Kevin Lewis has done a bit of everything in the publishing industry. He started out at Books of Wonder before heading over to Scholastic, and then shooting over to Simon and Schuster. I'm probably leaving a whole bunch of other stuff out, but you get the idea—this guy has done it all, he knows his stuff!
Today Kevin is an agent at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, helping to bring more visual elements into their lists—focusing on representing author-illustrators.
Kevin loves picture books, as he was a reluctant reader as a kid. He's turned that love of pictures into a long career in publishing. Over the course of his career, he's worked with the likes of Kadir Nelson, Tony DiTerlizzi, Dav Pilkey, so many others. He's always enjoyed working with illustrators to develop long careers.
In addition to young picture books, he enjoys helping to develop illustrated chapter book, avoid text heavy fiction and nonfiction. And if you are an author-illustrator of color, or from another under-represented community—Kevin's your guy.
Kevin admits that, maybe, he's not the best editor. So if that's what you are looking for, he can certainly point you to an editorial agent at his literary house. He is mostly there for the visual storytellers.
A recent book that represents his tastes: THE GUMAZING GUM GIRL! POPPED STAR, which may or may not smell like bubble gum. Buy the book to find out.
Advice on pre-published first steps.
Get involved. Have something you feel powerful about. You don't have to be published to be a literary advocate. Fight for others within this publishing community—it not only makes you more professional,but a better storyteller.
How many clients represented?
Kevin prefers to keep his client list small, he represents about eight creators. And even with that smaller number, there are days when he feels like he represents too many. Kevin is the type of agent who needs to be able to engage with his clients consistently—he's more hands on.
Advice on money.
Avoid chasing the huge advances. Remember, advances must be paid back. You don't want to be known as the guy who got that huge advance, the book never sold—and then he just disappeared from the publishing scene. Getting a smaller advance with a larger royalty might be a viable option to consider.
Best advice for illustrators:
Take care of hour hands. You use then a lot. Hands hurt? Get a massage. Don't overwork your physical self.