Join a Community of Card Designers

Here is information on our new greeting card community group.  I like the idea that someone can ask "where can I find a good printer?" and 25 people respond.  I also like meeting designers and writers from all over the world, and seeing pictures of their studios.
"REALLY?!"

My thoughts about a communty group: Since I've been writing this blog since 2007  (wow!),  I think it would be beneficial to shift our communications from a me-to-you format (blog) to a Community format (allows us all to talk to each other). 

This is a great way to learn skills, network with colleagues, access resources, and get news from a variety of talented people in the industry.

Therefore, I have set up a private community group on Facebook, called Greeting Card Designer.

Want to find a printer? Get feedback on your art? Meet other designers? Have a laugh? Join here, introduce yourself, and post a picture of your studio!


https://www.facebook.com/groups/483730338415815/



https://www.facebook.com/groups/greetingcarddesigner/





Getting into the Greeting Card Business: New Online Class



I have collaborated with skillshare.com to create an online course on Getting into the Greeting Card Business.  The content is based on my experience of working in the industry for over 20 years, and from publishing over 1,000 cards.


When: 
Anytime. Class is self-paced with student/teacher feedback on your final project in the skillshare gallery.

How to Register: 
Register here. 

Cost:  $20

In this class you will learn:
  • The fundamentals of professional card design.
  • Transforming art into a greeting card.
  • Writing sentiments.
  • Making designs "market-ready" according to industry standards.
  • Top selling occasions.
  • How to turn one card into a larger "collection".
  • How to make a card out of any image.
  • Handmade cards.
  • Where and how to sell cards (including online).
  • Licensing art on cards.
  • Manufacturing and distributing nationally.

The class includes:
  • 8 Units
  • 14 videos
  • 39 steps
  • Final project
  • Feedback
Register here.

Free class offers available periodically on my twitter feed, facebook, linkedin and google+ pages.

Skillshare
 

Getting a Job at a Greeting Card Company



When I was doing some research on the greeting card industry, out of curiosity I wondered what kind of "art skills" greeting card companies require these days. I found the following job titles.

• Art Director
• Art Assistant
• Associate Editor
• Illustrator
• Designer
• Graphic Artist
• Creative Specialist.



Where to Find Jobs in the Greeting Card Industry
Here are just a few examples of companies that often post jobs:

• Note: Since job listing pages change frequently, read instructions for locating jobs on each site.


American Greetings
http://corporate.americangreetings.com/careers/whoweare.html
or go to homepage http://corporate.americangreetings.com/ and select "careers."

Hallmark
http://www.hallmark.com/careers/
or go to homepage http://www.hallmark.com/ and select "careers" under "opportunities."

Papyrus
http://www.papyrusonline.com/about-papyrus/employment
or go to homepage http://www.papyrusonline.com/ and select "about us" and "employment."

DaySpring
http://about.dayspring.com/corporate/employment/
or go to homepage http://www.dayspring.com/ and select "about DaySpring" and "employment."

Leanin' Tree
http://www.leanintree.com/jobs.html
or go to homepage http://www.leanintree.com/ and select "employment."




Do you make "mail art?"



Mail Art is a process where strangers (or friends) mail each other their handmade art on the back of a postcard. Often it is done around a specific theme.  Here are some more examples from my blog mail art gallery. 

Also check out Kim's etsy store (example below) for some really great mail art.

Mixed Media ALTERED ART  POSTCARD Weird Feeling




Should you license or self publish your designs?


~


Manufactured Cards
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 my facebook page.




More ways to stay connected with card designers:

• Take an Online Class: Getting Into the Greeting Card Business.
• Sign up for Greeting Card Designers Facebook Group.

 








How to remove unwanted paper from your life.

I've decided to go paperless.

That might sound odd coming from a greeting card designer, but one thing I learned after my mother passed away, is that sorting through someone's papers can be time consuming and difficult. One small file can take more time to make decisions about, than a large closet of clothes.  Now I realize how important it is to eliminate paper from our office (and life), and it is easy to do by scanning, filing and storing it digitally.

After listening to a podcast on the "paperless office," I realized I could get rid of all the paper in my house, including filing cabinets, news clippings, recipes and photos.  Best of all, they are now safely stored in the cloud, and on an external drive. And photo albums can be accessed by all family members.

ScanSnap accepts any shape, size or color -- all at once.

One podcast suggested using "ScanSnap" to go paperless, so I bought one. I found this mobile device has several advantages over a regular scanner. Here's why:
ScanSnap is small and portable.
  • It's portable.
  • You don't need a power outlet. You can just plug it into your computer.
  • It is idiot-proof and only has one button (my style!)
  • You can load and scan 10 sheets in a minute.
  • It scans all sizes, and auto-adjusts borders accordingly.
  • It scans both sides at once.
  • It auto corrects if you put something in crooked.
  • You can pre-set it to feed scans directly into the cloud (such as dropbox, etc) and/or share them.
  • You can scan something in a word document and then edit it afterwards (or pdf, excel, etc)!   See demo in video below.
  • After scanning, Scansnap can transform the words in the document so they are as searchable (OCR). For example, if you bought a lamp at Office Depot and then scanned in the receipt and did not name your file, you can find it by searching for the words "Office Depot" or "lamp" on your computer.
  • Business cards can be scanned into a database form. 
  • It offers high res options for images.
  • You can do scanning in a car (or on a bicycle!)

