Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference: Notes and Quotes – Agent Steven Malk (on Illustration)

Think carefully about your portfolio. Be selective: don’t include the ‘kitchen sink’. Include no more than 20 samples. Every piece needs to count. This is your chance to make an important first impression on publishers and agents. Keep adding and subtracting over time. If you have a new piece you’re proud of, add it. You may have some samples from two years ago and some from two days ago in your portfolio. Include examples of children, animals; also black and white sketches, but not super-rough sketches.

Steven Malk
Have a clean, well-organized website. You don’t need fancy bells and whistles, you just need a portfolio. You can have more than 20 samples on your website. Make it easy to navigate. Make it distinctly you. Attend many conferences. Illustrators have an advantage having their portfolio seen at a conference, and you can hand out your card with your website information on it at conferences.

Don’t dabble. Publishers and agents hate it when you dip your toe into publishing and then get out. You have to be in it for the long haul. Commit 100%. I don’t believe the gloom about the end of picture books. The bar is raised for all of us. We’re more selective, push yourself harder, and develop your own distinct point of view. A favorite artist may influence your work, but develop something new and exciting of your own in your work.

Biggie point: don’t give up. One of the best things about conferences is to get the support of your peers, then go home and work. There are so many examples of someone who has made it after many years. When you’re discouraged, read the classic picture books and don’t give up.


  1. Thanks, Diane, for your generosity in providing this info to us all.

  2. Thanks, Dolores. Wish you'd been there too. It would have been even more fun!

  3. These are all really good points.Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Mary Ann,
    I always enjoy hearing Steven's words of wisdom!Thanks for the comment!