Sub It Club welcomes Sheryl Murray to The Postcard Post. Sit back and enjoy!
Sheryl Murray grew up in a rambunctious family of eight kids. Storytelling was an everyday thing at her house: whether it was backyard theatrical productions, making up bedtime stories for her brothers, or trying to convince her mom that she couldn’t possibly have been the one who drew on the baby. Sheryl knew early on that she wanted to write and illustrate children’s books when she grew up. Since earning her BFA in illustration, Sheryl has drawn storyboards for ad agencies, produced handmade tile, exhibited her ceramic sculptures across the U.S., traveled six continents, and become a mama to two very sweet, sometimes silly, always creative girls who just keep growing themselves. All of these experiences influenced her illustration style and filled her head with stories and characters that are just too good not to share. Sheryl has been an enthusiastic SCBWI member since 2009 and is currently serving as the Illustrator at Large for the Oregon chapter.
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
I choose work that best represents my style and current portfolio as a whole. I also like to pick an image that I think will evoke an emotional response from the viewer – I so appreciate input from my critique group, illustrator friends and my kids for this task!
The images on my two latest postcards featured here are from unpublished stories I have written as well as illustrated. It’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce myself as an author/illustrator to potential agents, art directors, and editors.*
*Yes! Make those postcards work for you!
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 always include my name and website on the postcard front in the hopes that an art director will love the image so much that they will hang it in their office, and one lucky day, their glance will fall on it just as they are looking for the perfect illustrator for their next project and there my name will be, conveniently front and center . . . a gal can dream! Plus? Every art director or editor I’ve ever heard speak about postcards always recommends including at least your name on the front so it’s kind of a no-brainer for me.*
*Sounds like good advice.
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Since I’ve started writing my own stories as well as illustrating, I like to use images from books I’m developing for self-promo pieces to get my characters in front of editors and art directors to pique their interest. And honestly? . . . it seems like I am always so knee-deep in new portfolio pieces and project development that if I hold out for creating one more illustration specifically for self-promotion, I’ll never get it produced!
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
So far I’ve only used stand-alone images. I choose from the most recent images in my ever-evolving portfolio. I do like to include a second image with the same characters or from the same story on the backside of my postcard to continue the narrative and demonstrate character continuity.
How often do you send out postcards?
Ohhh man, I knew this one was coming (hangs head).* Can we just say: not as often as I feel I should be?!? For the past year or so, while I’ve been building my portfolio and began writing (and revising!) my own stories, I’ve mostly sent out individual cards to art directors and agents that I met or came across in interviews and on social media that seem like a good fit for my work. I always add them to my growing mailing list (see below) but haven’t done a group mailing in a while. I also distribute quite a few at SCBWI events such as conferences and special author/illustrator sessions. Lately I’ve been concentrating my efforts on querying agents and submitting book dummies to editors that already know my work but sending postcards would definitely be a good follow up step to add!
*Ha! Don’t bang too hard– everyone feels they don’t send out often enough.
Who do you target with your mailings?
My two latest postcards were created for our SCBWI Oregon conference last month. I had a nice stack by my portfolio in the juried show and also shared them with art directors, editors, and agents I had conversations with one-on-one. It’s on my to-do list to send out postcards (soon . . . promise!) to follow up with other conference faculty working in the picture book genre that I didn’t get a chance to meet. The two postcards here feature images from stories I have both written and illustrated as I am working toward being published as an author/illustrator. I now realize it would also have been good to include a line on the back of the card with the story titles, and indicating that they were works-in-progress. I’ve read success stories where that bit of information helped pique interest for an editor and led to a book deal. You bet I’ll be doing that on my next postcard to take to the upcoming Summer Conference in Los Angeles! In general, I’ve always targeted art directors and editors in children’s publishing that I’ve either met or researched and think would like my work. I recently have begun researching magazines and small publications that I think would like my style to add to my mailing list.*
*So much good strategy here. There’s no one right way to do this.
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
Although I’m up to speed on programs like Photoshop, tech-y spreadsheets have never been my strong suit. I maintain a well-worn old school notebook with lists of editors, art directors and agents, details on what they are looking for and other notes, dates I’ve sent them cards and what I’ve sent them. My teen daughter has promised to help me organize and move my files into the digital age this summer. All those years spent nurturing my children are finally paying off!* When I haven’t sent out a large mailing in a while (hangs head again), I hop on a site like LinkedIn in to double-check that none of my contacts have moved publishing houses or changed titles while I was in my garret drawing. I’m also a fan of addressing postcards by hand (although I write on mailing labels to avoid wasting cards on mistakes). Talk to me when my mailing list gets gigantic and I might change my mind. Or just stay up a little later.
*Ha! Great job!
Do you have any tips on the production process?
I create all my postcards in Photoshop. Since the redesign of my website last year (I art directed colors, fonts, and templates and left the heavy lifting to my fab web designer), I’ve been keeping the fonts and colors I use on my postcards and business cards consistent with my website. I think it makes my postcards feel like a collection even though they are themed differently ever time. I’m slowly working to create a brand for myself. And honestly, it makes the design process so much simpler! My web guy directed me to Google Fonts when I was designing the look for my website. The fonts are free and can be downloaded right into Photoshop. They even recommend fonts to accompany your main font! I did alter mine a bit to get the look I was after.*
To design my postcards, I download a template from the online service I order my postcards and business cards from (see below) and pull it into my Photoshop document. I keep it on a top layer at 50% opacity that I can turn on and off until I am finished and ready to upload my design. That way, I can easily check bleed areas, etc.
The postcard with the images from my story THE NIGHT GUARDIAN was designed to function as a leave-behind or handout at the Oregon conference. I made the choice deliberately while knowing it wouldn’t really work as a mailer as the secondary image on the back covers the address area. While designing a postcard, it’s good to be aware of areas the post office requires left clear of text or images for scanning or delivery purposes. The requirements can be found on their website.
*Great font tip! Take note, illustrators!
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
I’m a fan of moo.com for printing my postcards and business cards. Their basic cards are heavy and have a high quality feel, their customer service and communication are stellar, and you are able to order up to 25 different designs (with one design on the mailer side) without any additional charge. There are less expensive options out there but I consider my cards to be my little ambassadors I’m sending out into the world, and I want them to represent my work in the best possible light. I always check for discount coupons or wait for an email announcing a sale before ordering.*
*Love moo too but, yes, the discounts are a must!
Much thanks to Sheryl for sharing her images and tips.
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). And you can see recent posts by searching for The Postcard Post on this blog. See you next month.