I recently discovered the book Mary Engelbreit: The Art And The Artist, that was first published in 1996. It is about her path into art licensing and greeting card design. She is now a successful licensor, her career spans over decades, and she was awarded "best art license of the year" by LIMA.
Mary's book is one of the more encouraging and practical books I've read in awhile. She confirmed my inherent belief that if someone tries to impose rules and prerequisites on entering this career, someone else will come along, break all the rules, and become successful. Here are some things I learned from reading her book:
1. Don't believe everything you hear.
While I'd seen her cards over the years and admired her work, after reading her book I realized I had been completely misinformed about her personal journey. I'd heard that she first got into greeting card design because she had extensive financial resources to experiment with. Boy was that wrong! In fact, it was quite the opposite.
2. Rock stars are people too. Mary did not have resources for college, she didn't attend art school, and her husband worked as a social worker, all the while she struggled with the financial risks of trying to be an artist. In a lot of ways, she was no different than most people. She couldn't take expensive business risks. She doubted herself. She was even discouraged from being an artist by high school teachers. And she did not have thousands of dollars to lay down for a print run, just to see if something would sell.
3. Create your own show
Some stories she shared were painful, like when she bought a booth at the New York Stationery show and only had 12 cards to display. She was mortified to see all the other vendors, who had hundreds of cards. She also toted her portfolio all around New York only to be rejected by everyone she met. Other stories were heartwarming, like the day she felt sad because couldn't go to art school and have a "real" art show, so she decided on a whim to just to make her own art show happen at her job, in a retail store. All her work sold out. 4. Forgive yourself for mistakes
She had many hard knocks. She got into a bad business partnership, lost some of her art, and had emotional challenges of deciding whether being an artist was realistic.
5. You don't need to go to art school.
It was amazing for me to learn that she doesn't know how to paint, and she learned to draw simply by recopying old children's books and using colored pencils and markers. Later she developed her own imaginary characters. This made me wonder if the reason she became one of the top illustrators in the country, is because she "didn't" go to art school.
6. Draw what you like, not what you think will sell.
She emphasized how incredibly important it is for her to draw things she likes. Only later will she think about adapting the drawing to a product. She said if she instead tried to develop a design based around a product as the starting point, it was always a failure. Instead, she decided to hire other people to adapt her drawings to products, and she focused on drawing what she really loved, often things in her daily life.
7. Make new rules.
She breaks rules I'd come to accept as gospel from the licensing world. In fact, what I learned is that while it's important to trust your heart, you also need to trust your own intelligence. There are people who may try to impose their own rules on you about the "way things are" in the market place, with stores, with agents, with manufacturers, with your credentials, with demands, etc. But Mary made her own rules, not out of protest, but out of a gentle kindness towards herself.
Greeting Card Business ebooks.
You can support this blog by ordering Kate's eBooks starting at only .99 cents!
They can be read on your kindle, ipad, ipod, cellphone, or your computer.
Unusual Ways to Market Your Greeting Cards and 22 Places to Get Your Designs FeaturedA booklet on how to get your cards noticed in non-traditional ways. Everything from why you should send cards to your dentist, to how to get special features in national publications. Great tips for designers who are starting out and want to get their cards into the hands of people beyond friends and family. Special Section: Submissions guidelines and contacts for 22 Gift Industry publications and professional gift industry blogs that seek out new greeting card designs to feature for free.
7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make Booklet on common mistakes greeting card writers make and what to avoid when submitting greeting card verse to publishers. Today, greeting card publishers are shying away from traditional stereotypes, and may even include pets as family members. This article talks about how to create a trendy card that reflects the contemporary world we live in, and how to use our own personal experiences to create great card verse. Topics include: how to avoid limiting the market of who could buy your card, when to use adjectives, how not to creating card for enemies, how to write like people talk and a list of why card sentiment submissions are often rejected. The good news is you can increase your odds of success by 60% by doing a few simple things.
20 Steps to Art Licensing: How to Sell Your Designs to Card and Gift Companies A booklet on how to license your art to companies that publish greeting cards, and manufacture coffee mugs, magnets, wall hangings, kitchen items, and dozens of other gift items. This booklet covers 20 basic steps from how to prepare your art, to what companies to contact. It includes topics on: How to find agents, classes and what trade shows to attend. There are extensive resources on social media, licensing community groups, copyrights, and lists of interviews with professional designers.
Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps If you already make your own greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them sell nationwide. Included are guidelines on: how to price your cards for a profit, how to get professional feedback, where to find a sales representative and and what industry standards you should follow. All the information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals, calendars, collectibles, etc. Chapter topics: Getting Professional Feedback, Getting Your First Account, Pricing and Profits, Sales Reps 101, Where to Find Reps, Rep Readiness Checklist, Pitching Your Line to a Rep and Working With Reps.
Greeting Card Class
You can also sign up for the class called 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.
Kathy Krassner, former editor-in-chief at Greetings etc. magazine, a greeting card trade publication for retailers. It is the primary source for news and trends in the greeting card industry.
Years ago, when I first started my greeting card manufacturing business, I had no marketing budget, so I took a chance and mailed Greetings etc. samples of my cards. I had no expectations much would come from it, since I was such a small time operator, so imagine my surprise and delight to discover they had featured my line in their publication. But it wasn't only me. They often feature new or unknown card designers. Because of this, I've always admired the spirit of Greetings etc. magazine because they include "everyone" in the industry.
Recently I approached Kathy Krassner to do an interview for this blog. She was very generous to take time out of her day to answer several questions I had about her experiences in the card industry.
CONTACT INFO: Kathy Krassner, editor-in-chief, Greetings etc. magazine, 4 Sheridan Lane, Ringoes, NJ 08551 908-284-0884 WEBSITE:www.greetingsmagazine.com TWITTER:http://twitter.com/greetingsetc HOBBIES: I enjoy good food, red wine, Broadway shows, museums, rock music and the Sunday N.Y. Times crossword puzzle. PERSONAL LIFE: I live with my husband, Bob Wolfman, two teenaged children, and four cats in Ringoes, NJ. EDUCATION:I have a journalism degree from Hofstra University on Long Island, which is where I'm from originally. VOLUNTEER WORK: I’m on the board of Gift for Life, the industry's volunteer organization supporting DIFFA -- Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. FAVORITE WRITER'S VACATION: Algarve region in southern Portugal. Seafood, wine, the beach ... what more could you ask for?
How did you become the editor of Greetings etc. Magazine? I helped to launch Greetings etc. magazine in May 1999. At the time, I was on a committee with several members of the Greeting Card Association whose mission was to find a publisher who could produce a trade magazine that would reflect the artistry and creativity of the dynamic greeting card and stationery industry. I had a friend who worked at Edgell Communications, which presented a proposal and ultimately was chosen as the publisher of this successful, now 10-year-old publication. Previously, I had worked as an editor on several leading trade magazines covering the gift industry.
I've always been impressed that Greetings etc. is willing to feature small independent artists. How do you decide what cards to feature in your publications? I have always been an advocate for the small, independent card publisher. It's great to find new resources, and I'm happy to be in a position in which I can help companies with quality lines that are just starting out. I do make sure that, before I give a new company editorial coverage, I inspect the quality of their paper stock and printing (I won’t include people printing cards on home computers). I also make sure that they’re currently selling to retailers nationwide, and not just to consumers via their own websites. It's not helpful to the card publisher or to the retailer if a line is not quite ready to launch.
What resources do you rely on to keep your eyes on trends? I attend as many trade shows as possible, and of course always the National Stationery Show in May in New York City, to find trends and new resources. I also receive many press releases from companies regarding their new products. Additionally, I subscribe to more consumer magazines than many doctors' offices, and I check various design-oriented websites, in order to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening trendwise in fashion, home accessories, consumer-buying habits, etc. -- all of which translates into trends in the stationery arena.
As independent artists, what themes should we be concentrating on, if we want to get "ahead of the game"? I believe the "green" theme is here to stay, including printing on recycled papers, using wind-power credits, and being eco-conscious both in how products are manufactured and how companies do business. Technology will also continue to propel card sales; e.g., sound cards have been a success for Hallmark; and LED-lighted cards are also gaining popularity (they’ve been quite popular in the U.K. for a while).
Do you have a story about an artist you featured, who later thanked you for helping them "make it"? I don’t have a particular story to recount, but I have been thanked by many people whose products have been featured in Greetings etc. It's definitely gratifying to help new companies, as I mentioned, but it goes both ways: running good products in our magazine and online makes Greetings etc. a better resource for retailers. What's the biggest mistake you think card designers make? There are probably several: Not having a distinct look, not launching a line with enough designs, and not doing their homework to find reps who can sell their line nationwide.
What's the biggest mistake you think card text writers make? Having written many card verses for various publishers over the years myself, it’s hard to say. Some cards work well with just a simple "Happy Birthday" greeting; while others need that unexpected twist or humorous message to play off the card’s image. It is said that the card's design helps the consumer to pick up a card, but it’s the verse that seals the sale.
