Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Cold Call (Email) Art Directors


-By Lauren Panepinto

A few months back I wrote an overview on How to Approach Art Directors. I am happy to have heard a lot of feedback that it was really helpful to people, but I've also heard from some artists that they'd like me to go more in-depth. So here we go...

The Cold Call. Awkward, ineffective, always poorly timed, and thankfully almost completely extinct.

I am unbelievably thankful that I am an Art Director in the post-telephone age of email. I can't speak for every AD, but I feel very secure in saying that no one wants a real cold call anymore. Honestly I don't even pick up the phone if I don't know the number. I pretty much reserve the phone for discussing projects with artists once they've gotten the brief and want to brainstorm. Sometimes for getting yelled at by Production when a cover mechanical is late. Other than that, the phone is for talking to my grandparents. I definitely do not want to stall my day with an artist calling and asking if I have work available. It feels a little too aggressive, honestly, and it's also very inefficient. I can't see any of your work attached to your phone call. I can't click on a web link to your site. Email does all of this so much better, and it also allows me to think about you and your work when I have the free moment to do so.

Onward to The Cold Call Email.

Ok, first of all, can we come up with a better name for this? "Cold Email" just doesn't have the same ring to it (pun intended). If someone comes up with a catchier name for the Cold Email in the comments I offer a prize of any Orbit book they want mailed to them with my heartfelt gratitude. 

The Cold Email is a much better way to introduce yourself, show your work, and politely say PLEASE GIVE ME WORK NOW.

What you need:

1—Art Director's Email
There are 3 ways to get this. 1) Meet them in person and get their card. 2) Beg another artist to share their contacts with you. 3) Google skills. I'm not going to post a list of email addresses here, but really, between company websites and social media, you really should be able to figure this out. You find out the name of the Art Director, you figure out their company's email naming convention, and you work it out.

2—Jpegs of Your Work
If this is the first time you're emailing an AD, pick 3 pieces from your portfolio that have some relevance to the product of the company you are emailing to attach. If it's a book publisher, send pieces you think look like book covers. If they are a gaming company that specializes in science fiction, then send either gaming work and/or science fiction themed pieces. Or you can always play it safe and send your 3 favorite portfolio pieces overall.

Use "Save for Web" in photoshop. Save as 72dpi jpegs that are between 500-1000 pixels wide. Attach them to your email, do not embed them in the body of the email.

If this is not the first time you are emailing the AD, feel free to send 1 new piece when you have completed it. More on that later.

3—Your Website
I'll do a separate post just on websites, and all the blog vs. tumblr vs. pro site questions, but for now, make sure you have a place on the internet that has your portfolio pieces, your name, and your email (no contact forms).



Now you write a short and sweet to-the-point email. I generally like something more than a completely impersonal one-liner, but I also don't need to read an essay here. Make me feel like you know what my company does and have considered what we're looking for.

Now put it all together, and spellcheck it. Get up and take a bathroom break. Come back and read it again to make sure it makes sense.

And now, to make it absolutely fool-proof for you, I give you a customizable Cold Email Template:

Dear (Art Director),

My name is (your name). I am an (illustrator, concept artist, photographer, etc.) who is a (student at X, recent graduate of X, breaking into the industry, a working professional). I really enjoy the (product) that (the company) produces. I would love to be considered for freelance assignments when you have commissions available. I am happy to do revisions as necessary, and pride myself on (keeping on schedule, working quickly, taking direction well, etc.). I think my artwork could be a good fit for your needs.

Please find a few samples of my work attached to this email. My (full portfolio, blog, behance page) can be found at (http://www.yoursite.com).

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I look forward to working with you and (company) sometime soon.

Thank you,

(your name)
(http://www.yoursite.com)
(your phone number)





Ultimately, it's your work that's going to get you hired or not. But this is all about getting your foot in the door, it's all about proving to someone that you're worth the risk of hiring them for that first commission with you. As an AD, you are putting your job on the line every time you hire an artist, and the more they can do to make you feel like you're hiring a reliable, thinking, sane human being, the better. Remember the "Being A Successful Freelancer" Venn Diagram. Be Good, Be Nice, Be On Time. Your cold email tells a lot about the kind of person and businessperson you are. Don't flub it.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are Newsletters, Distro Lists, and Mass Emails ok? I don't have a problem with being on an email list or newsletter list. I appreciate getting your new pieces, but I also don't feel like I owe a mass email or newsletter a personal response back. I do try to answer back (eventually) every artist email that is written specifically for me. I even go through my spam filter weekly and try to fish out anything that looks like a real email from a real artist. It is way more common for newsletters and mass emails to get caught by the spam filter, so take that into account too. Also if you are mass emailing the old fashioned way, you'd better be putting those precious AD email addresses in the BCC (Blind Copy) window, or instant fail.

How Often Do I Email? I like once every 2-3 months, or whenever you have new work that you want to show off. If it is a new work email, then add a line that says "I just finished this new piece for X and I wanted to show it to you."

