Pepper Roxas is an award–winning illustrator whose work has been recognized in the Philippines and overseas. Her latest work, Let Me Finish!, is published by Disney-Hyperion.
She is currently based in New York, but came back to the Philippines to give a talk in the Children’s Book Summit last July 22.
Before that, she stopped by the National Book Development Board to talk about how she made it internationally.
- Build your portfolio
The first step to getting your work out there is to…work. Do the things that matter to you and do them a lot. This can evolve into a side-project that you can earn from.
Make work easy to find online; be it in a blog, a Youtube channel, or an online store. When a literary agent saw Pepper’s work in an international book fair, she was already familiar with her work through her Etsy store.
- Make a list of people you want to work with
Combine dreaming with active researching. Once you’ve listed the things you want to work on, find experts in these fields. These are the people you want to work with.
Pepper checked the publishers and the art directors of all the children’s books she liked.
- Write to these people
You thought the list was just for research’s sake?
You have to write specific, targeted letters to these people detailing why you want to work with them. I used a lot of adjectives to emphasize that you should not send a template. People can tell if you do that.
If you’re nervous about getting rejected, remember this: you will get rejected. It’s a sure thing.
Well, Pepper was more encouraging:
“Some people will reject you. Some people will never write you back. Some people will give you a hard time, but don’t you ever give up.”
Because someday, someone will write back. And it will be awesome.
- Be where the people are
‘Cause flippin’ your fins, you won’t get too far.
Pepper is based in New York, and she is often asked if you really need to move to there to make it big.
She suggests moving for two to five years to gain a network. Then you can go home and stay in touch with your network online.
Building a network through face-to-face interaction is important—even with the internet making the world a smaller place. Building relationships mean that you have to be there when they invite you. If you’re not, they’ll find someone else.
- Commit to lifelong learning
Commit yourself to lifelong learning to be the best in your craft. This can be in the form of formal education or you can be in events where you can compare your work with the best in the industry.
Pepper remembered attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and being blown away with new ideas she gained from other people’s work.
There’s an old saying that says “When you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
…unless you’re a teacher. But the point still stands.