Renegade Writer Q&A with Greeting Card Writer Phil Bolsta
Phil Bolsta is a greeting card writer who has sold more than 1,300 ideas for greeting cards and related products such as T-shirts, coffee mugs and post-it notes to eighteen different ‘social expression’ companies in the United States and England. He recently posted a wonderful piece on nine rules for getting your greeting card ideas published. Phil was nice enough to share even more of his secrets with the Renegade Writer blog.
Can you tell us a bit about your background writing greeting cards? How did you get started?
I began writing greeting cards in March 1990 for Gibson Carothers, who wrote cards exclusively for Recycled Paper Products at the time. Gibson is the guy who wrote “Life’s a bitch, then you die.” He’s a brilliant creative mind and has written hundreds of terrific humorous cards. I would fax Gibson ideas and he’d pay me for the ones he used at the end of the month. Gibson was very patient with me and explained why ideas I thought were great weren’t so great after all. Without his tutelage, I would not have been able to progress as quickly as I did.
What’s your favorite card that you sold? How about a favorite one that never sold?
On the sweet side, I like this one that I sold to Recycled:
COVER: I didn’t know that I would fall in love with you . . .
INSIDE: . . . so many times.
Here are a couple ideas I sold to Recycled:
COVER: Happy Birthday! I was going to give you a Savings Bond as a present but then I changed my mind.
INSIDE: I didn’t want to get you anything that will mature before you do.
COVER: Even though I can’t be with you on your birthday, a part of me really wishes I was there to help you celebrate.
INSIDE: Guess which part?
Here’s an idea written by a member of my writing group that hasn’t sold yet:
COVER: There are three sure things in life—death, taxes and birthday cards stuffed with cash.
INSIDE: Like I said, there are two sure things in life.
Are greeting cards a lucrative market for freelancers?
Not as much as it used to be. I sold quite a few cards to Hallmark until they stopped taking ideas from freelancers. I had a lucrative agreement with Gibson Greetings until they were acquired by American Greetings. There aren’t as many companies working with freelancers as there used to be but the opportunity is still there.
What skills/talents does a greeting card writer need to have to be successful?
A creative mind, the ability to write precisely, empathy and a positive mindset.
You mentioned on your blog that you have to get yourself into the mindset of the person you’re writing the card for: A mom, someone with an older brother, etc. How do you do this?
Imagination and empathy. Get quiet, close your eyes and imagine being in that situation. What does it feel like? What would you do in a specific situation? The more authentically you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, the more genuine the sentiment will be and the more it will strike a chord with card buyers.
What do you like about writing greeting cards? Are there any cons?
It’s a wonderful creative outlet. You can think of ideas wherever you are—in the shower, in line at the grocery store, while you’re driving. The opportunities are limitless. And it’s very satisfying to come up with a great idea you know has never been done before. Any cons? None that I can think of.
What’s your top tip for someone who would like to break into writing greeting cards?
Go to card stores and just browse. Looking at other great ideas will get you in the right mindset to write gems of your own.
Can you point to any online resources or books that have helped you?
If you liked that post, you might also like:
Oct 5, 2009 Writing