Many people ask me for advice on how to get their paper dolls published. I have been published since the mid 70s by: Hobby House Press; B. Shackman; Dover Publications; Magicloth Toy Co.; Schylling Toy Co.; Scott Publications; Jones Publications: Betterways Books; Doll Reader; DOLLS; Contemporary Doll; Doll Castle News; The Washington Post Newspaper; paper doll newsletters; paper doll conventions and parties; and more. I’d like to give you encouragement and practical tips to help you achieve this goal. Magazines are a good place to start, and not really very hard to get into if your work is decent (you don't even have to be the best to sell your work). Once you have sold a few paper dolls to magazines you have begun to gain a reputation for quality, style and reliability then the larger book publishers may take note.
Here's a run-down of things to keep in mind:
Be professional and ethical in all aspects -- in your art, in your communications with publishers and in honoring your commitments and copyright laws. Keep improving your art. Do NEAT work. If you feel your art is not as good as others, make yours special in layout and style... something to get the attention of an art director or editor. Do not do contemporary celebrities without their permission, nor Disney characters, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and other top Hollywood figures. Some vintage film stars or even contemporary people MAY be accepted by a magazine as “Editorial” but you would not be able to sell the art without a license or contract with the subject (person in your likeness.) Something that is helpful: Politicians belong to the people, copyright-wise. Any nationally elected official is legal to paint and market. In your own state, your own legislators are fair game as well. If you do portraits or caricatures well, you have many markets for political and/or satirical paper dolls. Local or regional celebrities who are often featured in your news can be good possibilities as paper doll subjects to illustrate a feature article. For instance, a feature story on a college football coach in an eastern college was presented as a paper doll. I even did a group of paper dolls a couple years ago, of presidential spouses for the Washington Post to accompany an article on the suitability of the potential First Spouse.
Do it! -- Submit copies of your work to publishers and KEEP doing it. Send to several doll, bear, and toy magazine publishers. Include return packaging and postage if you need your work back. Better if you send things they can hold on file, should they need to find an artist fast to fill a spot. Also they will tend not to forget you if you have a file for them to refer to.
What format of art shall you send? Take photos or get color laser copies made of your work to send to publishers. If you work on your own computer, you can do print-outs. Do your work at 300 dpi (dots per inch) for magazine publication and save this on your hard drive or on disk. Once an agreement is reached with a publisher, carefully package and ensure your original art, if you are sending originals. Use over-sized cardboard to prevent corners bending. Always insure your mailings and pay the little extra at the post office for a return signature. If you are sending digital art, you may send it via high speed cable or on a CD or by US mail.
Know your market -- Most doll magazines published today include paper doll art as a regular feature (every issue or several times per year). If you want to sell to these magazines, buy a sample of each magazine, and study the work in them. Some only want paper dolls of dolls, some like historical, some off-beat, some by seasonal or other themes, etc. Write to each publisher and ask for ARTIST GUIDELINES, so you know what sizes and specific requirements they may have. Be sure and write to the EDITORIAL OFFICES, not the address given to subscribe. (Some magazine addresses are listed at the end of this article). All publishers now have websites which are easy to find. They may have artist and writers guidelines on their sites, or will respond to an email from you in which you request the guidelines.
Try different kinds of magazines and publications -- Other magazines besides doll and toy themed ones may be receptive to paper dolls. Consider:
your local newspaper or tourist magazines,
The internet is an amazing place to research possibilities.
Customize your art to suit. A pretty sure bet is to send your black and white paper dolls to paper doll newsletters for review and showcasing.
Be patient and keep your chin up. -- Just because a publisher does not buy, does not mean they do not like your work. It means that their schedule is filled for the year/season, etc., or that your work does not suit their style/needs. You may simply have to try another subject or theme. Or perhaps tighten up your work, make it more attractive, sharper, cleaner, better figure work, etc. Even very simple art has a market. Look at children’s playbooks and play pages in newspapers and magazines…some of this is simple yet charming.
To sell to a larger publisher, you need not have a completed book to present. A proposal with stats of proposed size and number of pages, can be presented with only 2 or 3 pages as samples. Artists come and go all the time, so companies such as Dover are open to new artists, preferably those with a lot of talent or a distinctive, marketable style. Not many publishing houses are buying these days since Hobby House and B Shackman have ceased paper doll publishing. Dover goes for cute and appealing... at least to start. Be sure and order their catalogs, go to their website, and study what they are currently publishing. (Some publisher addresses are listed at the end of this article).
