7 Mistakes Card Writers Make

by Kate Harper
Today’s greeting card recipient may be a divorcee, a gay man, a working mom or even a recovering alcoholic. Card publishers are moving away from the traditional stereotypes of the happy family and are even including pets as honored companions.

Overly loving, lofty Mother's Day text is sometimes toned down because not everyone has that perfect relationship with their mother. Publishers are starting to look at how people really live. Next to sympathy cards you will find pet loss cards, next to wedding cards, you may find divorce cards.

Cards should express feelings that are normally difficult to communicate. They need to uplift someone, make them laugh or help them feel they can get through a difficult struggle. Finding authentic messages can be hard, but sometimes the best verse comes from the writer’s own experience. Good verse hits with a zing and makes the reader believe someone knows exactly how they feel. Customers want verse that is direct, short and honest.

See if you are accidentally making these mistakes:

1. Using Too Many Adjectives
Are you falling for the myth that, unlike book publishers, greeting card publishers really like adjectives? Eliminate all unnecessary adjectives from your verse. Adjectives slow the reader down. It makes them feel like they’ve just stumbled over a big, gray, hard, lengthy, endless, tiring rock.

2. Putting Too Much Syrup On
Are trying to emulate flowery feelings? It’s best to stick to feelings that you know. Otherwise, you come across as superficial and inauthentic. If you are a male writer, you might not want to specialize on verse about the joys of motherhood or the trauma of PMS.

3. Limiting the Market
Make sure you are not limiting your marketability. Consider the following Mother's Day verse: "A Mother's Kindness to her Son is Immeasurable. Happy Mother's Day." The verse has already limited the market to the 'son' being the buyer, the 'mother' being the recipient, and the 'time' of year the card is sold being only Mother's Day. But what if the verse was edited to read: "A Mother's Kindness is immeasurable."? Now the card can be sent from any person, to any mother, and not just the sender's mother, and it can be sent at anytime of year including Mother's Day, a mother's birthday or everyday "thinking of you."

4. Creating Cards for Enemies
One publisher told of a woman who had submitted verse on the topic of sexual harassment in the work place. She had messages such as: “Boss--don’t touch me again or you’ll go to jail!” and “Sexual harassment is a crime--Don’t do it again.” One has to ask who would ever buy this type of card? And on what occasion? If you were being sexually harassed by your boss, the last thing you’d probably do is go out and buy him a greeting card! Rather, the human resources department of your company should be your first visit. Another common mistake writers make is insulting people. Jokes about women and their weight, age, breasts or sex life may come across as tasteless and offensive. Remember, the main reason people buy greeting cards is to send them to friends, not enemies.

5. Forgetting a Card is a Relationship
A common problem writers have with card verse, is ignoring the fact that a card is a personal message between two individuals. Consider the following verse: “If you have anger in your heart, your will not find happiness.” Standing alone, this quote has an important message that is true, but what happens when you put this on a greeting card? What do the sender and receiver think? If you bought this card, who would you send it to? Someone who is angry? And if you were the recipient, you might feel that someone is trying to lecture you on how to avoid being a angry person.

6. Being Too Literary
Remember to write like you talk. Avoid being too poetic, using cliché's or going to great pains to be grammatically correct. Eliminate words like 'whom' or 'alas.' Avoid obscure technical terms or lengthy words. People just don't talk that way. Think about how you talk to your best friend. It's better to be casual than formal.

7. Haven't Read Guidelines
Most greeting card submissions are rejected for a very simple, avoidable reason: The writer did not read the guidelines. For example, some guidelines state that all card verse must be submitted on index cards and be under twenty words. If you submit a lengthy poem on a sheet of paper, this shows the publisher you have not taken the time to request and read the guidelines.

So then, what DO I write about?

So what is the best way to create greeting card verse? Imagine yourself sitting at the kitchen table across from you best frind. Ask: What kinds of things do we care about? What is crazy but funny about the world we live in today? Grocery store lines, day care, politics or jobs can all be strong topics to write about.

