The Greeting Card Business: 101

Where are you at in the greeting card business? Do you want to manufacture cards or sell your designs to companies? Do you just want to know what a good card design is all about?

Here are a list of articles on all these topics. Pick the one that best represents where you are right now.



Card Design Tips

Learn about the fundamentals of card design.

Greeting Card Sales Stats

Greeting Card Design Tips

Things to avoid in Card Design

Greeting Card Association Artist Guidelines

Other Great Card & Illustration Tips

You know you are a greeting card designer when…




Starting a Card Business
Learn how to manufacture and sell your cards to retail stores.

How to Present Your Card Line

Test Marketing Your Card Line

Getting Your First Greeting Card Account

Getting Professional Feedback on Your Card Line

Pricing Your Cards

Pricing and Profits: The Tale of 2 Greeting Card Businesses

Good News for Indie Card Artists: New Sales Trends

Online Class: Design and Sell Your Own Cards

Starting a Card Line on Your Own

Backcopy:What to print on the back of your cards

List of Books on the Greeting Card Business

Book Review: How to Run a Greeting Card Business

Book Review: Pushing the Envelope

Setting up Card Ordering Codes

All About Envelopes

Greeting Card Quiz: How much do you know about the industry?

Ginger McCleskey, Greeting Card Rep, Talks about Trends

Greeting Card Buying Statistics 
 





Marketing Cards
Learn how to market cards.

12 Unusual Ways To Market Your Greeting Cards

List of Trade Shows for Greeting Card & Gift Designers

How to Sell Art Through Social Media

List of Trade Magazines for Card and Gift Industry

How to Use Email to Sell Art & Get Leads

How to Sell Designs Online: Jude Maceren

Venues for Selling Greeting Cards Online

How to Find Greeting Card Sales Reps






The Handmade Card Business
Learn how to run a thriving handmade card business.

How to make a living in the Handmade Card Business

How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

Making Cards: Questions to Ask

Simplify Card Making for a Profit

Paying People to Make Your Cards

3 Parts of a Greeting Card

8 Advantages of the Handmade Card Business

Interview with Former Greetings etc. Editor, Kathy Krassner

Handmade Greeting Card Business Directory





Card Writing
Learn How to Write Greeting Card Sentiments.

Meet the Master of Greeting Card Writing

Audio Interview: Getting into the Greeting Card Writing Market

How Poets Can Write Greeting Card Verse

Interview with Hallmark Card Writer

Artist & Writer Submission Guidelines for Card Companies

Breaking into the Greeting Card Writing Market

How to Write Greeting Card Verse (VIDEO)

7 Mistakes Card Writers Make



Licensing Your Designs to Companies

Learn how to license your designs to publishers.

Submission Guidelines for Card Companies

How to Mail Promos of Your Designs to Card Companies

How to Organize Greeting Card Submissions

How to get Started in Art Licensing

How to Make a Good "Art Licensing Website."

How to Deal With Rejection: Tips for Card Designers

Resources on Greeting Cards and Licensing

Greeting Card Licensing Information from the UK

List of Licensing Agents in the US

 

Support
Learn how artists manage their time and set goals.

How to Make Time for Art

How to Start a Buddy Meeting System

How to Start an Art Licensing Support Group



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The Greeting Card Business
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Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps (Updated 2017 paperback) If you like to make greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them nationwide.  Learn about changing trends in the indie card market and niche opportunities available for artists. Book includes detailed guidelines on pricing cards for a profit, getting professional feedback on your designs, finding sales representatives, pitching your card line to them, approaching stores, and the industry standards you should follow. Information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals and calendars.




Start and Run a Greeting Card Business From a British author, whose country has a long history of greeting card design, she takes you step-by-step through the process of starting and running your business with lots of useful practical advice to help you, including: - Deciding what type of cards to produce - Finding your market - Dealing with printers - Copyright and licensing - Pricing and profit. Kate's note: Some specs are different (card sizes) since it is UK standards.



Greeting Card Design This volume features a vast array of fun, elegant, simple and imaginative greeting cards designed by internationally-known artists, illustrators and calligraphers. With over 300 full-color photographs of creative, popular, and inspiring greeting card designs, this invaluable sourcebook showcases the very best of what is happening in the industry today. Accompanying text explores the history of the greeting card industry and examines the major contributions from the leading innovative companies.