Greeting card companies can be a good market, too. Check the card racks; find a look that is compatible with your art. You may enjoy a looser, more commercial look, rather than highly refined and detailed work. Find addresses and details in Artists Market books published by North Light/Writers Digest Books.
Use Writers Market and Artists Market books by Writers Digest Books. These annual publications list thousands of publishers in every subject you can think of. They also tell you who to contact, what to send, how much they pay and more. There are articles by professional artists and writers giving more tips. Just perusing one of these books can inspire you to new markets and new ideas. (Address listed at the end of this article).
Doll and paper doll conventions include full color paper dolls as souvenirs. Usually "payment" is in prints of your paper doll which you can sell later. Check OPDAG Paper Doll Studio News, Paper Doll Review, and doll magazines for notices of upcoming regional and national conventions. Offer your work in the same fashion as you would with publishers. (Do not send original art, only copies or photos until a deal is sealed.)
Don't quit your day job -- Or whatever way you have now of making your income. Make a personal commitment to your goal of being published. Work consistently and do your art every day. Create proposals to suit particular publishers, and mail them out. Set a goal of one per week or two per month, or whatever works into your speed and time to invest.
If you send it, they will buy -- If you have a modicum of talent and a clever presentation, do the art and are persistent, you will eventually sell your work. Don’t send, then fuss and wait. Keep the energy up, by creating more and more paper dolls. See yourself being published, feel the joy of seeing your work in print. Put it “out there” and let it be while you get on with your life and your work. Remember the Universal Law that says; Where your attention goes, your energy flows. So keep your attention to your goal. But don’t obsess over it. Be happy knowing you are doing what you love, whether it sells or not.
Some tips on dealing with publishers:
Take notes, follow up -- If you do business by phone, take notes while you are speaking with the editor. Follow up the call with a letter to review your conversation. Something like:
"Thank you for speaking with me on _______. I appreciate your interest in my work. It is my understanding that you like the sample I sent. Would you like me to make it two pages instead of one, and eliminate the borders and lettering. You are planning to print this in your August '’08 issue, and need me to have the finished art to you by February '’08. For this work you agree to pay me $____. You can confirm by email at _____or by mail using the enclosed addressed/stamped envelope. If I have misunderstood in any way, please feel free to let me know."
And so on. Basically review what you discussed. If there are any misunderstandings, it's good to know them right away, not months down the line.
Email is a great way to contact possible publishers. You can write a query letter with a proposed idea. If you hear back, then you might phone to talk with a publisher. If you have a website, you can send editors there to look at your work. Some will not respond to email queries. No matter. There’s the US mail.
Contracts -- Most magazine contracts are for one time use only, not all rights. You must not publish the work anywhere before your publisher does. However, after they publish, you have all rights to sell it again in the same or another form to another publisher, or to self-publish it. Traditionally, the artist gets the work back after the publisher is through with it. With digital art today this is not a concern. Even with large publishers and an All Rights deal, you should make sure you get your art back. Make sure this is spelled out in the contract.
Speaking of All Rights, this is the type of contract wherein you sell all rights of reproduction to the publisher. You do not own it, they do. (You should still get your art back when they are through). They can do what they like with it (license it to other companies, reprint it, put it in compendiums... anything, without further pay to you. There are variations of this contract. They may buy exclusive rights, (you or not other company may use the work) but if any spin-off products are made by them, you are to be paid a certain predetermined price or it may be opened to negotiation. And if the design is licensed, you would share a percentage of any sales made. Generally, selling All Rights should pay more than a one-time-use fee. Most companies do not want work that has been previously published.
Payments -- Doll magazines pay anywhere from $50 to $100 per color paper doll printed. Black & white paper dolls sell from $0 - $75. Magazines pay upon publication, so it could be several months or up to two years before you are paid. Don't be surprised if the month you thought it would be published is bumped once or twice. It's so important to keep on throwing out proposals to increase your chances of acceptance, and to keep some money coming in down the line as things are eventually published. With paper doll book publishers, some pay royalties, some buy all rights. You could make anywhere from $500 to $5,000 per book, depending on size of book, number of sales, and your contract.