Last month I blogged about portfolios. This month I'll be discussing what to do next.
Get yourself noticed!
One way to do this is to join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org). It's THE organization to belong to if you write and illustrate children's books. They hold two national conferences each year - one in Los Angeles in August and the other in New York City in February. Each state has their own chapter(s) that host regional conferences at least once a year. At all of these conferences, guest speakers come that include editors, agents, art directors, illustrators, art reps, published authors - just about anyone in the business! You can participate in portfolio exhibits, pay to have your work professionally critiqued, network, and get inspired to perfect your craft. Within each state there are local groups that form to critique each other's work, arrange for guest speakers, organize events and book signings, and so much more. Each SCBWI also has their own profile page so you can post a bio, provide links to any books you've published, and even organize your own portfolio of your illustrations. (Here's my page - shameless plug!) AND SCBWI provides quarterly newsletters, resources to improve your writing, market surveys - the list goes on and on and on!
Of course, having a website and/or blog and other social media avenues where you can show off your portfolio is key to getting noticed. One way to lead people toward your online presence is by sending out postcards.
I suggest 5"x7" or larger (but not ridiculously huge) so that yours won't get lost among the rest of the mail stack.
You can order your postcards online at some of these sites:
Vistaprint (though I found their basic postcards to be a little too
thin/not sturdy enough - could be good for leave-behinds or take-aways at conferences)
Overnight Prints (same comment as Vistaprint)
Many publishers today are moving toward more eco-friendly means of acquiring samples of illustrators' work - some now have online forms to complete and to attach artwork. Others want submissions via email. But the vast majority of publishers still want postcards. And editors and art directors like grabbing postcards at conferences during portfolio exhibits. Giuseppe Castellano, the award-winning Designer, Illustrator, and Art Director at Penguin Random House, has a fabulous blog post about postcards. Even though he throws out 90% of the cards he receives, he still thinks they're a great way for artists to get noticed.
The one thing to remember about promotional mailers, though, is that it's like making a first impression - and you have to make a good one. Art directors and publishers will get so many postcards that yours has to stand out to get noticed over the rest. So be sure you put a strong image on the front that really shows off your best work. The piece should be eye catching and narrative. Try not to use an image that shows characters posed like a fine art piece might. ALWAYS include your contact information on the back and if you have room for at least your website on the front do it. DON'T FORGET your website and email. If you want you can put your phone number as well.
And plan to do new work so that you can send out mailers 3-4 times a year. Each time show a different image and hopefully one of the times you send out a postcard you'll get an email from an art director wanting to hire you. It took 2 years - that's right, TWO LONG YEARS, after sending out my first round of postcards - before someone contacted me. So don't sit behind the keyboard and wait until you see a message pop up in your inbox - you have to keep working on your craft.
But where do you send these postcards?
If you're a member of SCBWI, there are market surveys that you can download. They list the name of the publisher and address, most list the contact person in the art department. You can also buy the Writer's Digest Book for Children's Writers and Illustrators - with the purchase of the book you get access to the online database that updates the information periodically. BUT... it's always best to check each publisher's website for their current submission policies as things in the business change so quickly.
Finally, I would suggest attending conferences and arranging for portfolio reviews whenever you can. If you have an agent or other connections, you could make appointments to see art directors at some of the publishing houses, especially in New York. There you can show your portfolio or drop off samples, also known as "leave-behinds" for them to hold on to and consider you for future projects. At conferences, you can put out your portfolio and postcards for people to take back with them.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure your work is up to par and ready to show off to the world. Once people learn about you and your work, you better be ready to get busy!
Angela Padron is a published illustrator of two books, including "The Hero in You" by Ellis Paul, as well as a Star Wars geek and chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. She also writes and illustrates her own picture books, board books, and chapter books. When she's not teaching, Angela works as a freelance writer and editor for educational publishers and spends weekends enjoying walks along the beach with her family. View her online portfolio at www.angelapadron.com. You can also "like" her facebook page, follow her on Twitter @angela_padron, and follow her own blog called "Show and Tell" with weekly posts about teaching, writing and illustrating books for children.
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