Monday, June 16, 2014

Showcase Monday: Fourth of July Invites

In my family, July Fourth is the biggest holiday of the year, surpassing even Christmas. My sister has informed me that she and my brother are planning a full-out fireworks display, complete with a choir singing the national anthem. It is not to be missed. Watermelon and homemade ice cream flow in abundance. The BBQ sizzles on the grill.
Do you have a great July Fourth bash and need invitations? Here are some of the best I found for your consideration.

I love the simple but beautiful concept of this card from Doreen Ernhardt at Greeting Card Universe.

This rustic card from Liz Revit on Greeting Card Universe is perfect for a country-style party.

This one from FairyGirl Cards at Greeting Card Universe is a nice reminder of firework stand days (which we still have in Texas.)

And who wouldn't want a fourth of July wedding? Fireworks, sparklers, what's not to like? I love this classy invitation by TheBrideShop on Zazzle.

Red, White, Blue Double Floral Wedding Invitation
Red, White, Blue Double Floral Wedding Invitation by TheBrideShop
Create a personalized announcement at zazzle

And some people are lucky enough to be born on the same day as our country. 

Very cute and simple Fourth of July birthday invitation from Kathy Henis on Greeting Card Universe.

Thanks for stopping by! Next Monday Showcase will be "Will you be my bridesmaid" cards. Please feel free to share your July 4th invitations in the comments below!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Creating and Selling Calendars

I know no one is thinking about 2015 yet, I'm still stuck in Christmas 2013 in my head, but now is the time to start thinking about calendars. It takes 2-3 months to get into the Google grid, and people start buying Christmas gifts sooner and sooner every year, so time's a-wastin', as we say in Texas. Actually, last year I didn't make calendars at all, so I totally missed the train. I'm not sure what happened. (Oh yeah, I was finishing up my first kid's book.) ANYWAY, since I didn't want to miss it again this year, I have just finished my calendars for 2015. In June. You can see them here,

I'm sure everyone has their own processes and methods with calendar design, but I decided to explain my process for those who have never created them but have always wanted to. The first time I made calendars with my sister's fairy tale pictures, we went the expensive route. We ordered 100 of them from a company to sell to family and friends. The results? We just barely broke even, and I still have several in the garage. From 2008. So unless you have for sure sales, I don't suggest this route.

I design my calendars with Zazzle, because it's free, good exposure, and a relatively simple process. I am going to also sell them through Lulu this year, because I can purchase them myself for about half the price that Zazzle offers. But Lulu's design process, for me, has been much more time consuming.

Here is my calendar design process:
1. Choose my subjects. I look through my huge bank of photographs from Cherie and see what jumps out at me. Like this year, I noticed she had a lovely variety of rose pictures. So I decided to do an entire calendar for roses. I create a folder for each calendar I want to make and place photo options in each folder. A few things to keep in mind when choosing photos: Are they high quality, will they still look good in 8x10 prints? Will they crop to 8x10 size with bleed space? Are they photos people will want to look at for a whole month?
2. I also look at the top selling calendars for the year before. If you check Zazzle's top selling calendars, you will notice there are a lot of niche categories, like one breed of dog or cat, or cars from a specific decade. Niche categories are good to remember when you are looking through your photo banks. This year, I made a calendar dedicated entirely to turtles.
3. Choose my photos. Remember you will need 12 photos, one for each month, plus a cover photo and a back photo.
4. Choose my cover photo. You want a picture that has room for your title font, and you want a photo that will really capture the essence of the subject. Here is the one I chose for our "Enchanted Forest" calendar. 
On your back cover, you will want to include your photographer information, as well as your website info, in case people want to purchase your calendar from you next year.
Another trick for covers; you can use a photo that wouldn't crop right on a background color, then insert a frame and text block, like I did for this calendar.

Remember, you want something that will catch people's attention. Zazzle currently has almost 47,000 calendars up for sale.

5. Edit my photos. I crop each photo to the 8x10 size first to make sure they will work without comprising the integrity of the photo subject. If I'm dealing with photos my sister hasn't already edited, I use Adobe Elements 12 to run them though a few filters to see how they look. Here's an example of one editing process:

I am by no means a professional graphic artist, but I really like the effect. You don't have to do every single photo this way, in fact I would recommend changing up the filters and effects. Check all your photos in full-screen view, watching for blurry spots and unprofessional backgrounds you can crop out.

6. Upload them to Zazzle. Make sure you use good descriptions and key words for each calendar.

7. Promote, promote, promote. Create a Pinterest board just for your calendars. Mention them on Facebook. Ask around to see if family and friends want to order them for Christmas gifts. Remember, the more clicks and favorites you get, the more noticed they will be.

I have been designing calendars for several years now, and enjoy the challenge every year. I have a lot to learn, still. I would love any thoughts or suggestions you may have, as well as any thoughts you have on selling with Lulu, as I haven't been working with them very long. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Why Write Greeting Cards?

