One of the benefits of living in Europe is to have access to the European book market. I had the opportunity to visit the Salon du Livre et la Presse Jeunesse (Youth Book and Press Fair) in Paris this past weekend. I was really impressed at how many publishers there are in the French youth book market. This is a country the size of Texas and this entire huge building was jam-packed with publisher stands - all French.
I would have liked to peruse through the stands some more but it was so packed with people and had the temperature of a sauna. So I went to the top floor of the building for the main reason I traveled four hours to this book event.
The Salon du Livre holds a Rendez-vous Tremplins (Springboard Meeting) which gives young artists under 30 (ah hem, I had to stretch the truth about my age ok?) the opportunity to meet with art directors in the French youth book market. Each artist is allowed to make up to three meetings. To be honest, I couldn't have done any of this without my girlfriend - who not only encouraged me to go but also served as my translator.
This was actually the first time I had the opportunity to sit down with an art director and share my work. I had three very helpful, friendly and encouraging meetings with Ptit Glenat, Didier Jeunesse, and Editions Milan. I was a little concerned ahead of time how the communication would go - since I didn't know if they could speak English (English is not as common is France as it is in Germany where I live) and didn't know if the translation would be a cumbersome process. In the end the language difference wasn't a barrier at all. It was interesting to see what they connected with and what they didn't. I also got some specific feedback on what I could improve on. The advantage of having three meetings in one day is you can more easily compare common points between the comments and connect the dots more easily.
Overall the experience was absolutely worth traveling for. It's too bad they don't have something like this in the U.S. for children's book illustrators. I think half the battle of beginning as a commercial artist is to make it feel real - to get beyond the virtual world of emails and social network and to meet-face-to-face with real, living, breathing art directors. This way, you can really understand their point of view - explaining why they like certain things, and why they don't like certain things - and empathize with them as a fellow creative individual.
Oh, the book fair and the Rendez-vous Tremplins.....entirely free!