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.
For example, you may prefer to work with a rep that carries a limited amount of lines. Or perhaps you want a rep that is willing to exhibit at trade shows. It is rare that I acquired a rep that I considered a mistake, and if I did, we parted ways with no bad feelings. Some reps require contracts, but most do not, which makes it easy to move on if either of you feel it is not working out.
Here is a list of things you might want to ask a rep:
How many lines do you carry?
A rep might have twenty to one hundred lines. If a rep is carrying too many lines, your product may never get attention; but then again, if you are only one of ten greeting card lines they carry, that is a big advantage.
How many accounts (stores) do you have?
Every rep has a territory. A rural rep might have a larger territory with less stores, and an urban rep might only have one city, but more stores.
What kind of lines do you currently carry?
If your rep specializes in jewelry and you are the only card line they carry, this could be a bad match if she only visits jewelry stores. This rep will probably not make a special trip to a stationery store just to show your card line. On the other hand, if the rep only carries cards and all the lines are similar to yours, this, too, may be a bad match. Try to find a rep carrying lines that are complementary to yours.
Do you go to trade shows?
Some sales reps attend trade shows and set up booths to display their lines. You may have the opportunity to have your cards seen at the show. Reps may ask the artist/manufacturer to contribute $50 to $500 to help cover the exhibitor booth fees (depending on the square footage of the booth and how many lines are being displayed).
I have also had situations where reps did not charge me anything. They pay thousands of dollars for a booth with no guarantee their sales will even cover the costs; therefore, it’s a reasonable request for them to ask manufacturers for a couple hundred dollars to help out with costs. If you do not want to contribute to a booth, then your products may not be displayed at the show.
What territories do you serve?
This is probably the most important question to ask a rep. You should never overlap territories that would cause two reps to call on the same store.
How much is your average order?
If you have an estimate of how many orders a rep will generate, this helps you plan a monthly budget for income and expenses. It is also useful to evaluate how your line is doing, compared to what reps predicted.