 

Where to Get Greeting Card Supplies



Greeting Card Supplies


Here are some suppliers for greeting card manufacturers that were recommended by members of our facebook greeting card design group. If you have a resource to add, email me and I'll add it to the list.




Cellophane Sleeves


Clear Bags

Uline
has resealable clear bags in many sizes, has gifts boxes, and many other packaging products.

Cello Bags
(800) 791-5183

Studio Style
Search "Envelopes and Sleeves"
1-800-346-3063

Fine-Art World

Bags Unlimited
1-800-767-2247

Oakland Paper

Photographers Edge
Good site for easy DYI Cards, Packaging, display, and their catalog is an inspiration.

Amazon
Do a search for "Cello Bags."

Etsy Supplies
Do a search for "Cello Bags."




Display Equipment

Photographer's Edge
Many options of display from cardboard to floor spinners.
Under "Accessories and Supplies."

Clear Displays
Beautiful clear display of all sizes.

Agronaut Displays

Amazon
Search for "Card Display Rack."





Cardstock

Neenah Paper

Red River Paper
Scored cards in many sizes, envelopes, gift boxes, Great company!

Photographer's Edge

Amazon





Envelopes

Heinrich Envelope

Envelope Mall

Envelopes.com

Fancy Paper (Toronto)





Art Licensing Tip: Create a greeting card from a square pattern.

(Article is an excerpt from 20 Steps to Art Licensing on how to license art for greeting cards and gifts.)
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Here is an example of how I converted a 7 x 7 inch piece of art into a 5 x 7 card, which was eventually licensed and published.  If your art is a square pattern, select an element to be the central focus, and remove remaining details. Here is the art I started with. It is a textured background with poppy style flowers.



Then I cropped it to 5x7 and removed many of the flowers, and added a large open space for text.


I thought the white space needed to be framed, so I added a border.


I stepped back and evaluated the mood of the card. I thought it might be appropriate for a sympathy card, so I added text to express that sentiment.


Some companies don't request text because they want to write their own. But I tend to offer text anyway to help them visualize a possible message that might go with the image. Sometimes it is good to create a version of your card that is “ready to go” just in case they don't have time to write the text but need an extra card to add to a catalog.

I also tend to include optional inside text, and perhaps additional imagery, such as the following example.

Here is what the card looked like after the company published it.

   

They changed my font, edited the text, and adjusted the design. I think these were all great improvements. Their font feels more comforting than my playful bubbly font. Mine font would be more appropriate for birthdays or celebratory messages. Many companies evaluate cards all day, so I trust their keen sense of skill in deciding what a card should communicate before they print it.


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New Greeting Card Business Resources



20 Steps to Art Licensing
Get Royalties for Designs
2nd edition 2017, 150 pages, Paperback





Get Your Cards Into Stores:

Find and Work with Sales Reps
2nd Edition, 2017 100 pages, Paperback






I want to Spank the President...T-shirt

Just designed two t-shirts that I hope are "timely" during these days that we live in.  I say this with a smile.

Designing T-shirts are very different than designing other gift products, because you have to think of how many different colors your image will look good on. You also have to consider how the image will fall on a man, woman or child's torso.

http://amzn.to/2raFsrv


http://amzn.to/2qeeX47

How to Start a Profitable Handmade Card Business



For over 15 years I ran a handmade card business with over 2,000 accounts and dozens of sales reps.

People often ask me how to make a living selling handmade cards. There is a big difference between making cards to sell in a craft market, and creating a handmade card manufacturing business. There is also a big difference between a commercially printed card business and a handmade card business. Craft cards are usually one-of-a-kind that can't always be repeated, and printed cards don't require as many supplies and hand skills as handmade.

Many designers have very different experiences in beginning a business, and here are some suggestions, of steps I took when starting out.



Step 1: Create a Handmade Card Line

  • Develop a line of 25-50 cards.
  • Order swatch books, envelope, paper and bag samples from suppliers.


