It’s been kind of quiet here at HQ– no big freelance jobs knocking on my door, but so I’ve been trying to keep busy and get work accomplished– slowly putting together a website and taking care of numerous little things on my to-do list, and as such I’ve looked at the most recent bio I’ve written for myself. First and foremost, what’s the first statement about me? I confess that I’m a jack-of-all-trades. I don’t think I can really help it– I have a lot of interests, and I doubt I could say I’ve mastered or will master any of them! Illustrations, comics, 3D needlefelting, sewing (more of a recent pursuit though), and screen printing, and that’s just off the top of my head, not counting all the things I’ve tried and failed, or the things I do casually (web-site building, for one). And of course several of those things (like screen printing or comics) have multiple internal processes of their own! Despite all that, I’m always wanting to learn more, do more, take more on my plate. But of course– too much on one’s plate and you’re left daunted about how to accomplish it.

We’re a society of multitaskers now; and this is pretty awesome and frustrating too. Instead of doing one thing (and doing it excellently, arguably) we’re spread out all over the place, dipping our hands into different pools and making wonderful ripples. Or if you’re in my case, making the starts of ripples but never finishing them. My love of exploration has left me wondering where my focus is, and left me wondering how to manage it all. Take a step into my studio and you’ll see pages of started projects, half-finished printmaking endeavors, and pages of plans and plots. I think this is one reason if nothing else why my previous thoughts of grad school were in my head– hoping that somehow an institution will force me to buckle down and complete something. (Not to mention that while I appreciate everyone’s positive thoughts about my abilities, I can’t help but shake the idea that my growth over the last year or so has been a lateral move.This might just be me though.) It’s the hardest thing in the world for me to focus on just one thing, and do it well.

And the other curse of having a vivid imagination coupled with a hard time knowing when to finish something? Well, my imagination likes to go on a trip and think of all the other possibilities of things I could be doing, things I’ve always wanted to do. Practicing lettering! Making repeating patterns! Drawing just about anything! My brain goes on overdrive and working on project A becomes a true test of wills.

I like to think that everyone’s like this– but I’m really not sure. At the same time I try not to berate myself for being all over the place, because I have a lot of interests, and it’s who I am. In a weird way this kind of spread-out view is my way of balancing– because with too much focus, I wouldn’t see myself growing, and with too little, I wouldn’t get too far either. It doesn’t mean that things are easy of course– I get pretty exhausted just from the mental workout that creativity provides. And I constantly find myself wanting an extra self/pair of hands/ten hours a day just to improve things But I guess the lesson is that’s okay, even if it means I’m like this unto old age.

What about you, are you a multitasker at heart? Or do you work on one thing predominantly until it’s done and then move on? How do you balance all the things you want to do when time gets in the way? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

So, ladies and gents, have you tried the postcard route for a while? Are you getting bored of it? Well, don’t give up on them, because they’re definitely useful, but you can always supplement your promotion with other things.

A bit of a disclaimer though: sending these out is a bit different than sending postcards out. As they cost more to make and you want to make them look nice and presentable, you are not going to be mailing these suckers out to everyone on your mailing list. Rather, these are good for favorite clients and your dream clients. AKA, the people you love or would love to work with; not to be discriminatory, but if you send out 500 postcards, that’s one thing; but sending out 500 self-promo items is costly, and unless you’re rich, you want to scale it down a bit.

So, what do you do? This was one of the most fun things I learned in college; we first had a class assignment devoted to it and then I later put together my own independent study to explore self-promotion overall. The amazing thing about self-promotion is the limitless options– okay, well, there are limits, but things can be customized and combined so much you’ll barely notice. You could make a mini-folio of work; you could create a toy; you could make a calendar, stationery set, book, a button set, whatever. Pretty much, what do you think you could make that would hold a client’s interest enough to keep it? If you make something like a calendar or stationery, there is an added benefit that it’s functional. In college, I made a hand silkscreened envelope that contained a letter, an original silkscreen print, and a stuffed toy that resembled one of the motifs I was drawing at the time (either an arm or a little bubble ghost), both of which were drawn in the print.) Now looking back at it, the production value wasn’t perfect, but for a one week assignment (where I made 18 of them, with hand embroidery on each one), I understood how these things need to be thought of realistically. Some of my classmates at the time made food, or put together food items; but now that I think of that, I don’t think it’s wise. Why? For one, people might not trust food sent through the mail; someone could tamper with it. For two, say you have an art director living in the southwest? If the mailboxes are anything like mine here in AZ, they’re metal, and from March through October they heat up and melt anything that is left inside. So it’s just not practical; stick to items that say more about you and your work.

I’ll use a bit of self-reference here: I’m now going to be producing an item that I will use as a promo item. Namely? A notepad. To be more specific, a to-do list. To be honest, I’ll be selling some of them and using the rest as promotion items, but still the idea is there. This is my first time sending one out to art directors, and it’s a little nerve-inducing! I’ll keep you posted if I get any new clients from it though. Pretty much there will be a postcard included, packaged in an envelope with a specially designed label (I’m thinking about getting a custom stamp with my art and address, so I can mail out packages). I’m keeping it simple and clean; but of course you can go very elaborate, with fancy papers, envelopes, etc. Really, what you want to do is make it feel like it is yours, and not generic; so design it well, with your sensibilities, and don’t just scrawl in sharpie on a manila envelope half taped and crumpled.

If you’re concerned about whether your idea will be mailable (and you live in the US), you can talk to the post office (international illustrators; forgive me, I’m not sure. Your mail services might also have this though, so ask around). More specifically, there are Mailpiece Design Analysts throughout the country (this took me forever to remember the proper term!) who can assist you in figuring out the regulations and the mailability of your item. Especially when it comes to paper thickness, barcodes, all that stuff– it’s best to figure this out ahead of time. This link explains it better, and you can look up your local analyst at the same time.

