Your postcard mailings aren’t working; all the money you’re spending on mailing lists, printing and postage is a waste of money. You may think by sending an excellent drawing that you’re grabbing the attention of art directors. You’re not. For the most part they come in, go in a stack of other mail and are headed for the trash within seconds of arriving. I’m speaking from personal experience, over thirty years of experience of receiving postcard mailings from illustrators. Of the six postcards I received today, I chucked all but one.
It came as no surprise when I looked over the judging sheets of the Self-Promotion category in our current 3x3 ProShow, by and large illustrators voted for pieces that the art directors didn’t. Our illustrator judges appreciated the art; our art director judges missed the message. That’s the biggest problem with postcards from illustrators, there is no message. Just imagine an art director getting your mailing, what do you want their response to be? I can tell you what you don’t want the reaction to be: "WTF, Huh, So-What or Why? Yet time after time that’s exactly what my reaction is. You must go beyond just creating a wonderful piece of art. As art directors we expect you to be able to draw—why else would you call yourself an illustrator—but what we want you to do is think. Think about who is getting your mailing, think about the image you choose, the language you put on the back and even how you address the postcard. We all know you’re not just sending out one post card, you’re sending out hundreds or more so we don’t appreciate receiving something that isn’t even personalized. So you’ve lost us even before we turn the card over to see the image. Think you’re getting around this by just posting on social media? Read on.
Say you’ve done a better job addressing your card, now how are you choosing your image? Are you choosing one that is relevant to my needs? Or just your favorite image? I know you’ve been told to show work you’re interested in doing in a style you’re comfortable with but the science of promotion goes way deeper than that. You are the image-maker, what you show is a reflection of you, so if it’s a confusing image then I suspect you're not a together illustrator. If you’re sending me images of food and I’m an art director of a science publication then there is a total disconnect. And a lost opportunity. Keep in mind I’m not only judging your style—we know that’s subjective—I’m judging your content and context. Yet this happens over and over again, the wrong image sent to the wrong audience and then you wonder why nobody takes notice. You think you’ll avoid the postcard route and post illustrations simply to show something new. The sharing thing isn’t working for over 80-percent of the art directors out there. The majority are still relying on postcards to find new illustrators, not social media.
It’s criminal how little you’re told about how to promote yourself, for most of you it’s just trial and error, that is if you’re even promoting yourself. Or you could be that rare person that hit the big time right off the bat, no need to promote as one job leads to another. But unless you’re that person you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping yourself every time you mail a postcard. Too many well-versed illustrators are not getting the work they deserve simply by their actions of poor self-promotion.
An advertiser on television has 30-seconds to “sell” you on their product, you have a millisecond. The choices we art directors make are instantaneous. Just like our judges, it’s either “In” or “Out”. You may be saying, “I did get a job off a postcard or my blog or my email or my posting.” Yes, that is possible but look at all the opportunities that are out there and the masses of art directors you’ve not even touched, either physically or emotionally. There is an untapped market out there, one that needs to be convinced to use illustration.
So while I applaud you who are promoting yourself, take care on how, when and what you promote. There is a science to it.
All of this holds true whether or not I were holding a self-promotion workshop but it’s an even better reason to attend. I spent $2,500, not including hotel reservations or airfare, to attend a one-day workshop where I learned just who I should be directing my energies towards, which prospects were the easiest to persuade and how to approach them. The event changed the way I looked at promotion. For a much smaller fee you can discover the science of it all too. Check it out.