In Part One of this series we covered three main points:
1) The Greeting Card Market is HUGE and is opened to photographers, illustrators and writers. The Calendar market is mostly open to photographers though the daily desk top line can be something that writers have access to.
2) The pay range for photographers is $50 to $1200 per photo and the range for writers is $15 to $150 per verse or concept.
3) The market place for greeting cards is large enough that is possible for beginners to break into. The calendar market is not as large as one might imagine because of the limited number of photos used … and competition is tough.
The bottom line is .. there is a big market for writers and photographers and illustrators who have material suited to this market place.
Many photographers and writers shy away from this market simply because they don’t know how to approach it or how to submit their work. Compared to getting into the magazine market, there is relatively little information on how to get started.
So start by differentiating yourself from your competition … and do your homework. Start by getting some of the resources I recommend from the library or the bookstore. The books on “writing” greeting cards will also be useful to photographers and illustrators because they are a good introduction to the market and how it works.
The second area of doing your homework is to check out the marketplace listings. Then visit all your local card and calendar stores. You will start recognizing the names on the products (Hallmark and Carlton being two of the largest). In the independent card stores you will also see specialty lines. If they aren’t in your list … make a note of them including their address and website info. Also take notes on what kinds of cards are popular today (trends change). What companies are buying photos vs illustrations. What lines do the companies have? Humor, blank cards, sports, animal etc. Are the card concepts quirky or traditional. Are the verses sappy, traditional, contemporary, wacky?
Unless you already have an established name as a writer, poet, illustrator or photographer you probably won’t be able to get into the larger companies …. yet. Make note of the smaller companies and especially the companies that aren’t listed in the market guides.
If you are aiming at the calendar market, keep your eyes open for non-traditional publishers who get calendars printed specifically for advertising purposes. Real Estate companies for example, regularly print calendars for their realtors to hand out to clients. Start paying attention to the calendars hanging on the walls, in the garages of all your friends, clients and relatives.
Make notes on ALL card stores in your area. Are they “boxed” stores or do they carry a wide range of lines. Specifically do they carry any lines done by local artists.
For example, the Vancouver Public Library has a very nice and busy shop that sells gift items and raises funds for the library. They carry several lines of greeting cards featuring local artists. Some of these lines are “hand-crafted” while several others are printed by local publishers.
Now that you’ve done your background work and have researched the market thoroughly, you should know if and how your work fits in. You should also have an idea of what the smaller publishers buy. If you think there’s a fit, it’s time to start approaching the markets.
When a publisher is “local” to you, make a phone call, introduce yourself and ask them to view your portfolio if you are a photographer or illustrator. If you are a writer, talk to them about their current and future needs. Are they planning on developing new lines? Can you submit your work for these lines. Are they open to ideas for new lines? Whenever possible try to create personal relationships.
In most cases publishers will not be local and you will have to contact them by mail, phone or email. Read the market listing guides to see how the publisher prefers to be contacted. I almost always prefer to make my first connection by phone, but if you are shy you may prefer to create a professional looking package that illustrates your work. Develop an introductory cover letter introducing yourself and your specialty. At this point, your submission would be considered to be “unsolicited” and it may just be thrown onto a slush pile until the editor or publisher has time to review it. Because of this I would advise against submitting any original work.
If you are submitting slides or illustrations … you should make good quality copies (and mark them as such so the viewer knows they are looking at dups). Most companies now accept (or demand) high definition digital submissions. Be sure to protect yourself by using a watermark. Once you have made the sale you will submit your unmarked version.
If you are working on a slim budget email is OK, but you stand a better chance of your work being viewed if you send your package by courier. Follow up with a phone call to make sure your package was received (and hopefully talk to the editor at that point).
The reason I prefer to initiate with a phone call is because I can often create interest in my work in the call. When an editor asks for a submission, your package will be viewed and responded to faster, and follow-up phone calls will be more readily taken.
As you are working at selling to the mainstream publishers you should also start thinking outside the box to see what other kinds of opportunities you can create for yourself.
Would you be interested in creating your own limited edition greeting card line? Can you locate local or regional businesses who might be interested in printing their own calendars?
Over a decade ago I sold photos for a calendar for 4 years in a row to a regional trucking firm. They started the first year by purchasing one photo for one of those one-picture-for-the-whole-year types of calendars. The next year I up sold them on producing a 12 month + cover photo (13 photos) calendar. The topic was Northern Alberta and the trucking companies’ equipment. Not very sexy, but I was able to purchase a full kit of Nikon lenses with the fees.
Out of the box thinking is also how a friend in Vancouver sells to 3 New York City gift shops. The shops are high volume and upscale and order 12 dozen (144) cards at a time … several times a year. My friend illustrates her cards with her own unique photos and produces them in an assembly line setup. Her next step will be to have her cards professionally printed and expand her market.
Breaking into any market takes time and patience and PERSISTENCE. If you strike out the first time, keep on trying. Keep on submitting and keep on asking questions about what they would like to see next. Keep your eyes open for new market trends to see if you can capitalize on work you may already have. And while you are working at getting into the greeting card and calendar markets, don’t forget that your body of work is also salable in other market places.
(c) 2012 Proof Positive Productions Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.
Check out the following resources for information sources that can inform you about the marketplace, strategies for getting in and for market listings.
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:
How to Write and Sell Greeting Cards, Bumper Stickers, T-Shirts and Other Fun Stuff
Writing for Quick Cash: Turn Your Way with Words into Real Money
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.
2012 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market
Here are several books that show you how to write query letters to approach publishers with your ideas or submission packages:
How to Write Irresistible Query Letters
How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters
Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals
Here are two resources I recommend for photographers:
Shooting & Selling Your Photos: The Complete Guide to Making Money with Your Photography
How to Start a Greeting Card Business
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Thanks … we Love it! Melanie
Christopher Barkley says
How to make money in greeting cards and calendars… Think about it, what we have out there is naught calendars, newspaper comic calendars, and things everyone is interested in like family guy or motorcycles. What’s gonna get you money is putting a calendar out there that incurs a “what the hell?” response. January- put some hairy old guy bending over to the bottom shelf with his bottom showing reaching pulling out a drawer with socks in it. February, squirrels in ninja suits rappelling off of a ceiling fan with fireworks in their hands. You know… stuff that’s gonna make people go “I want it just because I can’t look away…?” Transaction complete.
Every holiday season I go to the book store to just take a look at the calendars and they have racks of them for every type of enthusiast. so I think its definitely an interesting market to explore.
I appreciate this, and will start today, researching, I have photos, illustrations, paintings, so much to give
so, why not try… thanks Dx
Go for it Donna! What is really great is that once you have sold one item to a publisher, they will keep on buying and buying!