Sometime ago a licensed artist wrote this up in answer to a question from a couple of newbies: how does one go about getting one's art sold or licensed as greeting cards? I am republishing her answer here, with her permission.
As a note regarding my blog policy – you're welcome to comment on this posting if you wish to contribute to it; please keep in mind two important criteria: 1. constructive criticism and 2. respectful dialogue. Inclusion in my blog is not an endorsement of a particular point of view but only a recognition that we can learn from open conversation among a diversity of perspectives.
How to get your art published (licensed or sold) on cards:
1. Choose a holiday (valentine's) or sending situation (birthday-feminine) to work on.
2. Design a dozen and include your best art skills, typography, color, sentiment, trends and just work on the cover - not the inside - for now.
3. Work to size (5 x 7 approx.), use your best paper, pens -whatever your medium is.
4. Print out each one separately, in color, and make sure your complete identification, contact info, logo, etc. is on each page.
5. Research your list of clients to send these examples of your skills to – i.e. humor or photo only card companies don't want to see your watercolor florals. General card companies do. Your research will guide you as to which companies your art will fit into, or even if they take submissions, and what their schedule is. Read the 2010 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market, or other similar books, to get a list going of companies to send to.
6. Package your submissions and include an intro letter. Send it to the right companies and write the name of the art director/licensing director on the package.
7. Some card companies prefer submissions to be emailed to a specific address. Make sure you adhere to their requirements, including submitting jpgs or pdfs, what size of file is acceptable (like not over 10 mbs!), etc.
8. Wait to hear a reply. You may hear from them after they have a 'review' for their upcoming new release, or it may take months to hear back. They will tell you what they want or need (scan it, change it, etc.) if they choose one or more to buy from you. You may never hear back from some card companies. You may call after a week or two and inquire, but some companies specifically ask that you don't. Generally, if they want to get a hold of you, they will.
9. While you are waiting to hear back...get started on the next holiday/card batch!
10. Keep practicing your fine art/digital art skills and get better, grow as an artist. Knowledge is key. If you are a fantastic pastel artist, focus on that, don't try to be all things to all people.
11. If you hear back from a company they could buy your rights for a printing for a set price (typical for greetings), or they could offer a percentage of wholesale (licensing), at which point you will sign their contract.
12. Check out Kate Harper's blog and Joan Beiriger's blogs, they have great basic info there; also check library books and other sources.
13. There is a tremendous competition in this arena of art licensing. Hopefully, with time, your sales will outweigh the rejected cards. Your work must be special and stand out. Whether you have a distinct look (like Mary Engelbreit) that a company is interested in or your work is excellent and better than the rest in some other way, that is how you are going to get your foot in the door. Then it is up to you to keep it there and build your client list and business. It takes a lot of time, hard work, thick skin, good luck, perseverance and great skills.
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