Step 2: Get Feedback

  • Take cards around to local stores to get feedback. Don't try to sell them, just ask for professional advice.
  • Don't rely on feedback from just friends, relatives, classmates, or anyone who doesn't work in the industry.
  • Communicate clearly that you want brutal honest feedback, and that you won't get your feelings hurt if they don't like them. Be ready to accept rejection and learn how to deal with rejection.
  • If they don't like the cards, make sure you never leave that meeting without taking notes on how you can improve the line and recommendations on what direction you might pursue.


Step 3: Refine and Adjust

Readjust your designs according to your feedback. If line needs to be completely redone, start at phase 1 again. If only minor adjustments are needed, perfect them. Expand designs you do well with, and drop cards that received negative responses.

  • Learn about handmade card production and how to make a handmade card factory.
  • Think about how to simply your manufacturing.
  • Make sure your cards are profitable. If they aren't profitable, make adjustments.
  • Keep receipts for all your supplies.
  • Research suppliers and find several suppliers that carry the materials you need. Compare prices and find the most reasonable one.

Step 4: Get Your Business in Order

All of the following activities may be done earlier in the business development process, but about this time is when you need to start thinking of these things.

  • Get a PO Box. Unless your home address is very stable, get a Post Office Box. This will help keep your business separate from your personal life.
  • Get licenses. A business license is obtained in the city where the business is located The zoning license is usually obtained with your business license, in the city where the business is located.
  • Do you want a fictitious name? If you create a name for your business, you need to get it approved with the county clerk.
  • Get a resale license so you don't have to pay sales tax on manufacturing supplies. A resale license is obtained at the State Board of Equalization.
  • Get a bank account. Open a checking account for your business, separate from your personal account.
  • Set up credit accounts with suppliers. Submit your resale number with suppliers you think you will be ordering from. Apply for a credit line.
  • Research Stores. Start searching for the types of stores that you feel your cards will do well in. Collect their names and addresses on index cards or a database.
  • Create a one page business plan. Make an outline of how much money you plan to spend and how much income you hope to make for the first 6 months. 

Step 5: Get Your Paperwork in Order


  • Design a logo and create stationery letterhead. Include your business name, your mailing and shipping addresses, a telephone number and a one line slogan of your card line. An example of a description might be: "Greeting cards for a New Age" or "Handmade cards with a touch of humor".
  • Design a simple brochure that can be put into a loose leaf binder. Create an inexpensive brochure with all your card designs. Include a price sheet and ordering information.
  • Decide what stores you will approach first. Clarify specifically what stores you will approach and be prepared to sell.
  • Make sample deck. Prepare your sample deck with codes and prices per dozen/half dozen on the back.
  • Print or buy invoices, mailing labels. Order invoices and mailing labels with your business name, address and phone number on them. 
  • Set up your books. Keep track of your supplier names and addresses, expenses, income, what cards sold per month, and any other information you need to refer to.
  • Create a bill. Design a simple form for billing labelled "Overdue Notice". You will have to remind stores when their 30 days are up, in case they forget to pay on time.


Step 6: Practicing Selling on a small scale

  • Make sure you have all your manufacturing supplies for at least sales of at least 2,000 cards.
  • Familiarize yourself with local sales trends and what kinds of card people buy. Sell cards to at least 5-10 stores in your community and learn the lifecycle of a card sale. You will also learn what your top sellers are, which will help you plan your card line for the future.
  • Get shipping boxes. If you are on a shoestring budget, find stores that throw out small boxes (make sure they have not had food in them) and start collecting them. Otherwise find a local supplier. You can order free priority tape, mailing labels and boxes from the post office, and they will also pick up your packages for free at your doorstep when you register online. Once your business picks up, you may want to investigate other shippers such as UPS and FEDEX.
  • Go around to local stores and try to sell your cards. Set a goal to get at least 10 accounts.


Step 7: Find Reps

  • Contact reps. Once you have determined that stores are buying and reordering your cards, you may be ready to contact reps.
  • Learn how to work with a rep and set up rep paperwork. Set aside a file folder for each rep. Keep records of your correspondence, commissions paid, commissions due, pre-printed labels of their mailing address (you use these a lot!).


