Sub It Club is thrilled to welcome author/illustrator Nancy Armo to The Postcard Post. Nancy’s warm and delightful illustrations will make your heart smile. And her tips ranging from postcards to dummy books will help you get your work out there.
Nancy graduated with a degree in graphic design which led to a career as an art director at Hewlett-Packard and several other corporations. She has been writing and illustrating for five years. In 2012, she received a Portfolio Honor award at the SCBWI-LA conference. Her debut picture book, A FRIEND FOR MOLE, was published by Peachtree Publishers in March 2016. Her illustrations are a combination of watercolor, Prisma colored pencils, and soft pastels layered in Photoshop. Nancy writes, draws, and plays in New Suffolk, NY and Paris, France.
How do you choose the images for your postcard?
I wanted to do a summertime theme and promote a new manuscript. I kept the front image simple and graphic so that it would pop off a bulletin board or wall – like a book cover in a book store. The back of the postcard has all the information copy and is designed to coordinate with the front illustration. You can also create your own stamps as a design element. I use stamps.com but there are several other online options. I use mailing labels that have a clear backing so the mailing label blends in with the design.*
*So many great ideas and I’ve only asked ONE question so far. Get out your notepads, people!
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. It’s a cleaner look with no text on the front of the postcard, but some art directors prefer having a name on the front for ease of identifying the illustrator. It’s like a name badge at a conference – it just makes it easier to put a name with a face.
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
No. I think it makes more sense to pull images from a current project. Then if an editor asks whether there’s a story that goes with this image I can say “Yes, would you like to see the manuscript/dummy?” It can help start a dialogue that might not happen otherwise. At the end of the day you want to be selling your work.*
*Very good point— especially for author/illustrators.
Speaking of dummies, what should a dummy look like when an editor or agent requests one?
A dummy is usually 32 pages and it’s not meant to look like a finished printed book. The main thing is for your ideas to come across clearly, while providing a sense of your illustration style and skills. Some illustrators submit thumbnail pencil drawings. But most do a PDF dummy that includes copy to show page turns, rough pencil sketches that show layout and character consistency, and 2 or 3 colored finished illustrations. The pencil sketches should be consistent in style with the colored finished art, but don’t have to “look” finished. It’s very important to take the time in the beginning to think through your storyline, character development, and how you want the finished art to look. I generally make my PDF dummy with Adobe Bridge, which compresses jpegs into a nice size PDF that’s easy to send.*
*We get lots of questions about dummy books at Sub It Club (and I’m always curious about others’ experiences) so I interrupted our regularly scheduled post! Now back to postcards…
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
Editors and art directors get so many postcard submissions that I think it’s hard to pull off a series that they can easily follow. So I use stand-alone images for the postcard pulled from a work-in-progress manuscript.*
*Good strategy for those who also write.
How often do you send out postcards?
It’s expensive to send out postcards. Between the printing and mailing costs the average postcard can cost between 50 and 75 cents EACH. Quantity printed, size of the postcard, weight of the paper stock, coated or uncoated, 4-color front and back or color front and black and white back are all options that impact cost. You can make the postcards more versatile by designing them to also be used as handouts at conferences and workshops.* I usually send out a postcard every 6 months.
*Yes— handing them out is cheaper and your ‘audience’ is wider. Never know who you may meet at a conference.
Who do you target with your mailings?
Sometimes it’s a blast mailing to a list of 200 art directors, editors, designers. Other times it’s a follow-up to a smaller group of editors and art directors that I think will have an interest in a particular project.
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
You have to be organized. A fellow author/illustrator and I share our lists in Excel before a mailing. We both do updates as they come but in this industry names change constantly and it can be hard to keep up. Nice to have two pair of eyes moderating. Our resources include the SCBWI Book list, PW Weekly, Publishing Trends, and Harold Underdown’s The Purple Crayon (Who’s Moving Where, underdown.org).
Our Excel database includes imprint house, company address, and first/last name and job title for all the contacts. It’s critical to track when a postcard was last sent to a contact, and we also include a notation of the books they have worked on when that’s relevant. Organizing the data in Excel also makes it easy to merge into Microsoft Word and other programs to generate mailing labels.*
OK. I’m impressed!
Do you have any tips on the production process?
It’s a brand* you’re promoting so everything must have a unified look and feel. Make sure your postcard is using the same typeface or logo that is on your website and other social media. If you have different illustration styles, make sure they are organized into groups on your website so it’s easy for an editor or art director to find what they are looking for. It’s also a good idea to use a postcard image that’s on your website to establish an obvious link between the postcard and your larger body of work. And remember on the back of the postcard to leave 5/8” at the bottom for postal markings. I forgot to do that one time and all my contact information was covered up. Not good!
*This idea of a ‘brand’ is coming up more and more. Great advice!
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
There are many good online vendors out there – my favorite is probably PSPrint. The quality is consistently good and they have regular discount promotions for postcards. I like their proofing system and uploading the image is easy, with guidelines for bleeds and safe image lines. You can also order a hard copy proof to see exactly what the printed postcard will look like before signing off on your order. This is great for insuring correct color.
Thanks so much for sharing your work and excellent tips, Nancy!
See more of Nancy’s work and follow her at the links below:
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.
This is great advice! And your postcard is adorable.
Thank you, Jembradl. So glad you found the post useful.
thank you! I am still.working on my postcard to be ready for the NJ SCBWI conference in June, I like that your postcards are clean and makes the person ask, “I wonder what’s the story behind this image?”
Thank you, lynnor bontigao! Look forward to seeing you at the NJ SCBWI conference.
The many thoughts, ideas and tips for creating the just right postcard are appreciated. Thank you, Dana, for featuring Nancy Armo as we get to know more about an amazing author/illustrator through the excellent interview questions.
Thank you, Suzy Leopold!
Nancy knows her stuff! So many tips for organizing. Thanks!
Awesome info…some of which I’d not thought of before. Thanks, Nancy and Sub It! 🙂
Glad you enjoyed the post, Teresa!
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Very helpful information! Thank you.
This article really helped me to underestand better about the concept of postcard promotion process! Thank you so much Nancy!
Happy you found the post informative, Rahele!
Thanks for this wonderful post! Such great information!
Thank you, Angela!
Hi Nancy, thanks so much for this article. It inspired me to get a postcard up and flying. I loved creating one with the printer you recommended. However, it doesn’t look like they will ship the postcards to me. Either I have to pick them up in NJ or have them do a direct mail for me. Is this your experience as well?
I really enjoyed reading this write-up and found it quite valuable as I’m in the beginning stages of developing postcards to send out. I do have one question….do you create your own book templates/storyboards to create your drafts or can I find those somewhere? I’ve been looking online and haven’t found any that fit my needs. Thanks!! 🙂