Marketing to Publishers
Create a Logo and Brand Yourself
Where do I start, what do I do? These are common questions when a person decides to start marketing their photography for publishing. People don’t know you exist unless you tell them, so I will outline the steps I have taken so far, touch on what has worked for me up to this point and my views of the processes. I feel I still have a long way to go myself, so take from this what is useful to you and discard what isn’t because not all of it will apply to everyone. The first thing I decided to do was branding. What does branding have to do with marketing? In my opinion, everything! It gives us a unique and identifiable presence in an overly crowded marketplace. I created a logo and name, thus a brand, that I feel sets me apart from other photographers, all of which are competing for the same thing as you and I. A logo and name should be unique and reflect you personally. It is one way people will identify you going forward, and hopefully it is something memorable and that as soon as they see it, they will know it’s you. It should be simple and easy to identify. Should you follow this step? It isn’t for everyone, nor will it be deemed entirely necessary by everyone. Depending on a person’s skill set, some people might need to hire and work with a designer in order to get something created for them that will not only work on the web but in printed pieces as well. Only you can decide if this step is right for you.
Create a Website to Show Your Portfolio
Craft an Introductory Letter for Making Contact with Editors, Art Directors, and Print Buyers
An introductory letter is essential when contacting anyone about using your images. Ideally, it should outline what it is you do, your strengths, what you have to offer, and most importantly how you can be of help to them, and do offer to be helpful. This goes a long way with most everyone. It should also be kept short as editors and the like are extremely busy people. It should also include any type of credits you have with your work, where you have been published, achievements, shows, etc. If you have little or no content, still craft a letter coming from sincerity, passion, and simply be honest about your goals. People respond to sincerity and some editors will take a chance with you based on this alone. Your letter should contain clickable links to your website or lightboxes wherever they might be. Again, making things easy for them is the key. Include your email address, and any other info you think is important, such as a phone number, address, etc. My personal contact letter is four paragraphs, direct and to the point. Occasionally I include a sample(s) if it’s allowed by the recipient.
When looking to make contact with someone, research the market and publication you are trying to get into to. Google is your best friend in this case. Make a list of all the places and who it is you need to contact there. The Photographers Market book is also great. I have had some small success this route as well. It is also key to know exactly what each place you are contacting does. You wouldn’t want to send food photos to a magazine that only shows architecture for example. Do your homework. Don’t waste valuable time with sending info that isn’t any good to them. Know your market, know your targets. Include samples where allowed. Some editors require that you email asking only for their submission guidelines first. Be sure to know this and follow any protocols before emailing them a letter that they don’t want and are not likely to read. Don’t end up in their recycle bin. It’s not where you want to be.
Create a Printed Portfolio and Mailers
In some cases you will be invited to go to see the very people you are contacting. In this scenario, a portfolio to take along is essential. I happen to like the printed portfolio. It slows them down enough to actually have to look through your work and it gives them something tangible as well. Don’t get me wrong, a digital portfolio is great, as the images are all luminous rather than reflective, but most people swipe through a digital version entirely too fast. Getting them to actually slow down and look at your work and ask you some questions goes a long way. This gives you a chance to engage them and turn on the charm that is you. It allows you to talk about your creative process, ideas and what it took to capture the shot. A good size for printed portfolio pieces is 11x14. This format fits very well into most types of publications so it gives a realistic idea of how well your compositions will work in a layout. It’s also a good idea to print a mailer detailing who you are and what you do and send it via good ole fashion postal mail. This is a viable method that still works today and should not be overlooked or underestimated. There is definitely cost involved here so this is another step that only you can decide is right for you.
In today’s world, the impact of social media simply can’t be overlooked or ignored. I know for a fact that some editors, designers, print buyers, etc do in fact sweep pages like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others to locate images for a specific need. How much time you spend there is up to you. These outlets can in fact take quite a bit of time to manage for little to no return, so it really boils down to your photographic genre`. You have to decide if your time would be better spent marketing elsewhere. Rarely if ever does a hundred likes on a Facebook image add up to a sale or request for image usage. If you are a wedding photographer, newborns, portraits, etc, then this could be time well spent for you as it is a social market seen by the masses, and can potentially be shared with thousands of people. It’s unlikely however that an editor from Rolls Royce is looking for the industries top car photographer on a social media site such as Facebook. You have to decide where your time is best spent, to what market and to who.
Don’t Get Discouraged
It is vital to remember that editors, art directors, and print buyers are very, very busy people. Rejection is part of the process here and should never be taken personally. If you are the type that gets hung up on rejection or being told no, you aren’t going to get very far in this venture at all. When this happens just say “next” and move on. It’s not personal on their part, it’s only that they don’t see you as a fit for their needs right now and nothing more, so don’t read into it what isn’t there. Another thing to remember here is that we live in a fast paced high turn over world these days. People change jobs with frequency. If you are told no, try them again next quarter. Don’t toss out an outlet just because they said no this time. That person could have been having a not so good kinda day and were simply in an off mood. It happens to us all. It is also worth remembering that it is extremely rare to ever get a reply on the first, second, third and even fourth attempts, and often times even more. Research tells us that it takes as many as eighteen attempts to actually get someones attention or to get your foot in the door. That’s a lot! You also don’t want to email repeatedly enough that you get permanently spammed by this person. Spread out your efforts. I like to make email blasts every quarter, and I try to personalize every single one and address the recipient by name if at all possible so it doesn’t come off as a generic pitch. You just have to keep trying, even when you aren’t sure of what’s happening on the other end, because one day, the door opens and you finally get a reply.
Be helpful. Go out of your way to show them how you can help them and be of service to them. Be easy to work with. People don’t have time for difficult or arrogant photographers or artists or difficult people in general. The easier you are to work with, the further you will go. Set your ego aside, there is no place for it here. We all feel we have the best there is to offer, but the reality is, there is always someone better. Having an ego only gets in the way and ultimately loses us that client we tried so hard to get. Be honest. If you are asked to do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing, for example a moving car shoot, let them know you have limited or no experience here and it might be best to contact someone with more know how. Sometimes they appreciate being up front and are willing to give you the chance anyway, and they will keep you in mind for the next time because you were honest with them. Again, set the ego aside. It’s better to be up front than completely ruin a deadline or an editors expectation because once you have done this, you get black listed, and none of us want that. It’s not worth the money to be dishonest or unethical because it will catch up to you in the long run. The last thing to say here is, most people don’t succeed because they give up too soon. Nothing happens overnight, there is no magic bullet. It takes hard work and time, lots and lots of hard work and time, so use the in between time to keep taking and making better images.