Step 8: Prepare to Grow

  • Make sure you are ready to grow and that your suppliers are dependable. Are you able to order larger quantities? Do you need to readjust your line of credit? Can you manufacturer two, three or four times as many cards? Stock up on emergency supplies that are hard to find.
  • Evaluate workspace. Set up your workspace for assembly line work. Determine where you will store large amounts of supplies and how you will organize and label different boxes of cards.
  • Investigate or invest in computerized record keeping. Evaluate record keeping programs such as Quickbooks. Look for programs that track inventory and commissions. Take a class at a local adult school and see which program you like.
  • Design new cards every three months. Get into the pace of putting new cards out in the market about every three or four months.



See errors or bad links? email Greeting Card Designer Blog.




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Books on The Greeting Card Business
---------------------------------------------------------------------- 



Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps (Updated 2017 paperback) If you like to make greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them nationwide.  Learn about changing trends in the indie card market and niche opportunities available for artists. Book includes detailed guidelines on pricing cards for a profit, getting professional feedback on your designs, finding sales representatives, pitching your card line to them, approaching stores, and the industry standards you should follow. Information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals and calendars.



Start and Run a Greeting Card Business From a British author, whose country has a long history of greeting card design, she takes you step-by-step through the process of starting and running your business with lots of useful practical advice to help you, including: - Deciding what type of cards to produce - Finding your market - Dealing with printers - Copyright and licensing - Pricing and profit. Kate's note: Some specs are different (card sizes) since it is UK standards.



Pushing the Envelope Things the small greeting card manufacturer needs to know about finding, recruiting and retaining a winning sales force can be found in this easy-to-read handbook. Written from both the manufacturer and sales rep perspectives, this nuts and bolts guide is full of industry information, sales tips and guidance for building successful and profitable rep relationships. Kate's Note: This book was written by my top selling sales rep in the country.










Should you license or self-publish your designs?



A lot of card designers ask me this question.  Based on my experience of self-publishing for 15 years and licensing for about 5 years, I can say they are completely different ways of working in the greeting card industry. Here are the main differences I've found between the two. My opinion comes from running a full-time, self-supporting business in both industries.

Studio Space
The amount of space you need to run your own self-publishing business is dramatically larger than licensing.  When you manufacture cards you need a large space for storage, packing, shipping and possible staffing. In licensing, at bare minimum, all you really need is a computer for sending digital images.

Decisions Over What Gets Published
When you self-publish, you have complete control over what gets published. If you want to create edgy, bohemian cards, you can do it. It is easy to design, print and sell a new design in as little as 2 weeks.  If you try to license those same designs, you might not be able to get a publisher to take a chance them, especially if the topics are controversial. Also it might be 18 months before the card ends up on store shelves.


Costs
When you manufacture cards you take a financial risk.  It’s possible you could spend several thousand dollars printing your own designs and not be able to sell them (that’s why you should start small with local stores), whereas in licensing there are very few costs other than buying a computer and a graphics program (which you probably already have).  I do not count trade shows and advertising as an expense because I have not found them to be a very significant factor for success in either businesses.

Time Investment
Manufacturing cards is very time consuming.  If you are successful, you will find most of your days involve the movement of card stock and packing boxes.  In the evenings you will probably be doing paperwork, paying reps, tracking orders and other details. Also, employees, sales reps and stores depend on you, so you can’t just stop working and take a spontaneous vacation. In Licensing, you can work as much or little as you want, but the less you work, the less you will make. Also, when you submit cards for licensing, you don't know how many will be selected, so you may spend time creating several designs that are never published.

Income
I found self-publishing to be a more profitable and reliable income, mostly because I could respond to trends and steer the direction of my business. For example, the odds of my cards selling good one day in 2,000 stores, and then suddenly failing the next day was pretty slim. I could rely on those accounts, and I could add sales reps slowly as my business expanded. In licensing, an artists does not have control over what gets published or how long cards will stay on store shelves. Therefore, it is hard to predict income.  The upside is that it is satisfying to create one piece of art and continue to get royalties from it several months or years later.

What is your experience licensing or self-publishing? Share your comments below or on the Greeting Card Designer Facebook Group.


Books on Art Licensing

   
Here are some book on licensing. Some were published years ago, but still relevant in how to create designs for licensing, royalty percentages, contracts, etc.
             
   
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