What if I don't hear back? You might not. But that doesn't mean the AD hasn't looked at your work and shortlisted you in their mind for a project. You don't have any way of knowing, really. Just stick to the plan. Email every 2-3 months, or when you have a cool new finished piece to show.



Illustrations by a combination of Shutterstock bits & design by me.


105 comments:

  1. Hmm... an E-mail you send hunting for a big, elusive job? Call me 'Ish-mail'.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you very much for this blog post! I loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your posts are always a gold mine of useful info, Lauren! Thanks for taking the time to do them. You may be getting one of these coolmails/e-cold calls/firstmails from me sometime soon for Orbit. I will be sure to take your advice to heart before I do so!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Extra points to whoever can find my actual work email, not be lazy and just use my @laurenpanepinto.com email! Hint: It's not Lauren@orbitbooks.com

      Delete
    2. I know it! But I've worked for you. so I guess I have an unfair advantage.

      Delete
    3. also, if you cook me a pie like tim has, I will give you all of my contact information. even my social security number. code to my gym locker. my diary heart-shaped key. lol.

      Delete
    4. You are giving all my tricks away! Now everyone is going to start baking pies, and I'm going to have to up the anti!

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  4. Just out of curiosity, why attaching files over embedding them? I always figured it would be better to have them visible without having to click anything open.

    "Plea-mail"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oooh i LIKE "Plea-Mail". you are our front runner.

      Delete
    2. oh because a lot of corporate email systems either refuse to let you see them (they appear as broken links and then also aren't attached) or it sends your whole email to spam-hell.

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't mean post it here. really. well that kills it for everyone else.

      Delete
    2. But I really wanted the extra points...

      Delete
  6. This is a great post! I think I speak for a lot of artists when I say we prefer an email first contact for a project as well rather than a cold phone call.

    It is awkward when someone calls you to illustrate their self-published children's book (or insert project here) and you have to awkwardly explain why you most likely cannot do it.

    Thanks goodness for caller ID!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wonderful post! I was lamenting the difficulty of approaching people online compared to in person at conventions, but for those of us on tighter budgets in the EU where meeting the big company ADs is a little tougher, but this is a great starting spot. Also good to know how brief to keep that first email.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the post, I've been reading more of what you've put out there recently and it's been SUPER helpful so thank you.

    As for a name, how about an "open email". Kind of leaving it open-ended to the AD.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "open email" isn't bad...kind of vague tho.

      Delete
  9. This really is an excellent post especially for those new or wanting to get into the Illustration business. I got my degree in Art Education therefore i didn't get alot of the business side of things.

    How about query-mail or querE-Mail?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. query-mail isn't half bad. a little british-sounding, but not bad...

      Delete
  10. Now that we know how to contact an art editor, what art will just make you roll your eyes, groan, and hit the delete key? (e.g., doge with pink bows, naked females, male fighters with 6-foot wide shoulders, etc.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it's generally not the art, it's the email. I really can't help rolling my eyes when people oversell themselves in the email. I actually got an email last week from an artist going on and on about how fantastic people have told him his art is. Let me be the judge of that, dude.

      Delete
  11. cold blast
    chill petition with a mission
    e-begs
    electronic hustle dispatch

    i'll have some more tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. E-begs are brilliant!

      @topic: Lauren, thanks for valuable advice!
      Glad I've been doing this right from the beginning :D

      Delete
  12. I"m a huge fan of Plea-mail, so far.
    I think you've convinced me to at least try and send out some information. I did toss my portfolio to a few representatives, but i keep telling myself, "allen, you'll send it to art directors when you're better."
    i'm starting to think that thought may never end, so why not?!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good stuff Lauren! How about a hire-mEmail... plea-mail is really tough to top. Sounds like sometimes you get wanna-bEmail, which is different than hope-to-bEmail. The goal is to send an i-must-hire-theEmail.

    ReplyDelete
  14. As someone trying to "break into the industry" I can only say thank you. This kind of information makes the process less intimidating to me. I'll continue to read and to watch for more.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'd call it Doomed-To-Fail Mail. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  16. THANKS LAUREN
    I always read your articles and I have really been of much use

    My idea: CRACKmail

    ReplyDelete
  17. Fantastic article. Thankyou for writing it. Do you have any advice about what the title of the email should be?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh good point. keep it simple. "Christine Gallagher Illustration" is fine for a subject.

      Delete
  18. Thank you!! This is much appreciated :D

    ReplyDelete
  19. Glad I found this! Thank you....And I love "plea-mail"!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think Plea-mail is the winner...any last-ditch attempts?

    ReplyDelete
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  30. Haha or flee mail, because you wanna run & do something else instead.

    Procrastamail... That is truely what it is in my house, lol. I desperately want to send it. ... but there is always something else to be done that won't make me feel as vulnerable.

    Fail mail because I fail to send it. .. but that's too deep pressing.

    Plea mail (above) is a cute one too.

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