Illustration of illustrator and illustration agent meeting and shaking hands
Illustration of illustrator and illustration agent meeting and shaking hands

Like authors, many illustrators will have agents who represent them when it comes to their publishing careers.

Some of these agents will represent both authors and illustrators (and, for the latter, will only represent them in all book-related work), while other agents will be illustration-only agents and may represent clients across all their illustration projects, from books to newspapers and more.

Jodie Hodges is an agent at United Agents, and represents people including Sarah Horne, who illustrates Sam Copeland’s Charlie Changes into a Chicken series, and Sav Akyuz, who illustrated I Am Bear by Ben Bailey-Smith and You Can Do Anything by Akala.

Where do agents find new illustrators?

Jodie searches for illustrators to represent in a number of places, “I do occasionally approach people having seen something on Instagram or in a greetings card I’ve bought. There are also a couple of good degree shows that we keep an eye on each year.

"Using Instagram to showcase your work is a great, free tool, and can also help your work to be seen by more people. Some illustrators like to use their Instagram channels as a kind of online sketch book – where they can share works in progress and ideas, as well as finished projects. Make sure that if someone does see your work in person, or via a project with just your name attached, that you are easy to find online. Be that via your own website, Behance or The Dots account, it should be at the forefront of your mind to be easily reachable."

How do I approach an agent myself?

Illustrators can also approach agents, says Jodie, “I think if they’re brand new, then they should try to meet a variety of agents - literary agents and illustration agents - so they can get a sense of what might work for them.

“Hopefully you get a good sense of the difference between people, and make a decision based on that."

Jodie's top tips for a covering letter

  1. Include some information about your background, primarily education and previous work – it's always interesting to know if someone has a graphic design/animation/fine art/teaching background.
  2. Be clear about the sort of agent you’re looking for and the work you’d like to get. If you’re approaching a children’s literary illustration agent then talk about contemporary children’s book illustrators you admire, or things that are comparable to your style. 
  3. Think about where your work fits: if you’re approaching general illustration agents then do you think your work is particularly suited to magazine editorial, advertising or greetings cards?
  4. · Ensure you’re including a portfolio that reflects all of these ambitions.
  5. As important as first communication is, the work does the talking more than the covering letter, for illustrators.

What is the agent’s role in the publishing process?

Agents will respond to queries from publishers who are looking for illustrators, as well as pitching their illustrators directly.  

 “I regularly talk to editors and art directors and go through portfolios with them. If someone has new work, I’ll send a mail out, and ask publishers to keep them in mind.

“You’re looking for somebody in an art department to print out that one image that they really like to keep above their desk. And then when they get that project perfect for that person they’ve already got them in mind. That’s what we’re always trying to do, to keep people front of mind so they’re automatically thought of for a project.”

Illustration: Mike Ellis for Penguin

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