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.
Every rep is different, but I have found these things to be common with almost every rep I've worked with.
1-The rep does not pay for the artist’s card sample deck.
2-Reps expect all cards in the sample deck to have a code, either preprinted or hand written on the card, that is unique for each design. So, for example, if you have a card line of 50 different kinds of flower images, the artist needs to assign a code to each one, so when the rep writes up an order, they know #45 means the red rose card.
3-The artist is primarily responsible for the cost of all promotional materials, such as brochures, catalogs, and store signs.
4-The most important thing you can do in your relationship with reps is to pay them on time.
5-Normally, the artist pays the sales rep once a month for all the prior months’ orders, independent of whether or not the stores has first paid the artist. This is referred to as “paying reps by ship date.” Some artists pay reps after being paid by stores, but I believe reps sell more, and are happier with artists who pay by ship date.
6-Reps sell cards in dozens and half dozens. A typical beginning order for an artist might be 12 dozen cards of 12 different card designs, or 144 cards.
7-Independent artists usually pay the rep a 20% commission on the wholesale price the cards. Therefore, if you receive an order for $200 wholesale (the price you sell it to the store for), the rep’s commission is $40. Some reps might accept 15%, but that is usually for larger companies that have high sales.
8-Reps expect the artist to discontinue slow selling cards and replace them with new designs. A good plan is to add new designs 3-4 times a year: January, May and August, and seasonal items approximately 6 months ahead of the holiday.
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.
Before contacting a rep to ask them to carry your line, try to find out what they require before taking on a new artist. Some reps expect an artist to have several accounts. Other reps will take on your line if another rep recommends it. And yet other reps might carry card lines limited to a specific style or subject matter such as handmade, religious, or humorous themes.
When you are ready to pitch your line to a rep, here are some guidelines that might increase your chances of making a good impression.
Are They are Looking at New Lines?
When you first contact a rep by phone or email, it is always polite to start the conversation by asking, “are you looking at new lines?” rather than “will you look at my line?” This takes pressure off them and shows that you are sensitive to their current needs.
If they are not looking at new lines, you might ask if there is a certain time of year they like to see new lines. If there is, make a note of it and contact them later.
Reps will often answer, “I’m not looking at new lines, but what kind of line do you have?”
This is the point where you need to have a short, clear description of your card line. This description might include your art style (collage?), message (humor?) or overall theme (pets).
Here are some examples of how to describe a card line in a few sentences:
“I have a letterpress line of retro images with unusual mechanical tools and housewares. I mix these with contemporary sentiments. This line does well in kitchen supply stores.”
“ My cards have cartoon art with women saying snarky things about their romantic life. These are especially hot sellers on Valentine’s Day”
“I have a humor line, based on what pets say about humans. My best sellers are cat birthday cards.”
The only way to get a sales rep to pick up your line is to show them your cards. This can be done by mailing cards, by sending digital images through email, or by sending a rep to your website. I believe the best way to get a rep, is to show reps cards they can touch and hold.
Ask Before Sending Samples
Reps often discourage artists from sending unsolicited card samples in the mail. They usually have an office full of greeting cards and do not want more cluttering up their workspace. Nor do they want the burden or cost returning them to you. Always ask the sales rep ahead of time if it is OK to send samples.
Physical Samples vs. Virtual Samples
If a rep is looking at new card lines and is willing to look at yours, try to encourage them to let you send physical samples in the mail instead of brochures or website links. There are two advantages to this:
-If a rep has samples of your cards in her office, she will be reminded of your line.
-A rep can grab your samples on her way out the door if she spontaneously decides to take them to a sales meeting.
Sending Card Images through Email
If the rep still does not want samples mailed to them, but is willing to look at digital images, send images in your email (in addition to a website link). Email images are better than website images because:
-When you send email, a rep will probably open it an read it, whereas nothing guarantees they will visit your website.
-In an email, you can choose what images they will see first. On a website, you don’t know where they will go. So, for example, if you want to feature your top dozen sellers, you can put them all in your email so it doesn’t require them to navigate through several webpages to find these cards.
-You can put cards in specific order in an email (by top sellers, seasonal, themes, etc,).
-It is easy for a rep to scroll through the email faster than it is to look at a website, where pages have to be clicked.
-By sending several separate card images in an email (which is different than putting them all on an 8.5-by-11 inch page), reps can print out the ones they like and toss out the rest. This will save them ink and digital storage space.
-If possible, scan the cards instead of photographing them. Then you won’t have lighting issues or blurred text.
-Avoid sending PDFs. Theses are hard to preview in an email because they have to be downloaded an opened. Also, some people do not have the correct software to open them.
-Avoid sending your images inside of a digital “folder.” Instead, embed the images directly into your email message, so when the rep opens the email, the cards are sitting under your text. You can also write comments above or below a card, such as “Here are my twelve top sellers” and “Here are my birthday cards.”
-Try to keep your email file size under 1 to 2 MG total. It is better to send twenty images at low resolution than ten at high resolution.
-A good rule of thumb is to send files that are 72 dpi and 500 pixels wide. This way, if the rep wants to print images out, they are large enough to look like a greeting card and they also a small digital file that can be easily stored.
-When preparing your digital images, use the SAVE FOR WEB & DEVICES function in Photoshop instead of the SAVE AS option under the file menu. This will make the file smaller.
All of these digital tips above are suggestions for making a good impression when you first contact a rep who does not know you. If you follow these guidelines, I believe it will increase the odds that 1) your designs will be seen 2) you will get a response and 3) ideally the rep will pick up your line.
If a rep gives you permission to mail cards, here are some helpful tips for preparing them:
-Put reference codes on the back of each card, such as “# 32.” You can decide on the code.
-Include a price sheet. Clearly specify your wholesale price and retail price for dozens and half dozens.
-Include a catalog or brochure of your card line. This could be something as simple as a brochure created on your home office printer.
-Include information about your business such as stores you currently sell to, your experience or skills.