Tips from Pam on Writing Inspirational Greeting Cards:

Since 911, greeting card retailers across the country have focused on providing inspirational messages for their customers. Stores that usually would not cross the religious line are responding to their customers’ requests.  So, how can the Christian writer respond to the growing need for inspiration in the market?

FIND YOUR INSPIRATION

The tricky part in the self-expression market is crafting a card idea to fit a specific company’s needs while providing something fresh and original.  Card companies have plenty in stock of what’s already been said.  Line editors are looking for unique ideas.  So how do you say Happy Birthday in a new and different way?

Writing a card that touches the receiver’s heart is a Spirit-led process.  The best card copy grows out of a Christian’s personal relationship with God and an understanding of His Word. Companies like DaySpring want a freelancer to send a Bible verse that enhances the submitted card’s message and that hasn’t been overused. Diane Willits, DaySpring card editor, often receives well-crafted card copy that can’t be purchased because the message doesn’t offer hope or encouragement or point others to truth and Christ.

Joni Erikson Tada once said, “We are never more like our creator than when we create.” The best way to know what a company needs is to PRAY WHILE YOU CREATE! 

There are several ways to heighten your creativity: 

    • Read a Bible chapter or favorite verse.  Craft an encouraging message from the passage.
    • Surround yourself with things that reflect the season. For Christmas cards, try listening to holiday music.
    • Read a magazine issue that reflects your card’s subject. If you’re writing a Mother’s Day card, glean ideas from a magazine article found in a May issue. 
    • Walk through beautiful gift stores.  Read the advertising tags and teasers.
    • Wonderful words and ideas can be gleaned on field trips. Writing a men’s card?  Try a hardware or sports store.
    • Develop an idea file.
    • Card stores and websites are a great way to get a feel for a company’s lines.  Look for what they aren’t saying that needs to be said, then find a way to say it.
    • Write to someone you know. Put yourself in the place of the sender, then ask yourself if you would like to receive the card.

CREATE THE CARD

    • What occasion are you writing for? Birthday is the most popular everyday sending situation and Christmas cards outsell other seasonal lines.  This is a good place to start since editors have a greater need for these captions. What words, emotions, or memories do you associate with these occasions?
    • Who will be receiving the card?  Are they a Christian?
    • Who will send it?
    • How close is the sender/receiver relationship? Example: aunt/child somewhat close.
    • Will the card I write be humorous, cute, metaphoric, traditional, rhyme, or contemporary?  Today’s cards are usually conversational, written in everyday language. 
    • Will I include scripture (check the guidelines)?
    • Will the copy be on the outside and/or inside of the card?
    • Will it include a tag line, a wishing you or God bless you finale?
    • How will I submit my ideas based on the company guidelines – on index cards, on 8.5 x 11 paper, by post, e-mail, or fax?  Do I send a SASE?
    • What kind of numbering system will I use to track my submissions?

GET YOUR EDUCATION

Becoming a successful card writer requires studying the market and understanding the industry. Sally Stuart’s 2002 Christian Writers’ Market Guide is a good place to begin. Needs sheets can provide excellent direction for freelance writers, but very few companies will send one before you’ve established a working relationship.  Some companies will send assignments when you begin making sales.

The following books will help you get educated:

HOW TO WRITE AND SELL GREETING CARDS, BUMPER STICKERS, T-SHIRTS AND OTHER FUN STUFF by Molly Wigland, ©1992, Writer's Digest Books.

YOU CAN WRITE GREETING CARDS by Karen Ann Moore, ©1999, Writer's Digest Books.

WRITE WELL AND SELL: GREETING CARDS by Sandra M. Louden, ©1998 Jam-Packed Press, P.O. Box 9701, Dept. MHR, Pittsburgh, PA 15229-0701 - Available by writing to the above address or at Louden’s website: www.greetingcardwriting.com

Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. There aren’t any new card ideas. However, you can learn to put a different slant on a familiar idea thereby creating a unique card that can be sent to hundreds, and maybe even thousands, of people while delivering the impression that the card you wrote was created just for them to send or receive.

CHECK THE LIMITERS

Limiters are anything that eliminates a group of people or a person from purchasing or sending a card. The following are the most common limiters:

    • Copy that is too intimate or personal won’t have broad general appeal. If the copy implies that the sender and receiver have an exceptionally strong relationship, then it will have fewer buyers and less editorial sales.
    • Personal pronouns -  “I”, “me”, “you”, or “we” - limit sendability and should be used sparingly.
    • Be careful of copy that describes a perfect relationship (except at Valentines!).  These can induce guilt in the receiver and turn off the sender.
    • Words like “never” or “always” have no place in well-written copy.
    • Avoid clichés and overused puns. Examples: eggceptional, tanks, bear-y. Fresh puns or new uses for clichés are usually welcome.
    • Copy that is too elaborate or too clever to be easily understood by an editor, receiver, or sender will be rejected.
    • A poem or rhyme without a me-to-you message won’t sell.
    • Inappropriate use of Scripture will increase rejections.

ON YOUR MARK . . . GET SET . . . WRITE A CARD

Once you get the hang of it, you can dash off a few card ideas in a matter of minutes. This is a definite advantage when writing time is limited.  A card can be written at the checkout stand while glancing through the magazines, at the park while watching the kids, or even while driving! Carrying a small journal lets you work anywhere. Such mini-sessions often produce the beginnings of a card.  Match the idea to a company’s needs, invite your internal editor in for a check, and rework it until it becomes sellable. 

Most card companies buy All Rights and very few print a by-line unless you create a promotional line (a group of cards with a similar look and style).  But when you consider the benefits of writing cards, such drawbacks seem small.

Greeting card writing can be profitable. Word for word, the pay is good.  As far as blessings go, Christian card writers get the chance to reach to the very heart of someone with God’s message – meeting their inmost needs at a difficult or joyous time – with a minimum of words.  That’s an inspirational challenge for any writer!

Pamela Dowd - Author and Speaker

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