The June Postcard Post: Kirsten Carlson

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this month’s postcard: I saw it develop from a sketch to the finished glory you’ll see below. I knew I’d have to share it here as well as Kirsten Carlson‘s tips and advice. Sub It Club is happy to welcome Kirsten to the Postcard Post!

Kirsten Carlson has one creative foot in science and the other in art. She has been an illustrator and designer for 20 years. Her illustrations were first discovered by a publisher at an SCBWI New York conference, which led to her first project as a children’s book illustrator, THE GIRAFFE WHO WAS AFRAID OF HEIGHTS, published in 2005. Her latest publication as both illustrator and writer is WHERE THE LAND AND SEA MEET, a nonfiction activity book. She is currently developing several picture book stories that are animal and nature inspired.

Postcard Front
Postcard Front. Absolutely mesmerizing!

How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
This postcard illustration evolved out of a professional SCBWI France webinar series called Project Portfolio.* Our challenge was to create an illustration that showed a group of characters sharing a meal. During the process, I decided it would also be great as a postcard illustration.**
*Hmm. That rings a bell!
**You were right: it is.

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?
It depends on the illustration. I designed this postcard with my name and title on the front, so that there is no need to flip the card over. In the past I’ve wanted the impact of an illustration alone, and other times, I’ve used a tag line, because the promo piece was geared for a specific book or project.

Postcard_Back octopus
Postcard back. Love the graphics!

Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
No, I’d rather produce the art for a story or for a project, and then ALSO use it as an added bonus in a postcard or promotional piece.*
*Ah! A multi-tasker.

Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I love the idea of sending out a series; that seems like it could dovetail well with showcasing a picture book dummy. This illustration could become a series as it does have a story.*
*Don’t be coy! Tell us the story.

First sketch.

How often do you send out postcards?
Although I’ve created several promotional pieces and postcards, it’s usually been for conferences or as handouts. This is the first time I’m officially sending out a children’s book promotional postcard mailer into the world with stamps and addresses and personal notes to art directors, publishers, and agents.*
*Postcards are so versatile. Good luck with this mailing!

pencil in progress
The sketch progresses.

Who do you target with your mailings?
I definitely believe in doing a targeted mailing. I’ve met some amazing agents, publishers, art directors and editors over the years but I don’t want to waste their time if my work doesn’t match their publishing style. For this postcard, I’m sending it to a list of less than 50 publishing professionals.

Colormap in Photoshop.

How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I use an Excel spreadsheet, I’m extremely comfortable with that interface to organize everything. I have a mailing list (primarily email) of about 500 people (not all publishing professionals). It does take time to find physical mailing addresses so I asked for help from my more-active-postcard-mailout-illustrator cohorts.* That has been tremendously helpful and time-saving.
*Intriguing. So you’re in cahoots with these cohorts.

Do you have any tips on the production process?
I’m a graphic designer so I totally geek out on designing a simple 4 x 6 area, sometimes it takes hours. My suggestion is to use 1 or 2 fonts, keep it simple, make the information easy to find and easy to read. I use Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. I always get the template for the particular card I’m creating so I know how much room the printer needs for bleed, and how close I can put type to the edge.

Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
I print most often with, but this postcard has been challenging for them (see samples)*. I also use and I tried out for business cards. They are more expensive but I’ve been impressed with both of them. I’ve also worked with local printers, and enjoy meeting face-to-face but there are so many online options these days, I haven’t worked with a local printer in several years.

*as promised: samples! I’m glad Kirsten took the time to get the printing just right.

Thanks so much for sharing your artwork and tips, Kirsten.
Find out more about Kirsten Carlson at the links below.

Twitter: @kirstencarlson

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.

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