British Comedy Guide

Writing greeting cards

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John85

  • Thursday 30th September 2010, 4:22pm
  • England
  • 3 posts

Hello everyone. I've lurked on these forums for a quite a while now (since the first series of the dreaded Newsjack in fact) and I was wondering if anyone could offer me advice on writing greeting cards.

Obviously I'm not asking for contacts or anything like that, but just some general information. Roughly how many major publishers around accept submissions? What percentage of jokes submitted are bought? How long, realistically, does it take to make any real progress?

Any advice at all would be much appreciated. I'll also gladly accept joke replies and/or gentle mockery.

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Lee

  • Thursday 30th September 2010, 4:25pm
  • Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
  • 36,349 posts

There's a user on here who writes greeting cards. I'll leave it up to him to decide whether he wants to help or not.

(But you could try the search link on the top right ;))

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zooo

  • Thursday 30th September 2010, 4:32pm [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 69,195 posts

I bought this book.

Product artwork - buy at Amazon
Buy at Amazon

Haven't actually read all of it yet, but it seems good!

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Lee Henman

  • Friday 1st October 2010, 1:59pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 5,183 posts
Quote: John85 @ September 30 2010, 4:22 PM BST

Roughly how many major publishers around accept submissions?

They all do except maybe for the tiny companies. Try looking at the Greetings Card Association website. Or better still, get yourself down Clinton's, identify which greetings cards are closest to your style, and write down the companies addresses. (They're on the back of the cards).

Quote: John85 @ September 30 2010, 4:22 PM BST

What percentage of jokes submitted are bought?


It depends on many factors, like how good you are, how many ideas you send in, what mood the reader is in when he/she reads your stuff etc. Selling greetings cards isn't easy believe me, and it's all about quantity and quality. But as rule of thumb, I'd say that if you sell one idea for every fifteen you submit, you're doing well.

Quote: John85 @ September 30 2010, 4:22 PM BST


How long, realistically, does it take to make any real progress?


Again, it depends. It took me a few years to get to a point where I knew the different ranges enough to make enough money to call it a living. But I've known new writers to explode onto the scene and within weeks are making thousands of pounds a month. But they're few and far between. Also they're often like comets, lighting up the greetings card world briefly and then quickly burning out. It's the lumbering old planetoids who just keep churning stuff out at a steady pace who tend to stick around for years. There are a few writers who manage to keep up the pace though - one freelancer I know of turns in around six hundred ideas a week and has done so for years. He's rather well-off, the bugger. Angy :D

Quote: John85 @ September 30 2010, 4:22 PM BST

Any advice at all would be much appreciated. I'll also gladly accept joke replies and/or gentle mockery.


*Most importantly, regularly get yourself around the card shops and see what's selling.
*Always think of the sending situation. If it's a Mother's Day card, do you want a joke about a big cock on it? No. So don't submit it.
*Don't expect to make a ton of money at first, you won't.
*Be prepared for rejection, it's par for the course in this business.
*If it's funny cards you're writing, don't send it unless it made you laugh. For sentimenal, don't send it unless it touched you in some way. (Fnaar)
*Don't hang around in WH Smiths, stalking people who're looking at greetins cards in the hope they'll buy one of yours, and then getting all offended when they read one and put it back on the shelf. Only twats do that. Ahem. :$

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Tony Cowards

  • Friday 1st October 2010, 4:10pm
  • Wiltshire, England
  • 1,762 posts

As someone who's just sold a joke to a card company I would say Lee's advice above is all great.

Personally I sent in 20 jokes in my first submission and 2 were selected as possibles with one, so far, being bought. However those 20 jokes had already gone through my own vetting process and had been tailored to try to make them suitable for cards.

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zooo

  • Friday 1st October 2010, 4:18pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 69,195 posts
Quote: Lee Henman @ October 1 2010, 1:59 PM BST

one freelancer I know of turns in around six hundred ideas a week


HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

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sootyj

  • Friday 1st October 2010, 4:21pm
  • England
  • 51,287 posts

I used to write 300 gags a week for 118 118, but most of them were shit and variations on a theme.

That and it was exhausting.

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John85

  • Friday 1st October 2010, 4:33pm
  • England
  • 3 posts

Thanks for the very generous advice Lee (and congratulations on the card sale Tony).

There seem to be a couple of the 'big' ranges -ie. the kind the average man on the street would recognise in style if not name- that are written by contracted writers, I'm guessing it's just a case of building a reputation with a company until they take a chance on hiring you?

Once again cheers for the information, now it's time to get down to the pesky business of actually writing some jokes...

