Most of us enjoy getting greeting cards from time to time.
Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, the birth of a baby, and
other occasions mean even more to us when we are remembered by
friends, relatives and colleagues. A well written card can make a
genuinely personal statement for any occasion. That's why
greeting cards continue to be a sincere and effective means of
communication. In fact, the demand for greeting cards is such
that it is now a multi-billion dollar industry and still growing.
Since there will always be birthdays, holidays and other
occasions appropriate for card sending, the market remains stable
and prosperous for talented and creative writers. Besides the
ever popular traditional greeting card messages, greeting card
companies are constantly looking for fresh and innovative ideas
and concepts. And although most companies employ staff writers
and artists, the opportunity for free-lance writers is very real
and substantial. Many greeting card companies actually encourage
free-lance writers to submit a regular stream of card ideas.
Writing greeting cards on a free-lance basis is a creative
way for writers to make excellent part-time money. In some cases,
extremely talented and prolific writers can write greeting cards
full time and make a comfortable living. Of course, the amount of
success a free-lance writer can expect from writing greeting
cards depends on talent, initiative, knowledge of the industry,
and time devoted to creating new ideas and concepts.
Many free-lance writers are attracted to writing greeting
cards simply by the nature of the work. Everything is usually
accomplished from the writer's own home. All that's needed is a
typewriter and a fairly consistent supply of new ideas. There are
no agents, or complex contracts to deal with, and most business
transactions are done by mail.
As a rule, writers who have success in the greeting card
industry are creative people who not only love to write, but also
understand what other people want in greeting cards. These
writers have learned the secret of "marketability and
sendability" and as a result are able to express, in a minimum
number of words, a multitude of sentiments.
Getting started writing greeting cards on a free-lance basis
is not at all difficult. You don't have to possess a college
degree, or live in New York. What you will need is the ability to
create messages that people want to send and receive. You'll also
need to be familiar with what is already on the market; what
people are buying and sending. Then you'll need to know which
companies are most likely to accept your particular type of
This report will offer information and suggestions about the
greeting card industry and how to create and submit material that
could earn you $150 or more per idea. It is not intended as a
guarantee against rejection. Even the most successful writers are
familiar with editor's rejections. But, if you are creative,
enjoy writing, and are willing to follow specific company
guidelines, you could soon be making good money doing something
that is both fun and challenging.
WHAT GREETING CARD COMPANIES ARE LOOKING FOR
While the greeting card industry is not stagnant, and new
ideas and trends are frequently being developed, the three basic
card categories remain the same -- traditional, studio (or
contemporary) and alternative. And when publishing a line of
greeting cards, in any category, a company must cater to the
people who are most likely to buy and send cards. In most cases,
that means women between the ages of 18 and 50. So the majority
of companies are looking for cards that target issues these women
care about; relationships, success, religion, money, health, and
Even though traditional and contemporary cards continue to
be a staple of the greeting card industry, there may be an even
better opportunity for the free-lance writer in tune with
relevant issues. Issue oriented, or alternative cards, are
becoming increasingly popular even with smaller companies that
are expanding their lines in order to reach this growing market.
Alternative cards offer a response to non-traditional card-
sending situations and can be just as viable a means of
communication as traditional cards. Some of today's best selling
cards are non-traditional cards commemorating new jobs,
promotions, and salary raises. Other top selling alternative
cards deal with relationships, even the break-up of marriages.
Still another significant line of alternative cards is aimed at
people who have experienced, or are experiencing, drug and
alcohol addictions. At least one greeting card company has
already created a complete line of such cards, in cooperation
with a drug and alcohol abuse foundation.
Whether the sending situation is traditional or non-
traditional, it's safe to say most companies prefer a personal,
conversational style message rather than a verse of rhyme.
However, rhymed verse is often used for inspirational cards,
which also have a fairly large market. Most companies specify
their individual preferences in their writer's guidelines. That's
why it is essential to know what a specific company is looking
for before you make a submission.
Another ingredient many companies are looking for is humor.
Cards that convey a message with humor are very popular,
especially with the baby boom generation, which makes up a large
portion of the card-sending market. The preference, even with
humor, is for short messages that are immediately understood and
funny. The ideal is to have an attention-getting, one-sentence
lead in on the outside (or front) of the card, with an equally
brief, but effective, punch line inside. The intention is to get
the potential buyer/sender hooked by the lead-in message so
she/he can't resist opening the card to get to the punch line.
