The Humor and Life, in Particular Web site
author:  Margie Culbertson

Writing Ideas:    Writing Greeting Cards

You're a writer, eh? I know. I know. Even Cicero said it, "Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book." So why not be different? Write short humor. What kind? Oh, heck, how about greeting cards?

Greeting cards. Those great affirmations for all humor writers. There they are, sitting on those shelves, telling you that humor is actually published. Not only that, honest to god, you buy them!

Yes, there is quite a market out there for good humor. But greeting card companies are just as reluctant as other publishers to accept much of what is sent in. Why? Usually their mail is full of inappropriate materials (not what they publish) or it is poorly written or presented (not what they publish.)

Over the years I have tried my hand at writing greeting card humor, along with all the other things I do as a humorist (don't ask.) When I first began, I had one goal in mind:  to establish working relationships with greeting card editors. I wanted them to tell me if the kind of writing I did was something they might published. I wanted to be appreciated, loved, respected (paid.) Subtitle:  you might as well have your target up before you shoot your arrow. I developed a plan toward this goal and it worked. Now I try to write everything by assignment, while continually cultivating new markets in the same sweet way. Here's what I did to break into the greeting card market: 

1.  I free–associated in the Writers Market for names of greeting card companies which seemed to buy the kind of humor I write and enjoy. I hung out at the drugstore in the card section, cross–legged on the floor for hours at a time (don't ever do this in the small appliances section...those people over there are weird.) I had myself smuggled into birthday parties of strangers and I opened all their cards before they did.

2.  I did a search on the Internet, looking for writers who wrote greeting card ditties (and what is a ditty, anyway?) I then contacted each writer and suggested a trade of some kind:  i.e., they tell me what they know and I'd cooperate. I did not request names, though one person did call me some. A few kindred souls sent me to their editors with recommendations. I contacted the companies for which I could not find any specific contacts; I simply made a few phone calls to get names, titles, addresses, etc. Perchance to speak to an editor. To dream...

3.  Next I followed up on this information. My notes were addressed to specific people at specific departments. In the note I mentioned how I had come across them. I requested their writer's guidelines and publishing calendars (what they expect to be buying and when.) If I learned the preferred format for submissions for any company, I also sent them my greeting card creations. Note:  these submission must be different for every company; the same copy cannot be sent to many people in the greeting card industry. And, yes, I did include a SASE with every note and/or submission. If I had not upheld these rules, I might have been sent to my room without my fruit cup.

4.   Two, three, four 1/2 months later, I had given up all hope. I wouldn't say I was anxious, but I do remember being on my knees laughing and crying in front of my mailbox about the same time each day during this time. Finally, replies arrived, some with a personal note and some with a form letter, many with samples of product lines. All replies told me what this company was looking for, when they wanted it and how.

5.  I followed up immediately with a phone call and a note to the editor. I was polite and explained to the call screener the nature of my call with professional dignity (could I please talk to yer boss?) In the end I got through to most decision makers. I now had cultivated first–name–basis, working relationships with several editors at several houses. My name was even passed on to a new editor when the former editor left for another job (they weren't clear what they meant by the name "bimbo" though.)

This plan has worked well for me, but I've had to grow ploddingly methodical and patient, and no more crying fits at the mailbox. I send out one submission, start on another, send out one submission, start on another; one and two and one and two, slide slide slide. Always pushing, always pushing, never frantic. And I go back to those drugstore aisles again and again. Other types of humor writing creep into my workday as well (can anyone help me cage these critters?) In the end, there is no focus and yet one focus:  never–ending work on good humor writing.

What did you say? I can hear you. You're not satisfied. But I've already started into the sunset and the credits are rolling. What was that? It's so easy for people like me who have charm and beauty and luck and big hair? Why, you say, is it so hard to get your humor published? Well, spit, I don't think it is. But the same question is heard all the time, "Why is it so hard to get stories, novels, poetry, 3rd person narrative, Sanskrit name it... published? Well, pardner, I've got this to say about that. The publishing world, unfair as it may seem to the writer, is still fair. We all face the same scrutiny. And rewards are plenty for all of us.

To me, it's writing well, really well, that I should focus on. Once that's done, a publisher is the easy part. One mechanism greases the other. Nope, no favorites or lucky ones here. We all put our clown suits on one leg at a time.

Creating humor is an art. Now, get out your crayons out and start creating.

©Margie Culbertson

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