Sub It Club is thrilled to welcome Hazel Mitchell to the Postcard Post this month. I had the pleasure of meeting Hazel in person in Paris at the 2013 SCBWI Europolitan Conference where she served on the faculty. I learned a lot at her session on graphic novels. Hazel is a consummate professional so get ready to enjoy some beautiful illustrations and pick up some very helpful tips on producing and sending out your self-promotion postcards.
Hazel Mitchell is an award winning illustrator. From an early age she drew on most everything she could get her hands on and still can’t be left safely alone with a pencil. Her most recent books include ONE WORD PEARL, 1, 2, 3 BY THE SEA, HIDDEN NEW JERSEY, ALL-STAR CHEERLEADERS series by Anastasia Suen and HOW TO TALK TO AN AUTISTIC KID (Foreword Reviews Gold Medal winner and Finalist in ‘Books for a Better Life’). At the moment she’s working on a new book about a Maasai girl for Charlesbridge called IMANI’S MOON for Fall 2014.
Originally from Yorkshire, England, she now lives and works from her studio in Central Maine, USA. She still misses fish and chips and mushy peas, but is learning to love lobster. She has a dog, a cat, two horses and several snow shovels. You can see more of her work at www.hazelmitchell.com or find her on Facebook and all those other online places!
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
Quite often I use an image I have worked on recently. Or from a recently released book. I don’t do ‘themed’ cards, i.e., tie in with a season or a holiday, or a silly day (like donut day)*. I’ve seen some really great postcards that do this though! I sometimes do something different, like send out a black and white image, or several images on the same card. Occasionally I send out an image from personal (not contracted) work in progress.
*Not even donut day? Now I want a donut. And I want Hazel to do a donut postcard.
Do you prefer text on the front of the postcard with the image or do you prefer all text on the back of the postcard?
I’ve done it both ways. I used to just put my website address on the front discreetly, but in my latest mailing I had my name much bigger. And not so discreet!* I always have my details on the back and usually another image (or two) smaller that goes with the front image (might be a sketch for example). But try not to crowd!
*You go, Hazel!
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Occasionally. I definitely did that more when I wasn’t working on books so much. And then I mailed out cards and I got busier on books, so now I usually put something I am working on, on. When I started out, most of my mailouts were portfolio pieces.
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
Some of my friends have had a lot of success with the ‘overtime’ mailouts. For example, sending out the same characters doing different things on different postcards. But I don’t think I am that organized! Mine are stand alone. But now I am thinking I might try a timed mailout … hmm. Some people do really creative things with their postcards, but it’s usually just a single image for me. KISS*, as they say. Some of my choices for postcards have bombed. You know that when nothing comes back, ever. It’s a good idea to be consistent in your style when you mail out so art directors and editors get to know you. Alas, I fail at this because I work in different styles. But what works for one person, doesn’t work for another. As long as something works, that’s the main thing!
*If, like me, you didn’t know this acronym, I’ll save you the trouble of googling: “Keep it simple, stupid!”
How often do you send out postcards?
I’ve had all kinds of schedules. 3 monthly, 6 monthly, monthly, group postcard mailings! Right now it’s about 3 times a year. I schedule it on my calendar and try and keep to it. But if I get busy I fall behind and then the next mailing deadline looms before I know it.*
*Setting deadlines only to let them LOOM: BTDT (been there, done that).
Whom do you target with your mailings?
Children’s books and magazines. I have 2 lists – one is about 500 and has editors, art directors, designers. The other, which is about 250, is art directors. The big mailer would only go once in a year. I also have a list for schools and libraries and this year I have begun to mail them also, once a year.*
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I use Excel and keep my lists separate. It would be more sensible to have one list and keep the titles for everyone and ‘sort’ by that when mailing. But somehow that never happened and now it is too late! So I have to cross reference when updating. I’ve had at times lists that were kept with a few other illustrators. I do have one friend who I update with now.* It’s very hard to keep up to date with all the changes in the industry. You can follow the movements of people in SCBWI bulletin, Publisher’s Lunch, Harold Underdown’s Purple Crayon website, just to mention a few. I try and jot down names when I hear them or read something. Then I forget where I jotted them down. It’s a wonder I have a list at all. If a card is returned I will update my list. I usually hope for the best that the person who has taken over gets the cards. Alas, I expect a lot of cards go in the trash in the mail office. That is the way of life.**
*The buddy system! Excellent way to make lists more manageable.
**Practical and philosophical: a winning combination.
Do you have any tips on the production process?
Always use the best image you can. As I work digitally this isn’t a problem for me, but I know it can be for people who work by hand and have to get scans if they are not computer oriented. 300dpi CMYK is standard for printing. I usually send 4 x 6″ cards double-sided in a stain finish. If you can’t do a pro job – hire someone who can. Send the best impression of yourself!
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
Because I send out a lot of cards, keeping cost down is important. I use Overnightprints.com because I get a great discount deal from using them so long. And their colour is good and quality printing. There are many companies around. I often get a large run (1,000) which is pennies more than 500 and I use them at school visits and book stores too. I have used a mailing company in the past, but the card quality is often not so heavyweight.
Thank you so much, Hazel!
If you aren’t following Hazel online already, I highly recommend it. Her images, information and humor will brighten your day. Here are the links:
If you’re joining us for the first time at the Monthly Postcard Post, you can catch up with a general article on postcard mailings for illustrators and previous featured illustrators in the archive (there’s a tab above too). See you next month.