Companies that are looking for humorous card ideas are
usually emphatic and clear about the kinds of humor they will
accept. As a rule "corny" or sentimental humor is not preferred.
Most companies request humor that is "off-the-wall," "laugh-out-
loud," "irreverent," "outrageous," and in many cases, "risqué."
In other words, try to make your humorous ideas as "cliche'-
free," unpredictable, and funny as you can.
In general, most greeting card companies are looking for
cards that are appropriate for traditional sending occasions, as
well as cards for newer "issue" oriented situations. Here are
several of the most sought after types of card ideas:
(1) Birthdays. Since there's never a shortage of birthdays,
the market for original birthday cards, both humorous and
serious, remains a steady market for writers. Birthday cards can
make us laugh about getting older, or they can be sensitive,
serving as a reminder of the positive side of life, past and
(2) Friendship. Good friends are hard to find, and keep.
That's why friendship cards continue to be a profitable part of
the greeting card industry. Most friendship cards deal with the
general value of friendship, or the significance of a specific
friendship. Again, both humorous and serious card ideas are
acceptable to most greeting card companies. The main thing is
that the ideas must be original and genuinely and clearly express
some positive aspect of friendship.
(3) Get Well. Like birthday cards, the need for get well
cards remains constant. Most people with not-so-serious illnesses
appreciate humorous get well cards. But, prospective writers
should be cautioned to stay away from over-used and worn out
hospital humor concerning hospital gowns, hospital food and so
on. Greeting card companies are looking for fresh ideas, not a
re-working of old ones.
There is also a need for non-humorous get well cards that
express appropriate, and sensitive sentiments toward someone
experiencing a serious illness. What greeting card companies are
looking for here is a sensitive approach to a serious, and even
grave situation. Sometimes the sentiment "get well soon" is not
appropriate, even for get well cards.
(4) Sympathy. Unfortunately, sympathy cards are always
needed. To fill that need, a writer must be able to address the
loss of a loved one with good taste and sensitivity.
(5) Love And Romance. Writers of love and romance card ideas
will do well to address all kinds of love and different aspects
of romance; first love, long-term romantic relationships,
marriage, sharing, trust, commitment, renewing an old romance,
and so on. The market is good for both humorous and serious cards
addressing the themes of love and romance.
(6) Support And Encouragement. This type of card has
increased in popularity over the past decade and offers creative
writers a good deal of opportunity. These cards can be given to
friends, relatives, colleagues, lovers -- anyone who might need
to know that they are not alone. The most common message with
this type of card is "I'm here for you." These cards offer both
encouragement and support, and can be treated in either a serious
or humorous manner.
(7) Inspirational Cards. Most companies looking for
inspirational cards request messages that address spiritual or
human potential. These cards normally deal with some aspect of
personal growth, are non-humorous, utilize sensitive language,
and require an understanding of the spiritual and human
(8) Alternative Cards. These cards are designed for non-
traditional sending occasions. The most common card ideas in this
line are those offering congratulations for a new job, job
promotion, or raise in salary. More serious issues, such as
divorce, terminal illness, and substance abuse, are also top-
selling themes in the alternative card line.
The main thing a writer should remember is that greeting
card companies are all looking for fresh ideas and messages, not
time-worn clichés and sappy sentiment. Greeting card messages
should be immediate and clear. Writers should avoid wordy or
complex messages, and be direct and original. In short, most
greeting card companies are looking for ideas they haven't seen
or heard before.
HOW TO SUBMIT IDEAS
Most greeting card companies have their own specific
guidelines for submitting editorial, verse, and artwork. You can
find out what each greeting card company requires by writing a
brief letter, asking for a copy of their writer's guidelines. You
should always include a Long Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope
(LSASE) with your request. And if the guidelines are available,
you should receive them in two or three weeks. Your request
letter need not be more than a simple, polite request. For
Jackson, OH 45640
10500 American Rd.
Cleveland, OH 44144
(Your letter does not need to be addressed to a specific person.)
Please send me a copy of your writer's guidelines. I have
enclosed an SASE for your convenience. Thank you.
In order to send your request letters, you will, of course,
need a list of greeting card company addresses. You can get this
information from several different sources. One good source is
the Writer's Market from Writer's Digest Books in Cincinnati,
Ohio. Another source is The Writer's Handbook published by The
Writer, Inc., Boston, MA.
