Friday, November 30, 2012

CWIM Giveaway Winner

I wrote out all the entries, mixed them up in a box, and had a non-biased person pick the winner. Congrats to Nessa Morris! You've won a copy of the 2013 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market!

Sending Art Promotional Postcards to Publishers for Children's Books

The second most clicked-on blog post I've ever written was about sending promotional postcards to publishers. So I thought I should devote another post to covering that topic in depth.

What is my most clicked-on blog post, you wonder? An illustration I did of Peter Rabbit for Theatreworks USA's production. You wouldn't believe how many people search the web for "Peter Rabbit" every day!

Back to promotional postcards. If you're an illustrator looking for work in the children's book industry, one of the ways to get your art considered is to send promotional postcards to publishers.

I would say the first step would be to go to a bookstore and read, read, read the kinds of books you want to illustrate that are currently being published. Learn how the illustrations interact with the text. Study the illustrations and the publishers. Write down the publishers of the books that you think match your own artwork. If you love drawing dragons and sword fights, then sending postcards to that publisher who seems to publish only baby bunny books would be a waste of postage. Writers, you do the same thing here to find publishers who would be a good match with your manuscript.

2008 postcard sent to publishers
Ok, now you have some publishers. Google their websites for submission guidelines. Some only take submissions from agents, but there still are a good number that will take unsolicited submissions. Also, check out more publishers listed in the annual book, Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) and search their websites for a catalog of books to see if they would be a good match for you. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) also has a listing of publishers. I would highly recommend joining SCBWI if you want to write or illustrate for kids. I volunteer as a Regional Advisor for SCBWI because the organization has helped me so much with my career and continues to help me with marketing my books and making neat connections with publishing professionals. Join SCBWI, go to your local and regional events, get involved by volunteering, and meet friends in the children's book industry. So important!

Should you send postcards of your art or your whole portfolio or what? Read the submission guidelines of each publisher carefully. Some may only take email submissions. Some only want postcards. Some want to see more. The vast majority will accept postcards. Postcards are easy for them - no envelopes to open and no scary virus possibilities with attachments - and they can see at a quick glance if your art is something they'd consider. You MUST put a website on your postcard where they can see more of your illustrations. When I was sending postcards to publishers, I liked to have one illustration and my website on the front of the postcard. That way, if someone tacks it to a board, they have my website right there on the front. This postcard of the little drummer boy I sent in 2008 to hundreds of editors and art directors. Editors have a say in choosing illustrators too, so send postcards to editors and art directors who work with the kinds of books you'd like to illustrate at each publisher. You can find names in CWIM, SCBWI's lists, Harold Underdown's "Who's Moving Where" section, SCBWI conference faculty, etc.

2010 postcard sent to publishers
What illustration should you use on your postcard? Only what you want to illustrate. Of course, that makes sense, but really, be careful with this. If you don't want to draw bicycles, don't put an illustration with a bicycle on your postcard. The best image for a postcard is one that is narrative (children's books tell stories and so should your image), and that shows a character (children's books have great characters, not still lifes). If you're better at animals, show animals. If you're better at people, show kids. If you like to do both and both are high enough quality, show both.

What should you put on the back of the postcard? The rest of your contact info and you can list other books you've illustrated. You can also include some little spot illustrations like these penguins on the back of my postcard from 2010. I had written a manuscript about these dancing penguins and sent this postcard as an art sample. In case an editor would be interested, I included a line saying, "These illustrations are from my WIP dummy, Penguin Cha-Cha-Cha." There were a few editors interested who contacted me to see my manuscript after receiving this postcard! Another editor found the illustrations on my website and asked to see the manuscript and then acquired it! PENGUIN CHA-CHA will be published by Random House Oct 2013!!
Current postcard marketed to people buying books

Where do you get the postcards printed? There are loads of online printers. I've used Vistaprint and Overnight Prints with success. I've also ordered samples from PrintRunner and plan to order stickers and magnets from there.

What size? I like the 4" x 6" size because it's cheapest to print and mail. You can do larger sizes if you want to include more detail or info on it, but check with the post office to see at what point you need to buy a full price stamp instead of a postcard stamp.

The first trade children's book that I illustrated was a direct result of a mailing I did. I had sent art samples to Shen's Books that had a little Asian girl on them because I knew they were a multicultural picture book publisher. Right then they were looking for someone to illustrate CORA COOKS PANCIT and the timing was perfect! I had been sending illustrations out for some time before that bite, so don't give up if this is what you'd really like to do. I had been fine tuning my illustrations to work for trade books by attending SCBWI conferences and getting portfolio critiques by children's book art directors. Those critiques and conferences were instrumental in helping me develop my work along the way, and I still go to them to continue to grow!

