Do you think that the majority of greeting card messages are bland and that you could write better, given the chance?
Then this is the opportunity for you!
There’s decent cash to be made out of writing greeting card messages.
It’s a very competitive market so you may not want to make a career leap just yet, but it can provide a outlet for your creativity that will earn you some extra cash.
It doesn’t take much – a punchy pun could earn you up to £150!
Writing Greeting Card Messages – Where to Start
- Research, research, research
- Be organised
- Finding publishers
- Contacting publishers
- Getting into e-cards
- The waiting game
- Cashing in
It’s vital that you research the greeting card market before you start. Trawl around the shops and look at cards on offer and the wording inside them.
This can’t be stressed enough. It’s time consuming but it’s critical. It will also end up saving you time in the long run. Many publishers don’t even get past the first few lines or words in a proposal because so many applicants don’t research before submitting.
The first thing to note is that not all cards are created equal – there are various genres.
The three main types are:
- Traditional cards which use metered, rhyming poetry
- Contemporary prose cards, which tend to be the sentimental cards
- Humourous, pun-filled or clever cards, which are by far the most popular
Traditional cards are the most technical and are therefore mostly written by in-house staff. However, both prose and humorous cards are written primarily by freelance writers.
Pick your style – but whatever style you choose, make sure that you’re pitching to the correct publisher! Don’t send pitches of your funniest work to publishers of blank cards.
You need to keep your research organised, so when you start submitting your work you can keep track of what level of contact you are at with each publisher. Create an spreadsheet with these details:
- Publisher’s address
- Website addresses
- Type of cards sold by the publishing company
- Their guidelines
- Dates you may have submitted guideline requests or work
- If you received an email or written response, keep track of dates and the name of person who contacted you
- You may need to send follow-up emails tracking the status of your submissions or thanking editors for feedback. Keep track of follow-up dates. This is your opportunity to establish a rapport with someone and place a personality with a name.
Keeping organised records requires effort, but it’ll save you time later on. Research and contact is needed on a continual basis since publishers’ requirements change all the time. If you’re going to be submitting seasonal cards, remember they produce them months in advance so Christmas card submissions may be needed in July. Check in periodically with publishers to see what seasonal submissions are currently required.
The best place to start your research is at a high-street card shop. Go in and take note of the types of cards available, read them, and get an idea of what types of cards are popular. Take down the publisher name, which can be found on the back. You should write down as many publishers as possible. You can of course also do this online.
Finding smaller publishers will give you access to a market with less competition. Smaller companies will pay less, however they’re a great place to get your foot in the door as competition is fierce in bigger firms. These may be a bit harder to find, but, again, the initial research will pay off.
Try smaller gift boutiques or independent shops for smaller publishers. Why not visit niche shops like craft stores, restaurant gift shops, book stores and pet shops? Check out unusual places, such as home furnishings stores that sometimes sell greeting cards. Investigating these types of shops will give you some smaller publishing company names that you may not have found at your high-street greeting cards shop.
Another great place to find publishers is at greeting card trade fairs. You can meet all sorts of publishers all in one go and get an idea of which ones you want to pitch to.
Some trade shows include:
- Home and Gift, Harrogate – July
- Spring Fair, Birmingham NEC – February
- Autumn Fair, Birmingham NEC – September
- Top Drawer, Olympia London – January and September
- Progressive Greetings Live, Business Design Centre, London – June
Be aware that publishers often won’t be able to discuss your ideas at their stands. If they’re too busy to speak to you, don’t throw in the towel just yet – it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not interested at all. They’ll almost certainly be willing to pass on the details of the person you need to speak to, so you should make a note of any details they can give you and follow up later.
Now that all your research is complete, you can start contacting publishers. Most publishers have their guidelines online, which makes research and tailoring your pitches easier than ever. Remember that countless pitches aren’t even reviewed because they don’t follow the guidelines, so prioritise this.
If you aren’t able to view submission guidelines online, you should email the publisher requesting them. Do not submit any work or ideas without first reading their submission guidelines.
It’s more than likely you’ll make your submission via email, but if you do post anything remember to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your request. Remember to follow the guidelines closely, and submit electronically if that’s what’s requested. If the publisher would like you to post your submission, make sure your name and contact details are on every sheet as pieces of paper can go astray, and make sure you send everything with recorded delivery.
Do not submit any work or ideas without first reading the publisher’s submission guidelines.
Include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you would like your submissions returned. Make sure that your envelope is large enough for your work and that it has the correct amount of postage. You need to make the editor’s life as easy as possible.
The most important thing to remember is to follow their instructions explicitly. If you’re asked to send a self-addressed envelope and to keep your submissions to under 100 words, do it. You need to be creative as it’s a competitive market, however, keep in mind that they get tonnes of applications and need a quick way to weed people out. The fastest way is to get rid of those who can’t follow instructions.
A booming sector of greeting cards is of course the e-card. Like card publishers most of these companies have their guidelines listed on their sites. Carefully review their content and guidelines before submitting any of your work.
Clicking on the contacts section is usually where you will find submission details.
Rome wasn’t built in a day – writing requires practice, so keep at it and you’ll get better. It may take a while for publishers to get back to you, but be patient. Keeping on top of your follow up emails will also help this process along, but remember not to pester! You want to have your name in their heads, but you don’t want to be known as the one who doesn’t stop badgering.
Be willing to accept rejection if an editor is kind enough to provide feedback on your work. Take their advice and be open – it will only help make you a better writer. Just because you’re rejected the first time you submit work doesn’t mean you should never again submit to a publisher (in fact, getting any reply at all suggests they might see potential). If the editor did send you feedback, take their advice as it will help make your future submissions better.
The amount of money earned varies from publisher to publisher, but generally punchlines can make up to £150 per idea, while verses tend to go for around £25. Payment varies greatly from company to company, and like all freelance work it sometimes takes a while to receive payment. So initially this isn’t a good option for steady income, however, with steady contact building, many people make a career out of greeting card writing.
Great research reads
There are some fantastic books that can help with the research process:
- 20 Steps to Art Licensing: How to Sell Your Designs to Greeting Card and Gift Companies (Kate Harper, 2017)
- Start and Run a Greeting Cards Business: 2nd edition (Elizabeth White, 2010)
- Finding the Right Words: Perfect Phrases to Personalize Your Greeting Cards (Beverley J Daniel, 2004)
The magazine Progressive Greetings Worldwide offers great information on publishers, news products and industry issues. Publishers advertise for freelance writers in the magazine, a monthly publication that’s available through annual subscription of £50. With your subscription you also receive special annual supplements including ‘Words and Sentiment’ and a ‘Focus on Humorous cards’.
Art Source, an editorial feature in the magazine that promotes the talents of artists, has been extended to cover verse writers. This publicity is free for writers, so if you want to be featured, send information detailing your style, subject matter, and inspiration together with examples of your verses and your contact details to the Art Source section editor (contact details can be found here).
The Greeting Cards Association website is also another great place to find freelance work.
Check out some other great money makers in our number one article 10 easy ways to make quick cash.
If you’ve had witty greeting card messages published then share your ideas and experiences in our comments section below.