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Paperdoll Review

How to Get Your Paper Dolls Published

Copyright Judy M. Johnson

Publishing and distribution of this article requires prior approval from the author.
Click here to contact Judy.

Many members ask us for advice for a beginner on how to get their paper dolls published. We are here to give 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). 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 quick run-down of things to keep in mind:

Be professional in all aspects -- in your art, in your communications with publishers and in honoring your commitments. 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 it! -- Submit your work to publishers and KEEP doing it. Send to several 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.

Don't send original art . Take photos or get color laser copies made of your work to send to publishers. Once an agreement is reached with a publisher, carefully package and ensure your original art. Use over-sized cardboard to prevent corners bending.

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 study the work in them. Some only want paper dolls of dolls, some like historical, some off-beat, 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).

Try different kinds of magazines -- Other magazines besides doll themed ones may be receptive to paper dolls. Consider vintage fashion, current fashion, craft, teddy, collector/antiques, historical, children, military, sports, etc. And customize your art to suit. Of course, send your black and white paper dolls to newsletters for review and showcasing.

Be patient and keep your chin up . -- Just because a publisher does not but, 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.

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. Dover goes for a wide range of subjects and styles, but be sure and order their catalogs or visit their website and study what they are currently offering. Think about how your work would appeal to Dover's audience. (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.

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's convention page for convention news. Offer your work in the same fashion as you would with publishers. (Do not send original art, only copies or photos).

Don't quit your day job -- Or whatever way your have now of making your income. Make a personal commitment to your goal of being published. Work consistently and do your art every day. Do proposals to suit particular publishers and mail them. 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 sell your work.

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, but you would 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 issue, and need me to have the finished art to you by February ____. For this work you agree to pay me $____. If my information is correct, you need not contact me. However if I have misunderstood in any way, please 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.

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. Traditionally, the artist gets the work back after the publisher is through with it. Even with large publishers and an All Rights deal, you should make sure you get your art back. Ask for that portion of the contract to be modified if it necessary.

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. And these companies usually do not want work that has been previously published.

Payments -- Doll magazines pay anywhere from $100 to $350 per color paper doll printed. (Although some smaller publications will offer a free ad in exchange for printing your art). 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.

This article appeared in OPDAG News, Issue #44, Summer 1995
Edited January 2013.


Please request ARTIST GUIDELINES from each magazine/publisher before submitting your work.


DOLLS Magazine
N7528 Aanstad Rd.
P.O. Box 5000
Iola, WI 54945-5000

Contemporary Doll Collector
Scott Publications, Inc.
2145 W. Sherman Blvd.,
Muskegon, MI 49441

Doll Castle News
P.O. Box 601
Broadway, NJ 088082

Commercial Paper Doll Publishers:

Dover Publishing
31 East 2nd Street
Mineola, NY 11501

Paper Studio Press
P.O. Box 14
Kingfield, ME 04947

Judy Johnson is a founding member of the Original Paper Doll Artists Guild, writes for several national magazines and is a paper doll artist whose books have been published by Dover and B. Shackman. She is also the primary artist for Magicloth Paper Dolls. For a catalog of her paper dolls and paper goodies, send $3 to: Judy's Place, P.O. Box 216, Skandia, MI 49885, or visit her papergoodies website.

© copyright OPDAG • P.O. Box 14 • Kingfield, ME 04947 • 800-290-2928 •