Sunday, December 24, 2006

School Closed

The School of Freelancing is out of session for the holiday break. Have a Merry Christmas. I look forward to complaining in the new year.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Children’s Books

I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails asking about children’s books and I thought it best to answer them at once. I’m not an expert in this field but I’ve been in negotiations with more than one big children’s publisher so I believe I have insight to share. I, in no way, mean to discourage or demean anyone’s writing aspirations.

I have just three short points to make.
1) Most new parents (I know) have entertained thoughts of writing a children’s book. I get asked by someone if I’d be interested in illustrating their book at almost every party or get together. Or if I can recommend an illustrator for them. It’s not necessary to pitch an idea with illustrations. If you find an illustrator willing to work for spec (free) to illustrate a book not signed to a large contract yet then that illustrator probably doesn’t have the clout to help you land a deal. Often it just makes you look like an amateur. Publishers would rather assign “their” artists to books instead of the writer insisting on anyone in particular (especially a friend or cousin).

I truly believe everyone has a good book in them. But publishers want to hire writers, not someone who is interested in writing one book. You want and need to demonstrate your desire to go pro and produce books. My children book friends create multiple books a year. So if you’re serious, you’re thinking many books. Toward that end;
2) Find an agent, then
3) Write convincing, professional book proposals, which show an understanding of the current market.

Courses and/or books can teach you how to accomplish number 2 and 3. Hope this helps get your book ideas published!

(In a similar vein I often get approached with the “perfect joke for The New Yorker.” The New Yorker has no interest in buying a singular cartoon from someone who may not write another decent punch line for another six months. They cultivate regulars they can rely on. For that reason they only hire cartoonists who prove they are prolific. Cartoonists for the New Yorker submit up to 40 cartoons a month in hopes of getting 1 out of every 10 cartoons accepted.)

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Friday, December 15, 2006

The Average Day of a Freelancer

For me, each day begins by waking up at 7:30 am. By 7:45 I am sound asleep again. I wake up a second time around 9ish and immediately turn on channel 152 (NYC), the Black Family Channel to watch Bullwinkle and the King Leonardo Show while answering e-mails and doing bills.

"You'll find the funniest things happening on the show..." the theme song goes and they're true to their word.

Tomorrow; What I Do By Ten; Not Alot

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Snowman Report

Aside from illustrating the next issue of Money Adviser magazine and Consumer Reports, I’ve been busy the past few days with snowman book related stuff…I redid a good portion of the book, cutting 6,500 words and adding two new chapters and quickly turned it over to my on-the-way-out-editor so that hopefully it get published under the wire before she leaves…meanwhile, a variation of my TV spot aired on a show called Pennsylvania Home & Backyard and I did an interview with a local paper…but most of the past week was spent in conversation with the world’s leading archaeologists.

I sought their help in writing my last chapter The Ice Age: Who Came First, the Caveman or the Snowman? You might recognize the man on the far left – he was the host of PBS’s popular How Art Changed the World. You won’t recognize the guy on the far right unless you saw last Saturday’s Pennsylvania Home & Backyard because that’s me. Two other leading experts in the field who helped me greatly were art theorist Matt Gatton and Prof. Dale Guthrie of the University of Alaska. There were others who lent their expertise to my analysis but these three were the prime players.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Joy of Freelancing

It's been pointed out that this blog has an undertone of bitterness (e-mail responses and a phone call from a psychologist confirm this). If freelancing is about anything, it's about balance and toward that end let's begin to look at some of the attractive benefits to freelancing. Reason number one;

1. Working for the man or freelancing? No contest.

Tomorrow Reason 2; Not worrying about your personal hygiene.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

What's the Point?

Why did I become a freelancer? I made that decision on April 21st, 1983. That fateful day was not only my first day at work at the Timber Tree Golf Course, but my first day of working ever. I got the job from my brother, who worked there and was an accomplished golfer. I took the job because it would allow me to play as much golf as I wanted to for free and I needed to work on my game. I would be a “starter,” sending off groups in intervals and making sure everyone paid before they teed off. My work space was an outhouse situated next to the first tee and my day began at 5:30 am.

Working at a golf course I saw a lot of strange things. Even though I only worked there a total of three hours before I was fired, it gave me enough perspective what it was like in the working force to contemplate going the freelance route. The first mistake I made that day was strolling in nonchalantly with a cup of hot chocolate and book at 5:29 am even though I was warned the boss was a lunatic. As I gave a big “Howdy do!” to the boss, he and the rest of the crew in the clubhouse just shot me back nothing but glares. Well, I didn’t let this ruin my mood and I took my hot coco down to the starter’s hut and before I knew it I was laughing it up with the early-bird hackers. About three hours later a golf cart was racing down the hill from the clubhouse. It was the boss and he was furious. “We do not hire drug-takers! You’re fired!” Aside from an allergy pill I took because they just mowed the grass, I was not on drugs.

So that was the end of that. I made a pledge never to work for anyone again and six years later I began my career as a freelancer.

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Friday, December 8, 2006

Lesson 5: Coping With the Ups & Downs of Freelancing

This is a new cartoon I made today. I’m not sure whether to title it Today’s Mood or My Future. Spent day listening to Morrissey and staring at a mysterious spot on the back of my hand that’s probably malignant.

Tomorrow; More of the same.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Snowmen on Parade

I'd like to interrupt my dark depression with the news that my spot on a Pennsylvania TV news show is now available (for a limited time only) at the following link. I realize it won't play on everyone's browser, sorry.

The only solution would be to post it on You Tube. I started a precedent by actually asking for permission to post the footage on You Tube. The TV station, of course, said no. My segment is offically the only item NOT available on You Tube, which is even showing deleted scenes from the Borat movie.

Tomorrow: Back to Whining

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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Lesson 4: Expect The Worse

I just had that important phone with my editor. Or should I say my former editor. I learned that she is leaving her publishing house and will be unable to finish my book. The status of the book is unclear and the only thing clear now is that this is bad news. She had been a great help with the book – an one-in-a-million editor and wonderful to work with. This is a big setback.

In freelancing, this is referred to as “”the other shoe dropping.” It’s best to remember that, as a freelancer, there will be many more days like this.
Tomorrow – Lesson 5; Coping With the Ups & Downs of Freelancing

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Saturday, December 2, 2006

Lesson 3; Lying to Clients

Lying to clients is a necessary evil in freelancing, whether it’s “I enjoy working with you” or “This is my resume.” And lying is not only for writers (e.g. James Frey and that Indian chick from Harvard) but for illustrators as well. More often than not you are working with editors rather than only art directors (who have a better understanding of the art process). In book publishing, the power has shifted to the agent, who now does much of the editing because editors now have added responsibilities. But no matter who you're answering to, you must keep your composure.

This brings us to anger management. A doctor friend has helped me “deal” with my “issues” by thinking out-of-the-box. This doctor actually wrote the book Out of the Box and is the leading authority on thinking out of the box. I consider it the Freelancer’s Bible.

Book update: My editor and I are totally on the same page now. For the first time the status of the book is stable. She asked to speak to me tomorrow about something important. I suspect she will be telling me the publisher wants to invest more money into marketing and producing the book. I am one lucky person.

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