Hello Anna, thank you for doing this interview! To start off with I would like to know what motivated you to start AGM and how did you do it? Also what qualifies you to have an international illustrator representative agency named after yourself? Did your name carry weight in the industry before AGM?
I was out of work. No seriously, I was working for another agency that had a totally different philosophy and work ethic then I did, so I decided to go out on my own. Also, I come from a family of entrepreneurs and always knew that one day I would run my own company.
As for my using my name as the agencies name, it was a friend that suggested it. I was spending many sleepless hours trying to come up with a catchy creative name. Then one day this friend of mine just suggested that I should just keep it simple and call it call it Anna Goodson Management. In retrospect, its one of the best things I have ever done. Did it carry any weight? Absolutely not, none whatsoever. I was a complete unknown. When I first approached artists to represent them, most of them turned me down. They would ask me things like “who are you and how long have you been doing this?” since it had only been a few weeks; most of the people I first approached turned the other way. Let's just say that I totally understand what its like to start at the bottom and work your way up. As for being international, why not. I always felt that the only thing separating me from illustrators from other countries was the different time zones and I could always deal with that.
In comparison to some other Artists’ Reps, for example Debut art or even thorogood, you generally represent a small number of illustrators and artists, not forgetting the couple of photographers you have on your books. Even though you represent fewer people than other illustration agencies do you feel that you still possibly represent too many as it stands? Have you seen the film Jerry Maguire? If not, get a copy and check it out… Do you try to spread your time evenly between promoting all of your illustrators all of the time or do you concentrate on your top earning illustrator(s) and leave the rest twiddling their thumbs even when there’s lots of work?
I try not to compare myself to other reps and do what I feel is right for me. The size of the group we have suits me just fine. If I wanted I could represent many more but I like the agency to have the feel of an intimate boutique rather than a Wall Mart. I was always told that “size” doesn’t really matter, does it? As for jerry Maguire, yes I saw the movie but am not a big Tomcat fan. Since we are located in Montreal, Quebec I like more to compare my style with that of Rene Angeli, Celine Dion’s agent. Yes, it's true that Celine has an amazing voice but if it were not for her agent pushing down doors for her, she would probably still singing at local bars in Old Montreal. I like to think that I have a lot of drive and go after what I believe. For example, when I first took on Pablo from Argentina, he was a complete unknown. I went crazy when I saw his work and fell madly in love with his illustrations. I also knew if I worked really hard and did not take no for an answer I would help him do really well. The first place I contacted was Rolling Stone. No, I did not have any contacts there at the time but just knew that his illustrations should be in there. I called and called and called. I sent FedEx’s and I even went to NY with his book. Well the day finally came and the phone rang with a job for him. We ended up working regularly with RS for two years after. It was a dream come true but only the beginning. We eventually sold one of his illustrations to the singer formally know as Prince for $$ well lets just say several years worth of salary for an illustrator living in Argentina. I kept pounding and the jobs kept coming. We recently found out that Pablo has had 5 illustrations selected for the next Communication Arts Illustration Annual as well as just completing his first full page for The New Yorker. Yes, this story evolves around Pablo but I do this for all the people that I represent. It's my job, my duty and of course my passion. I have never nor will I ever put more energy on the artists that are the most successful. It is the ones that are slower that sometimes need that little bit extra encouragement and support.
Good answer . So outside of the job you do what skills and interests do you have?
My job is my life and my life is my job but since the birth of my daughter Sacha two years ago, I have fallen deeply in love with being a parent. I would have to say that it has become my new favorite pass time. That might sound corny to many reading these answers but its true. From the moment you have a child, you really realize what life is all about.
That’s not to say that having children is for everyone, its not but it sure was for me. I use to be your typical type A personality where my career took precedent to everything else. Now I must admit that I truly do stop and smell the flowers. I also stop to tie Sacha’s shoes, point out the shapes in the cloud and teach her that the color pink has different names such as “fusia.” I re connected with Broadway musicals by going to see Mary Poppins with her and learned to ask if “that cookie” has nuts. I now read labels on food something I thought I would never do. I buy organic when I can and have become quite concerned with the environment. To think that so many things are affected by what we do has made me a more responsible human being.
I also I can't wait for the zoo to open up this season. A few weeks ago a baby giraffe was born and Sacha and I watched the birth on the internet. I promised her that we would go and see that baby giraffe in person.
Now here's a question you must have been asked many times: You find or an illustrator finds you and you want to represent them – what is the next step?