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Tony Cowards

  • Friday 1st October 2010, 4:37pm
  • Wiltshire, England
  • 1,762 posts

Cheers John and good luck.

Personally I just contacting a few greetings card companies and asked about how to submit stuff, one in particular got back to me and asked me to send in some examples of my work.

I think it would probably be quite hard to become a hired writer but I'm guessing that most companies take submissions from freelance writers (although Mr Henman, with his superior knowledge in this field, might shoot down this assumption).

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Lee Henman

  • Friday 1st October 2010, 5:08pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 5,183 posts
Quote: Tony Cowards @ October 1 2010, 4:37 PM BST

Cheers John and good luck.

Personally I just contacting a few greetings card companies and asked about how to submit stuff, one in particular got back to me and asked me to send in some examples of my work.

I think it would probably be quite hard to become a hired writer but I'm guessing that most companies take submissions from freelance writers (although Mr Henman, with his superior knowledge in this field, might shoot down this assumption).


I'd say the vast majority of greeting card copywriters are freelance as you say - there may be a few who use "in-house" copywriters but as I say, most are self-employed freelancers. I'm sort of at a halfway house - I'm freelance but I have an exclusivity contract with one major brand, so I'm not allowed to work for any other card company, on pain of death! Teary

Quote: zooo @ October 1 2010, 4:18 PM BST

HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?


I know. I'm surprised he has time to have a poo.

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Lbug

  • Monday 4th October 2010, 12:45pm
  • London, England
  • 62 posts

Thanks Lee, very generous advice.

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John85

  • Monday 4th October 2010, 7:30pm
  • England
  • 3 posts

One last question I forgot to ask at the start: What exactly is the etiquette in sending material? Say I send some ideas to a company, do I have to wait until that set of ideas are rejected/accepted before sending another, or is it simply a case of pretty much constantly sending in material like some kind of unstoppable joke machine?

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Lee Henman

  • Monday 4th October 2010, 9:29pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 5,183 posts
Quote: John85 @ October 4 2010, 7:30 PM BST

One last question I forgot to ask at the start: What exactly is the etiquette in sending material? Say I send some ideas to a company, do I have to wait until that set of ideas are rejected/accepted before sending another, or is it simply a case of pretty much constantly sending in material like some kind of unstoppable joke machine?


I'd send one batch in first then wait until they get back to you. If they like your stuff they'll send you regular briefs, telling you exactly what they're looking for and for which ranges.

That's when you become an unstoppable joke machine. And if you work out how to do that, please tell me. ;)

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Kenneth

  • Monday 4th October 2010, 10:14pm [Edited]
  • Australia
  • 5,426 posts

Has the greeting card business suffered since the advent of email? I buy about four or five cards a year when I'm posting someone a present - and I'll always opt for the most inappropriate card, such as "Get Well Soon After Your Operation" or "Condolences on the Loss of Your Husband". When I browse the card section, I'm shocked by the number of smutty cards with rude words - no wonder my grandmother stopped sending cards. If I really care about someone, then I make them a recycled card by cutting out the front of a box of cereal or box of tampons and folding in half.

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Lee Henman

  • Tuesday 5th October 2010, 12:29am [Edited]
  • England
  • 5,183 posts
Quote: Kenneth @ October 4 2010, 10:14 PM BST

Has the greeting card business suffered since the advent of email? I buy about four or five cards a year when I'm posting someone a present - and I'll always opt for the most inappropriate card, such as "Get Well Soon After Your Operation" or "Condolences on the Loss of Your Husband". When I browse the card section, I'm shocked by the number of smutty cards with rude words - no wonder my grandmother stopped sending cards. If I really care about someone, then I make them a recycled card by cutting out the front of a box of cereal or box of tampons and folding in half.


Certainly in the UK sending an email message as opposed to buying a card from a shop is still seen as being cheap I think.

I know what you mean with the inappropriate card thing - I've done it myself, I bought a mate an In Sympathy card when he got married - but by and large the vast majority or "normal" members of the public still want to go into a shop and buy an appropriate card for a birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas, or whatever. And most people expect that too. For instance I made a load of home-made Christmas cards last year out of pipe cleaners and glue and glitter and my Dad said "Bloody Hell, can't you afford real ones?" :D

As for the smutty cards, I agree that some overstep the mark. But in the UK those cards are usually found in small outlets. Big retailers like WHSmith and Clintons etc have a strict vetting policy and as writers we're not allowed to send in ideas that deal with sensitive issues. Well we are allowed but they won't get bought. I'll occasionally send one to my company though just to get a WTF is this?!? reaction. :) But I've been working for them for years and they know me well so I'm sort-of allowed. I wouldn't encourage new writers to do the same.