Roses are Pink, Violets are Purple: Writing for the Humorous Greeting Card Market by Larry Sandman

So there you are at a party. You’re cutting up a bit, just saying weird things that pop into your head, and making people laugh. Someone opens some funny greeting cards and reads them aloud to more laughter. As the cards are read, someone says to you, “You ought to write those things. You’re really funny!” You feel flattered to hear that, but you don’t really take the suggestion seriously. After all, you don’t know anything about writing and selling greeting card gags and haven’t any idea how to go about it.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? If you have ever thought, “I know I’m funny enough to write those things, but I wouldn’t know where to start,” then read on. You might decide that writing funny cards isn’t all that far-fetched an idea after all.

Let’s start by looking at the market for humorous greeting card ideas. Who buys them? How much do they pay? Do you need to be experienced to submit ideas? Could you make a living writing cards?

The greeting card market is made up of two very big companies, a few mid-sized companies and a bunch of smaller ones. The two largest companies have big in-house writing staffs that create most of the ideas they need. But many of the mid-sized and smaller companies buy most of their editorial from freelance writers. The pay varies from company to company. Most pay somewhere between $75 to $150 for each idea they buy. (And when you sell them an idea, you sell all rights to the use of that idea. In other words, you can’t sell the same idea twice.)

Most editors don’t really care about your background nearly as much as they care about how well you can supply them with the great ideas they need. An experienced greeting card writer may have a better understanding of what kinds of writing an editor buys, but a talented, dedicated beginner should learn very quickly. Editors are particularly interested in writers who bring a fresh perspective to their lines.

Alas, and in all fairness I must tell you—not many freelance writers are making their living writing exclusively for the greeting card market. Humorous card writing is a competitive field. It’s not at all unusual for the number of writers submitting ideas to exceed the number of ideas an editor can buy. Odds are you won’t sell ideas every time you submit. Even experienced pros don’t have that kind of success. But many writers gain a significant portion of their income from the sale of card ideas, and many others use card-writing income to supplement the money they make working in other fields.

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