had Bette Davis eyes like no one else! And here’s what she had to say...
be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should all be
bigger than life.
a heart. Except some people.
always wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.
busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night. Aren't we,
All About Eve (1950)
this she’s gonna have. I’ll tell ya that!
The Catered Affair (1956)
me see... what is it you call your job? Oh, yes. Public relations.
Sounds like something pretty dirty to me.
Hush Hush...Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Freelance Writing For Greeting Cards
And Alternate Products
© Sandra Miller-Louden 1991-2009
All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy of www.greetingcardwriting.com
FIRST...A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS...
This is the fifth update of my famous tipsheet on freelance
greeting card writing.
you read it, keep in mind this tipsheet is more than enough to get
you started in the world of writing verses for greeting cards. It
will also sustain you through your early sales. The information
contained here is certainly more than I had when I started writing
verses in 1986, with two children under the age of four. During
those years, I had no more than 20 minutes a day to call my own,
no instant online networking at my fingertips and definitely no
verse-writing mentor to guide me over the rough spots.
those early years, there were also very few articles on greeting
card writing. The single book on the subject available at the time
certainly didn’t reflect the freelance realities I experienced.
The information there talked about selling rhymed, metered verse.
I was selling humor. When humor was mentioned, it was referenced
totally within the sphere of gags and jokes. My editors
wanted—and were buying—real life humor...the kind that commented
on situations we all experience and understand. It was basically
the difference between the “seltzer-in-your-pants” vaudevillian
jokes and the fact-based comedy of a Mitch Hedberg, a Wanda Sykes,
a Lewis Black.
In addition, the conventional advice always included
submitting work to the companies considered “the big kids on the
block”—the ones everyone knew—the ones where competition was
fiercest. I was learning the ropes with the mid-size and smaller
companies—working with editors, tackling assignments, meeting
deadlines. Going to the more accessible companies soon had me on
a first-name basis with most of my editors who knew—and trusted—my
When one makes inroads as I have in this field, you tend to slip
and fall in the ruts. I was no exception. The first four years
were pure trial and error—mostly error. This tip sheet—and, if
you’re so inclined to purchase them, my books and online
courses—will save you those four years of missteps and put you on
the fast track to selling your greeting card writing work.
So, without further ado and limited fanfare:
GREETING CARD WRITING TIP SHEET
© 1991-2009 Sandra Miller-Louden
Below is information on the world of writing greeting
cards, that includes a tip sheet, selected company names and
addresses and updated information on the status of my book.
Information on my online greeting card writing classes (plus
various other writing genres), verse critiquing and mentoring
services, as well as relevant links will now be found on separate
pages linked directly from my home page.
I’m confident you’ll find this tip sheet both interesting
and helpful. Remember that greeting card writing is a very
personal, me-to-you genre that differs from other writing areas in
that it involves three people (instead of the usual writer/reader
relationship)—the person who sends the card, the one who receives
it and that anonymous third person—you, the writer—who writes
sentiments for others that they may be unwilling—or unable—to
express themselves. As a greeting card writer, your words will be
present at all life’s important stages and rites of passage,
annual events, seasonal celebrations and those spontaneous, “just
because” occurrences when only a greeting card with a personal
message—and a pretty picture—will do.
Greeting card writing is also one of the most fun genres
around—and that’s a vital factor in this genre—having fun. This is
writing where the acronym W.I.S.H.™—Write It Short, Honey—will
serve you well. Short, immediate, pithy—each word matters, every
word counts. No fudging. No padding. No bursting at the verbal
seams. If there’s one word above all others I use to describe
greeting card writing, it’s SPARKLE. And in this genre, “Sparkle
You should look at greeting card writing as a supplemental
income. In other words, if you have a day job, don’t abandon it.
Greeting card per verse payments average between $25-$200, with
$75-$100 being the most common. It’s the perfect extra income for
people who need a creative outlet or want to stay at home with
their children while earning a second source of money. Among my
students have been retirees, high school students, stay-at-home
parents, English teachers, nuns, professional writers and a United
States Marine. In short, everyone relates to a greeting card.
Most people think the pay rate sounds too good to be true. While
the pay is excellent compared to other genres, that does not
translate into “easy writing.” As in any genre, there are
certain, specific ways a greeting card writer must think in order
to be successful in today’s market and this is what I
stress—teaching people to think as a greeting card writer has to
in order to sell in today’s marketplace.
In 1991, I developed my greeting card writing class at
Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). Even though
my course was non-credit, Pennsylvania rated it “occupational”
rather than “recreational” since my students consistently sold
their work. In 1998, I wrote Write Well & Sell:
Greeting Cards, that went through five substantial printings,
plus some emergency “half-printings” along the way. It has become
a word-of-mouth classic and sells for surprising amounts on eBay
and online-bookstore used book sections. (An update about my
second edition has been posted on a special page on the site,
linked from the home page). During 1998 as well, I began teaching
on the internet which opened up my course to students across the
country and around the world. (Currently my courses—not only for
writing greeting cards, but also writing quizzes, book reviews and
eulogies can be found at:
After over 23 years writing greeting cards, I’m still excited
about this genre. First, it is writing that can be done with
even small amounts of time—waiting for a doctor’s appointment,
stuck in traffic, over a sandwich at lunch. Second, it virtually
has no start-up cost (Remember, this tip sheet is free. Armed with
just this information, some ambition, a dash of perseverance and a
way with words—the sky’s the limit!) and very low upkeep. Finally,
compared to other writing fields, greeting card writing is still
relatively untapped for the freelancer—unclogged by the
competition that jams most of today’s magazine, newspaper and
TRADITIONAL: Traditional cards are those using
rhymed, metered verse. The number of lines in the verse is
generally divisible by four. Traditional verse is often done by a
company’s in-house staff; although freelance work in this area has
increased over the past several years.