I realize some authors look down on composers of greeting card verse. And I must admit, I am more proud of the few poems I have had published in small literary journals than the thousands of greeting cards I have sold with my verses inside. (I don't know why, it's an "artsy" thing, I guess.) But the truth is, how many people actually read those journals? How many people read over my obscure poem, over and over, going through the meaning in their mind, perhaps even calling their friends and reading it to them? How many subscribers to that journal cut my poem from the magazine page and taped it to their fridge/ Or propped it up on their mantel?

Probably not very many. But I can guarantee my verses are on display in thousands of homes across the world. Or tucked into drawers. Or scrapbooks. Because they are inside greeting cards.

My words have been used to invite people to parties. Encourage people who have cancer. Wish people happy holidays of all sorts. Even propose marriage. It's pretty cool when you think about it. Not something to be ashamed of at all.

Why do I know people will read my greeting card verses when they receive one of my cards? Why do I know they will linger over the words, perhaps have a tear or two?

Because it's a poem just for them.
Go on and try writing a few, you'll be hooked!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Creating a Product for a Niche Category.

If you are an artist, you probably have your pet projects you are passionate about creating. And that is wonderful, it's what makes you special as an artist. But if you want to make money selling your art, you also have to learn to market yourself, unless you are lucky and have an agent or publicist to do it for you.
How do you make sure to sell products? Create things people want to buy. It sounds simple, but multi-million dollar companies lose tons of money every year trying, and failing to do just that.

One thing to remember when you are creating products for POD sites: You are one in a million. But that doesn't mean selling cards is hopeless. It just means you have to do your research, and create cards for niche categories. Because many times, people don't come into a POD site to browse like they do a brick-and-mortar store, they come in because they have been sent there by a search engine. That's one reason why tags and descriptive words are so important, but that's a whole other blog post. I will give you an example.
On one POD site I design cards for, Greeting Card Universe, one of my most successful categories is will you be my bridesmaid cards. There are currently 5,245 cards in this category. So it could take you years to get your cards noticed in this category (unless you do a brilliant job marketing, more on that in a future post.)
If you examine the category closer, though, you will find it branches out into specific relationships. Will you be my bridesmaid Sister, Mother, Friend, and so on. There are only 326 cards for friend. so if you design a card with a heartfelt request for a friend to be your bridesmaid, you will have a much better chance of filling a niche need and getting noticed.

You can go a step further and create for a relation-specific theme. One theme that never grows old is the fairytale wedding. How many cards are for Bridesmaid invitation, friend, Cinderella? One.

So you can see, with a little time and effort, you can create cards that will be noticed even before people log on to the site.

Here's another example. On GCU, there are currently 197,332 cards for birthday. So if you design just a birthday card, you will be lost in the flurry. O.k., but what about a funny birthday card? Funny birthday cards are one of the most-searched for categories on the site. Well, that narrows it down... to 2,884. But what if you have a peacock fan in your life? Suddenly, it gets narrowed down... to two. 
(All images on this page by Cherie Haines. All cards available at our shop here.)

I would love to hear your thoughts about creating cards for a niche! Feel free to add questions or comments below!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Make Money Selling Greeting Cards and Other POD Products

I worked for a major card company for several years, and as I restocked cards, I would read the ones that caught my eye and think, "I bet I could write something better." I looked into selling ideas to major card companies but very few accepted unsolicited submissions.

About five years ago I was looking for greeting card publishers online. I had made some greeting cards by hand, incorporating my sister's photographs with my prose, and they were selling pretty well at a local bookstore. I really wanted an easier way to create them, so I thought I would search the trusty ol' web. And that's when I found a website that would change my life. Greeting Card Universe. You create a store with your uploaded designs. When a customer orders your design, the company prints and ships the product. You receive a commission.

I read through the site information carefully and then started designing cards using my good ol' Picture It! program. My first few cards weren't super fancy, but they were fun and simple to design. I loaded them up and presto! I had my very own card store.

I had checked out the best selling cards on the site, and noticed "Will You be my Bridesmaid?" cards did very well. I found a picture my sister had taken at a quinceanera, and the infamous "hem card" was created.

After five years, we have made thousands of dollars on this card and variations with same photo. We also joined Zazzle, another POD website where you can put photos and text on mugs, T-shirts, lamps, and hundreds of other products. You can see our store at*

Here are a few tips for starting your own store:

  • Take a look at some of the top-selling products and categories. Try to find card categories that have best-selling cards but only a small selection. This is a good way to stand out and start selling cards right away.
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of the trend. Jungle-themed baby showers? Steampunk weddings? Create designs with trends in mind.
  • Watch the forums. You can find a wealth of information and ideas just by asking.
  • Put your product out there. Start a Facebook page for your cards(you can see ours here) sites pay for referrals even for other people's designs, so start Pinterest pages with themed cards and other products including your own. Don't just assume items will sell themselves, get out there!
  • Find a brick-and-mortar store that will carry your cards. Some cards really do sell well as impulse buys, so see if you can find a bookstore, gift shop, bakery or other place of business that will host a small rack or spinner for you.
Create a website and blog with your cards. (You can see ours here)

I hope this is helpful information to at least get you started! Feel free to comment with any more ideas or questions!