(originally published in 2005)
So many people have written me asking for advice I decided to put this short list together. Some of these things may be stating the obvious but I wanted to start simply so that you don’t get too overwhelmed with an enormous load of things to do. Be gentle with yourself. The goal in the beginning it to just start, forward movement in any direction is good. It helps to just get that feeling of accomplishment, when you come back from the mail and feel really good about sending out some cards.
1. Go to a library or bookstore and look for publishers, magazines, etc. that use work like yours, (in a similar style.) Find names of art directors & addresses on the masthead, (usually by the contents page, the masthead lists everyone who puts the issue together.) For publishers you may have to do some digging, look in Writer’s Markets, web pages, etc. ALWAYS be on the lookout for places, restaurants, posters, greeting cards, advertising, murals, comic books, products…etc. that your work would be suitable for. It will become natural for you after a while. Research:
Graphic Artist’s Guild
The Business of Illustration by Steven Heller
List of Research Journals, Magazines,and, U.S. and World Newspapers
Canadian Magazine Publisher’s Association
2. Once you get a name and address (start with 10 names and go from there). Do not overwhelm yourself too much, just start with a few! Send them samples. It could be color copies (good quality) or a printed piece. The MOST important thing to remember is that the work and samples be appropriate to their publication. notes: If your work seems to focus mainly on animals try Children’s magazines, animal magazines, licensing for products, etc., look for companies that already publish stuff similar to yours. It would not be cost effective for you to market to Time Magazine. When mailing you will usually have at least a 2 percent response, (I’ve found it to be more like 10 percent).
Also try to stick to one style when targeting clients, they need to know what to hire your for, (you want them to think “Comic-like, oh I need to call…insert your name here”)
3. For further help I highly recommend: -read Seven Steps to getting Published for advice on how to go about the creative part. -research promotional mailers and marketing for designers. Some simple techniques in bookbinding can be very helpful in coming up with some unique promotional mailers. A good book for this is Making Memory Books and Journals by Hand by Kristina Feliciano, Jason Thompson, and Barbara Mauriello. -Read: my recommended reading business & money section and “How to Make a living doing what you love” -make a business plan, starting with short term goals that are do-able (it will all get done, take it slow!) -if you haven’t been already, the “Art Talk” section of TheIspot is an excellent place to pick up info from people who have been in the business for a long time.
-read designer Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto I particularly like, “Don’t enter competitions, Just don’t do it, it’s not good for you.” When I first read this I was stunned, all my teachers in art school always told us, “Enter every competition you can. It’s good promotion if you get in. It’s worth the cost.” In the beginning I did this. I wanted so badly to win these competitions that I tried to create “winning” artwork. It was usually contrived and not from the heart. I never got in. I think what Bruce Mau was talking about was when you put something into a competition you are putting your work up for judgement by a third party (in this case a large magazine or organization.), thus giving them the ability to deem your work ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When you do this is you are in effect putting other’s opinions ahead of your own. Now I know we must all face rejection at one time or another. (You have heard the saying, “if you are not being rejected you are not trying hard enough.”) But it seems strange to me to PAY someone to judge your work, these competitions are quite expensive. I’m sure I will get some flack for this opinion by some who truly believe in entering competitions. After several years I started to get into many of the major awards annuals (without trying), and in my experience I have not yet gotten a job from it, so I do question the promotion incentive. If you are producing work that moves you, over time you WILL be recognized by others, but a) competitions should not be a motive for creating and b) putting other’s opinions over your own puts us onto a subjective scale, (“I must not be living up to the rest”). Create your own rules.