Note: I am using “we” and that’s because I am trying to generalize over the many ADs I know, and what we talk about all the time, and what has been said in numerous Art Director Roundtables and Panels. But of course, I don’t speak for everyone, so do your homework.
Bonus Points: ADs are a social bunch, and I bet the ones you want to work for have been interviewed on blogs, podcasts, written articles, etc. Having an idea of how they operate from their own lips is invaluable information.
It’s also a good idea to have a SMALL watermark on the bottom right corner of your piece that is either your name (if it is easily googleable), or your web address. Just something so that it’s easy to figure out whose art it is. Images on social media bounce around like mad, and often any link back to your site or profile is lost. Just make sure it’s not big enough to be distracting. I cannot even tell you how often I send or receive an email asking “do you know who made this?”
Step 3: Email
So you’ve gotten your list together of target email addresses. What do you do with it? A nice short & sweet email with a few low-resolution (a.k.a. 72dpi at a printable size, maybe 800 or 1000px wide) jpegs attached and your website link in the email is great every once in a while to keep your name in an AD’s mind. I’ve talked to a lot of ADs, and “quarterly, OR whenever you have new work”, seems to be the consensus. Not more than once a month no matter how much new work you have.
Newsletter-style email blasts are ok, but if you have a few top dream clients then I would tailor my emails and attach jpegs to fit their company. Keep explanations to a minimum, keep it positive but not desperate. I understand newsletter-style mass emails save a ton of time and I don’t think less of the artist for not writing a personal note, but I do take extra time and answer all the personally-tailored emails, so if Orbit is in your top 5 dream clients then telling me a little about yourself is always welcome.
I am a designer with over ten years of book cover experience. I have been a fan of Tor’s books for years and I would appreciate being considered for a cover commission. Please find a few examples of my work I think would for well with Tor’s look, and you can check out my full portfolio at www.LaurenPanepinto.com
Thank you for your time,
twitter, pinterest, & instagram: @planetpinto
That’s it. Short & sweet.
Do Not: Send a follow-up email asking why they haven’t responded to your first email (Some ADs will, some won’t). Do not write more than a few lines at most. Do not email weekly.
I hate cold calls. I know that’s how the biz ran for a long time, but I generally don’t answer any phone call from a number I don’t know, I let it go to message and then I generally forget about it. I reserve phone calls for artists I am working with, while in the middle of a project, that we need to brainstorm about. Do us all a favor and email us instead, ok?
Step 5: In Person
Office visits are much less common now that we don’t need you standing in our office with a big portfolio for us to see your work. Thank god for the internet. Now office visits and portfolio reviews are often reserved for artists we already know, artists that come recommended by an AD we trust, very well-known artists, and artists being brought around for intros by their agents. If you are just trying to break in, we’re probably not going to be able to take time out of our day to see you.
Lectures, talks, industry events, and conventions, on the other hand, are a great place to meet ADs. When we’re at industry events we are almost always ready to talk to a polite artist who happens to be hovering waiting to talk to us. (How do you know what we look like? Facebook, duh. Also look for artists shuffling awkwardly trying to break into a conversation.) At conventions like Illuxcon, GenCon, Spectrum, and many more, ADs hold official portfolio reviews and you can sign up to have your portfolio looked at, and have a chat. But even if you don’t get a slot, most ADs, if they have a second, will look over your book and exchange cards/take a postcard. If they don’t have a second they’ll usually give you a card or take yours, and say to follow up by email. Make sure you have business cards and some kind of leave-behind like a postcard ready.
SUMMARY: Be polite, and do your homework before you contact anyone asking for work. Sounds simple, but I can’t tell you how many emails I get a week that I have to dismiss immediately from people who have no idea what Orbit does, or who are just outright rude.
Also, and this is a big one, if you don’t hear back from an Art Director right away, or at all, don’t immediately assume they ignored you, hate you, will never hire you, etc. Sometimes it takes years for me to find the right project for an illustrator I have literally been dying to use. Yet sometimes I’ll meet someone and have a job for them the next week. It’s very frustrating for us, and often the artist doesn’t know, or I’ve told them that I really want to work with them, and they kind of assume I’m just being nice to say so.
There’s no science to this, but I swear, in networking, as in most aspects of our industry, keeping a zen-like balance of Patience and Persistence will always win over time.
…So I’ll see you all in the Illuxcon hotel bar in a few weeks, right?