CONTEMPORARY PROSE: Sometimes called “conversational
prose” or “soft social expression,” these cards sound as if
someone is talking. The voice is soft, gentle and
realistic. Non-rhyming, it can be a phrase, single sentence or as
long as 32-40 lines. Freelance work is actively sought for
STUDIO OR HUMOROUS: These cards reflect current
trends, foibles, frustrations and shared experiences. They are
either written in a snappy, cutting edge style or in a cute,
pun-filled voice. Humor is always needed from today’s freelance
writers and it is, by far, the most popular type of greeting card
on the racks today. Almost every company includes in its lines
some kind of humorous offering.
ALTERNATE: The alternate card uses both
contemporary prose and humor to get its message across. These
cards carry themes such as coping, single parenting, surviving
chemo, job loss, terminal illness, pet-sitting thank you, death of
a pet, etc. Alternate cards are very fluid, expanding with the
times and events of the nation and world surrounding us. Freelance
contributions are actively solicited here as well.
MORE PERTINENT INFORMATION
The way I began card writing—which
I talk about in my book—was by flipping through a mail order
catalogue that sold greeting cards and simply sending in a batch
of ideas to the editor. That’s what I now refer to as pounding
the pavement. When a writer scouts out companies and editors on
her own, she learns by doing...a method I stand by as one
of the best and most enduring.
In harmony with that individual effort, there are other avenues
available today. Most companies today—large and small—have
websites (something that obviously didn’t exist in 1986) and the
savvy writer should also pound the cyber-pavement by seeking out
companies through their websites. Often their creative guidelines
are located right on the site, saving everyone valuable time in
Addresses included in my book are
revised as I receive the updates from companies or from past
students who have written for guidelines—by way of an addendum
added to your order. The complete name and address list I provide
to students who enroll in my classes includes between 70-80
companies and is updated approximately every three months.
Besides this active list, there are informational asides that
include companies recently requesting removal, companies no longer
in business and targeted companies particularly suited for the
beginning writer. This is the most complete, accurate list of
greeting card companies around. (I have often seen internet lists
that list companies not in existence since the early 1990s.)
By whatever means you obtain
company addresses, you should then send for guidelines from the
companies that interest you. Always remember to include a long
(#10) SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) with your request.
(Note: if you’re a greeting card artist or photographer, the same
procedure applies). Some companies will send their guidelines via
e-mail; always check first to see if a company has a viable
website—it’s probable their creative guidelines will be available
While you wait for the guidelines,
there are important things to do—gather supplies, set up your home
office, study the racks and spinners, read books on card writing
or take an online greeting card writing course. Once your
guidelines arrive, follow what the company wants. A good set of
guidelines should contain specific information, which I carefully
outline in my book. Consider the guidelines as a writing
blueprint meant to direct and polish your submissions.
Below is everyone’s favorite part—those free company names and
addresses—to get you started on your adventure writing greeting
250 Arlington Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10303
P.O. Box 490
Phoenix, OR 97535 (This is Phoenix,
emailed submissions—for complete guidelines, visit site).
PLEASE NOTE: NOVELTY BUTTONS, MAGNETS,
CARD COPY! CUTTING EDGE HUMOR,
SATIRICAL, IRREVERENT. RATED “R.”
Schiller Park, IL 60176
Designs has asked to be removed temporarily as they have
overstocked with copy.
P.O. Box 1275
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Needs: Edgy, irreverent humor for
seasonals and everyday.
P.O. Box 138, Dept. SML
Rochester, VT 05767
ATTN: Dawn Abraham
5731 North Tripp Avenue
Chicago, IL 60646
ATTN: Art Director
how exactly does one go about finding smaller and mid-size
greeting card company cards? Here are a few tips:
Begin your search by going to various niche retail places such as
craft stores, convenience stores, any chain with the word “Dollar”
in it, restaurant gift shops, book stores and pet shops, just to
name a few. Unusual places, such as hardware stores or home
furnishings, will sometimes have a spinner as well.
Always turn the card over to see who publishes it. In many cases,
besides the company’s name, will be a website. Write it down and
visit the site.
Keep a record of what companies you find in which locations. If
you can’t find a certain company you’re looking for, contact that
company via its website and ask for a list of zip codes where
their products are offered. Most companies have such a print-out
and don’t mind sharing it, as long as you identify yourself as a
Write to every company you find, asking if they accept freelance
submissions. Remember that just because a company isn’t listed in
any “official” list doesn’t mean that writing needs within their
company don’t occur.
Finally, make it your goal to find at least one “new” company per
week—meaning a company you weren’t previously aware of. Get to
know these companies as if they were your neighbors; know the
occasions they publish and the type of cards they offer. By doing
this sort of homework up front, you will find—and sustain—writing
...What if a company steals my ideas?
...What if I inadvertently steal someone else’s ideas?
...What if I can’t draw?
...How can I possibly come up with so many different ideas?
...What are the big mistakes beginning greeting card writers make?
...What are some of the most common reasons a card idea won’t
...Are there certain puns that will never sell to an editor?
...Why is Writer’s Block the biggest hoax ever foisted on writers?
...What is First Sale Syndrome and why is it so dangerous?
...Why is sending only your very best work not always a good idea?
If these questions—and others—buzz around your brain constantly,
you need quick, reliable answers. These answers, plus loads of
other vital information, can be found in Sandra’s online
courses—and later this year, in her completely revamped book on
greeting card writing.
Although we’ll be updating the link below, feel free to read
what’s posted about Sandra’s second book, A Few Choice Words:
Short “Do-Able” Writing That Sells!