Thursday, 23 September 2010

How to Make Money from your Greeting Card Designs - Part 1

OK - so you’ve designed some greeting cards and your family and friends think they’re great. 

Someone has even suggested that your designs are good enough to be sold to the general public. What an exciting thought!

But what is the best way of getting your designs printed on cards in such a way as to earn you some money from them?

The good news is that there are numerous ways to go about making money from greeting card designs, so many in fact, that it will take several posts to cover them all! The slightly less good news is that there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these ways and I will try to set these out clearly, drawing on my own experience.

(Some of this, of course, will only apply to the UK. So if you have anything to add from your experience or knowledge of how things work outside the UK, please add it to the comments.) 

1. Approaching a Greeting Card Publisher as a freelance designer. This is probably the most usual way to begin and if you are successful, it can lead to you earning quite a lot of money. In the UK, most publishers will pay between £125 - £200 pounds for a design; some will pay you a fairly nominal royalty fee for each card sold on top of that, others will not. (One UK publisher offers twice that fee but all designs must be totally handpainted with no computer input at all, not even the lettering.)

If you decide to go down this route – and it’s well worth a try, especially if you are prepared to be patient and persistent! – the UK Greeting Card Association publishes a list of publishers who are open to submissions from freelance artists. Another way to find publishers is to look at greeting cards that are in a similar style to your own and check if the publisher’s details (website etc) are on the back of the card. However, some greeting card publishers employ in-house designers and it is hardly worth bothering to submit your designs to them unless they are specifically recruiting new designers, which is an alternative route for getting into the greeting card designing business.

Most of the publishers set out their submission instructions on their websites, on a page called ‘Artists’ Submissions’ but with some, you will only find their guidelines (or discover whether they are open to freelance submissions at all!) by clicking on the ‘contact us’ button. It is important to follow the instructions carefully. Most publishers are happy to receive submissions as email attachments or a link to a webpage; but some state a limit to the number of designs they will consider and most will not have time to search through many pages of a website. A few will only look at submissions if they are posted to them. So pick a few of your best designs and submit them in strict accordance with the publisher’s guidelines.

Be aware that you will normally be asked to submit your original work only if the publisher is interested in your designs, but until you reach that point, you should send scans, photographs or if you are not submitting electronically, really good copies, with a return envelope if you want them back.

Most publishers will be looking for a range of similar designs but if, like me, you have several different 'styles', it's probably best to submit the different ranges to publishers whose cards are in a similar style. Although I did receive a few 'rejection' emails that gave the reason for not wanting my designs as that they 'already had designs in this style', there were far more of them who wrote that my designs were 'unfortunately not our style'. More than a little confusing but maybe I wasn't intended to read too much into it and it was certainly kinder than being told 'not up to scratch'!

There are a few ‘downsides’ to this approach.

·    The competition is huge and especially in these times of economic difficulty, some publishers will not be able to afford to take on new designers. I had a ‘very near miss’ in 2009 which raised my hopes but came to nothing because of the recession. Of course there are some big names in the Greeting Card Publishing business who may be less vulnerable in these difficult times, but many UK publishers are less well placed. According to the Greeting Card Association website there are approximately 800 greeting card publishers in the UK, many of which are micro businesses, employing fewer than five employees.

·    The terms of the licensing agreement you will have to enter into with the publisher will probably prevent you from using your designs on greeting cards for at least the term of the agreement, though you may be able to use the same design on other products. It is obviously important to read the terms carefully before you sign up to them!

·    Some publishers will reply to your submissions but many will not. Sadly those who do reply are unlikely to give you any very useful feedback that might have helped you to make your designs more interesting to them. I'm generalising of course and in fact one of the largest, most popular greeting card publishers, who might have been expected to be too busy to take an interest, always replied to my submissions in a way that was very positive and encouraging, even though their answer was saying 'no thanks'!

·    It can be a lonely business, working alone with little or no contact with others in your line of work. But there are online communities you could join or you might find others in the same position through social networking sites like Twitter and facebook.

I hope I haven’t put anyone off by listing the ‘downsides’ but I think it’s just as well to be aware of the ‘cons’ as well as the ‘pros’. You can find many more greeting card design tips on Heather Castle's wonderful blog, Illustration Castle.
Next time, another option for making money from your greeting card designs!


Jean said...

Judy, I really appreciate this post. Although I am a photographer this really helps to answer a few of my questions. We need to know the "downsides".

Jean said...

BTW...I just shared this post on my Facebook page.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you very much, Jean!

I'm no expert but the past couple of years have been such a learning curve for me that I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I wish I'd known at the outset!

Country Mouse Studio said...

great information, thanks

azule said...

Wow! very thorough! I am branching out, and found this to be helpful and inspiring!
Also, on another note; I really like your picture! it's a nice one!

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Rod, glad you found it helpful. Watch out for more options over the next three weeks, including one about printing your own greeting cards. Good luck with your branching out!

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