The Postcard Post is thrilled to welcome author/illustrator Cynthia Cliff. I picked up Cynthia’s postcard at a SCBWI conference (back when we could meet in person!) and am delighted to share her work with you.
Cynthia Cliff grew up in a tiny, historic village in rural Virginia, surrounded by simple living, animals and gardens, and a large extended family—all of which provided her with a love of history, family, nature, and folklore—themes that find their way into much of her work. This upbringing fuels her optimistic, whimsical, folk-art based style and aesthetic to this day. Cynthia is a self-taught artist and started her professional illustration career in 2019. Illustration was something that she’d always wanted to do, but never had the time or opportunity to pursue. Since 2019 she has illustrated for children’s magazines and a toy company. Her first authored and illustrated book PIE FOR BREAKFAST came out in Spring 2021. She is currently working on her second authored and illustrated children’s book, due Spring 2022. She is represented by Andrea Brown Literary.
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
I think an image should be clear and a quick read. For the kidlit market, of course the image should include characters that are fun and demonstrate the ability to express emotion through the character. I think it is best if the character is in an environment of some kind, even if it is simple. The image should show your design ability and your color sense too. It’s a lot to include in one image!*
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?
My post cards so far have only been digital or made for conferences, so there either has only been one side, or just a full image on the front and back (for the conferences). But if I were mailing a postcard, I would include another small image on the back and my website and social media links, that is probably all I need. I personally don’t think you need a lot of text on a postcard.
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
Yes! All the time. Because I’m so new to illustration, the bulk of my portfolio, probably 90%, is made up of self-assigned art. If I were going to be sending out a postcard, I might gleam appropriate images from that, or I might create something specific and targeted for a certain genre, like for non-fiction kid lit for instance.
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I’m hoping to. I have a couple of ideas that I’ve love to create if I can find the time.
How often do you send out postcards?
Since I started my professional career right before the pandemic, I’ve not mailed postcards yet, I’ve just sent digital ones.*
*Ugh! The pandemic has been difficult in so many ways. Digital e-mailings is a good solution but I still love the real printed postcard.
Who do you target with your mailings?
I do have a kidlit agent, Kathleen Rushall at Andrea Brown Literary, and she sends out information to her contacts regularly about my work, so I just rely on her. For anything that is not related to kid books, like magazines for instance, I create a couple of pages that have strong images, 1-2 images per page, that are targeted to that magazine. I create a pdf which has links to my website and email in the pdf. I also include these links in the body of the email in case the recipient never opens or downloads the pdf. So, it’s not a postcard but more like a targeted “tear sheet” of images.*
*So interesting to see your tear sheets. During this period of telecommuting, this may be a more viable option for illustrators.
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I’m so lucky to have an agent for my kidlit work, so I don’t have to worry about a list for that market. I do keep a spreadsheet of magazines and other companies that I would love to work for, and that I reach out to. Many of these are children related, but not covered by my agent as she only reps me for the book market. On the spreadsheet, I include the email address, name of the person sent to (if there is one), date it was sent, and the response I received.
Do you have any tips on the production process?
That’s a big question, so I’ll just relate this back to my tear sheet creation (which I use instead of postcards). Generally speaking, I create my illustration work traditionally and digitally and a mix of both. I scan the traditional pieces and pull those into Procreate to touch up. For fonts, I like to hand letter as much as possible. I think art directors are always looking for someone who has good hand lettering skills. I have designed templates in InDesign that I use for my tear sheet marketing. The templates include my name/logo (which is hand lettered), a very brief 3-4 sentence bio and links to my website and email. I tailor the tear sheets to the person/company I’m sending the sheet to. So, any artwork that goes into the template is strategic. I might add captions to the images. Most magazines and other companies that use illustration have submission guidelines and email address, so I just use those. I name my PDFs after who I’m sending the tear sheet too, so I have that as a reference as well.*
*Your tear sheets are a great marketing tool!
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
I have printed some postcards to take to conferences but have never mailed any. I’ve used Moo, which I think is just okay, but not great. The prices are really cheap, but the images turn out kind of dark. If I were doing a bulk mailing, I think I’d use a local printer in my area. It would cost more, but the quality would be great.
Thanks so much, Cynthia! Your alternative self-promotion tools give us all something to think about.
Get to know more about Cynthia and her work here:
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.