The Paper Products Market is a multi-billion dollar industry and covers everything from calendars and greeting cards, to napkins, paper plates, stationary, frames, gift wrap and posters.
In this article I am going to focus on the two biggest sectors and talk about how to sell to these markets. Writers, photographers and artists can all sell to the greeting card market. The calendar market is more suited to photographers and illustrators, though in recent years I’ve seen a few desk top calendars that utilize poetry and inspirational messages with NO illustrations or photos.
You only have to walk into any one of a dozen greeting card specialty stores to realize that there is a huge market here. There are hundreds of companies competing in the arena … from small one-person enterprizes to the famed Hallmark and Carlton Greeting Card companies. The thirst for greeting cards is insatiable … and the need for new material is constant.
If you are a savvy marketer you could end up with your own line of products, licensing your images and words and creating a ready stream of loyal buyers. Charles Shultz with his Charlie Brown characters and Laurel Busch with her colourful cats are two that immediately come to mind.
Photographers and artists can get anywhere from $50 to $800 per image, depending on the illustration, the size of the company they are selling to, your “status” and the rights you are selling. Expect to be asked for world rights, exclusivity and a three to five year agreement.
Writers can look for a low of $15 per verse to $150. You can get from $50 to $150 per concept. With some markets you can make as much as $50 per word … though don’t expect that to be the norm. If your cards sell well you can expect royally agreements and a steady demand for your work.
In the bigger leagues (you could get there) you get paid through licensing fees and royalties. You’ll probably have an agent by that time!
Though the market place is huge, the competition isn’t as big as you might think. Many people hold off from submitting their ideas simply because they don’t know how. Take the time to learn about this market, study the competition and start presenting your material. In Part Two of this series, I will talk about strategies and how-to’s for getting started.
Here are a few resources I recommend.
I have developed a “starter” list of over 50 companies that publish greeting cards and calendars.
Here are several books on Writing Greeting Cards from Amazon.com I particularly like:
You Can Write Greeting Cards by Karen Ann Moore
The Market Guides … especially for Photographers and Artists provides you with lists (and contacts) for Greeting Card companies. I would suggest either the photographers or artists guides even for writers.
Compared to greeting cards, magazines or some of the other specialty markets for photographs the calendar market isn’t as big as you might think. The reason? Calendars are very seasonal and they only have one to 13 images each. So even a company that publishes 50 calendars will only need a max of 650 images.
The competition is fierce because getting your photos published on a calendar is VERY GOOD for the portfolio as well as the ego. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your photo(s) on a nice big high quality calendar.
The fees range from poor to great $50 to $1200 per photo. Some calender companies want an outright purchase of the image and transfer of copyright, while others just want exclusive rights for the year of publication.
If you have been in any of the “all calendar” specialty stores that open up in November/December … you know that there are calendars on virtually every hobby, and interest you can think of … cars, locomotives, cats, dogs, flowers. The biggest sellers are scenes that show the changing seasons. If you have a specialized photo niche, the calendar market may be interested!
Weeding out the competition. If you are shooting digitally you should know what RAW is, and what to do with it … because the calendar companies want the final image submissions in very high resolution files.
Did you just weed yourself out of the market because of what I just said? All is not lost, because there are some back door markets that still use lower resolution data files. This could be your entry into the calendar market by paying for your new equipment!! I’ll talk about this more in Part Two of this series.