Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Portfolio Visit: Serpents Tail

"Serpent’s Tail is a consistently brave, exciting and almost deliriously diverse publisher."
Will Self

Whilst down in London, a few of us from the ‘Illustration’ Course went to visit ‘Serpents Tail’, an independent publisher that specializes in publishing books that represent the kind of independent thinking that is so often neglected by the mainstream. It is this philosophy towards representing unique and interesting ideas that gained them a reputation as a publisher of brave and exciting work.

When we arrived we met with Marketing Director Niamh Murray, who talked us through the process of commissioning book cover designs. What came as news to many of us was how many different people are involved in the cover design. Many people were under the impression, as I was, that it was down to the illustrator and the art director.

What we hadn’t realized was the number of marketing representatives who needed to approve the cover before it could go ahead. For example there would be a representative from ‘amazon’, who would asses a covers potential based on how well it works as a thumbnail; similarly a representative on behalf of supermarket chains would asses how well the cover would fit into their store, views which may contrast with that a book shop representative.

I then, met with Art Director Peter Dyer for a portfolio viewing. As most of my portfolio was made up of children’s illustration, there were a few pieces he didn’t feel he could comment on, which lead me to realize something I should have learned a while ago, which is that it is important to edit your portfolio before a viewing depending on who you are going to see.

The piece that Peter was most interested in was the ‘Heroes’ piece I developed for ‘Music’. He said that it is the kind of image he could see on a book relating to pop music. He liked the notion of the ‘reductionist portraits’; he said that this was an avenue worth exploring. However, he went on to say that Noma Bar is currently the ‘go to guy’ for this kind of illustration, and that if I wanted to pursue this ‘reductionist portrait’ area further that I would need to work on a way of separating my work from Noma Bar’s.

A big thanks to Niamh Murray and Peter Dyer for all their help and advice; and for giving us all a rare insight into the world of publishing.

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