If you only have one project and don't need to keep the scanner you can resell it on Amazon, and recover most of your costs. That is what one woman on a podcast said she did.
If you decide to have a paperless office, be prepared to:
  • Set aside a large space where you can scan for a week or several days.
  • Take breaks every 3 hours.
  • Don't rush yourself. 
  • Keep a shredder nearby for sensitive documents. 
  • Don't allow more paper to come in.  Urge people to send you digital copies of documents instead.  
So how does this affect greeting cards I receive? I scan them and now I can find them. They are all organized in a digital folder, instead of mixed among receipts and articles.

Resources:
ScanSnap  on Amazon offers 15% discount and comes with a business card reader.
Paperless Office a Podcast Recording.
Paperless Field Guide, an Ipad interactive book with over an hour of video instruction.


ScanSnap Demo

What kind of Greeting Cards do People Buy?

I  asked Meryl Hooker some questions about the retail scene and what artists should know about greeting card trends.

She has worked with many independent card designers as a greeting card sales rep, won several awards for her sales skills and has a special talent of pinpointing what people want. When I worked with her, she was often my top selling rep.

She is now the card and gift buyer at Pulp, a trendy store in Washington DC. (more bio below).



What do customers want these days?

One thing I see every day is that people still want, and actively seek out contemporary items that reflect who they are. We have a national drugstore chain one block away from the store and people could choose to get their cards there, but they come to Pulp instead. That says something to me about the quality of product and aesthetic our customer base is willing to pay for.

Going from a manufacturer's sales reps to a greeting card buyer at a store, my plot point has moved and I'm closer to the customer than I was. I am exposed to vast amounts of raw, uncensored data every day in terms of what customers want, think, and are willing to spend.




For the independent card designer, what do you think they should pay attention to? What should they stay away from?

My best advice for independent card designers is:

  • Build the strongest, most cohesive, sellable line you can. 
  • Create a strong collection of birthday, thank you, sympathy, wedding and baby cards. 
  • Blank cards still have legs provided the designs are strong. 
  • Learn how to run a business and understand it is, first and foremost, a business. 
  • Learn about the industry from both the creative and retail side. 
  • Ship on time. 
  • Be professional and easy to work with.
  • Stick with a traditional 5x7 size and stay away from square cards.


I recently interviewed six stores who sell handmade cards and they all said card sales have increased over the last 2 years What do you attribute this to?

People have an innate need to connect with other people. As sexy and convenient as social platforms are, ultimately, they lack human warmth. You can't send a text to the birthday boy at the party when you hand him the gift and even in our practically etiquetteless society, you still can't email your condolences.

At the end of the day, each of us wants to feel connected to other people and just the right card can express how we feel. No matter how tech savvy any of us is or becomes, we can't get away from that basic need.
The primary thing I've noticed is how much paper we still sell at Pulp. Cards have always been a key category and I'm really happy to say it continues to be true. I've seen so many independently owned stores move away from greeting cards as a major category in favor of gift items so I was pleasantly surprised to see that cards are still cranking at our registers.



As a buyer, what are the important things you look for, when selecting cards for the store?

I am primarily looking for a solid lines that will meet the needs of my customers in terms of purpose, price and design. Every card on my shelves must pass the "why would someone send this card?" test. The price has to be consistent with the type and quality of the card and, most importantly, the design has to fit in with the Pulp brand. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of card lines that I personally love but will not bring into the store because they aren't the right fit. Believe me, it's hard to turn so many brilliant companies away, but the business manager side of my job has the final say over the creative, artistic buying side.



MORE ABOUT MERYL

Meryl Hooker is an independent business development expert dedicated to helping locally owned businesses thrive in a big box world. She is an internationally recognized speaker, consultant and writer currently serving as the General Manager & Buyer at PULP in Washington, DC. In 2012, Meryl retired after nearly 15 years of serving as a Mid-Atlantic sales representative for greeting card and gift companies.

She was a partner at Center Aisle Group and co-authored a book for the greeting card industry  "Pushing the Envelope: the Small Greeting Card Manufacturer’s Guide to Working With Sales Reps" and"Showtime! The Greeting Card and Gift Company’s Guide to Trade Show Success".
 

A self-described sales nerd, Meryl takes great pride in the fact she’s seen the legendary rock band, KISS, 19 times – and counting—and openly credits KISS, Inc., as the model and inspiration for her business structure and success.

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