Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Sandy Forbes
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Types of Greeting Cards
The first order of business is to understand that there are different types of greeting cards. Traditional greeting cards have verses that have a rhyming pattern, while contemporary verses do not rhyme and are generally longer in length. Alternative greeting cards are humorous and range from birthday jokes to encouragement and Get Well verses.
Some greeting card companies accept artwork or suggested images with ideas submitted. Most greeting card publishers, however, do not require an ability to draw. They instead request that a writer briefly describe the type of picture that will correlate with the verses submitted for review.
After choosing the type of card you want to focus on, you need to select whether you want to start with Birthday cards, New Year's, Easter, Christmas, Friendship, Love, I Miss you, Mother's Day or Father's Day -- just for starters! There are many categories to choose from and the list is forever growing. In addition, it is more than okay to select more than one genre, as versatility will strengthen your abilities.
Greeting card publishers are selective as to the type and styles of cards they prefer, so it is essential to request guidelines for each individual publisher. The more you read about a publisher's preferences, the better decisions you will make on your submission ideas. Now, are you ready to make some money?
How To Please Greeting Card Publishers
Most people think of Hallmark or American Greetings when it comes to greeting card publishers. However, these giants rarely accept greeting card ideas from freelance writers. They may offer a writing contest from time to time, but they have their own staff of writers to create greeting cards. But don't despair! There are many other greeting card companies that do accept freelance submissions, and guess what? It is free to submit!
Some companies prefer that you submit 10 to 20 ideas at one time, while others prefer fewer than 10 or more than 20. It is of utmost importance to read the guidelines of each publisher. For example, Oatmeal Studios prefers short humorous verses, while Blue Mountain Arts prefers longer non-humorous verses. Moonlighting Cards has a host of options for you to choose from, but prefers short, quick verses.
Requesting the "Must Read" Writer's Guidelines
Making a request to a publisher for the writer's guidelines is easy. First, make sure that the guidelines are not on the publisher's website -- check for links to "for writers," "about us," "contact us," and so forth. You may find a notice advising that an email or postal letter request is required to receive the writer's guidelines. Whether through email or post, your request should be general and to the point. For example:
My name is (your name) and I am a (career title). My expertise consists of (state your expertise, i.e. greeting card writing or other), which I have been doing for (X months or years). As per your website, please send me a copy of your writer's guidelines. Thank you in advance and have a wonderful day!
Stay Versatile & Disciplined
John Steinbeck once said, "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." Map out a plan as to how many greeting cards you want to submit per day or per week and stay faithful to that number until you are ready to increase it. Being disciplined on a quota will keep income flowing through your mailbox. If you set a quota of 25 card ideas per week, then do at least five per day -- or more if you are doing well!
In addition, whatever you do, do not get stuck writing only birthday or Christmas cards. Broaden your horizons and write a few "Get Well" or "Happy Anniversary" cards as well -- mix it up! By doing this, you become more versatile and will be able to adapt to different publishers. If you are stuck, go back to the basics. Think about how you feel about a loved one such as your mother, sister, brother, friend or spouse; then incorporate those feelings in a greeting card idea. If you are writing a humorous card, think about the funny things people do and say that make you laugh! Keep your funny ideas general enough to please your target audience. Stay focused and you will succeed!
Keep Track of Your Ideas
Technology has provided many advantages to a greeting card writer. Some companies still request ideas on index cards or plain white paper via postal mail; however, many now accept email submissions. It is important to keep a reference system to identify each individual idea. Start by creating short abbreviations to assist you in identifying the type of card you have written and where it is located in your files. Microsoft Excel is an excellent program to use for writing greeting cards because it allows you to create a sheet for each writing category, i.e. Motherís Day, Father's Day, Christmas, Get Well and more.
Label each file with a category, i.e. New Yearís Day (NYD), Valentine's Day (VD) and so on. You may list the holidays alphabetically or in order as they occur during the year. Label each idea with a number, i.e., for Mother's Day, MD01, MD20, MD40, MD60. Whenever work is sent to a publisher, be sure to note below each idea the name of the publisher as well as the date submitted. When a publisher responds with a rejection or an acceptance, reference the idea in question with the identifying number and post the name of the publisher, the date accepted or rejected. If you are not familiar with Excel, Microsoft Word will suffice as well.
How To Submit Your Verses
Are you ready to submit a few verses? Let us assume that you will send your verses via email. Simply open a blank email, enter the address stipulated for submissions in the guidelines, and in the subject line, enter the subject suggested in the guidelines. If the guidelines did not provide a specific subject, simply enter "Happy Birthday Greeting Card Submissions" (or whichever topic you have selected).
The greeting line and body of the email should be simple and to the point, indicating that you are submitting a few Happy Birthday Greeting Card ideas for review. Cut and paste your ideas from Excel into your email (including each identifying idea number). Do not send your ideas as an attachment unless that is requested in the guidelines. Close the email with your name, address, phone number and email address. Your BIG moment has now arrived -- hit send!
Payment for a greeting card idea ranges from $15 to $300 depending on the publisher. Once an idea is accepted, the publisher will send you a buy letter requesting that you sign over exclusive rights. Once you sign the buy letter, the publisher will issue a check. Some publishers will inform you that they are interested in your idea but that it will have to undergo marketing review before a decision is made. If that occurs, the waiting period could be from a couple of months to a couple of years. Be sure to read any contracts sent to you before signing.
Study the Market and Be Original!
One of the best ways to understand a market is to research previously published works. So, do your homework by reading some of the greeting cards that a company has already purchased (check their website). By doing this, you will begin to digest what is expected of you and recognize the strategies other writers utilized in creating their verses and making a sale! Be creative and avoid copycat versions. And don't forget, if another writer can make a sale, you can too!
Now, get busy writing and boost your income!
Below is a list of greeting card publishers to help you get started.
This article is not available for reprint without the author's written permission.
Sandy Forbes has been a published writer and novelist for most of her life. Sandy's writing talent was initially discovered by her middle school teacher when assigned to write a story based on a picture from a magazine. Her teacher gave rave reviews and encouraged Sandy to keep on writing. Sandy has since written for a variety of magazines, including The Dollar Stretcher" and is the author of the young adult fiction novel, Sinking Sam. Sandy's love for writing ranges from greeting cards, articles, novels and poetry. She is multifaceted and truly enjoys sharing all the information that she has learned to help other writers succeed!