May 23rd, 2012
I know unsolicited email annoys the hell out of a lot of people. Just like old-fashioned, snail mailed junk mail. But I’ve always figured the press of the delete button was so easy, it was the less offensive way to try to make potential clients, traditional publishers, aware of my book design and page comp/layout services.
So, since about 1998, every six months—more or less—I’ve sent out a cold email to every publisher I could find an email address for in the current year’s edition of Writer’s Market. Most of the time, I would attach my résumé and some samples of my work in a short, clean PDF. Whenever possible I directed this email to the director of production or some such title; by name if I could find one.
On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of recipients simply ignored it. One, single time someone, a man, at the University of Alaska Press, immediately emailed me back and harangued me about unsolicited email. I emailed back to apologize and received another answering email, this time from a woman, the production manager at the Press telling me not to worry about it, that the guy who’d raked me over the coals was a curmudgeon, not the one who hired freelancers, and, in fact, no longer worked there. So she was surprised I even got an email from the guy.
Never have received work from the University of Alaska Press, however.
But the tiny percentage of people who responded to express some interest in my services, most of them just to say they would keep my information on file should a need for a freelancer to do book design and/or layout work present itself, made my efforts worthwhile. In one instance, I worked for a small press for about three years, doing fair-paying layout work on seven or eight books of their own design. It took seven years before I heard from this particular press in any way whatsoever, but it paid off.
I’m left with thinking that for all the people who ignored me and the one person who may have (unofficially) been angry with me, the unsolicited email contact was not a bad thing to do. I do not believe I would have grown my book design practice to the point I have without such attempts at contact on my part.
Now I am planning an HTML email newsletter. Short, to be sure, but with pictures of a few of the books I’m most pleased to have worked on and with how they look and maybe just a bit of narrative about how my approach to making books has evolved. Again, however, I am concerned about sending unsolicited email.
So what is the protocol? Is it okay to send out one edition of an HTML newsletter unsolicited as long as I include a “send no more” option in the email? I mean, it is the 21st century, professional people should have wider bandwidth and larger mailboxes, no? We should all be sophisticated enough by now to just delete unwanted email and move on, no?
May 13th, 2012
Recently I’d been thinking to myself—lamenting really—that I was not one of those graphic artists who could walk around and see art in everyday things, what they call “found art.” And I am particularly not into staring at type on the street and contributing to the genre of “found type.” I wish I were more of the sort who could look at a sign proclaiming the price of broccoli and see the art in it.
I have, of course, made no bones about my like of formal art training, unless weekly visits of Mrs. Winnamore the Art Teacher to my class at St. John the Evangelist in Brooklyn from kindergarten through at least sixth grade count. Even then I never took to drawing and painting, so it’s always with some chagrin that I talk about how book design and page composition may be my contribution to the arts.
In fact, I went through this red-faced reaction yesterday when my wife and I visited the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton yesterday. While donating at the entrance we were also asked (or simply offered on our own) about being members and my wife answered hat we were, indeed, and, in fact, were “Artist” members. At which point I stared to stroll away before the alarm went off, a finger pointed, and someone started yelling, “Can’t draw, can’t paint, doesn’t sculpt … “ over and over.
My wife, on the other hand, is a gifted photographer, has painted and done various multimedia type things in her life. She regularly exhibits in juried art shows and it sounds as if she’s got something big planned with paint and some large, interestingly shaped canvases. I, on the other hand, fish for my next book design projects.
Before we could begin strolling around the Parrish, we were asked whether we would like our own docent to give us “the tour” of the show, and decided that sounded delightful. Which, it turned out, it truly was.
A woman named Julia started by telling us the name of the show was, “EST-3: Southern California in New York.” I admit that I still don’t know the significance of “EST-3,” but I understood immediately the subtitle on the poster above, “Los Angeles Art from the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection.” Being a college graduate and all, I can still read even though drawing, etc. … well, you know.
The first thing I thought spilled out, in fact, when she referred to the poster and I found myself uttering a sentence with the word “Bauhaus” and mentioning “that Russian,” who turned out to be the Hungarian Moholy-Nagy. The remarkable thing was that Julia immediately knew who I meant and I wasn’t feeling so embarrassed about not remembering the artist’s nationality.
Well, we moved on in the tour and I was reminded again and again that my “home study” of Jan Tschichold was a wonderful investment of time. Particularly when viewing a series of posters by an artist who’s name was prominently placed at the top of said posters and yet escapes me, was I able to discuss die neue Typographie and the influences I was seeing throughout the exhibit.
It turns out—by God!—that I am actually a designer and artist.