It’s hard to imagine a greeting card without any imagery, which is why good design is always in demand by the greeting card industry.
The ideal greeting card is a seamless marriage of art and verse. The successful card designer needs to create an image that’s eye-catching enough to capture the customer’s attention, yet reflects the tone and emotion of the card’s message.
Try to envision your design in terms of how it is likely to be displayed for sale. A vertical layout is most often used for greeting cards, and many cards are displayed in racks, where the bottom half of the card is not visible to the customer. Focus attention on the top half of your design, which is what the customer will see.
To get a better sense of greeting card design, spend time looking at cards. Visit a variety of card shops and retailers in your area and really look at the cards. Notice how the imagery and text work together with different types of cards.
Pay attention to different design styles and the publishers whose cards hold special appeal to you. The more you learn about card companies and greeting card design, the more successful you’ll be in determining what type of design you want to create, and the publishers most likely to be interested in your work.
If you haven’t created greeting card designs before, consider creating a collection of several designs in a certain look. This can help a publisher see your skills, style and how you carry out a theme. Be sure your submission will “match” the publisher; a traditional Christmas scene, for example, will not be of interest to a company that publishes only humorous everyday cards.
Most designers license their work either on a flat-fee basis, or for an advance against royalties. Licensing gives a company the right to reproduce your design for a certain use for a specific amount of time in a particular market, such as North America or worldwide. The artist retains ownership of the image and can continue to license it for other uses that don’t conflict. Under a flat-fee basis, ownership rights are typically turned over to the publisher. For greeting cards, a flat fee generally ranges between $275 and $500. An advance against a typical 4%-6% royalty may run from $150 to $300. Payments vary from publisher to publisher, as well as by type and complexity of the artwork.
Before you consider submitting any work, learn which greeting card companies accept outside submissions. Then obtain a copy of their submission guidelines. You can generally determine if a publisher accepts outside submissions by writing or phoning the company, or by locating a submission-guidelines page on their website. GCA-member publishers who accept outside submissions are indicated on this website by a “submission guidelines” link after their contact information. Only those with a “submission guidelines” link accept outside submissions.
Never send original artwork. Some companies may look at e-mail submissions, others prefer CDs and still others may request color photocopies. Whatever the format, make sure your name and contact information is included on each image, along with some sort of design identification or number and the copyright symbol.
If you wish the publisher to return your work, include an appropriately sized, self-addressed stamped envelope. Many art directors keep samples of styles they like on file, so if you don’t need your submission back, mention in your cover letter that they are welcome to keep the samples.