>> Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Today my main project is to finish making my illustration promotions. I learned about this in college, while taking graphic design and illustration courses, and a lot of people ask me how this works. Essentially I want publishers to see my artwork, and have my contact information so that they will keep me in mind when it comes time to commission illustrations.
There are other ways to promote your work, online portfolios are popular, and I have my samples on some of those as well, at childrensillustrators and portfolios.com. I chose ones that seem to get good traffic but are still affordable. Sometimes it's a difficult decision, I could get more exposure on a more expensive site, but it's also possible that I'm not what those clients would be looking for. I have only done educational children's books so far, and usually the budget for those projects is much lower than for other types of illustration, particularly editorial and advertising. Educational children's books are sold to schools, and unlike trade books they aren't usually available in bookstores and libraries.
So to add to the online promotion, I send out printed samples to publishers. The main thing these need to include is you artwork and contact information. This contact information should be on everything you send, samples often get passed around and although they usually end up in some kind of folder, it's not always very organized so each piece should have your info. The samples you choose to send should be appropriate to the publisher in style and content. I spend hours browsing around the children's section in bookstores and libraries. You start to get an idea for the style that different publishers are using.
Also, you need to find out where to send your samples. I usually just browse around online. I find the publisher's sites then check if they have submission guidelines. They will usually tell you exactly what they do and do not want to receive. Never send original samples! They are not responsible for returning anything you send. Some even prefer you to email samples, others ask for extras such as a resumé and cover letter. The first time I contact a publisher I usually send a letter, business card and samples, after that I follow-up with cards with recent work.
Don't expect a reply, but if you do get one, it can take months. Also, if they tell you that your work is "on file" that's a positive reply, it means you are in their pool and when the right project comes along they will consider you, but it could take months or even years. I used to send a SASE for a reply but they rarely came back, and frankly I don't need to hear from them if they're not interested. I just find it discouraging!
Self-promotion is ideally something you should be doing all the time, even while you're busy with projects, but it can be difficult. I've been putting off sending packages for a long time, because I was so swamped with work. But now that I've just finished a major project it's time to get cracking. It could be a long time before I get any responses, but hopefully I will get other projects from existing clients in the meantime, such as this one I did yesterday for Stargazer Press. They are going to make Tooth Fairy kits!