The Postcard Post welcomes Leeza Hernandez this month. You’re going to want to bookmark this page because Leeza has provided a veritable A to Z on creating postcards and more. Get ready to be wowed by the Leeza’s wonderful characters, illustrations and master class in postcards. (And there is a GIVEAWAY! Details below.)
Leeza Hernandez is a picture book illustrator/author who spends her creative time noodling around in her art studio—from playing with pen and ink to experimental printmaking, and pencil drawing to digital collage—there’s always a new promotional postcard, story idea or piece of art to be nurtured. Her latest illustrated book, EAT YOUR U.S. HISTORY HOMEWORK (Charlesbridge), the third in the EAT YOUR HOMEWORK series written by Ann McCallum, releases in October. Leeza’s other books include CAT NAPPED! and DOG GONE! (G.P Putnam’s Sons), that she wrote and illustrated, and NY Times Bestseller John Lithgow’s NEVER PLAY MUSIC RIGHT NEXT TO THE ZOO (Simon&Schuster). She is also the current Regional Advisor for New Jersey SCBWI.
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
It might sound weird but it usually comes down to instinct—my gut reaction when I look at a finished illustration. I’ll work on a series of images for a project and as I am finishing up there’s typically one that I’ll think “ooh, that’d make a good postcard.” It can be a compelling color palette, or cool composition but mostly it’s the connection I have to the character that spurs me to want to know more about his/her story. When I find myself wondering about that character’s world, I imagine or hope that an art director or editor might wonder too and be compelled to visit my website to see more of my work. Also, I’ll pay attention to positive feedback about the same piece of art in my portfolio from multiple people—the theory being that if an illustration keeps garnering attention, it might make an effective postcard, too.
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?
My preference is to keep text off of the front (for the most part). The name, contact info, etc. can go on the back so it doesn’t distract from the art, but if there’s some hand-lettering or wording that relates directly to the image, then include it. The ‘Simon’ postcard has one word that was hand-rendered on the front, but looking through postcards from the past couple of years, the fronts are text-free.
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Not really. I tend to make art either just for myself or for an assignment and if I think something is strong enough I’ll include it on my website. With postcards, I prefer to let that one piece tell me it belongs on a postcard as I mentioned before.
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
They’ve mostly been stand-alone, but the ‘Simon’ postcard is the first one in a series of three cards that will go between now and the end of the year. In the past, I’ve also sent tri-fold-style brochures that feature multiple images.* These are good to consider sending once a year as a year-end review or new body of work announcement, or to send to a new contact who might not yet be familiar with your work. If you have a range of styles or you work across different genres, this might also be an effective alternative to sending out multiple postcards or attaching multiple jpegs to an email and risk clogging up someone’s inbox. It’s not for everyone but worth investigating it interests you and serves your self-promotional goals.
*This is a great idea— and well worth the investment from time to time.
How often do you send out postcards?
It depends on my schedule. If I am working on a book, I focus solely on the book and won’t send out cards.* That might not be the most effective way to stay consistent with mailings, I know, but what’s nice is that when I have a break I can make some new art unrelated to anything and hopefully get a promo piece out of it—I like the spontaneity of that.
*Focus is so important!
Who do you target with your mailings?
The postcards are mailed mostly to art directors, designers and editors at children’s book publishing houses. Try to be aware of the imprint your contacts work at and what they publish. Example: It doesn’t make sense to send a postcard featuring very young-looking art intended for toddlers to, say, an imprint that specializes in middle grade or YA. Keep your mailing list focused and appropriate for the art that you create.*
*Again, focus! And so true— research is a must.
How do you compile your mailing list?
Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I have an Excel spreadsheet that I try to keep updated once or twice a year. It is organized by: last name, first name, position, company, imprint, address, email, phone, genres and dates of postcard/email mailings. I can then sort specific mailing lists when I need them. The Excel worksheet gives me the capability to mail merge into Microsoft Word for mailing labels, as well as importing into an email service provider such as Mailchimp when I want to do a targeted email campaign.*
*Oh my! I am so impressed. Very organized.
Do you have any tips on the production process?
Scanning: Try scanning at a slightly higher resolution such as 400 or 600 dpi, then scale down in a 300dpi document—the art appears crisper that way (or at least it does for me). For postcard printing, always use 300 dpi—no less! You can always scale down, but never scale up, so if you’re playing around with size keep an extra hidden layer or separate file in Photoshop with the large original, then make copies to experiment. Planning: Sketching out a promo-card idea first helps save time and efforts on the computer, especially the back of a postcard where you might want to include a business logo, small additional illustration, and other fun details.*
*Yes. Going old-school first can be very effective.
Postal requirements: Be aware of postal requirements regarding the layout of a postcard. For example in the USA, if you create a 5×7” postcard with a vertical image on the front (portrait orientation), know that if you design the back of the postcard in vertical orientation too, you will pay more for postage than if you design the back in a horizontal format (landscape). Also be aware your postcard will have a barcode sticker adhered to, or inkjet-printed on the postcard during the sorting process. Avoid placing important information in the lower portion of the postcard (usually the right-hand side). USPS and many print places provide templates available in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or PDF format for you to use as a guideline.*
*Wow. This is such great advice because so many of us learn this through trial and error which can be costly. Take note, illustrators!
Fonts: Think Less is More. Keep it clean and simple, and don’t let text distract from the art. If you’re a hand-letterer, incorporate that into your design to show off your skills. If picking a computer font, find something that compliments rather than overpowers the art. Example: if your work is minimal, modern and clean, chances are that you won’t want to pick a font that is too cutesy, frilly or old-fashioned looking. If your work is traditional, pick a classic-style font that lends itself to the same sophistication as the work.
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
Quick 48-hour printing turnaround with money-back guarantee. Great color reproduction and quality. More $ than some other on-line printers, and fewer small print-run quantity options. Their mini postcards (2.75” x 4.25” similar to a large playing card) make a great alternative to a regular business card to help show off work when at conferences, etc.
Offers regular discounts of 40%-, 50%-, and 60%-off. Can purchase and take advantage of the discount offer before it expires without having to upload artwork right away. Postcard reproduction quality is average-to-good. Color repro varies. Can save $ if willing to wait. Account for approx. two weeks for basic turnaround and ground shipping when planning your postcard. Extra cost if you need the cards expedited in a shorter time frame.
Using this printer more often as quality of reproduction has improved recently. Color repro good to very good. Print runs available as few as 25 postcards. Example: 5×7” postcards cost approx. $6.95 (+ship) on standard turnaround time. Prices on all postcard printing includes full color front and back.
(These are all within the USA but overnightprints does have websites in Austria, Germany, France and Great Britain, too.)
I can’t thank you enough for sharing so so much helpful information and beautiful illustration samples, Leeza.
To see more of Leeza’s work (yes, there is so much more!),
join her new mailing list. Sign up at leezaworks.com/contact.html
And you can click on these links, too:
Get YOUR postcard out in the world.
Leeza will provide feedback on an existing postcard design (not yet printed) or postcard concept development plus a 50-card printing of final postcard in either 4×6″ or 5×7″ format to one lucky winner. Let us know in your comment below if you’d like to be entered for this excellent opportunity to get your postcard finished and printed.
***THE GIVEAWAY IS OVER.***
Congratulations to Iris Birhan!
If you’re joining us for the first time at The 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.