The Postcard Post: John Nez

Sub It Club welcomes author/illustrator John Nez to the Postcard Post. There are lots of images and some good tips so get ready to be inspired.

8 jigsaw puzzle
A recent postcard designed like a jigsaw puzzle with art samples.

John Nez has illustrated over 75 books of every sort, from toddler board books to historical non-fiction. He also writes and illustrates his own picture books using a variety of mediums. John draws with real paper and pencils but does most of the finish color with Photoshop.

1 Postcard Bunny
A recent postcard mailing – this image has almost 7,000 clicks on my blog for some reason!

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?
When I send postcards, I usually send 2 oversize postcards with color printing on both sides and very little room for type. It only costs a little more to send 2 cards in an envelope as it does a single card with a stamp. Then you get 3 times as much art and the cards arrive in better condition. I print up a simple cheap white envelope with an art sample with my printer. I’ve noticed I get far fewer returns if I add the phrase ‘For current editor & art director’ on the envelope address.  

4 postcards mailing
Printed return envelopes and a postcard.

Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Sometimes, but lately I mostly just cut out work from books I’m working on and use those.

Who do you target with your mailings?

Editors, art directors, publishers.

6 Attractive Stamps
I choose attractive stamps from the USPS and they mail them to me for $2.

How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I’m not very patient about making detailed lists. I use Mac Mail which has a basic filter that works by dragging new names to a new address folder and then you select a list and hold down the option key, so it shows which names are in other lists. And I love PearLabelizer – a shareware Mac program that allows you to print out sheets of labels for a list or just individual labels one at a time. I get frustrated because most Mac OS versions have never allowed one to print 5 address lines… which seems absurd. But PearLabelizer lets you do that… it’s not too hard to learn.

Do you have any tips on the production process?

My tip is to learn Photoshop. I use Photoshop and layers. So the main template starts on the base layer (which can be downloaded from the postcard printer). Then I add in images and text with new layers usually set to the ‘multiply’ or transparent setting. These can then be moved around easily like a jigsaw puzzle until they look right. I guess a basic knowledge of Photoshop is required though, which some might not have.

3 john nez postcard layout
Here’s how I layout the images in Photoshop – each part on it’s own transparent layer.

I start with the given format size from the card company and lay it out in Photoshop.  I use transparent layers to add in new images.  It’s fun to rearrange them so they fit nicely. It’s like a game of solving the jigsaw puzzle to fit them in right. It might take days of switching in new images that work well together. One problem I have with any postcard is shortly after I mail it, I start having regrets that I didn’t choose some other image instead.*
*Kind of like buyer’s remorse – we’ve all had that feeling!

5 postcard collection
Here’s a collection of old cards and some of my accordion cards that I printed with my printer.

I always liked trying new things like printing up my own accordion cards that folded. They were like a mini-portfolio in a letter. I remember that landed me an agent once. I did a few black & white line mailings once but they were larger sheets on a speckled paper that I mailed in larger envelopes.

7 accordion cards
This was a black & white card cover with a color accordion card inside.

Thanks so much, John! So many great ideas.

Link to more images and information:

Some of John Nez’s published books:

The 12 Days of Christmas in Washington
written & illustrated by John Nez
A colorful travel book that takes two cousins on a trip across the state to see all the wonders of Washington.
Sterling Publishing

One Smart Cookie
written & illustrated by John Nez
A whimsical tale about books and reading where the family pet Cookie learns to read and saves the day.
Albert Whitman Publishing

Cromwell Dixon’s Sky-Cycle
written & illustrated by John Nez
An amazing true story of America’s ‘Boy Aeronaut’who had a dream to build his own flying airship.
G.P. Putnams Sons

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.



5 thoughts on “The Postcard Post: John Nez

Add yours

  1. I’m always impressed by the arsenal of tech skills that illustrators possess.
    John’s art is great too!


  2. Well back in the days before computers the postcard was one of the only and most affordable ways to find art directors. Directories would cost thousands. I suppose the main problem I have with postcards is how hit & miss it all is – and the large number of returns. I think it’s impossible to keep up with all the changes in ADs and editors – or even the changes of address. But there’s something nice about having an actual real postcard – compared to just a web-page or online directory. I guess I used to send out postcards just to keep busy when things were slow. I never knew if anyone enjoyed receiving the cards I sent or not. No one ever wrote back.

    I remember once I got to visit a publisher and they opened up the file cabinet with all the stuff I had sent over the years and I remember the comment “You seem to just keep sending us stuff”. They had kept all the dozens of cards I had sent, so it all added up to a real pile. But I suppose that’s better than just tossing it all into the trash – which is what I usually assume is what was probably the fate of most of my postcards.

    And of course I’m never happy with any postcard for long – they all seem to have a shelf life expiration date of about 2 weeks – after which the critic within starts to regret having chosen them for one little reason or another. And then there is the final hurdle of getting the cards to actually print the way they should – which is NOT always possible. But it’s fun I guess – I have boxes and boxes of leftover cards – I suppose if I ever actually met anyone in real life I could hand them out.


    1. John, many art directors and editors and even some agents like receiving postcards. They all have their own systems handling them– some have files, some post them on boards when they see something they like. I’ve never had one returned because of a bad address. With the internet, it’s possible to find correct addresses. I think it’s a good practice to send postcards. Thanks again for sharing on The Postcard Post.


      1. Hmmm… never had a return! I usually get about 15% of the cards sent back. Maybe it’s because I use an envelope instead of just a post card. I guess the big advantage to using an email blast is that you can SEE who clicks on your art – and if they click back – and in general it makes me feel more in touch with them as opposed to wondering if anyone sees anything. And now there are so many social media spots – Instagram – Tweets – Tumblr – Blogspot – Facebook – where I guess the question is still ‘will anybody even notice me since there are umpteen zillion other artists all out there too?’ Either way I think it’s largely just potluck.


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