What has been one of your most popular articles with readers? The article I probably received the most response about was actually an editorial page I wrote about spelling the word “stationery” correctly; this is such a pet peeve in our industry! Many people wrote to thank me for that column; others wrote to apologize for having sent me letters and e-mails with the misspelling.
What do you think stores want these days, that there isn't enough of? Well-priced, well-designed items.
Between ecards, consolidation of card companies, loss of younger customers and some retail stores closing, if I was an artist just starting out today, what would you recommend I focus on? There’s always room in this industry for new talent. Again, be sure you have a distinct look, a wide range of card designs (at least 40 is usually the recommended number), and a day job to support your new card company. I would also suggest testing the waters with local retailers to see if you have a product line that will sell, before launching nationwide.
What do you think the biggest seller might be down the road? Birthday, humor, pets, giftwrap, characters? You’ll have to read my 2010 Trends article in our next January/February issue!
How does someone submit cards to Greetings etc. for review? We ask for hi-res jpgs (at least 3 inches big and 300 dpi), along with product details and retail pricing. A clickable "product-submission" link can be found at the bottom of our website, www.greetingsmagazine.com. If you’re a brand new company, a few actual samples of the cards should be sent to me at the editorial address, which can also be found on Greetings etc.’s website.
A big *thanks* to Kathy for her time, tips and support of independent artists!
I am a designer who lives in Berkeley California and have worked in the greeting card and gift industry for over 20 years.
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Greeting Card Business Books
Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps (Updated 2017) 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.
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.
Greeting Card Design and Illustration 12 step-by-step demonstrations show how to create successful greeting cards Samples of 130 actual greeting cards Twelve step-by-step demonstrations by professional greeting card artists show you how to combine basic illustration techniques with the eight most popular mediums. This art technique book is a comprehensive and practical guide to all aspects of designing and creating professional greeting cards.Samples of 130 actual greeting cards.leads you through every stage of the design process.
Painting Greeting Cards for Fun and Profit The author and a group of other successful greeting card artists offer friendly and practical business advice on all aspects of producing, publishing, pricing, packaging and marketing greeting cards
By the Batch Innovative new ideas for creating fabulous cards (and envelopes, tags, and bookmarks) in batches, with impressive results. The wide range of techniques presented includes everything from the tried and true (rubber stamping) to the unexpected (polymer clay), from the spontaneous (smudge-and-smear) to the whimsical (shaped cards). And author Judi Kauffman shows precisely how to put pedal to the metal and create whole batches of cards in just one sitting.
Kate's Note: See my book review
here with photos and information.
Mary Engelbreit: The Art and the Artist This book is about her path into art licensing and greeting card design. She is now a successful licensor, her career spans over decades, and she was awarded "best art license of the year" by LIMA.
Kate’s Note: See my
book review on "7 things I learned from Mary". This book is one of the more encouraging and practical books I've read in awhile. She confirmed my inherent belief that if someone tries to impose rules and prerequisites on entering this career, someone else will come along, break all the rules, and become successful.
License to Draw is a fresh new perspective on monetizing your creative pursuits, reflecting changes in the market and more ways to make money with your art. Successful artist and writer Ronnie Walter has has written a detailed handbook that includes how to figure out what kind of artist you are, how to develop the right presentation for the right clients and an in-depth look at the essentials of a good contract. Written in a friendly and readable style, you'll find inspiration, motivation and a step by step explanation of how to dive into art licensing.
20 Steps to Art Licensing: How to Sell Your Designs to Card and Gift Companies
A booklet on how to license your art to companies that publish greeting
cards, and manufacture coffee mugs, magnets, wall hangings, kitchen
items, and dozens of other gift items. This booklet covers 20 basic
steps from how to prepare your art, to what companies to contact. It
includes topics on: How to find agents, classes and what trade shows to
attend. There are extensive resources on social media, licensing
community groups, copyrights, and lists of interviews with professional
Licensing Art 101, Publishing and Licensing Your Artwork for ProfitThis
comprehensive handbook guides readers step-by-step through the
licensing and publishing industry. It contains a wealth of ideas and
practical examples of how to increase income through licensing
reproduction rights to manufacturers and publishers of greeting cards,
posters, calendars, and more. This book provides assistance from an
expert, allowing readers to educate themselves and gain a competitive
edge. Readers learn about: negotiating fees, exhibiting in trade shows,
protecting their rights, and more. Over three hundred professional
contacts are listed.
You Can Write Greeting Cards This
hands-on guide features practical instruction and exercises that teach
beginners how to survey the market, find their niche, and write
greetings cards that say just the right thing.
