Writing greeting cards is a great way to satisfy your creative urges and earn some extra money to boot. If you’re like most people, you’re convinced that you could write Birthday cards just as good as the ones down at the local drugstore. But, like most people, you don’t know how to get started.
By the time you finish reading this eBook, you’ll not only know how to get started in greeting card writing, you’ll know how to be successful at it too.
Click here to order the complete 12,000-word eBook on Amazon for just 99 cents! In it, you’ll find:
• Nine basic rules that must be followed when writing greeting cards
• Eight insights that will help you better understand the greeting card business
• Eleven business tips that will help you present yourself as a professional
• Sixteen techniques that you can use to write greeting cards that sell
• Techniques for writing T-shirts, buttons, coffee mugs and Post-it notes
• Dozens and dozens of examples of cards and related products I’ve sold to all the major greeting card companies
Below are excerpts from the book to give you an excellent idea of what to expect.
Unless otherwise noted, all the card ideas presented in the book were written by my weekly card-writing group or an individual within the group. All these ideas were sold to a major greeting card company. Click here to gain some insight into how our group operated.
Click here to read my Q&A interview about greeting card writing with the Renegade Writer website.
Okay, let’s start with the nine basic rules that must be followed when writing greeting cards. Some are more important than others but all of them must be taken into consideration.
RULE #2: The card has to have a “me-to-you” sentiment. You’ll be much more successful at writing cards if you get in the habit of using the word “you” more often than the word “I”. Sure, you’ll see some cards where the joke is about what happened when “I” went looking for a present or what “I” think about getting older. There are always exceptions but the vast majority of successful cards have a strong me-to-you message because greeting cards are about relationships. Here are some examples:
COVER: Happy Birthday! I’d like to borrow your secret for looking so young.
INSIDE: I mean, since you’re not using it.
COVER: Know what I find attractive in a man?
INSIDE: Just look in the mirror.
COVER: Happy Birthday to my Older Brother! You may not know this, but you’re responsible for my very existence!
INSIDE: Mom and Dad knew they could do better.
COVER: Happy Birthday, Mom! I sure wish you’d start acting your age!
INSIDE: I’m getting tired of having people ask me if you’re my sister!
Now let’s take a look at eight insights into the card business.
INSIGHT #3: Keep your eyes and ears open. In the course of a typical day, you’re bombarded by hundreds of ideas for greeting cards. You may hear a phrase from a nearby conversation that you can build a Friendship card around. You may hear a joke from a coworker that gives you an idea for a great Birthday card. You may see a happy couple strolling hand-in-hand down the street and get inspired to write an Anniversary card. When you train yourself to be more aware of what’s going on around you, your creativity will blossom.
After you do this for a while, your antenna will always be up. For example, I was dropping my daughter, Erin, off at junior high one morning. I needed to go in the school too, but she said, “No! Let me out, then wait five minutes before you come in!” So as I was sitting in the car waiting, I was thinking, “There’s got to be something here.” And sure enough, I came up with an idea for a button: My parents are more embarrassing than your parents! Of course, Erin and all her friends wanted one.
Another time I was telling Erin how cute she was. “In fact,” I said, “you’re Mega-cute.” And I thought to myself, Hmmm, that would make a good button.” And, sure enough, I sold it. Of course, I gave Erin half the money I got for those two buttons because she was my inspiration. She was quite pleased.
It’s time to take a look at the business side of the greeting card industry via these eleven business tips.
BUSINESS TIP #3: Aim for quality over quantity. It pays to put a lot of thought into your ideas. If you’re writing dozens of ideas in a week’s time, you’re probably not spending enough time on each one.
Some people seem to think that quantity will assure them a sale. That simply isn’t the case. Too many mediocre ideas may dull an editor into overlooking one that might otherwise have promise.
The flip side, of course, is that some writers send in too few ideas, or even just one idea at a time. When someone pins all their hopes on a single idea, editors know they’re not dealing with a professional writer.
Editors generally agree that it’s best to submit six to fifteen ideas at a time. An editor will then be able to make a fair assessment of your abilities without getting overwhelmed by an avalanche of ideas.
BUSINESS TIP #10: Trust your editor. The greeting card business is built on trust. Many beginning freelancers are concerned that a card company may use their ideas without paying for them. If that ever does happen, it certainly is rare. Freelancers are the lifeblood of the industry. Companies are always on the lookout for good writers who can make money for them. It doesn’t make sense for a company to rip off an idea; they’d ruin their reputation and the best freelancers wouldn’t do business with them. Companies want to keep you happy so you can make lots of money for them in a long-term relationship.
From a legal standpoint, ideas can’t be copyrighted; only the expression of those ideas can be. That means that every original line you write is automatically copyrighted.
A copyright, however, does not prevent someone from taking your idea and producing their own version of it. Someone can take an idea, put it in a completely different visual presentation and allege that he or she thought of it first. It’s virtually impossible to enforce a copyright. If a person really wants to copy something, there are ways to get agonizingly close without going over the line.
