© Andrea Maurio

Real reactions to artist postcards: kept or tossed?

Backstage With a Promo Card at a Magazine

The time for me to check my direct mail was like a pilgrimage to our office inboxes. This always happened at the end of an extremely busy closing cycle of the magazine. I was finally able to get inspired and find some new talent and check out some websites. That’s a photo editor’s job, to find and hire photographers and illustrators, and the promo or email is the beginning of building a relationship with an artist. Promo cards are a bit like speed dating, except only the photographer can speak.

© Andrea Maurio

The next step was the sorting into piles by categories, and then into a folder that determined what part of the magazine they might (or might not) fit in. The “nots” were recycled.

Some promos made it to my bulletin board. Those were the heroes. They were going to be at the right place at the right time, for any meeting I got pulled into! The promo bulletin board was like curating a mini gallery opening, and only the best got placed for future hiring.

One group of exceptional promotions that always caught my attention – and wasn’t going anywhere near a recycle bin – came from rep Deb Schwartz, who did an amazing job promoting her photographers. Over several years, I received her much-coveted promotional pieces and looked forward to her oversized boxes of wall-size prints. Not all of them pertained to my assignments, but certainly it reminded me to call upon her roster of superstar photographers when I did have an opportunity to utilize them. For me, the arrival of her box was like Christmas morning! I couldn’t wait to rip it open and see what amazing image she’d sent.

© Andrea Maurio

I have also saved personalized books by photographers, personal signed prints and even handwritten notes. The more personal the touch, the harder it was to toss the promo!

Why Did I Keep the Promos I Kept?

  • They targeted and promoted the right subject matter for the magazine (so if it’s a running magazine, please don’t send horses that run).
  • The envelope was transparent and seeing their work was quick and easy.
  • Handmade promos sometimes took me by surprise and compelled me to go to the photographer’s website, since the photographer (or his or her studio) spent so much time gluing pictures to cardboard!
  • Storytelling! I often kept cards that combined two or more images on the front, or if the card flapped over. This helped me visualize sending them out to capture a portrait and an action shot, and perhaps even a still life.

Why Did I Toss the Promos I Tossed?

  • Wrong subject matter for the publication.
  • Mysterious bells-and-whistles-type mailers, like a mini shovel and seeds. Seeds? Yes, seeds.
  • Inconsistent work that didn’t match the photographer’s website – never a good sign.

© Andrea Maurio

Words of Advice

This is your mini portfolio! In order to capture the attention of the creative, it’s important to market yourself consistently and send not just good but outstanding images.

If you aren’t sure, pin them up on your bulletin board and pull some images from the magazine you want to work for, and compare them side by side. How do they look alongside the magazine images? If your promo pieces seem to hold up alongside the magazine’s published work, you might have a match!

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