Both of these publications contain sections on greeting
cards, featuring alphabetical listings of many companies with
assorted information, including addresses and the availability
(or not) of writer's guidelines. Some libraries have these books
in their reference sections, but if not, be prepared to spend $20
While both the Writer's Market and The Writer's Handbook
are valuable tools for free-lance writers, there are a couple of
more economical ways to get the information you need. One way is
by writing to: Artist and Writer's Market, The Greeting Card
Association, 1356 New York Ave. NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC
20005. Be sure to include an SASE with your request. You can also
visit card racks in various stores and select the lines that
appeal to your particular creativity. Jot down the companies that
interest you and send them a request letter.
Trade magazines such as Greetings, published by Mackay
Publishing Corporation of New York, also offer specific greeting
card company information, as well as information about the latest
trends, trade shows, and seminars.
While submission guidelines may vary from company to company
there are some generalizations that can be made.
(1) Each message or verse should be typed on a separate
piece of paper (8 1/2" x 11"), or 4" x 6" or 3" x 5" slips of
paper or index cards. Most companies require submissions on 3" x
5" index cards, but in some cases studio-card submissions may be
required on 9" x 9 1/2" folded paper.
(2) In most cases you will be required to use only one side
of the submission card or paper. Your name, address, and phone
number should be placed in the upper left-hand corner of each
submission, and the message or verse in the center.
(3) Most companies will allow from 5 to 15 separate card
ideas with each submission. If you are not sure how many ideas or
verses a specific publisher will accept in one group, send no
more than 10.
(4) Each submission should be accompanied by a brief cover
letter. The letter should be addressed to the editor or editorial
staff, and briefly indicate what you are submitting. The cover
letter should be no longer than a short paragraph. Also include
an SASE for return of any submissions not accepted.
(5) If you make a lot of submissions, you'll need to keep
organized. The best way to do this is to create your own coding
system. Your system doesn't have to be elaborate or complex --
just something you will understand. One simple coding system is
to place your initials, the company initials, and a number in the
upper right-hand corner of each submission card.
Here's a sample card submission:
Jane Doe JD-AM-1
Jackson, OH 45640
I'm Glad I Haven't Known You
All Of Your Life
I Couldn't have afforded FORTY
Most greeting card company writer's and artist guidelines
will follow the general format outlined above. However, you
should never take submission guidelines for granted. Before you
submit, get the company guidelines and follow them to the letter.
It's not necessary for free-lance writers to furnish artwork
as well as the editorial for card ideas. As a rule, greeting card
companies have artists on staff, or they commission artists to
illustrate accepted new card ideas. That doesn't mean writers
cannot submit their own artwork too. Many companies are pleased
to hear from creative individuals who can provide both the
editorial and the artwork. Again, you should refer to each
company's writer's and artist's guidelines to familiarize
yourself with individual company policies.
If you are an artist, illustrator, designer, or photographer, and
wish to submit some concept to a greeting card company, you
should understand that most companies do not accept original
artwork of any sort. Instead, you'll be required to submit
slides, photocopies, photos, promotional pieces, or some other
reproduction of your work. Generally, greeting card
companies like to see an artist's style before they ask for an
original work or contract for an assignment. So don't send any
original artwork unless a company specifically requests that you
Whatever representations of your artwork you send, you'll
most likely be required to reduce your submissions to standard
sizes -- 5" x 7" or 4 3/4" x 6 1/4" for cards, and 4 1/8" x 5
1/2" for postcards. Photographs are often required to be
submitted in the form of transparencies. And color, or hand-
colored work is usually preferred over black and white.
Every piece of artwork you submit should include your name,
address, and telephone number. And while it is not necessary, you
can place the copyright symbol next to your name. You should also
include an SASE if you want your material returned. Make sure the
envelope is large enough to hold your submission, and be sure
it's stamped with the proper amount of postage.
Usually, the relationship between copy and artwork is
significant. It's a good idea for writers to think of, or plan,
the card as an entire concept. Even if you are not artistically
inclined, most card company editors appreciate intelligent
suggestions from writers about an overall concept.
Writing messages and verse for greeting cards is not the
only way a free-lance writer can use such a talent to make money.
There's also a good market for writing messages for posters, t-
shirts, buttons, telephone answering machines, wedding
invitations, and other items. In fact, many greeting card
companies also feature a line of novelty items. Some of these
companies pay the same flat fee for a novelty message as they do
for a greeting card idea.