For example, Gibson, the person I initially wrote for was once profiled in the local newspaper. The reporter asked him what his best-selling shirt was and Gibson told him it was, MY NEXT HUSBAND WILL BE NORMAL. Almost overnight, it seemed like other companies came out with the exact same shirt. I was up in Wisconsin Dells a month later and saw a ripoff of the shirt in a gift shop there. Here’s why that happened: ideas don’t get ripped off until they’ve been proven successful. As soon as unethical people find out that a product’s been making money, they’re going to rip it off. Gibson now refuses to say which of his shirts are doing well.
Another sign that a shirt is doing well is when it appears in a number of different catalogs in a short amount of time. A friend of mine called me to tell me she had just seen a woman in Oprah’s audience wearing a GARAGE SALE GODDESS shirt, which was written by a member of my group and generated over $12,000 for him. Unlike our version, the three words were in block letters with no artwork so someone obviously picked up on the fact that it was selling well and put out their own version of it.
Recycled Paper Greetings used to put their fifty best-selling cards on the wall at their headquarters in Chicago. People would come in the receptionist area, take out a notepad and copy everything down. The company wised up pretty quickly. They began posting an assortment of cards—their best, their worst and everything in between.
The bottom line: Don’t be concerned about getting ripped off. Except for T-shirts, which generate royalties, freelancers get paid upfront for their ideas. So if your idea is lifted from the company that paid you for it, it’s their loss, not yours.
Now let’s examine sixteen techniques that you can use to write greeting cards that sell.
TECHNIQUE #4: Be kinder and gentler. Not everyone who buys a Birthday card wants to make fun of somebody’s age. If you can write warm, fuzzy Birthday cards that also manage to be clever, you’ll make editors very happy. Here are a few examples:
COVER: I put a dollar in this card for you because I figured if all your friends gave you a dollar . . .
INSIDE: . . . you’d be a millionaire! Happy Birthday!
COVER: At your age, it’s important for a good friend to take you aside, look you straight in the eye, and very openly and honestly tell you something that you may not be aware of . . .
INSIDE: You look terrific! Happy Birthday!
Of course, “kinder and gentler” also works for other kinds of cards too. Here are warm and fuzzy Anniversary and Valentine’s Day cards.
COVER: Happy Anniversary! If you take a close look at your little finger . . .
INSIDE: You’ll see that I’m wrapped around it!
COVER: Happy Valentine’s Day! If you were the only boy in the world and I was the only girl . . .
INSIDE: I’d like that.
You may have noticed that I emphasized “humorous” greeting cards in this post. You may also have noticed that the humorous category is a broad one. Humorous cards may be serious and sentimental as long as there’s a clever twist to them, no matter how subtle. Here are a few more examples of kinder and gentler humorous cards:
COVER: Do you know how wonderful and thoughtful you are?
INSIDE: I do.
COVER: I didn’t know I would fall in love with you . . .
INSIDE: .. . . so many times.
COVER: Thank you. That was very kind, considerate and thoughtful.
INSIDE: As usual.
Now, even though those cards seem pretty straightforward, if you look at them closely you’ll see that they all use an ever-so-slight twist to get their message across. When you open them, there’s a surprise. It’s very subtle but it’s there.
Okay, let’s tackle the business of writing T-shirts, buttons, coffee mugs and Post-it notes. Let’s start with the two basic rules for writing successful T-shirts.
RULE #2: Your shirt should appeal to a large, but specific, target group of people. In other words, when someone is browsing through a rack of shirts and sees GARAGE SALE GODDESS, she’s going to say, “Oh, I’ve got to get this for Pam, it’s perfect for her!” That’s the response you want to elicit. If you can get people to react like that, you’ll have a successful shirt.
Here’s another shirt we did that did fairly well:
MY LAWYER CAN BEAT UP YOUR LAWYER
That sold because everyone, it seems, knows a lawyer or two.
I once submitted a shirt with an extra sleeve on one side. It said, NUCLEAR POWER PLANT GUARD. Obviously, it didn’t sell. How many people are going to see it in a store and say, “Oh, I’ve got to get this for Bob, it’s perfect for him!” I mean, how many nuclear power plant guards are there? Concentrate on a target group that millions of people could belong to. There are millions of women who love to go to garage sales. There are millions of cat lovers. There are millions of people who clip coupons. Choose your audience and then write a shirt they’d be proud to wear.
Keep in mind that only positive labels work. A T-shirt company is not going to produce any negative dieting shirts because who would want to wear a shirt that says, “I’m fat and I need to lose weight”? Write a message that someone would be proud wear so they can announce to the world, “This is who I am!”
When you’re writing a label shirt, start with the phrase, “I’M A (BLANK).” Fill in the blank and then drop the words, “I AM.” What you’re left with is the label.
Well, that’s it! Read this book and you’ll be ready to start making money as a freelance greeting card writer. Before you know it, your mailbox will be stuffed with paychecks! Good luck!
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ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
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Tags: Anniversary cards, Apology cards, birthday cards, Christmas cards, coffee mugs, Congratulation cards, Father's Day cards, Get Well cards, Halloween cards, how to write greeting cards, Mother's Day cards, New Baby cards, Post-it notes, T-shirts, Thank You cards, Thanksgiving cards, Valentine's Day cards