One month from today I will be hopping on a plane to Los Angeles and the SCBWI Annual Conference...

I suspect I am not the only one with these plans as the hotel is now completely booked (some pun intended)!

And with that in mind, I thought I might feature a few posts on getting yourself and your work ready for the four fun-in-the-sun filled days of children's book networking that the conference provides.


This week: Promotional Postcards!

Whether or not you are entering your work in the Juried Portfolio Showcase, as an illustrator, having promotional postcards on hand is a must.

Business cards are fine, and you'll need them too, (see post next week), but for a good look, a really good look at your work- you'll need a professional promo postcard to hand out. And not just any postcard, but one that's going to get your piece pinned up on the corkboard of the publisher of your dreams!


Here are a few tips:

1. Pick the strongest piece in your portfolio- and use it as the front of your postcard.

This is the time to put your best foot forward. If there is a weak spot in a piece you are considering- put it aside- that is not the piece for your postcard. The image you chose is the image that will determine whether or not a client will look further into your work, check out your website, etc.

2. Make sure the illustration represents the kind of work you are interested in doing.

Many editors and art directors make 1:1 correlations between samples and assignments. That is to say- if you have a pig on your postcard- you are likely to get calls to illustrate books about piggies... Just ask my talented pal Juana Martinez Neal (@JuanaMartinez)... one adorable piggy promo postcard had her drawing a plethora of piggy-related projects!

I once sent out a postcard featuring a hippo in a tutu, and for the rest of the year I got calls about jobs that featured large round mammals. One of which was Circus Fantastico:

So, if illustrating fluffy bunnies is your passion, make sure your postcard is full of em!


3. If you write too, be prepared to have a story to go along with the piece on your postcard.

If the image on your postcard sparks the imagination of an editor or an art director, chances are they will ask if you have a story to go with it. The answer to this question is always "YES."

Even if you don't have one, you should still say "yes",  and that you will be happy to send it to them. Then go home and write it.

That is exactly what I did with Tea Rex... which, incidentally, is coming to a bookstore near you April 2013, courtesy of the folks at Viking Press.

Here is the image I used on my postcard:


And here is the final cover of the book...



Though much of the story I wrote (after I said I had already written it) was pushed and pulled, tweaked and polished; the cover remained largely unchanged. This just goes to show that one strong image can  capture the essence of a whole project and land you the book deal you're longing for.


4. Name and Website on the Front.

I know, I know... as an illustrator, there is a part of me that wants to keep my images text free- pristine and pretty- wordless picture books are my Utopian ideal.  But the business person in me knows that I will only get work if clients know who I am and where to find me. So, I appease my artistic side by incorporating the text into the design of the postcard. See Tea Rex postcard above...

The benefit to cleverly incorporating the text is two fold. 1. It looks spiffy. 2. It demonstrates to a client that you can handle text layout- which, though it is traditionally the duty of the in-house designers,  is a skill increasingly demanded of illustrators too.


5. Make the most of your back-side. (snicker snicker)

But seriously folks... make the most of the back of your postcard. Add a piece of spot art, make the text tie into what's happening on the front, be creative! I like to feature a sketch that relates to the piece on the front so that clients get a taste of my black and white pencil work, and the juxtaposition of the sketch and the finished piece ties into the layout I use in my portfolio. More on that in another post...


6. Hand them out!

Once you've put in all that hard work- be brave and hand them out to everyone! Meet someone in line for coffee? Make sure you give them your postcard. Sit next to someone you don't know in a workshop? Introduce yourself and offer them a postcard. Years ago, at my very first conference  I plopped  into an empty chair  and struck up a conversation with a stranger who turned out to be Andrea Brown,  and she gave me an impromptu portfolio review. You just never know who you'll meet... but you should always be prepared to give them a  sample of your work to take away with them.