Sunday, January 16, 2011

THE BEAUTY OF TAKING A BREAK

It's a secret that many illustrators and writers know. Finish your project and put it out of sight. When you look at it again, you will see it with fresh eyes. Last week I put away my promotional postcards and began printing up a portfolio to send off for critique.

The printing process isn't always easy, mainly because I have my illustrations in several different forms on my computer. I have versions for 8x10 portfolio, full size for book dummies, cropped for some uses, lo-res for internet, and CMYK for print media. For the most part, they are labeled well, but sometimes it gets confusing and I have to go through a few files and sometimes a different computer to find the right one.


As I was doing this, I came across one of my first designs for my latest batch of postcards. It was clearly the right design for the batch. This happens a lot with my sketches too. In fact, I'm in the process of changing some of my picture book dummy sketches back to earlier versions after several comments from art directors. Ninety-five percent of the time, when I put that first design down on paper, it's good to go. It's when I begin thinking and working it that I complicate things. I can see my thinking process all over the postcards I posted on Monday. Good thing I wasn't having them printed in mass quantities. Another perk to printing at home.

I would love to post images of the new postcards, but blogger is not formatting well this morning. I'd rather not spend the time de-bugging the code to make the images behave. Maybe I'll come back later and try again...

UPDATE: Came back and switched my blog to the "Old Editor". I hated to do it, but I don't have the time to waste on images that don't stay put in my posts!

Monday, January 10, 2011

PROMOTING CHILDREN'S ILLUSTRATION

This month I'm readying all my promotional postcards so I can launch into PubSubPackMo (Publisher Submission Packet Month) without hesitation. In the past, sending out samples has been laborious for a lot of reasons. For one, there isn't just one type of publisher out there and for another, I don't do just one type of illustration.

I used to spend a lot of time preparing custom packets for each publisher -  sometimes more than an hour each - researching, writing cover letters and printing custom samples that I thought fit their needs best. Printing out custom letter size samples was always problematic. It was difficult to get illustrations for different applications to work together on one sheet. It could definitely be done, but to do this over and over for many different publishers took a ridiculous amount of time and in the end, I was only guessing what their needs were anyway. Instead, I've come up with a new solution.

My first batch of samples will be packets with up to four postcard for each publisher. It all depends on who I'm sending to. I have work for picture books, middle grade spot illustrations, book covers and the educational market.  Then, for everyone I've already sent this initial packet to, I will follow up with one brand new sample every 3 months. These quarterly postcards will most likely be printed commercially. (The bottom right postcard is one I had printed in quantity by GotPrint.com a couple years ago.)
Picture Book Sample
Black & White Graphite Sample
Botanical/Pen & Ink Sample
Book Cover Style Sample
I picked the above samples because I've been listening to portfolio reviews from publishers for quite a few years now. Hopefully I've hit all the points well enough so at least some of my samples will stick around for future projects or perhaps my timing will be excellent and there will be a current project I'm right for.

But the samples are just one aspect of the submission process. There are a lot more considerations. I have asked all of the following questions multiple times, taken notes on what publishers and illustrators have said and added in my own trial and error to come up with the answers that work best for me. Caution: If you look hard enough you will always find the answer you are looking for or the one you fear most...

What do publisher want from samples? They want samples specific to children's publishing! They don't want to spend a lot of time on them. They want the samples to speak for themselves and an easy way to follow up if they want to see more work. This would be a portfolio by mail or a website. Some Art Directors put their favorite samples up on their bulletin boards, some put them in files, some pass them on to other departments. A lot of samples, GASP, get thrown away. This made me think that postcards of each type of illustration was my best bet. Each has my contact info on it and two examples of that style. They can be put up, passed on or filed and still have my contact info on them. Notice I didn't say they could throw them away?

Cover letter or no cover letter? This has held me up more than anything else in the past. Now, unless there is a specific project I'm pitching or interested in, I say no to cover letters and yes to my continued sanity. The number one reason for this is, who has time to read hundreds of cover letters from illustrators? They already have piles of book submissions with cover letters to go through and I spent way too much time customizing those letters anyway. I was frozen in my tracks many times, afraid I wasn't wording my qualifications well enough or succinctly enough.  I was even losing sleep.  What if I left out the one thing they were looking for? Forget it! Now I say let the illustrations speak for themselves.

Return postcard or not? I started out sending these and then I decided not to. Return postcards add expense and more work for me, not to mention more work for the publisher. Often times I didn't get them back for a year after my submissions went out and by that time I was already sending new work out. Instead, I do my research and I have a database where I keep track of all mailings - what I send, the date, publisher, who I directed the sample to and any responses. I take all the data into account when sending anything in the future and whether to keep sending to that publisher at all. As I see what each publisher is working on, I can look at my samples and send something appropriate.

It's important to keep up on what publishing houses are doing, what their current projects are and who is working where. It isn't a small job, but there are resources to help. Joining SCBWI is a huge asset. They supply updates on publishing houses that are invaluable and the conferences are a great way to stay connected. Another resource is the yearly Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. I use it as a prompt to find new publishers, but I don't rely on specific information too much. Things change so quickly. I always go directly to the publisher for any submission guidelines and addresses I might need.

PubSubPackMo anyone?
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

ONWARD - HAPPY 2011!

At times, 2010 was like running a marathon with rocks in my shoes. Right up until the very end, I was coming up with back-up plans for my back-up plans as obstacles came at me from every turn.

I'll spare you the details. Let's just say I've got some great stories. The important thing is, I met my goals to the end. I even got both websites up by midnight on January 1, 2011 despite two power outages. Check them out. FaeryMedicine.com is my e-commerce site which sells my illustrations as cards and prints. KristenSchwartz.com is my business portfolio for illustration and web design.

My business portfolio for illustration and web design.
Faery Medicine sells cards and prints of my work.










My plans for this month? I've decided to take a breather. I'm going to test and finesse my new websites, put together my designs for promotional materials and do client work. PubSubPackMo (Publisher Submission Packet Month) will have to wait until February, but I'll make 31 submissions anyway...

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