This month, Sub It Club welcomes an author/illustrator who I first met via a webinar and then was lucky enough to meet in real life at the SCBWI Summer Conference. Now I have the pleasure of introducing Kary Lee to you!
Kary Lee wrote and illustrated her first picture book the summer before third grade; an action-adventure/fantasy. When she wasn’t creating books she directed screenplays in her back yard. After college it was onto a career in graphic design. Upon a promotion to art director, she realized the illustrators were having all the fun and took a leap of faith, jumping to the other side of the desk. Receiving a portfolio showcase award at her first SCBWI LA conference set the stage for her transition. Kary got her break with Perfection Learning publishing a few educational readers followed by her first trade book, DIZZY, a Mom’s Choice award winner. Kary’s current project is a picture book dummy, ODD OTTO (a lonely orangutan afraid of heights) and pursuing an agent!
“I made a friend!”
She lives in Washington State, sharing her studio with an old yellow lab, Sunny. Actively involved with SCBWI as the Illustrator Coordinator for Inland Northwest, she keeps connected with the publishing world and her creative tribe.
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
It depends. If it’s my general marketing mailer, then I will use something from my current portfolio or new work that I have just finished.
“The Chase” postcard front.
“The Chase” postcard back.
If I am promoting a specific book or event, then the image will be directly related. For example, I have work hanging in an SCBWI exhibit at the Washington State Convention center. So my recent postcard promo was that illustration on the front with event and a call-to-action on the back.*
*Great way to get your postcard to multi-task!
“The Window Girl” promotional postcard front.
Promotional postcard back with a “call to action.”
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 both, but my current strategy is to reserve the front for an image with my signature and copyright symbol. The only exception is my website address centered at the bottom (careful to not dominate the art).
Postcard front with image and minimal graphics.
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
In a perfect world, I would love to. But, there’s always too much going on. So I cheat, applying some of my advertising tactics. I have different backs that I can switch out depending on my goal. For example, the front image of the postcard showing “The Window Girl,” I re-used for my recent LA conference promo, switching out the back with general information.
Alternate postcard back for “The Window Girl.”
In addition, “The Window Girl” image was featured on the front page of my portfolio at the conference. My strategy was to reach everyone on my mailing list three times with the same image creating continuity to strengthen my brand. And, I will send out a follow up of the same card, potentially a fourth hit. That reminds me, it’s time to get that one in the mail!*
*Your branding strategy is very interesting. We’re hearing more and more about taking concrete steps to create a brand.
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
Mostly stand-alone images. But, if I am promoting a book or event, then I may do a separate marketing campaign where a series would go out over a tighter timeline for continuity.
How often do you send out postcards?
My plan is to send four postcards a year in a general mailing and others depending on events or a book launch. I think of it by seasons. And, if I’m organized enough I try to have a holiday theme in December. If I count my December mailer in this year’s group, I am on track. Full disclosure, no clue what I’m gonna send this fall yet.*
*Ha! Full disclosure aside, that’s pretty darn good!
Who do you target with your mailings?
For general marketing, they go out to everyone simply promoting my online portfolio/website.
If I am targeting a specific publisher or agent, then I will might send an individual card with a handwritten note, or even a self-addressed stamped postcard in an envelope with an easy check box call-to-action they can drop in the mail easily. And, I actually got responses!*
*Excellent! Your pro-active approach to marketing is inspiring.
“Girls” promotional postcard.
“Girls” with reply card (back).
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
I set up my list in Outlook. I can separate by agent, art director, publisher, etc. if I want. But, I usually send to everyone. I try to hand address if I have the time, but getting it in the mail is most important. Also, don’t get so hung up on perfection that you miss your deadline. It’s a fine line. You don’t want to send out bad work, but at the same time you don’t want to be forgotten. That’s perhaps an interview for a different day,* but bottom line, you need to be seen. A day you lose in marketing potential can never be recovered!
*We need to schedule that! I think a lot of creatives struggle with perfectionism vs action.
Do you have any tips on the production process?
It helps to understand Photoshop or other equivalent software. But even more important is understanding how to prep and save your files for print. If you are a traditional illustrator, you also need to have a system to reproduce your work. I used to take photographs, or hire someone if it the work was large. But, Photoshop’s photomerge feature changed my life. Now I scan my illustration in pieces and photoshop ‘merges’ them seamlessly. It’s amazing! Once scanned, I save as a .jpeg at 600 dpi master file in RGB before creating a CMYK file at the resolution needed for the output I plan. It’s important that you understand CMYK vs RGB for color and PPI/DPI for resolution. With technology’s advances, much of this will be taken care of with your online vendor, but it’s always smart to understand these details as only you care enough to make sure it’s right before you pay.*
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
Yes! I’ve used Moo.com. They’re great, but spendy. I’ve found VistaPrint to be my standard. They’re quality is reasonable and they have always made their deadlines. If you have a mailing list, you can even upload it to their site and they can mail for you. (A luxury I have yet to take advantage of, but oh wouldn’t that be nice!)
Thank you so much, Kary, for a great interview. So much info from graphics to marketing to tech and beyond!
More of Kary’s work is just a click away:
Facebook: https: www.facebook.com/KaryLeeIllustration/
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 clicking on The Postcard Post under CATEGORIES on the right sidebar of this blog.
See you next month.