Current postcard marketed to people buying books
Now I have an agent, the wonderful Linda Pratt from Wernick and Pratt Agency, so Linda submits for me. I still make postcards, but now my postcards are to set out at conferences and book signings. So instead of marketing my postcards to editors and art directors, now my postcards are marketed to people buying my books. I have one book per card and I list the awards and accolades, like on these postcards for THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN and CORA COOKS PANCIT. I also created a postcard for my upcoming PENGUIN CHA-CHA picture book, and had been handing that out at conferences and book signings. I'm about to update it with the typography from the cover of the book instead of the font on it, which was something I used on the postcard before my cover was finalized.
Recent postcard about my upcoming book

Best wishes on your postcards!

Note to conference planners: This is a subject that I would love to speak on at conferences!

(CWIM giveaway winner coming up later today!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Coloring Sheet

Here's a turkey coloring sheet for Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy it!

I love this time of year when we make a point to name our blessings out loud. Thankfulness is really an attitude of the heart that we're trying to teach our kids to have every day. Most days there's some little thing that doesn't go my way, and instead of getting frustrated and letting bitterness build up, I'm learning how to thank God. And when I stop and thank God, I slow down and notice other small joys. Right now my two toddlers are napping - what a joy! And when they wake, we'll carve yet another pumpkin and they'll laugh at it's funny face, and those giggles are pure joy too.

In the words of Junior Asparagus from Veggietales:
"I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!

For our home on the ground,
For His love that's all around,
That's why I say thanks every day!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I'm glad for what I have,
That's an easy way to start!

For the love that He shares,
'Cause He listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks every day!"

The Hart family printed my Halloween coloring sheet and sent me this picture:
Aren't they adorable?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2013 CWIM Giveaway!

Have you used CHILDREN'S WRITER'S AND ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET, also known as CWIM? It's a wonderful resource for those who write or illustrate for kids and young adults. It's updated yearly and has over 650 listings for publishers, agents, magazines, and more, including who to contact, how to submit your work professionally, and what they're looking for. It also has interviews and articles.

A new feature this year is a roundup with more than 20 SCBWI Regional Advisors who share their best advice on how to get your children's book published. I'm one of those!!!

CWIM is edited by the knowledgeable Chuck Sambuchino. I've asked Chuck some questions:

Kristi: In my own journey to being published in children's books, I had first sent art samples to publishers using the list of publishers in CWIM and was able break into illustrating children's books before writing them. When I began writing, I was hesitant and scared to submit my manuscripts to publishers. How does a writer know when they're ready to submit for the first time?
Chuck: In my opinion, a manuscript is ready for submission when it lacks any major problems. What happens is this: You write a book, and then you'll need to get other opinions on your writing -- be that from a professional editor or your own writing peers. These other readers will point out problems with the work -- e.g., how the writing is weak in the middle, or how the book starts too slow, or how the ending is not believable, etc. It is then your job to address these issues and try to fix them, one at a time. Once all the major issues of your book have been fixed, and readers start to respond to you with no more needed fixes, then I believe the book is ready for the world. 

Kristi: Now I'm blessed to have a wonderful agent, Linda Pratt, who submits for me. What can published writers and illustrators with agents still learn from CWIM? Do you consider CWIM a beginner's resource?
Chuck: It is certainly used mostly by beginners, but the book can be great for advanced, published authors, as well. Let's say you're a published author or illustrator who has made inroads in the book world -- but now you want to make more money writing for magazines. CWIM lists kids magazines. Perhaps you want to sell more books and build your writer platform through more public speaking. CWIM lists conference opportunities and contact names. Plus, it always has 120-180 upfront pages on the art and craft of writing & illustration. It's great instruction, and we must never stop learning. 

Kristi: Congrats on your new book, CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM, coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit about platform and why it's important?
Chuck: Your writer platform is your visibility in the marketplace and your proven ability to sell books. A platform is built through success in arenas like a blog, social media, public speaking, media appearances, newsletter creation, article writing, networking, organizational contacts, etc. 
Platform is important because the number of publicists in the publishing world continues to dwindle. The pressure is now on for writers to be the lead marketers of their own books. In fact, nonfiction and self-published authors absolutely must have platform if they want their books to be successful. Fiction writers and illustrators not need platform, but do indeed want it -- because platform translates to book sales. And if you can personally sell more of your own books, you can make more money for yourself and also for the publisher. That makes you a more valuable, in-demand author that will get future book deals.

Since I've contributed to the 2013 CWIM, I'm holding a giveaway! Simply comment on this post by Nov 30 for one entry, and post a link to this blog in your favorite form of social media for an optional second entry (let me know in the comments). Leave me your email address or a way to find your snail mail address in case you win. Must live in the US.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Illustration Friday - Shy

From a WIP manuscript I've written. Her name is Wing.