So here’s the steps:

1) Go through your mailing list and figure out who you want to send something to. Cull it down to how many you can afford to mail out. For me, I probably will send about 20-30 notepads out, because I’m poor.

2) Start brainstorming with your budget in mind. What would you think would be neat to get? What do you want art directors to figure out from you? Do you want to make it functional or not? Some scrapped ideas I’ve had so far (more pushed to the back burner than scrapped, I guess) include a calendar, a small silkscreen print set, and a stuffed animal. (The last being more cute than tying into what my art is about.)

3) Find your supplies, and research the methods. Talk to fellow artists, go to paper boutiques, find good printers, etc. Research bookmaking, how to make an envelope, a new technique, whatever. Even if you don’t use everything you learn, you can always keep it in mind for a future project.

4) Make a dummy (a test product)! This might seem like a bit of a waste at first, but it’s good because you can work out the kinks that you might not have thought of in the brainstorming stage; like, did you measure an envelope right? Is something too thick? How do you put together a book? Etc.

5) Consult the mailpiece design analyst, and find out what you need to do to make it mailable.

6 ) Make them. Be sure that like a postcard, there is some way of them being able to know who you are, and how to get in touch. Maybe a postcard you already have mailed, maybe a page in the book (if you made a book), maybe a little note. Something that ties in and doesn’t look half-assed though.

7) Mail them.

eight) Wait!

And that’s all I’ve got for now. Thursday, I’ll talk about some of the companies you can look into for a few options for promo items.

PS: in the next month or so there will be some features of me interviewing different people in the industry, art directors, illustrators, reps and the like; I’ve already gotten two lined up, so if you are an art director or a rep or an illustrator who’d like to be profiled and help out the blog, please contact me! And if you have any questions you’d like me to ask them, please also drop me a line.

Hello all! Here’s hoping you’re having a lovely Thursday, I’m feeling pretty good I must admit. Definitely raring to go on wrapping up my treatise on postcarding it, so let’s get into the nitty-gritty and share sources.

I haven’t used a lot of places yet, but I have ordered sample packs from some, so I’ll list some of those as well with my thoughts, along with pricing for 500 cards (that’s the run I use; I usually don’t use them all up with mailing so I’ll put them in packages and hand them out at cons, that sort of thing).

Without further ado, in no particular order:

1)4by6.com: This is the first place I printed my postcard with. I think their prices have standardized since I first used them, because I went 4/1 (color front, black ink back in case you forgot from last entry) to save money, but now 500 cards go for $110 regardless of the color on the back. They did a pretty good job; I received the cards pretty quick, and the colors were close (though a bit more purply toned than what the original watercolored image was). The default coating was glossy on the front and uncoated on the back; good for hand-writing addresses (which, I did once but will never do again! My hands killed me.). Their sample kit is quite nice and free.

2) Modern Postcard: I haven’t used them, but I’ve seen samples of cards printed by them. They do a good job and I probably would like them. The cards are wider than some (4.25×6″), which could be nice. 500 cards cost $129 or $155 based on whether you ask for color on the back. (I prefer a color back, so I would be going for the latter.) They coat with an aqueous coating, which I think was semi-gloss when I saw those samples. Why haven’t I used them? Quite frankly, the price. Might make me a cheap-wad, but I’ve found good places for a good price.

3)Overnight Prints: This is the company I currently use. Don’t be put off by their ‘design for dummies’ sort of interface; it ain’t pretty, but they do good work. I hear that their customer service is atrocious, so if you are needing to talk to someone try a different company, but there are a number of reasons why I like them. Their prices are really reasonable (around $90 for 500 4/4 cards!), and if you have a coupon like I do, it’s even cheaper. They offer rounded edges, which while I’m not positive if that’s USPS friendly, it looks beautiful. They offset print the cards, which just looks nicer in my opinion. And last but not least, the finish. Their standard is this satin finish on both sides that just looks perfect with my illustrations; they also offer gloss, but I would rather go with satin any day. The colors look pretty spot on from what I see on screen, so I’m happy to recommend them.

4)PsPrint : Another company I have not used yet, but actually will use in a couple weeks for a different print job (notepads for sale/self-promo); their samples arrived quickly and the quality was pretty nice. I like them in theory at least because they offer a variety of printing, so if I get any crazy schemes in mind they might help. They also offer different paper options, including recycled for you eco-conscious out there… based on what you choose, prices go from $60-100 based on color or black and white back, paper choice, etc. The front side is coated, back is not.

5)GreenerPrinter : Don’t get me wrong, I want to like GreenerPrinter. There’s a part of me that cringes when I think about what wastes and pollution my print job may be producing, and I would like to make things more eco-friendly. However, the prices are out of my budget right now ($109 for black back, $140 for color), and to be honest the samples I got (mostly ads and trade announcements for vegan-friendly things) looked okay, but I wasn’t super impressed. I guess it was just a bit too glossy/cheap looking to me. But to be fair, they give you lots of paper options, and that’s nice.

6) Others: Really, there’s a slew out there. I found this resource of other printers, many of whom I never heard of, but haven’t sought them out yet. If any of the ones I’ve listed don’t appeal, I’d check the resource out. I’m pleased with Overnight Prints though; my last three cards were printed with them and they’ve all looked beautiful.

Next week we’ll continue the promo talk- in case you want to do something more than just postcards. Again, Tuesday will be a broader talk, and Thursday will be more resources/companies.

Have a great weekend and happy illustrating!