Kate's Note: See my interview with the author here.
7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers
Booklet on common mistakes greeting card writers make and what to avoid
when submitting greeting card verse to publishers. Today, greeting card
publishers are shying away from traditional stereotypes, and may even
include pets as family members. This article talks about how to create a
trendy card that reflects the contemporary world we live in, and how to
use our own personal experiences to create great card verse. Topics
include: how to avoid limiting the market of who could buy your card,
when to use adjectives, how not to creating card for enemies, how to
write like people talk and a list of why card sentiment submissions are
often rejected. The good news is you can increase your odds of success
by 60% by doing a few simple things.
BONUS: Includes a list of card publishers and their guidelines, links to
writer interviews, and exercises for creating good verse.
The Freelance Writing for Greeting Card Companies
This book targets important areas a writer needs to know in regards to
being self-employed, as well as, how to own a small greeting card
business. It covers Internet to explore the technology which has opened
the door for freelance writers and artists. You will find web sites that
will offer a variety of freelance writers opportunities never before
known or unreachable outside the Internet world such as: chat rooms,
bulletin boards, or forums so writers can communicate with other
writers. This type of networking is ideal for finding answers or
obtaining valuable information about a company, organizations, writing
groups, and available resources.
How to Write and Sell Greeting Cards, Bumper Stickers, T-Shirts and Other Fun Stuff A successful freelancer shares her years of experience and advice in writing for the "social expression market".
Finding the Right Words: Perfect Phrases to Personalize Your Greeting Cards More than three dozen ways to say "Happy Birthday” for new family members...even pets. Includes thoughtful condolences for personalizing sympathy cards and congratulatory wishes for weddings and anniversaries. There are helpful hints to simplify card-sending and a monthly calendar for birthdays and anniversaries. This is a book of phrases for all occasions.
Write Greeting Cards Like a Pro Moore knows the ins and outs of the greeting card business. In this hands-on guide, she offers practical instruction, idea joggers, and exercises that will teach you how to survey the market, find your niche, and write greeting cards that say just the right thing. From humor to inspirational writing, Moore profiles the special needs of each greeting card category and also shows you how to spot new trends, so you can write the cards
publishers are seeking today.
A Guide to Greeting Card Writing All forms are discussed in detail: conventional verse and prose, personal relationship cards, humor, juvenile, inspirational, etc. Detailed info on how to submit and sell your work to greeting card markets. All the nuts and bolts of both the creative art and the publishing market.
Handmade Greetings This book is a showcase of 1000 contemporary hand-designed greeting cards, with examples that feature a wide array of paper craft techniques, including: paper cutting, paper stencils, stamping, punching, stitchery, monoprints, screenprints, paper piecing, and more.
Kate's note: See images and my review of this book here.
The Complete Photo Guide to Cardmaking This book includes step-by-step photographed instructions for a wide range of techniques, as well as projects to accompany each area of card making. All paper-crafting techniques that can be employed for card making are thoroughly covered, including a comprehensive description of paper types available, folding options and techniques, coloring and image transfer methods, and adding embellishments. Inside, you'll also find methods for using a computer to design and print cards. More than 80 projects give you lots of ideas and inspiration to create cards of your own, using the techniques you've learned. Unique envelope templates and a helpful source list are included.
The Encyclopedia of Greeting Card Tools and Techniques Featuring hundreds of handmade cards from leading artists, plus step-by-step photographs of key skills.Sidebars on today's most creative card makers showcase their areas of expertise, from Dee Gruenig's rubber-stamp designs to Alli Bartkowski's quilling.
Start with a Scan A guide on how to transform raw, scanned images into attractive, finished illustrations. Filled with hundreds of illustrations, it starts by covering the technical basics of scanning, and provides the information needed to get images out of the computer and onto the printed page. The rest of the book shows how to scan almost anything (burlap, clip art, family photographs, found objects) to create a quality piece of artwork. Learn how to create textures and backgrounds, transform photos into graphics, and work with type. Two chapters discuss scanning images for the Web and using scanned images in arts and crafts projects. Book is a resource for scanner users who want to focus on illustrative techniques rather than technical issues.
Creative Lettering: Techniques and Tips from Top Artists Sixteen calligraphers, painters, collagists, card makers, fiber artists, and graphic designers—give their personal perspectives on lettering. They all offer their favorite tools, how they use them, their signature technique with step-by-step instructions and photos, and an alphabet sampler of their own font.