If I find an illustrator whose style I like, I send them a note and tell them exactly that. I ask them if they have heard of our firm and ask them if they have ever thought about being represented. They often get back to me with typical questions such as what is the commissions we take, what are the markets that we cover, is it exclusive etc. I also suggest to them that they ask around about us to various sources and gladly supply email addresses of others in our gang, should they have any questions for them.
If an illustrators contacts me and I like their work then I ask them a few questions like how did they hear about us, what do they know about our agency, what are their expectations in a rep. We also have a contract that I email over so they can see what our agreement looks like.
To be honest, it's a pretty quick process. I have taken on a new illustrator on a Friday and had them up on our website by Monday.
I really like to dive into the relationship. I am a reactionary kind of gal and when I feel its right it usually is. I get a good gut feeling just by writing a few emails or talking on the phone. I have said in the past, I don’t care how great someone’s work is their personally is as important to me.
Once the contract is signed and the images are up on line then I have Johanne Decker, who heads up my illustration division contact them and fill them in on other procedures they need to know about. Usually at the same time, they get a welcoming note from Sylvie Hamel who is in charge of the administration part of the agency filling them in on all the other details. We are really very well organized and any new illustrator joining AGM sees this from the moment then get on board.
OK you have the contracts signed – Apart from putting the new illustrators' details and images online at AGM; how do you go about promoting the new illustrator… or photographer?
This is like asking how they put the caramel into the Caramel bars. Are you asking for the receipt of our success? I would have to answer back with the question, what don’t we do? Once we sign on an artist with AGM we work very hard at promoting them. We do whatever we can and are very very pro active in getting their work seen. We send out printed promos, email, call go see clients with portfolios, get on all the top websites, advertise, etc.
We also encourage our artists to participate in all the great contests out there. We also pay a % of their participation. I feel that it is only fare to do so. I think we are the only reps that do this. I mean how can I push them to participate so that they get that added exposure and not contribute to the costs?
There really isn’t much that we don’t do. Actually, we don’t do source books. Personally, feel that source books are way too expensive for what you get out of them. Its not fare to ask a new illustrator to lay out so much money for a page in a book. That just did not make sense to me. I also feel that source books are outdated and I try to find more current ways to get out artists work seen. In fact Alternative Pick doesn’t even print a book any more and theirs was one of the really interesting ones. Here in North America we have something called Zoom Media which is advertisements in bathrooms and in front of urinals. It's advertising space that is the size of a small poster. We have been working with them for years and have received thousands of emails that start like this… Well, I was in this restaurant and bar and then went to the bathroom and staring me in the face was this really great illustration and I took down the website address….
We are all over North America, from coast to coast. Let's just say that this media plan of mine has given the agency some really great recognition.
We have also just recently just produced our most elaborate illustration promo to date, a beautiful full color book where each illustrator has a spread. The AGM Spring 07 Promo. The book is gorgeous, if I can say so myself. The cover is silver with the AGM logo embossed on the cover. Kind of looks like a smaller version of the ibook g4, with list of amazing illustrators inside. The only text in the book is a small partial client list for each artist as well as putting the city and country the artist comes from. I was quite impressed when I first saw it. It's a real keeper.
We have also been doing the AGM Christmas Coaster Promo for 7 or 8 years now. It's a collection of coasters that we print each year and send them out to clients. Each year we do a theme and each illustrator and photographer produces an image for the promo. Clients love them and whenever we send them out we always get calls to see if we have more. I really like this promo and it has become a part of AGM. I can't imagine not doing the coasters for Christmas. It's just a great way to promote and offer a nice gift to clients to show our appreciation.
Right… Back to Jerry Maguire! If you could only represent one Artist – who would it be and why?
Toilouse Lautrec. Because he’s good!
If you could only represent one worker bee out of the artists and illustrator you currently represent – who would it be and why?
Ok, so you want me to choose one artist out of my gang, no can do. Next question.
Can you name any companies that should be avoided at all cost?
All Stock and Royalty Free companies.
Why do you say Stock companies – are they not just another outlet for illustrators to make money?
I am really against stock illustration. I work hard at getting commission work for my gang. Yes, it is another outlet to make money but at what cost. For now stock and royalty free illustrations are not that great but things are changing fast. The more great illustrators that get involved the more choices there will be available and the less commission work there will be out there. I think stock and royalty free is very dangerous to the future of illustration and I am fighting on the behalf of all illustrators.
Where do you stand when it comes to speculative work?
