This is an excerpt from 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.
There are many benefits of starting small and getting your cards into stores before you look for a rep. If you rush to get a rep and then find out your card line has some problems, reps might tell other reps and then it can be hard to get a second rep. Even if you make dramatic changes in your line, you could still end up living in the shadow of outdated information circulating around about your cards.
I learned this after creating three lines. The first two flopped, and the third one succeeded. I am glad I did not try to expand my business early on because the reps would have experienced my failures with me. Then I would have been known as “the artist who has a crummy line”! However, because I waited until I had a good line before I expanded my business, my reps did not experience my first two flops!
On the other end of the spectrum, nothing travels faster than good news. If your line sells well, reps will start contacting you out of nowhere. When I got an account with a national bookstore chain, I had a dozen reps call me, asking if they could carry my line. I did not know any of these people, but they were aware of me because they saw my cards appear on the store shelves. They also told other reps about my line, who worked in adjacent territories.
Besides your cards, she might carry dozens of other card lines by different artists, along gift products such as mugs, candles, magnets, or calendars. The store buyer selects items to purchase, the rep writes up order on the spot, and then sends the order to the artist (usually by U.S. mail, fax, or email). When the artist receives the order, he or she is responsible for shipping the cards to the store and collecting the payment. The store then pays the artist, and the artist pays the rep.
If a rep brings ten different lines into a meeting, and each line has one hundred card styles, a buyer could easily see one thousand cards in a single meeting. However, the rep does not want to overwhelm the buyer with too many products, so she may limit the number of items viewed in one meeting. She might bring Valentine’s cards one time and show new releases a few months later.
Other things reps do are: keep sales records, travel long distances, carries heavy boxes of products, and straighten display racks. A good rep builds relationships, is reliable, is aware of community issues and possesses a congenial personality. She is also extremely skilled at finding parking places!
An artist rarely sees all these qualities from a distance, yet they are vital skills that help designers grow a successful business.
There is no comparable advertising investment, online site, mobile technology, tradeshow or marketing strategy that can do what reps do.
It is nearly impossible to perform all of these functions without physically being in a store. Luckily, there are thousands of greeting card reps throughout the United States.
Independent Reps versus In-house RepsAnother type of rep is called an “in-house” rep. In-house reps are usually full-time salaried employees who work for primarily for one greeting card company. They do not generally carry lines by independent artists. I am only discussing “independent reps”, and not in-house reps, but it helps to know about them just in case you hear the term and want to learn more about the card industry.
Larger publishers might have both types of reps. In fact, sometimes an indie artist and large publisher might have the same rep because the larger company cannot afford a full time sales person for a specific territory. Without knowing it, this rep becomes a great equalizer between large companies and indie artists. You can actually have the same opportunity to get your products into the marketplace, as a seasoned publisher does since the rep is carrying both lines.