Uncommon Cards: Stationery Made with Found Treasures, Recycled Objects, and a Little Imagination This DIY guide contains eight sheets of cardstock and basic stitch patterns that can be completed with nothing more than a needle and thread, either by hand or machine, transforming a blank card into a whimsical, inspired, one-of-a-kind design. The perfect expression for birthdays, graduations, or a simple thinking- of-you note, each design incorporates inexpensive and easy to find household items such as strips of fabric, brightly colored plastics, handmade stamps, and more.
Clean and Simple Cards: Celebrate the Basics of Design Theory More than 45 card designs are provided, with full instructions and close-ups that display card details, and the book includes source lists for recommended supplies to replicate the designs at home. The uncomplicated projects make the book suitable for beginners, and more advanced crafters will appreciate the outline of design theory that enriches their existing card-making experience. The basic tools and techniques of card creation are also covered, from stamping to hand-coloring.
Unusual Ways to Market Your Greeting Cards and 22 Places to Get Your Designs Featured A
booklet on how to get your cards noticed in non-traditional ways.
Everything from why you should send cards to your dentist, to how to get
special features in national publications. Great tips for designers who
are starting out and want to get their cards into the hands of people
beyond friends and family. Special Section: Submissions guidelines and
contacts for 22 Gift Industry publications and professional gift
industry blogs that seek out new greeting card designs to feature for
Selling Art Online The Creative Guide to Turning Your Artistic Work into Cash Selling Art Online shows you several ways you can take your art, and be a creative entrepreneur. For an illustrator, artist, designer, photographer or any variety of visual creator. It gives you tools to do more with the work you have, providing you new opportunity for more revenue and exposure.
Straight Advice: How to Market Art Online Now Barney Davey has 30 years of experience helping artists get their work to market. Topics include: How to Market Art Online, Marketing Art Online, Understanding The Value of a, Customer Persona, Websites for Artists, E-Commerce, Domain, Names, Email Marketing for Artists, Marketing Automation, Blogging and Social Media.
The Essential Guide to Business for Artists and Designers This book is for artists, makers, designers, and photographers looking to set up and establish an arts practice or design business.Topics include: Building networks and successful negotiation tactics, Promoting an engaging social media presence, Business planning and money management, Overview of legal, tax and intellectual property issues, Setting up a website and trading online, Exploiting innovation and future trends.
Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don't teach you in design school, but should. Michael Janda, owner of the Utah-based design firm Riser, uses humor to dispense nugget after nugget of hard-won advice collected over the last decade from the personal successes and failures he has faced running his own agency. In this surprisingly funny, but incredibly practical advice guide, Janda's advice on teamwork and collaboration, relationship building, managing clients, bidding work, production processes, and more will resonate with creative professionals of all stripes.
Artist's Graphic Designer's Market For people who want to expand a career in fine art, illustration, or design. The Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market a reference guide to help develop their careers and navigate the changing business landscape. It introduces a whole host of new features and guarantees the most up-to-date, individually verified market contacts possible.
Etsy Excellence: The Simple Guide to Creating a Thriving Etsy Business In this book, top Etsy sellers share the tools that have helped them, the changes they made o get better results, and their advice for achieving and sustaining a successful Etsy shop. Topics include: Photograph your products for maximum appeal, Create a unique Etsy shop that stands out, Write winning product descriptions, Price your goods appropriately, Market your products effectively on social media platforms, Maintain lasting relationships with your Etsy customers, Diversify your Etsy product offerings.
The Copyright Zone: A Legal Guide For Photographers and Artists In The Digital Age
If you license or publish images, this guide is as indispensable as your camera. It provides specific information on the legal rights of photographers, illustrators, artists, covering intellectual property, copyright, and business concerns in an easy-to-read, accessible manner. The Copyright Zone, Second Edition covers: what is and isn’t copyrightable, copyright registration, fair use, model releases, contracts and invoices, pricing and negotiation, and much more.
Legal Guide for the Visual Artist
This book provides legal guidance for any visual artist involved with
creative work. Topics covered: developments in copyright, artists in
artist-gallery relationships, First Amendment protections for graffiti
art and the sale of art in public spaces, cases dealing with art and
privacy, model contract for Web site design. The book also covers
copyrights, moral rights, contracts, licensing, sales, special risks and
protections for art and artists, book publishing, video and multimedia
works, leases, taxation, estate planning, museums, collecting, grants,
and how to find the best professional advisers and attorneys. In
addition, the book teaches strategies for negotiation, gives information
to help with further action, contains many sample legal forms and
contracts, and shows how to locate artists' groups and Volunteer Lawyers
for the Arts organizations.