Interview with Greetings etc. Editor, Kathy Krassner

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!


Joan Beiriger said...

Great interview with lots of important info!!!!

Darlene said...

Kate - Great interview. Thanks for posting.

I've been reading "Greeting etc" magazine for a long time now - and it's a quality publication. Nice to learn more about Kathy. She provided us with some very useful information.