Friday, November 30, 2012

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!)


Angie said...

Great post! Glad I stumbled across it from Illo Friday, though I have a lot of work to do before I'm ready for this step. Love your penguins!

Kristi Valiant said...

Thanks, Angie. I took a peek at your blog, and your style is lovely.

Catilustre said...

Thanks for share all this info Kristi! is very helpful and encourage to do it! I love the pinguins too, and the girl dress! :)

Jenn Bower said...

Great post. Thanks for the advice and guidance.

Russ Cox said...

Excellent post!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful art work and promotion. Love your website and creativity.

Natalie said...

Would one send postcards to an Art Rep as well? Or is print media something you would normally just send to publishers? I'm looking into getting an illustration agent, but I'm still looking into the process. Thanks for all your helpful posts!! Your blog is my go-to for my process haha.

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Shannon O'Toole said...

Thank you for your helpful post. I am interested in both picture book illustration, as well as Middle Grade. Would you suggest I make 2 different post card designs, each appealing to the two different types of books?

I am confused as I know many publishers make books for both markets, and if there is only one art director, I want to provide them with a post card that can prove I do both styles.

Thanks for your help!

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