The greeting card companies also involved with novelty items
are usually in need of editorial and/or concepts for buttons,
mugs, key rings, plaques, bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, and
other such items. In most cases novelty humor as well as serious
themes are accepted.
Mugs, which are popular gift items, work best with strong
personal me-to-you messages. Some popular themes companies look
for include birthday, get well, and personal relationships. The
messages are similar to greeting card messages, but must be
expressed in one line since the message is only on the outside of
the mug, rather than the typical two-line greeting card.
In general, slogans, sayings, or any copy for non-card
products should follow several guidelines. First of all, a
novelty product must accurately reflect the lifestyles,
attitudes, and personalities of the people who use or wear the
product. That also means that the written message must be some
catchy and relevant statement about a multitude of life
experiences. The messages on novelty products are usually
philosophical statements about relationships, dieting, school,
sex, work, men, women, hobbies, etc.
When creating slogans and statements for novelty products,
it's important to keep in mind that the end result should be a
means of self-expression. People use or wear such products as a
fun way to make personal statements. In many cases novelty
products are humorous items that allow us to make fun of life's
ups and downs as well as ourselves.
Eight contributing factors are measured on a 1 to 10 basis
(with 10 being excellent) based on analysis of this opportunity.
1. Time Investment 7
2. Start-up Costs 10
3. Gross Income Potential 5
4. Net Income Potential 5
5. Income in Relation to Investment 8
6. Stability 5
7. Overall Risk 9
8. Potential for Growth 7
Overall Potential for Success 7.00
Since greeting cards is a multi-billion dollar industry,
there is good potential for substantial earnings. Most companies
pay from $25 to $150 for each free-lance idea or verse they buy.
Some pay as much as $500 for a single idea or verse. If your work
is especially original and creative, a submission of ten card
ideas to one company could bring you anywhere from $25 to $1,500
(or more) depending on how many of the ideas the company buys,
and how much they pay per idea.
In most cases a company's writer's guidelines will tell you
how much they pay per idea. That information is also available
for most of the companies listed in the Writer's Market and The
Writer's Handbook. If you feel your ideas are worth more than $25
apiece, submit them to a company that pays more. The choice of
companies you wish to deal with is entirely up to you. Just make
sure your submissions fit the specific guidelines and needs of
the company you are sending them to.
Usually, if an editor buys 2 or 3 ideas out of a batch of 10
to 15 submissions the writer is doing very well. But it isn't
unheard of for an editor to buy most, or all, of a writer's ideas
from one submission. Admittedly, for that to happen all the
writer's ideas and/or verses must be highly original, creative,
and exceptional. And they must be exactly what the company is
While most companies pay per card or idea, a few pay small
royalties. Other companies may prefer to test a card before
buying it. In that event, the company will pay a small fee to
test the idea before they make a final decision. Many companies
also give a writer's credit on the back of the card. Some
companies will even include free samples if they accept your
How much a company pays per card is certainly a consideration
when deciding where to send your ideas, but it's not the only
consideration. You must also be reasonably certain your ideas fit
the particular needs of the company. You should also consider
whether the company pays on "acceptance" or on "publication."
Being "paid on acceptance" simply means that shortly after a
company accepts your idea(s) for publication you'll be getting a
check. On the other hand, being "paid on publication" means
you'll most likely have to wait a good deal longer before you get
any money. The time that elapses between acceptance of an idea
and its actual publication can be several months. That's why most
experienced free-lance writers prefer to work with companies that
pay on acceptance.
The important thing to remember regarding potential earnings
from writing greeting cards is that there are no guarantees.
Anyone who has ever written anything for publication, from
greeting cards to novels, has suffered rejection. Not every
editor will find your ideas and verses as witty, original, or
creative as you do. But if you are truly creative, prolific, and
persistent, you will eventually be successful. To a large degree,
your potential earnings from writing greeting cards is only as
limited as your imagination and creativity.
(1) As a general rule, the most successful greeting cards
are those that are short and to the point. Concentrate on
creating card ideas that work with a one-sentence front and a
one-sentence follow-up on the inside. Since most stores that
carry greeting cards have from 500 to 1,000 cards on display, a
quick glance is all each card gets. So a short, catchy, readily
understood front-of-the-card sentence has a decided advantage
over a more lengthy and ponderous message.
(2) Since birthday cards are usually a company's biggest
seller, it's a good idea for beginners to concentrate on birthday
ideas and concepts. It's not only a good way to learn what
companies are looking for, it may also be the best opportunity
for initial success.
