy is in the toilette and the state just pink slipped 25,000 teachers? Sure, why not? So I am making the most of unemployment or “funemployment” by changing careers. Both of my kids are in school now and so I can take them to school and come back home for six hours of “work”. I say “work” because I love to draw and create so it doesn’t feel a lot like working.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Purpose

My intent for this blog is to chronicle my adventures in seeking representation and/or publication for any of my illustrations or stories. Once that happens then I can promote any published materials here. I expect that there will be many more submission (mostly magazines for now) tales than promotion, at least in the beginning. I hope that my experiences will be of some help for anyone else who may decide to travel this path.

I have a tearsheet (yes that is a word) supplement that I include with every submission but I am also creating new illustrations specific for each submission. Every now and again I will have a few illustrations already completed but for the most part I am creating anywhere from five to ten new illustrations for any given magazine submission. This serves three purposes that I can think of offhand. First, it helps to tailor a submission and shows that I have taken the time to research the kind of illustrations used in any given magazine. Secondly, I am also building my library of images that I can use for other submissions or as elements in any story. Lastly, it ensures that I am drawing everyday and it is also improving my drawing skills.

I am using Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market as the reference book to begin my searches for possible clients. It is a good place to start and helps me narrow now my searches to two categories. The first category is e-mail and the second snail mail. I am focusing on the e-mail submission first. This category is broken down into two sub-categories: attachments or links. My first priority will be magazines that accept attachments. When those submissions are finished I will respond to magazines that only accept links using my Photobucket account. Once the e-mail friendly magazines are tapped then I will move to the snail mail submissions. I am hoping to do three or four magazine submissions each week.

In between all the magazine submission I will be submitting children’s stories I have written to agents and publishers. Right now I am waiting for a response from an agent. The story is titled LOST and is a story that I wrote while I was in college. I am hopeful for that this can find an agent or a publisher because the initial reaction from this potential agent was positive. I will update on this submission more when I know more.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Well, where do I start? Being a person who has never kept a journal or diary it seems odd writing to nobody. Well, at least for the time being. I do know that I will keep today’s entry short because I have to hit the drawing board so I can finish a few new drawings and mail off a submission.

I will try to upload a clip art item with each entry that will be free for private use but cannot be used for public or commercial use without permission. I only ask that if you use any of my images please help me promote this blog by linking to it on any of your preferred social networking site(s).

Have a great day.