Meet the Master of Greeting Card Writing


While I was on Linkedin, I met Karen Moore, the author of You Can Write Greeting Cards. Karen has an extensive background in card writing, including 8 years writing for American Greetings. I asked her to do an interview for this blog.

One important lesson I got out of this interview is how one little thing, like a phone call, can impact your writing career. It doesn't take much to open a door for yourself.

QUESTION: You have a long history in the gift industry. Can you give us a brief description of your journey into this profession and why you were drawn towards it?

KAREN: I have a Master’s in Education and was teaching 5th through 8th grades Reading and English. Every summer, I would be laid off and then brought back a day or two before school started. The third year that happened, I decided to see what else I might be able to do and settled down with the yellow pages in Cleveland, Ohio.

Turning randomly to the greeting card manufacturers, I’d never considered that option until seeing the phone number for American Greetings. I decided to call and find out what might be needed to be a writer there since I had been writing poems and stories all my life.
That phone call miraculously opened the door to my whole new life.
I spent almost eight years at American Greetings, being tutored by some of the best in the industry, learning everything from how to handle licensed properties to writing calendars. I went from there to other positions at Gibson Greetings, Current, Inc., DaySpring and a variety of freelance contracts.

QUESTION: Your book covers about every question I can think of on the topic of card writing, but for people who haven't read your book, give me a list of things a new card writer should do, to increase their odds of getting their work published.

KAREN: It’s always important to know two things: 1. What ways the market is responding to new trends and 2. What each company considers to be their bread & butter lines.

If you can tap into either of those areas, your chances improve of getting on board with them as a freelancer and potentially a contract writer.

Doing your homework and showing them you know something about their consumers or showing them that you’re on top of a trend they are interested in can pay the dividends.

QUESTION: While a writer can follow all the guidelines perfectly, what is the best way to make our work stand out among all the other submissions?

KAREN: Of course, these days, not all companies are open to freelance, so for those that are, I recommend going the distance on your initial submissions so they know you’re a serious contender. That means offering ideas for a specific audience, let’s say novelty cards for kids, or birthday cards for teens. Go after something that isn’t easily answered by the publisher, but something they will love if you do it right, and you’ll increase your chances to become part of their stable of writers.

Also, be sure to take any follow-up suggestions they might have for you and do them carefully. If they open the door a little bit, it’s up to you to keep the relationship going. They have a lot of people vying for attention and those people are directly competing with you.

QUESTION: What topics and subject matter do you think are going to be more popular down the road?

KAREN: I’m not particularly clairvoyant about what topics might meet the future most directly, but I always recommend that writers read the current greeting card racks and try to discover what is missing, where the needs are that aren’t addressed adequately. If there’s bigger emphasis culturally on things like job loss, reinventing yourself, facing an uncertain future, or finding ways to laugh at any of those things, then it’s worth developing ideas for that market segment.

I also suggest that writers go to bookstores and see what the best sellers are in terms of topics. Those interests are the same ones that can translate well into new greeting card line opportunities.

QUESTION: For you personally, what it is like to be a writer in the gift industry? Do you have a story that might be inspiring to others?

KAREN: First of all, I love the greeting card industry. For me, it is a kind of ministry that works to connect people at every significant moment of life.
It also works to simply say that you’re important to me that you exist and that we can share this one moment in the day and offer each other a hand or a smile.
In my early years, I loved working with Tom Wilson and getting to create new ideas around Ziggy and the Care Bears lines and Strawberry Shortcake. Later, I got to work with Mike Peters, Jim Davis, and the Kersten Brothers and I learned to appreciate those genius’ cartoonists of the industry.

As I evolved into a more inspirational writer, I enjoyed writing whole greeting card lines for Chicken Soup for the Soul and Hugs and Women of Faith. All of these opportunities enriched my experience.

Finally, consulting here in Costa Rica with a cute bumblebee character called Pechi and helping him find his wings has brought more color and texture to my writing life. It’s been a gift to me to keep finding new opportunities to grow in this business and now mentoring others, makes me feel like I can give back part of the gift that was given me along the way.

QUESTION: What are some things a writer can do today, to get started in a career of card writing? KAREN: Many things can be done and no one has a handle on what exactly will get you in the door, but these are some things to keep in mind.

1-Once you’ve done the homework and created ideas, you need to make sure those ideas are the best you can possibly make them. You have to believe in them because if you don’t, it’s tough to convince others to believe.

2-Secondly, you have to be willing to learn from the feedback you receive, refine your work and persist in your effort.

3-You have to find your voice. What you have to say is important and no one else can say it more effectively than you can as long as you’re authentic. Yes, you’ll find yourself listening and writing for other voices too if you work with licensed properties, but for your work to make a difference, it needs to have your signature.
Not everyone has your gift for words. Be confident and the world will receive you.

Website: www.karen-ann-moore.com

Favorites Trade Shows: New York Stationery Show, Book Expo America

Side job ideas for writers: Write articles, blogs, newsletters, anything that keeps you researching a bit and current with the market

Favorite Quote: It never serves the world if we hide our gifts under a bushel.


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.


Leila said...

Very interesting insight to the greetings card business. I have started making my own greetings cards and am trying to find more about the industry

Asha R Singh said...

I want to design and sell greeting cards, inspirational bookmarks and framed inspirational posters. I also write the lines for the greeting cards, bookmarks and posters. In addition, I write poems and stories and teach English as Karen used to do.

So far I have designed my work on Microsoft Office Publisher and am about to get the Adobe software - Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver. I am scared but I know I have a talent and am trying to find out more about the industry. The insights shared, takes my dream and talent to another stage, in terms of the facts i.e. market research, viability and success of ideas and designs and also job possibilities in the industry. Coming up against the Heavy Hitters like Hallmark, American Greeting Cards, Shoebox, etc is daunting. But I am hoping there is a market for 'small potatoes' who are talented - the tip of researching the market and companies is invaluable and sometimes ignored by creators/designers. Thank you very much.