So, you spent hours and hours prepping your first portfolio for a book cover agency, sent your submission, waited several agonizing weeks to hear back and then...
...got a kind but short note back informing you that you have been rejected by your dream book cover agency.
What do you do next?
Well, the first thing that you should do is not despair!
Obviously, it hurts to be rejected.
Believe me, I understand!
The first time that I submitted to the agency of my dreams, they rejected me out right!
However I took the opportunity to really learn from that experience and decide going forward what I would do next.
So from my experience and talking with others who have been rejected and then finally submitted successfully to an agency here is my best advice for what to do after you have been on the receiving end of rejection:
Ask for feedback.
I know that it hurts to hear feedback about our work, especially if we were hoping for praise and instead receive criticism.
However, getting feedback directly from an agency is one of the most important ways that you can improve your portfolio.
They are the ones that understand what is selling in the market, what clients are asking for, and what it is that you could be shooting to get sales for them and for yourself!
So, my advice is to write back to the agency once you've been rejected, thank them very much for their time, and ask them to give you a few pointers on what you could do to improve your portfolio going forward!
Here are a few things that you might hear:
1. Your subject matter is not appropriate for the market.
So what do you do if your subject matter is not appropriate for the market?
Well, that means that it's time for you to do a little bit of research!
I know that we all think that our work should grace the covers of the book covers.
Believe me, I definitely thought that when I was starting my journey in photography as well.
I simply thought that because I love dmy work, everybody else would love it as well, and book publishers would be clamoring to use my work on their covers.
It is truly important for you to understand exactly what it is that's popular in the market, what trends exist within the market and what images help to sell those trends!
So the first thing that I would do is recommend that you take a trip to your local bookstore.
If they happen to have a café where you can buy a coffee and a nice yummy treat to nurse the rejection a little bit, I recommend doing so.
Sit down with a stack of books that catch your eye.
This is an opportunity for you to actually judge a book by its cover!
I want you to go out there and find work that you feel like you would be happy shooting, happy to have in your portfolio, and is with in the realm of reason for you to create!
So don't grab a bunch of books with images that utilize Photoshop outside of your known skill with Photoshop, that utilize landscapes far beyond your ability to travel to, or simply are not a subject matter that you would be happy shooting!
Grab books that you feel resonate with your current style, preferred subject matter, or genre that you feel like you could shoot for.
Now, start making a list.
What are things that you are seeing that show up frequently?
For example: are these images of female figures?
If so, do you happen to see trends in terms of historical time period?
Are these mostly images of women in regency garb?
Or, conversely, are these teenage women who happen to be wearing modern clothing?
Perhaps, we could even niche that down a little bit more and say that these are teenage women appearing in scenes that look like they might fall within a paranormal romance category!
If this is the case this means that the genre is something that you were drawn to, and you should start building up your portfolio in that direction!
2. Your images don’t have the right narrative quality for the market.
Next you're going to want to think about the narrative quality of the images on your favorite book covers, and compare them to the narrative quality of your images.
So what do I mean by that?
What I mean is that your images are helping tell somebody else's story.
See, the beauty of fine art is that we are creating because we want to create something!
When we are working as portrait photographers, wedding photographers, or commercial photographers we are often creating because of the client’s needs or requests.
Stock imagery, especially the stock imagery that is used for the book cover industry, straddles a space in between that client side and the fine art side.
With stock for the book cover market, most of the time we are probably creating from our own desires.
Because of that there is that fine art quality to the work.
However, we also need to be able to match it up to perceived client needs.
And that's where the narrative quality really comes in.
If your image is not telling a story, if there's a static quality to it, then it's unlikely that your image is going to help an author tell their story as well!
3. Your work is not at a professional level yet
This is a really hard thing to gauge, and an agency may or may not say this to you, but if your work is not at the level of professionalism that you are seeing on a book cover then you may need to take some courses in order to improve your technical skills.
And this may be something that we are not able to judge ourselves just yet.
What do I mean by that?
Well have you ever looked back on something that you wrote in high school and shuddered because it seemed so juvenile compared to what you might write today?
I know I've certainly had that experience looking back on old diaries!
And the thing is that when we experience something like that it means that we have grown.
So, if you are just coming off of a rejection from an agency you may not have the skills to be able to judge where your work is at now, as opposed to where you might be in one year, two years, three years.
So this is where I might ask a trusted mentor to come in and take a look at my portfolio and give me some kind and loving pointers on how I can improve.
Some of the things that I might ask them to look at are:
- technical execution
For example, the book cover market used to be flooded with images that were utilizing textures very heavily.
It was a fad that swept the book cover market for many years, and has begun to subside.
Additionally, agencies have started to request that we not process images with textures because if a client wants the texture they would prefer to add it themselves!
Therefore, if your work employs a tactic or a trend that is no longer popular in the market, it's really important for us to have a trusted mentor that can help you understand those trends in photography that we are not on top of yet.
Let me help you!
If you're looking for a group membership opportunity that helps you with all of these things, I want to invite you to join my 8 week course Uncovered: Selling Your Art for Book Covers.
Uncovered: Selling Your Art for Book Covers is a self-paced course that includes:
- Taking Stock of Your Current Portfolio Video Training
- Portfolio Audit Checklist
- Develop a Portfolio That Makes Sales Video Training
- Thinking About Art for the Book Cover Medium Video Training
- Usage Rights Video Training
- Licensing Models Video Training
- Making Multiple Sales with a Single Image Video Training
- Weekly Creative Challenges designed to grow your portfolio
- Access to the VIP Uncovered Support Group
- Guaranteed Tech & Program Support
- Lifetime Access to Updates & Program Additions
We both know your art deserves a life beyond the computer screen as well, so it's time to stop wasting time trying to figure out how to license your art.
Instead, let me lead the way. I've already put years of trial and error so that you don't have to!
I designed Uncovered: Selling Your Art for Book Covers to take the guess work out of licensing your art for book covers (and album covers too).
The lessons in the course are designed to take the mystique out of licensing and to guide you to create a portfolio that can sell itself!
If you're not ready for a full on mentorship, that's totally ok too.
I would love for you to join us, ask questions, share your journey and let us support you!
Don't despair if you have just been rejected by an agency.
Look at this not as a rejection, but a jumping off point to learn more about this exciting industry.
You will continue to make art, and your art will improve everyday that you learn about this market.
So take time to ask for feedback and support, and try re-submitting again in the future!