I’ve mentioned Shadows On My Wall in my previous post about They’re Coming! and I’m Looking For A Dinosaur and how they were considered for publication by Random House and sat with my editor for a couple of years. Once I’m Looking For A Dinosaur was cancelled all of my other books under consideration were returned to me.
Six months before that happened I went looking for an agent. I had a couple of book ideas that were not right for Random House and I wanted to get some books out to other publishers. Since I had two books under contract with RH I figured it would be easy to find an agent. I could not have been more wrong. I queried a number of agents who I thought would be a good fit. I got a number of polite turn-downs. I know for a fact that one agent never even looked at what I’d sent. I got very frustrated until an author I knew told me I should contact Ronnie Herman. She represented a number of author/illustrators. I asked my friend if she could arrange a meeting and Ronnie agreed.
I went up to Manhattan and met Ronnie in a Pret A Manger (her favorite place for meetings, I learned). We sat and talked for a couple of hours. Going into the meeting I assumed she would like my art and not think too much of my writing. Surprisingly she liked my writing and thought my art was too tight and overly rendered. I had spent many years in animation and the toy industry and that was what I had be doing at that point. She said I needed to loosen up. We finished our coffee and walked over to a bookstore where she pointed out many books and asked if I could work in a looser style like those. She said “If someone is going to pay $17 for a picture book they want it to be a piece of art, not a book based on a television cartoon.” I told her I’d give it a try and send her some samples.
One of the books I had shown her was Shadows On My Wall. Although Heidi liked it, Random House had not given me a contract so I wanted Ronnie’s opinion. She did like it and asked me to re-work the boy to look much younger than my original version. She wanted me to also work looser, she liked my pencil sketches better than my inked lines.
Ronnie liked where I was going. I started reworking the book. Before meeting with Ronnie I had considered doing the book in three dimensions so I wanted to give it a try. Here is a sculpted model I made. Ronnie thought it might be neat but she still wanted a younger boy.
The next group of tests are with a different look for the boy but I was also working out different rendering techniques.
The boy in the above illustration was close, but I simplified him even further. I abandoned the whites in the eyes as I felt that the only bright thing in the room should be the light from the window. Once we got a boy who was close to the right age I began drawing him in different poses.
I finished a couple of spreads to show what the final book would look like. Other images where left half finished to show publishers that we were happy to make changes if desired. I mocked up several hand assembled physical dummies that were ready to send out.
Ronnie submitted my books to many publishers. She was also submitting They’re Coming! and a couple of other books including the then-titled Do Not Open The Box, Benny! Over the next 2 years she tried to find homes for my books but with the economy still in the dumps most publishers were not putting out as many books. We got some positive feedback but mostly we heard “It’s not quite what we’re looking for right now.”
By 2011 I was getting pretty frustrated. I actually started thinking that I would just put my books on the iPad. I even thought of going back to the idea of doing the book with sculpted models. I had made an early app for the iPhone and knew what the parameters were. I was also still coming up with new book concepts.