The Postcard Post: Abi Cushman

Sub It Club welcomes author/illustrator Abi Cushman to The Postcard Post.

Abi Cushman is a children’s book author and illustrator. She is the winner of the New England SCBWI Portfolio Showcase (2018), the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award (2017) and the Tassy Walden New Voices Award (2017). Abi lives along the Connecticut shoreline with her husband and two children. When she’s not working, she can be found running, playing tennis, and eating nachos. (Yes, at the same time.)

SOAKED postcard front

How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
Since I’m primarily sending postcards out to children’s book art directors and editors, I pick an image that tells a story and evokes a strong emotional reaction. I know my postcards are among a sea of other postcards sent by talented illustrators from around the world, and that art directors and editors are very busy people. I imagine them at their desks with a pile of postcards, and each card gets a one-second glance before tumbling into the recycling bin*… unless there’s something about the image that makes the person hesitate and take a closer look.
*You are so (boo hoo) right!

SOAKED postcard back

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 put my name and website URL on the front (and again on the back). I want to make sure that my name is associated with the image. And hopefully after a while of consistent mailings, the editors and art directors will start remembering me.

Postcard front

Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Generally, I create illustrations based on new stories I’m writing or from illustration prompts. Then from those, I choose an image that works well for the postcard front. If I don’t have a related piece that can be used as a spot illustration on the back, I will create one. I always like to have the front and back of the postcard feature the same characters and tell a story together.*
*We’ve got so many great examples of that here.

The story continues on the postcard back

Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I do standalone postcards (with the two related images on one as mentioned above). I’m at a point right now where I’m just trying to explore lots of different story ideas and challenge myself in some way with each illustration, so standalone postcards make the most sense.

Raccoons! (postcard front)

How often do you send out postcards?
This year, I joined in SCBWI Michigan’s campaign #4outthedoor. It’s a challenge that encourages illustrators to do four postcard mailings in a year. Then we share our postcard images on social media and try to support each other. I’m happy to say that this little push has worked for me, and I will get my fourth mailing out later this fall. Hooray!*
*WOW! That’s great.

More raccoons! (postcard back)

Who do you target with your mailings?
I target art directors and editors in children’s book publishing for the most part. I also send a handful out to art directors at children’s magazines.

I can’t wait to see what happens next (postcard front)

How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
First, I used SCBWI’s The Book as well as The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market to pick out some publishers and imprints I thought would be a good fit for my work, and I added the contact information to a Google Spreadsheet. Then I did some online research to edit and add to the list. Some publisher websites list their editorial staff (S&S, Macmillan, Penguin-Random House). I also verify some contact info on LinkedIn and Twitter. Before I do a mailing, I’ll comb through the listings to make sure the information is up to date. There’s a lot of movement in the industry— people being promoted, leaving the business, or moving to different imprints, and sometimes there are changes affecting an entire imprint. Harold Underdown keeps a good list documenting the changes (, and SCBWI also has market news in their newsletters.*
Once my spreadsheet is set, I save it as a .CSV file, and I use the Data Merge tool in Adobe InDesign to create address labels (and I usually have to relearn how to do the data merge thing each time. Hint: Window > Utilities > Data Merge).**
*What thorough research. I recommend everyone do this.
**Ha! All you InDesign users can bookmark this post for future reference!

Phew! (postcard back)

Do you have any tips on the production process?
My illustrations are colored in Photoshop, so I already have the image as a Photoshop document. But I do sometimes tweak the image a little bit to lighten/brighten it because I have found that when I use an online printer, the postcards come out darker than what my home printer produces. When I’m happy with the image brightness, I use Adobe InDesign to lay out the front and back of the postcard. I use the same fonts on the postcard as the ones on my website to maintain brand consistency.* (Although I did update my website fonts earlier this year, so the first postcard I sent this year shows the old font.)
*Branding! So many illustrators are conscious of this and rightly so.


Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
Lately I’ve been using I was drawn to them because they offer an option for a hard copy proof. And I thought that would be helpful so I could make sure the colors were okay. I’ve been getting their 15pt Velvet Cover paper stock, and I’ve been happy with the matte finish and thickness.

A big thank you to Abi for sharing her engaging postcards and so many helpful tips.

Check out more of Abi’s work here:

Twitter: @AbiCushman
Instagram: @Abi.Cushman

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.

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