More than 60 illustrators were trained to reach international markets

Uruguay XXI, together with the Chilean agent Adrián Puentes, offered a workshop that addressed the keys to promoting the illustrator in the publishing business.
Publication date: 27/02/2020

As part of its strategy to support the internationalization of the publishing industry, Uruguay XXI held a seminar-workshop for illustrators in February in coordination with the National Directorate of Culture. The proposal dealt with the tools needed to develop in the publishing market and allowed for the discussion of new developments in the sector.

The workshop, which provided theoretical and practical training to more than 60 attendees, was led by Adrián Puentes, a renowned professional in the Latin American publishing industry. In addition to being a journalist and university professor, he is a partner and founder of the Puentes Literary Agency, which represents prestigious storytellers and illustrators from the continent. In his role as agent, Puentes regularly participates in the sector's main events, such as the book fairs in Frankfurt, London, Bologna, Guadalajara, Angoulême and Buenos Aires.

In addition to sharing advice and personal experiences, the specialist provided the keys to putting together a professional portfolio, the main tool for an illustrator to present his work to potential clients. The activity included the group review of of some attendees' portfolios, who had the opportunity to apply in situ some of the notions shared by the specialist.

The workshop also delved into the fundamentals of copyright, the meaning and parties to publishing contracts and international standards for negotiating rights. There was also a presentation on the Bologna Book Fair, which included a brief description of the event as well as inputs for the preparation, staging and subsequent follow-up.

A look at the world of books

In order to position his work, the illustrator must know how the publishing industry works, its actors and processes. Among other actions, the companies in the sector deal with the creation of a catalogue, the acquisition of titles, publishing and design. Puentes highlighted the importance of defining "a catalogue that finds its readers", with works that detail a specific profile. "The most important publishing houses are those that create their readers," the specialist pointed out.

In addition to the classic division between transnational publishers and independent publishers - which almost always have a local character, where the publisher is also the owner of the company - the speaker referred to how publishers can organize their catalogue in stamps, which are the lines of the same publisher that are presented as different brands, or collections, groups of books of the same category or genre that are published under the same brand of the publisher. This diversification is generally accompanied by a different graphic and visual identity.

A compass for illustrators

The illustrator's work, first of all, must fit in with the "ideological, aesthetic and political aspects that identify each publisher," Puentes said. For that reason, the professional must "know the publisher before presenting his work" to determine if the line of the publications coincides with the palette of styles that the illustrator handles.

The illustrator must think of himself "as a brand," he said. This means defining what attributes he wants to convey, what qualities his work has, whether it is "closeness, tenderness, irreverence, social criticism, tradition," and then asking "does this fit in with the attributes of the publisher," he said.

To promote his work, the professional has several tools at his disposal: the personal page, platforms such as etsy (for direct sales) and patreon (a contemporary micro-patronage platform), as well as social networks, which are an ideal showcase to make his work known to the world.

The portfolio is the main commercial and sales tool for the illustrator. It must be made as professional as possible and the selection of works must be personalized, curated to measure. In this sense, Puentes stressed the importance of determining the hierarchy and sequence of the works. The illustrator must choose from among his own work the ones that are adapted to the portfolio he is going to show. "It is important to dedicate time to it, to think about the content, what the person is going to see?, what do I want to highlight?", he emphasized.

He also stressed the importance of customizing the portfolio according to the client, through a correct selection of works. "Everything that a portfolio contains depends on the interlocutor," he said. He also highlighted the importance of the situation where the portfolio is displayed, since "it is not the same to see it in the Bologna Fair or to look at it in an office".

The selection of works should show the illustrator's palette of styles, it should indicate whether they were published and include the author's best pieces. An English version should also be made. The illustrator has to consider idiomatic aspects, and also include contact information. "We must try to answer all the questions that customers might have," he stressed.

As for the portfolio's cover, it has special importance. "It has to hook the viewer, it has to be eloquent, it has to show in one glance what you are as an illustrator," Puentes said.

In terms of design, the portfolio must be in horizontal format to allow for digital visualization, and it must have a professional and simple design that facilitates efficient apprehension. As for the technical aspects, it should have between 10 and 15 pages and should not include elements that "obstruct visualization," since the portfolio "must be seen and captured quickly," the specialist concluded.