Here's a link if you would like a bit more information on the subject http://no-spec.com
We don’t do spec work. When we pitch on a project we always charge a fee or we don’t do it. That has always been our policy. Great website by the way. I had no idea it existed.
Good policy! Do you ever lose work by sticking to your guns?
Have you ever thought about opening a gallery at AGM? Where you could show and sell your illustrators’ and photographers’ work? If so – what would it be like and what would you call it?
Yes, I have thought about it, but I'm really too busy with the agency to think about anything else at this time. Maybe one day… I have a lot of ideas. I would want it to be like the kind of gallery you stumble into when walking around Soho NY. I have no idea for a name. I would have to think long and hard about what I would call it.
So if you did have a gallery would you invite Tom Cruise?
Where do these questions come from? Everyone would be welcome to come to the vernisage. Even Tom Cat.
What’s next on the agenda for AGM?
I want to continue doing what we’re doing, keeping our Artists busy and discovering new exciting styles to represent along the way. The last 11 years have been incredible and I hope to use the experience I’ve acquired to be a better agent and a productive part of this amazing industry. I am very thankful for our success and feel honoured to work in a business that I love.
Peanut butter and jelly or Cheese and pickle sandwich?
Use to be peanut butter but recently found out my daughter is allergic to peanuts’ so will go with cheese and pickles.
Illustrators or Artists?
Illustrators are Artists.
Work or play?
That’s easy, PLAY!!
Top Gun or Days of Thunder?
A Few Good Men?
When Harry met Sally
Andy Potts or Pablo Lobato?
I love them both, impossible to decide. All I can say is that Pablo has been with us for years and we are good friends but with Andy, it was love at first sight. They are both super guys and amazing illustrators. I have had the pleasure of meeting them both in person and that was very special. Pablo came to see us from Argentina and Andy recently visited from the UK.
And last but not least – what does an illustrator have to do to get your attention?
For an illustrator to get my attention, I have to have a cathartic reaction to their work. I am a reactionary and usually get very excited when I see work that interests me. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does my attention is definitely captured. I will usually call them up or send them a email telling them that I love their work. It's hard for me to describe “that” feeling I get when I see something really great, I guess I just have a great intuition.
I personally look at every email I receive as long as it is addressed to me. I automatically delete emails addressed to Dear Madame or Dear Sir and hate to receive mass emails that illustrators send out to several reps at one time. I get quite a few emails from illustrators looking for representation so some times it might take me a while to answer back but I eventually do.
Thank you Anna, it has been an absolute pleasure interviewing you. Ohh… And congratulations in regards to Communication and Applied Arts Illustration Annuals.
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Comments from the AGM gang.
All the women at AGM are extremely hard working and are excellent at their jobs. Anna is a really supportive and caring agent and I feel lucky to be a part the group.
Anna, Jo and all the ladies at AGM are amazing! They really make an effort to make the group feel like a family and take care of everyone on a personal & professional level. I just can’t even begin to say enough nice things. Love em.
I am amazed by Anna’s passion and by the energy. I think that a courtesy and prompt work of AGM is great.
Since joining AGM I haven’t ceased to be impressed with the level of dedication, professionalism and the over all high standards of the team. I’ve been working for some great clients that I would never have been able to reach otherwise. It’s great to be part of the gang.
Since I have been with AGM I have been inundated with commissions. Anna is committed to promoting her illustrators; she is supportive, approachable and has helped me make illustration my full time career.
Anna is proactive and ambitious for her illustrators and these have got to be the most important characteristics of a good agent. She runs a very professional outfit which is a pleasure to work with. My client list has been given a very healthy boost since I joined AGM.
In my opinion, Anna Goodson Management is a very professional and hard-working team who takes care of the artists’ career in order to let them concentrate on what they are best at: creation. Also, Anna Goodson is promoting our work in a very inventive way and, as an artist; this helps me to push further my own creative limits.
Anna and her team are wonderful. Anna follows with great attention all of our work. It’s the familiar atmosphere of the agency that makes you want to give your best. I’m really pleased to be part of it.
Anna works really hard for her artists. Anna and her crew have done a really good job keeping me busy and getting my work seen. Ironically I have never met her (she’s out of Montreal and I’m in Portland, Oregon), but she often will check in on me to see how I’m doing, that means a lot. It’s not all about work and money.
I just wanted to put my two cents in as regards to being represented by AGM. Besides being an ultra professional agency what a lot of people should know about Anna and everyone at AGM is that they make you feel absolutely wonderful every time you come in contact with them. That type of treatment just makes me want to be a better artist.