How to prepare samples to send to a publisher

By heather at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I had an illustrator recently ask me ‘How - physically - does one present initial samples when submitting [illustrations] to a publisher for the first time?’ Here are a few suggestions for straight-up sending a package of printed samples to potential clients :

Always send copies. Never send your original artwork.

Scans vs Photography :
When making copies of your artwork, scans at high-resolution (300dpi) are always better than photographs as the colour is truer. If you decide to take photographs of your artwork, be sure it is in a well lit place and images are clear.

Letter size printouts :
This is one of the simplest and most popular ways to send samples to a client.

  • • Set up a template (InDesign, Illustrator, etc) to place 1-2 high-resolution scans of your illustrations on each page.
  • • Be sure to include your name & contact information on every page.
  • • Make sure to print at the highest quality.
  • • Staple your printouts together
  • • Include a coverletter and send unfolded in a manila envelope.

5 x 7 Photographs :
This is another easy & inexpensive way to send samples to a client.

  • • Take your scans / photos of your artwork to a local digital photography printer to print at whatever size you’d like
  • • Have a coffee and come back in an hour when they’re done :)
  • • Clearly label each photo you wish to send to a client (sticker labels are great for this, and you reduce the risk of smudging ink.
  • • It’s unnecessary to mount photographs on card stock…it looks nice, but it adds weight to your samples when mailing and just increases the bulk of the package. Instead, just add a nice black border to your digital files so a consistent edge is printed on each photograph.
  • • Include a coverletter and send in a greeting card sized envelope

Colour Copies :
For those who mightn’t have the resources to scan & print samples of their work themselves, if the artwork is small enough you can make colour photocopies at a local copy shop relatively cheaply. Then package the same way you would Letter sized samples (above.)

Clearly & descriptively label each sample with your contact details :
When mailing samples, if you don’t label each sample, you run the risk of it being lost and not traced back to you. Include on EACH sample :

  • • Your Name
  • • Phone number
  • • Website URL
  • • Email address
  • • Copyright information
  • • Mailing address (optional)

SASE (Self-addressed stamped envelope) : If you want your samples sent back to you, include a SASE with sufficient postage. If you are sending samples internationally, use postage on the SASE that can actually be used in that country…as creative director at a card publishing company, I received several packages with SASEs to us in Canada with return postage stamps from the US :)

Including the price of each piece of artwork isn’t necessary.
Get someone interested in your work first and let them ask (or set!) the price.

Avoid fancy folders :
they will end up just being given to the art director’s kid for their school projects ;)

Presenting your work in a simple and tidy manner is always best.

Straight up : if your art is good, that is what will speak the loudest when sending your samples. What art directors look for is great artwork that suits their needs. As long as your sample package looks neat & is labeled clearly with your name & contact details, if your work is great and what they are looking for at the time, your art will speak for itself.

For more tips on promoting your illustration work, check out :

10 Tips for Submitting Samples to Greeting Card Publishers

How to Promote Yourself as an Illustrator

Filed under: business of illustration


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Comment by Tracy Cathers

February 10, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

How much $ should be asked for if the company is interested in my work? Thanks for your help.

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Comment by heather

April 13, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

Hey Tracy,

Good question! I’m in the middle of writing up a little blog post on this…it’s like asking someone how much should I charge for this ’shirt’…it really depends on the quality of what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and what it will be used for. The only ‘quick’ answer I can give you is this…work out how much you’d like to make an hour for your artwork…then work out how much time you will need to complete the project. Multiply the two together, and that’s what you can charge for your illustrations. Whether it matches up with your client’s budget is another issue! Sometimes the publishers give you a budget up front, and if you’re happy with it then you’ll do business together, otherwise have to negotiate a price you’re happy with.


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Comment by YUKE

November 7, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

Great Info. How can I find publishers? I bought an artist and graphic designer’s market book and surfed the internet. well, I have found about 53 publishers.Then,It seems now that there is no publishers any more in the world to sent my samples.

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Comment by heather

November 8, 2007 @ 6:12 pm

Hi Yuke, Thanks for your comment! As far as finding publishers, the internet is one way. Have you tried checking out your local card shop and writing down the name of the card publisher on the back, then looking up their contact information? There isn’t really an easy way around having to do a bit of research to find out which publishers are taking new artwork. Good luck! Cheers, Heather

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Comment by Han

May 12, 2010 @ 8:58 pm

Hi there,
What would you recomend a cover letter contain?
And another thought that just came to mind, im not sure if its a smart question or not, but because they have your artwork samples couldnt they just use it without you knowing? It sounds illegal.

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Comment by Lionel Alvarez

July 15, 2010 @ 12:34 am

Hi Tracy,
A friend of mine and I are done illustrating the first of 3 song picture books. We printed up a prototype of the book at Kincos which we sent a copy to 2 publishers so far, and were later returned. They liked it but wasn’t the type books they are looking for. Is it ok to send out a full color prototype to a publisher? Also, I love working with photoshop! I hand drew all art and added color with photoshop airbrush tool. Is it ok to add the type in photoshop as well? Looks clean and wonderful to us!?
I know we need to be patient, and we love what we created, but it is our first time and just hoping we’re on the right track. Are we ok? or can you suggest anything that may help us? We are also thinking of self publishing them but lack the investment money presently.
Hope to hear from you soon! Thx!

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Comment by heather

July 22, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

Hi Lionel,
Thanks for your comment on my blog. I’m actually a full time mum now,
so don’t have heaps of time to write… I put most of my tips up on my
blog anyway so try aren’t so secret!

To quickly answer your questions…

- yes, its ok to send a colour mockup… But from the horses mouth,
publishers prefer manuscripts sent in plain Jane with no
illustrations. It’s best to submit illustration samples separately.
Because publishers find in most cases either the illustrator can’t
write, or the author can’t draw! But there are those rare occasions a
person can do both, so Id submit a simple manuscript printout, with
the mockup as well.

- with getting a couple rejections, don’t be discouraged… There are
hundreds of publishers out there (I’ve put a link to the website i use
to Β find publishers on Illustrator Tips page on my blog) so just try
to send the samples to ones who handle similar types of books, or at
least in the same genre!

- Photoshop isn’t a good program to put in typography (it rasterizes
the type so it doesn’t look as sharp in the final product as
vectorized type) it’s best to do it in a professional layout program
(InDesign or Quark) which generally the publisher does on their own.

Hope this helps! Best of luck,


Heather Castles

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Comment by victoria allen

November 24, 2010 @ 5:10 am

Hi, I am getting a portfolio together at the moment and have found the information on how to send work to publishers really interesting and useful, thankyou. One of our assistants at college is a professional illustrator and advised us to send images to prospective clients at 72dpi for fear of having your designs ripped off. It has happened to her, I just wondered what your thoughts were on that? I’m writing from the u.k., don’t know if it’s any different?

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Comment by Brigid

May 22, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

Thank you! You made it very simple and easy to understand.

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Comment by abbigail

December 2, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

Hello, this may be a dumb question, but how many illustration samples should you include?

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Comment by Annette

December 17, 2011 @ 9:06 am

Do art directors or publishers buy a piece of artwork and use it for illustrations. My daughter painted a really wonderful eyecatching acyrlic of a girl dancing about a year ago she was 8, but there is something so uplifting about this artwork. It’s a little crude, because she was only 8. I think this little ballerina draws you in. You have to stare at her.

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