Meeting Minutes, May 6, 2018, Erica De Chavez, Senior Designer, HarperCollins Early Childhood Books

by Vicky Rubin on May 15, 2018

Hi, this was a very long (as had shorter break than usual) and intense meeting, so I am posting notes taken by two members, Ruth Karpes and Susanna Pitzer. (Thanks, Ruth and Susanna!) Also, below the minutes is a link to a 17-page PDF Erica shared during the meeting. The meeting has links to videos. Under the the link to the PDF are two images that Erica provided.

Here is her personal site: //

Here is her business card. She does like to get occasional emails from illustrators with things like their new work.

(she showed this card at the meeting but it is actually out of date because she is a senior designer)

Her bio:

Erica DeChavez is a Senior Designer for HarperCollins’ early childhood children’s book team. She has designed picture books such as Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry, non-fiction picture book series such as the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, early reader books, board books, and illustrated middle grade chapter books. She has worked with and art directs up-and-coming new artists such as Taia Morley, Kevan Atteberry, Rosalinde Bonnet, Mike Lowry, Nila Aye and Anna Chernyshova. When she first started at HarperCollins, she had the enormous pleasure of working with one of the best art directors in the industry, Martha Rago and Jeanne Hogle as their design assistant. Erica was at the 2015 & 2017 CBIG Review.

Outside the office, she enjoys painting and drawing on the subway, in the park or by her windowsill in her Brooklyn apartment. She originally hails from Orlando, Florida and she is an avid lover of pandas and bows.


Ruth’s notes:

Notes on Erica De Chavez CBIG Talk 5/6/18

Erica De Chavez, Senior Designer with the early childhood team at Harper Collins Publisher is passionate about her job, passionate about children’s books and passionate about putting out the best children’s books possible.  She expects her artist to give 200% to the book… and she gives more.

The process starts once the manuscript is approved.  Together with the editor she decides on the kind of art they feel the book needs and then goes about finding the right artist.  Erica finds her artists from many sources.  First, from those she knows and has already worked with.  Then from trade show events, book shows,. comic book art festivals, anime conventions, art blogs, Instagram, art agencies, agents, different publishers, conferences such as SCBWI and CBIG, and, last but not least…postcards. She usually selects two artists, gets  samples, compares their work, then decides.  She  looks for not only the right art style but that the artist has the right feel for the book. She wants a strong art style, great drawings of kids and a good idea of what the book is about.  Once into the art she approaches the artist about the jacket.  She likes to get multiple options for jacket design.

Making a children’s book at  Harper Collins is a team effort….from the initial approval through all the many phases…involving opinions from a great many departments, inside and outside of the company….to the very end. Copyeditors play heavily into the book checking both text and art to make sure it is correct and accurate.  Even though the book is approved, corrections  can come back at further points, i.e. printer, etc. which sometimes have to be corrected in the reprint.  As for marketing, each book gets different marketing allocations.

Erica likes to meet and talk with artists vis-a-vis and likes when an artist asks for an interview when they email promotional queries. She feels it is necessary to give energy first that goes around. 

She also listed some advice for artists: 

First and foremost, be passionate about your work and do your very best; give 200% to what you do.

Always  be professional. Stick to deadlines.  It’s a small industry and word and reputations travel from house to house.

Have a clean website, post your latest work, and if you have different styles group them together.

Be patient when working on a book.  It takes time to get feedback from all the involved departments.

Read and follow instructions observe guidelines for gutters, text layouts, bleeds, etc.

Some Do’s

. Do mail promotional postcards. Erica keeps the ones she likes and keeps going through them.

. Email updates on new art.

. Reply to emails promptly and professionally.

. Notify art director in advance about delays

. Ask questions.

. Have an open mind.

. Have fun and love what you do.

Some Don’ts

. Miss deadlines

. Ask for an extension on the day of your due date.

. Be rude or stubborn.

. Disregard suggestions.

.Disregard text galleys… be aware of them

Erica then looked at portfolios, giving detailed constructive critiques.

As a wind-up Erica counseled that Success is a lifelong journey of developing your dream, but it is also subjective and has nothing to do with money.

It was a long, informative and intense meeting.


Susanna’s notes:

Erica de Chavez, Senior Designer Harper Collins
She said one can see further advice from her on Facebook and her videos

She works mainly with early childhood books, board books, concept books, original picture books, non-fiction picture books, ‘let’s read and find out,’ ‘let’s investigate,’ plus, licensing.

also, she works with illustrated chapter books, and middle grade graphic novels.

She said each book is a total team effort. Everyone is involved in all the decisions.

“Where to find artists?” This is a list of all the places Erica finds illustrators:

-Trade show events
– Book Festivals – MOcCA (annual Society of Illustrators conference), comic book, art festivals
-Anima next
-Book Boutique – CT- spring
– 10 Pages and Draw (online)
– Illustration Friday (online)
– They Draw and Cook (online)
-Tumblr and instagram – follows artists and publishers
-receives emails from agents
-college student groups
– Professional student shows – Pratt, Parsons, etc.
– Collects Postcards – recommends illustrators send 2-3x per year
– Also recommends that illustrators send an email when they have posted a new art piece on website.

Erica recommended a few resources for inspiration:
Website: Women who Draw
Podcast: 88 cups of tea

Portfolio and Website Advice:

Have a clean website layout with your art easily accessible
“Put your all into it”

When creating your portfolio, think:
What is your intention?
What types of books to you want to work with?
What is your art technique?

You can represent as many styles as you think you can manage successfully.
You need at least 5 samples of a style on website or to have them readily available.
Erica said that when she goes to an acquisition meeting, she needs at least 5 samples or more of a style. Because she will have to convince the other members of the team that the illustrator can successfully complete the job.

Organize your portfolio and website by style. Don’t have it all in a jumble, put like styles together.

Her talk was soooo informative and inspiring.




If that doesn’t work (that is her link, and I don’t know if it’s permanent), try this one:


The PDF has links to pages with some videos that have advice to illustrators. Please not that if you don’t have Adobe Acrobat (the full one, not Acrobat Reader) you will not be able to see the videos or the images that link to the videos.

She gave us a direct link to one of the videos: //

She might give us some more to some she said were just short, blurby ones where she introduces herself. So check back here (this update was made on May 25).

Note from Erica about the PDF: Please also note that there are 2 videos on page 2, “Who is Erica De Chavez” as well as all four videos on page 17, “Last-Minute Pieces of Advice”, see the attached screen shots where I circled the videos’ locations on the pages. The PDF is best viewed using Adobe Acrobat if possible because that’s the only program that the videos will be visible on and able to play on. Otherwise, thank you again for having me as a speaker today. It was an honor and I really do hope it was helpful and useful for everyone to hear.


That’s all folks!