I'm a member of Picture Book Artists Association, a group of talented writers and artists working in the children's publishing industry. A recent post requested advice for a young illustrator and my response can be read below.
Tell your cousin's daughter to pursue her career with passion and dedication.
Don't listen to negative remarks about the industry but be realistic about market conditions and financial expectations.
Be aware of the history of this profession and look forward to see where it might be going. Look for opportunities and get experience where possible but don't undervalue or underprice your work and don't give it away because someone is "letting" you be an artist.
Budget your time, run your career as any good business person would. Initially, without the burden of deadlines, get out there and network with other illustrators and artists locally and nationally by joining a local art organization and SCBWI.
Create art everyday...paint, draw, doodle, build...whatever it takes, stay in artistic shape, Don't let your portfolio, your work, become stale and dated. Keep up with technological advances in the industry.
Make phone calls ( that doesn't mean send a text message, instagram, tweet or email...pick up the phone) make a personal connection with editors and ADs, arrange a meeting if possible or go to conferences and meet them.
Market your work...website, facebook business page, twitter account, etc...who has the time? Welcome to marketing in the modern business world. You need to have an internet presence and update your work periodically.
Be aware that publishing has changed from the time you started school and some information you were given may be outdated already so stay up to date. Read the monthly update on children'sillustrators.com, the SCBWI newsletter, PW Children's Bookshelf
Don't hesitate to write and illustrate your own book and e-publish it and look for other web
publishing businesses to get illustration work from.
Look for work in other markets where your style of making art fits such as the licensing,
toy or gaming industry, research it and approach it as required.
You haven't even gotten your first book project yet look how much there is to be done
on a daily basis. Get up in the morning and get to work. Don't just post your work and wait for publishers to come knocking. This is your work, your business, your artistic career. Not the easiest of career paths but every time you reach a destination along the way you'll find great satisfaction. This isn't about luck, it's about you. Your success will be determined by you. Also, don't forget to acknowledge those who have helped you get where you are. If you get work due to another illustrator, teacher or publisher...thank them on your blog and put a link to their website in the copy. Share your experience and help others who will, one
day, be where you are right now.
-Steven James Petruccio