Research has shown that the text on a card is the most important factor customers consider when purchasing a card, the price and art are secondary.

Just like reaching across your kitchen table to hold a friend's hand, writing greeting card verse is the same. The only difference is that you are reaching across the world and touching complete strangers with your words.

Inspiration, love, hope, sympathy and gratitude expressed on cards, come from the heartfelt words of a writer, an important person in the greeting card business.


Books on Writing Card Sentiments ~

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.

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.

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.

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".

Thinking of You: A Card Greeting for Every Occasion This little books helps to jump start your thinking to make messages for cards.

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.

Ebook by Kate Harper

You can support this blog by ordering Kate's e-Booklets starting at only .99 cents! They can be read on your kindle, ipad, ipod, cellphone, or your computer. Free samples and lending options available. 

7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers is a booklet that explains what to avoid when submitting greeting card verse to publishers. Learn how to create a trendy card that reflects the contemporary world we live in, and how to use your own personal experience to create card verse. Topics include: how to avoid limiting your market, when to use adjectives, not creating card for enemies, write like people talk and a list of why card sentiment submissions are often rejected. You can increase your odds of success by 60% just by doing a few simple things. Includes a list of card publishers and their guidelines, links to writer interviews, and writing exercises for how to create good verse.


Notes from a Virtual Easel said...

Wow! Thank you! This is great.

Joanie said...

Your cards are lovely and whitty!

Check out my blog too please...I'm trying to get some exposure.

PrittieHartPress said...

Great advice, as usual, Kate...I have definitely made Mistake #3 and this quote from Mistake #2 above is priceless and something to remember:

"If you are a male writer, you might not want to specialize on verse about the joys of motherhood or the trauma of PMS."

Julie Wickert said...

Kate, I'm so thrilled to find your blog! I've been fantasizing lately about designing greeting cards - actually note cards. I figure that if I have trouble finding ones I love, other baby boomer women must, too! Thanks for sharing the useful information. - Julie

Anonymous said...

I love your cards, went to your website they are great!

Deb said...

This is a great post, Kate. You are truly an expert on verse writing - just wish I had your gift for short statements that say it all!

Kathy Krassner said...

Great advice, Kate! Of course, some card publishers provide the artwork first to writers, in which case the writer needs to come up with a clever or funny verse that works with the image.

WritersSecret said...

I found your blog through LinkedIn - glad I did!

Shakirah said...

Thank you--this is wonderful, even for those of us who buy blank ones and try to fill them in with our own sentiments--the text truly is the most imporant, and I don't trust my message to just anyone.

Anonymous said...

Your website is a treasure trove for beginning greeting card writers as well as experienced ones. Thanks a million!

Best, Suzan (Wiener)

Kate Harper said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments and feedback! Oddly enough I am not a writer, only someone who has bought a lot of writing!

helen blide said...

Dear Kate;

Love your site. I find it to be a most useful tool in the greeting card market.

Thanks for all the great tips!


Helen Blide

Kathy Peterson said...

Kate, I've just discovered your blog and I'm thrilled that you offer so much info on licensing. Thanks so much.
Kathy Peterson

Unknown said...

Hi Kate,
I'm a novelist and writing instructor by trade. I found your blog after being approached by a greeting card editor who saw an essay I wrote. As I try to learn this new writing niche I'll keep in mind your advice. Linda Clare
Linda Clare's Writer's Tips (www.GodSongGrace.blogspot.com)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate!
I'm brand new to the greeting card world!
I'm writing humour mostly but I am also wanting to find my way to writing heartfelt verse.
Your blog is fantastic, so resourceful! It's been a real motivator for me, and your work is fabulous!
I submitted my first ever piece of work about four weeks ago and have submitted six different pieces to different companies. Am I more likely to be successful applying to British companies as I am from the UK?
Thanks for sharing with us!

Donna Thomas