I’ve been mentioning for some time now that I was hired to illustrate the cover for Jerome Mark Antil’s second Pompey Hollow Book Club novel, and I’m happy to announce that this month, The Book of Charlie: Spirit of the Pompey Hollow Book Club, is finally available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon booksellers (from Little York Books). It’s my third cover illustration, but arguably, the most “visible” of all of them. I’m very proud of it, and according to the book’s author, the critics like it too. But even more than the accolades, or the job well done, the most rewarding thing about this particular illustration job was what I learned from it. I thought I’d share that this week in honour of the book’s release.
First and foremost, The Book of Charlie wasn’t the first Jerome Mark Antil book I was supposed to illustrate. Originally Jerry (as I know him) called me out of the blue (seemingly–I have no idea where he found me, but I suspect it was on the Directory of Illustration’s website, as I took out an ad in their 2010 edition) to illustrate the first book in the series, The Pompey Hollow Book Club.
Some of you may remember this as I mentioned it in a video interview for Cultural Compulsive Disorder at the 2010 New York Comic Con (which you can still find on YouTube). Though there was no official contract, I couldn’t contain my excitement. At the time, this was the biggest job that had come my way (besides, perhaps, having an illustration in Heavy Metal Magazine). I had to mention it. Little did I know I was about to learn an important lesson about freelancing: never talk about a job or publication until things are more official. I’ve tried not to ever since.
Jerry and I talked for months, I read his original manuscript, liked it (an important point) and even began doing sketches for the illustrations as I imagined them. Then, as happens sometimes in the freelance world, the job suddenly disappeared. Jerry disappeared, and I, disappointed and feeling like my career would never take off, went on to do other work.
Worse, there had been other, more solid opportunities I had let go because I was putting all my energies into this one job, and that’s when I began to learn yet another lesson about freelancing: never turn down work (unless you physically have more work on your plate than you can handle). The reason is, even if a job is promised, half of them fall through anyway (even with the most well-meaning people). You might miss out on other opportunities. Besides, you should never depend on “that one job.” It never boils down to just that. However, thankfully, Jerry is well-meaning guy, and that’s why there was one more thing I was about to learn from working with him.
When I later found out that Jerry had published the book without illustrations (a recommendation of his editor), I was unhappy (to say the least). I couldn’t help contacting Jerry, somewhat resentfully (though diplomatically, I hope). Like the good-natured man his is, Jerry expressed his sincere apologies, and said he still wanted me on board to illustrate the sequel and possibly other titles under Little York Books as well.
I was ecstatic. After all, I had truly and honestly liked the original book Jerry had sent me (and that’s not always the case, as you can’t expect to enjoy every book and script that comes your way). Best of all, Jerry had cut part of the content from the original manuscript and designated it (with additional content) to the second volume. In fact, my favourite part of the book, for which we had discussed an illustration early on, was cut out of The Pompey Hollow Book Club and put in The Book of Charlie instead!
Before I even read the book, I knew what illustration I wanted to do, but I read the new manuscript anyway. It was better than the original, and the additional story he had added was even more engaging than the things I had liked about the original. Even so, I couldn’t help doing that headless horseman illustration, and thankfully, Jerry agreed.
Jerry and I collaborated on this a bit. I sent him sketches, he gave me input and through our conversations I was able to figure what would really light the cover up (so to speak) and grab people’s attention, while keeping faithful to Jerry’s vision as well. I think I did a good job with this one. In fact (not to be over confident), I know I did, and as such, this is one of my favourite pieces to date. I’m happy Jerry liked it too, and that it’s now on the cover of one of his books.
That said, and perhaps most importantly of all, I learned that even if a publisher or other creative professional turns you down or a job falls through with them, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost the opportunity forever. Something still might be coming your way. I’m glad it did with Jerry, and I’m hoping this will be the beginning of a long partnership. Perhaps Little York Books might even publish a book or two of my own. Who knows? For now, I’m just happy to see this book is finally available. The book is a great read, and I’m not just writing that because my illustration is on the cover. I really enjoyed it, and I’m a hard man to please when it comes to books.
But let’s not kid ourselves. It is a pretty great cover illustration too.
Purchase The Book of Charlie: Spirit of the Pompey Hollow Book Club on: