The Postcard Post welcomes illustrator Alice Ratterree. Alice shares beautiful illustrations, great postcard tips and even more advice. Get ready to be wowed!
Alice Ratterree loves to draw for the young at heart. Her passion for stories began when as a child she would spend hours re-illustrating her favorite books directly on their printed pages. Alice’s career began as a classically trained singer, performing extensively in New England before realizing that books are her favorite stage. Her recent work includes Sam Gayton’s LILLIPUT (Peachtree, August 2015) and she is currently illustrating a picture book about the life of Jane Addams. Alice is represented by Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt Literary Agency and is a member of SCBWI. She found inspiration in Greenville, South Carolina and lives there with her husband, their two children and a cat named Sam who dreams of being a dog.
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
In the children’s book market, I aim for illustrations that have emotional narrative. I hear that word a lot at conferences. People really just want to feel something when they look at a piece. This is primarily achieved by having well-defined characters clearly portraying a relationship with each other or with something.* For me, a compelling environment or atmosphere is a very important part of the emotional equation too. The front and back images do not necessarily have to both be from the same series or house the same characters, but they should make sense as a pair. Text should be simple, legible and out of the way of the art. I try and avoid card sizes that would make it difficult for someone to file. I stick to the same standard 5”x7” for every mailing because it makes generating new postcards a quick process, and simplifies online ordering and mailing.
*This is an excellent way of explaining narrative.
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 like to reserve a side primarily for art and a side mainly for contact information with supporting artwork. Although, it is a good idea to insert at least a website or some other identifying piece of information on the front side as well. An art director or editor may not always enjoy taking all those cards down and flipping them over for contact information! Without both sides labeled you are automatically establishing which side will be pinned facing up (the one with text!)* One final note: have an online portfolio and put it on your card! Phone calls don’t get made based on one image. A postcard serves as an invitation to view your larger body of work.** Don’t worry, you don’t need to go out and purchase a shiny web-hosting package and hire a web designer. There are many free options for online portfolio viewing that are easily manageable for someone in the beginning stages of their career. Check out sites like Flickr or Tumblr. If you are a member of SCBWI (and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be),*** members have access to space on the SCBWI site for their own personal gallery. Google’s Blogger is a great tool for also showcasing your writing. This leads me to another important point: written content impacts your site’s SEO, so I highly recommend sites that offer blogging content in addition to a gallery.
**Another good point!
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Yes. The ultimate objective is to get a call for your dream job, so you should be promoting work that is in alignment with that goal. Whether to help stay in touch with what inspires you or to steer your career in a fresh direction, I think it’s completely appropriate to create a piece or series specifically for promotional use. However in doing this, be prepared to have a conversation about those “new” promo pieces, because you will get into a conversation at some point with someone who asks if there is a story. Always say “YES”.*
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I have not embarked on a series that is doled out over time, but I like the idea! It’s good to keep variety in the process. I enjoy collecting and maintaining a file of my own favorite postcards from SCBWI* conferences throughout the year, and this serves as a good idea generator for me.
*For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, SCBWI = The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.
How often do you send out postcards?
The general rule of thumb is four times a year, but I’m also happy with three. When sending out a mailing, you may want to monitor your website traffic after to gauge the impact of that particular mailing. Over the course of the year a pattern may emerge of the most optimal response seasons.
Who do you target with your mailings?
I am so grateful to be represented by Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. She facilitates several promotional mailings throughout the year, reaching a generous array of publishers in the children’s book industry. When compiling a list, it is important to do your homework on the various houses and what they produce. SCBWI provides an excellent resource for its members, “The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children”, which lists editors and art directors by house. “The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market” also hosts an extensive listing of and information on the various children’s book markets.
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I go to Excel. The program allows me to comfortably categorize my list by house, job titles, or simply keep an alpha listing. I would advise illustrators to use whatever program works for them personally, and one that makes finding a specific address or market a simple act. No need to go out and purchase a fancy database or add a high-tech learning curve to your life!
Do you have any tips on the production process?
I like keep the artwork in its original state, free from any added designs or flourishes. Unless it was illustrated as a piece of spot art, I take the image all the way to the edge with a full bleed. I import a high resolution scan (if traditional) or copy the flattened artwork (if digital) into Photoshop and add the text as a layer on top. Tread lightly with fonts. Believe me, I love typography and browsing fonts, but when it comes to promoting art, it should be about that, not the latest font find! I often use Frutiger Light. A sans serif font, it is simple and clean and doesn’t distract from the artwork. I keep a 5×7 file ready with text layer included so all I need to do is change out the artwork when it’s mail time.*
*Great organizational skills!
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
I’ve had good experiences with Overnight Prints and VistaPrint, but my favorite online vendor by far is PrintingForLess . The print and paper quality are excellent and color is always a true match. I can speak with someone directly about my specific needs, and everyone I’ve worked with has been friendly and accommodating. They will even overnight a hard copy proof to your doorstep!
Thanks so much for sharing such helpful information and beautiful illustration samples, Alice. You’ve definitely given us a lot of help with postcards and beyond!
To see more of Alice’s work, click on these links:
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.
I love Alice’s art! And her advice is so very helpful…thank you!
In one of my crit groups we have been talking about websites and I am so glad to read Alice’s thoughts on that too, esp. written content. I use a free wordpress blog that I treat like a website with pages for gallery purposes, and so far so good. the written content brings a good amount of traffic through, and helps build connections and community too.
I love Alice’s illustrations on these postcards, they’re full of movement and emotions!
Thank you for the helpful information and tips!
If sending out 3-4 times a year – would you suggest to put on the front the same characters in different poses or settings? Or completely different characters? ( in case we don’t have the time to create specifically for the postcards)