(3) When writing card ideas, consider sending occasions such
as birthdays, Christmas, job promotions, etc., and imagine
someone (a friend, colleague, or relative) to whom you would give
the card. In effect, you should look at your card ideas and ask
yourself if you would actually buy them and send them to people.
(4) If you think you've heard it before, then forget it.
Originality is one of the main keys to success in writing
greeting cards. One way to insure that your ideas will be fresh
and innovative is to keep in touch with what's going on in the
world around you. Read newspapers, popular magazines, go to the
movies -- anything that will keep you abreast of the latest
issues, fads, and fashions. You'll be amazed at the amount of
inspiration you'll get simply by "paying attention."
(5) Even if you are not an artist or illustrator, it's
always a good idea to have a complete concept in mind when you
create a specific message. It's also a good idea to suggest the
entire concept to an editor when you make your submission. Don't
worry about artwork. If the overall concept appeals to the
editor, a company staff member will take care of the card design.
(6) Send your rejections to other companies. Take a careful
look at all your rejected ideas. Eliminate the weakest ones, and
send the rest to another company. Rejection of an idea may simply
mean that a specific company doesn't need it. That does not mean
another company can't use it.
(7) Don't get impatient. If you haven't heard from an editor
3 or 4 weeks after you've submitted material, don't write, and
don't call. You should allow at least eight weeks for a response.
Some companies may not get back to you for 12 weeks or more. Many
companies state their typical response time in their guidelines.
(8) When most card companies buy an idea they "buy all
rights." Many of these companies will also require the writer to
guarantee that the material they are buying is original and has
not been sold to any other company. If a company requires you to
sign a release form and/or a contract to sell all rights, make
sure you understand the terms of the agreement before signing.
(9) Keep records. Use a 3"x 5" card file to hold duplicates
of your submissions. You can arrange your ideas any way you like
-- subject, season, prose, verse, one-liners, etc. Keep on file
what you send, where you send it, and the date it was sent. Of
course, you should also record whether an idea was purchased or
How much money can you make writing greeting cards? The
answer to that question is really up to you. Certainly a
creative, motivated writer can make excellent money on a part-
time basis. But it is also possible to make a comfortable living
freelancing for greeting card companies full time. Obviously, the
more time you devote to creating new greeting card ideas and
concepts, the more money you are apt to make. Just don't expect
great monetary rewards over night. It takes time.
Before you make any money writing greeting cards, you'll
have to take the first step. Become familiar with the greeting
card industry. Browse through card racks and see what the market
is offering. Get a list of greeting card companies and send for
their writer's guidelines and market list. And before you submit
your ideas make sure they fall within the company's requirements.
While there are no guarantees, there is a great opportunity
for free-lance writers to make big money writing greeting cards.
An initial small investment in index cards, postage, and
envelopes, can easily be recovered with one purchased idea. If
you are creative, love to write, have initiative, and are willing
to make the effort, you can see your words and ideas become
greeting cards and make money as well.
199X Writer's Market -- editor: Mark Kissling, Writer's Digest
Books, 1507 Dana, Cincinnati, OH 45207
The Writer's Digest Guide To Manuscript Formats, by Dian Dincin
Buchman and Seli Groves, Writer's Digest Books, 1507 Dana,
Cincinnati, OH 45207
The Writer's Handbook, edited by Sylvia K. Burack, The Writer,
Inc., Boston, MA
Amberly Greeting Card Company -- editor: Ned Stern, Gold Coast
Drive, Cincinnati, OH
Artist's And Writer's Guidelines, by Carol Wilson Fine Arts,
Inc., Portland, OR
Creative Guidelines, the Maine Line Company, Rockland, ME
Guidelines, by Style Services, 1120 Royal Palm Beach Blvd., Royal
Palm Beach, FL
Kalan's Copy Guidelines, by Kalan, 97 S. Union Ave., Lansdowne,
Noble Works, editor: Christopher Noble, Hoboken, NJ
Submitting Artwork, Photography, Editorial And Product Ideas To
Hallmark Cards, Inc., by Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, MO
Twenty Tips For Turning Your Greeting Card Ideas Into Cash, by
Greetings, Cleveland, OH
West Graphics, editor: Carol West, 238 Capp Street, San
Writer's Guidelines, by Merlyn Graphics Corporation, Canoga Park,
Writer's Guidelines, by Oatmeal Studios, Rochester, VT
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