By Drew Hendrix–
Electronic greeting cards may be click ‘n easy but the public still has a voracious appetite for printed cards; all it takes to enter the market and start making money is a printer, the right Red River Paper card stock and, of course, your best images.
The Greeting Card Association estimates that more than 7 billion paper cards were sold last year at prices ranging from $2 to $10 and that women accounted for 80% of the sales. Despite the e-card phenomenon, nine out of ten people still prefer receiving (and keeping) a card they can display– on a desk, bedside table, or taped to the fridge.
Most people regard e-cards as shallow and ephemeral– an easy way to get rid of an obligation without any real effort. On the other hand, paper cards have the opposite effect. They say: “I really care enough about you to have made an effort to send this card.” The card market is huge and you can easily cash in on it.
We asked some successful producers of cards who use Red River Paper if they’d share some of their expertise to help you enter this creative and fascinating field. And in our resources section, at the end of this post, there are links to more detailed information– be sure to check them out.
Christine Pentecost of Bridger Mountain Photo in Bozeman, Montana placed her first order for 100, 6.25″ x 9″ (A6) 60lb. Paper Canvas cards five years ago; she now orders more than 1,000 cards at a time, several times a year.
At first, she printed a few cards and showed them to retailers in her area. One shop was interested. “The store owner said a lot of photographers had come in with note cards,” recalls Christine, “but unlike mine, the card stock quality was poor and not something the store wanted to carry.”
Christine started off with a small order and “now I’ve become their #1 card seller! And it all started,” she recalls, “because the card buyer was impressed with the card stock.” She has expanded to other outlets and also does customized Christmas cards for many people and businesses during the holiday season.
Each card-with-envelope costs her about 75 cents to produce– that includes her cost of card stock, shipping and ink. Cards are sold to retailers for $2 each and then are usually marked up to sell for $4. She has also sold her cards at farmer’s markets and art shows where they go for $3 each or 10 for $25.
“The best part about those events,” she says, “is meeting people who have always bought my cards, but have never met me. I hear wonderful stories of where my cards have been sent, or how people have always sought out my cards to buy because they like them so well. It’s a good feeling!”
Doug and Karen McLarty live and photograph in the small hamlet of Rankin Inlet in Nunavut on Hudson Bay in the Canadian Arctic. Though populated by only 3,000 mostly-Inuit inhabitants, it boasts a sizable artist’s community and serves the surrounding area with government and central services.
“We have a lot of visitors over the year due to our location as we host regional meetings, sports events and general travel,” says McLarty. “We sell our cards through local gift shops, by mail delivery and local craft sales held during the year.”
He goes on to say that: “As photographers we take great pride in our images and didn’t want to use outside printing firms that frequently produce off-colors or crop subjects badly. We wanted to have control of what was printed.”
He recalls that one of his biggest challenges was finding a good supplier of bulk card stock since he printed upward of 500 cards in one sitting and both cost and ease of use was a big factor. “Most paper retailers only have packs of 10-20 cards but we found that Red River was able to meet our needs perfectly.”
In the past five years McLarty has printed, boxed, and sold thousands of cards to his customers. Images on his cards range from Canadian Arctic scenery, to birds and animals, special event invitations, images of his daughter’s Inuit art prints, birthday cards, wedding invitations, baby announcements and more.
McLarty’s buyers send his cards to their southern friends as gifts for Christmas and special occasions and use them as thank-you cards and general letter writing. They are packaged in boxes of 6- 5×7 glossy cards at $25 (USD $19) and 6-4×6 note cards at $15 (USD $11.50). He uses a clear plastic box to package the cards and envelopes and offers a mix of cards in each box.
When customers ask what kinds of images are in the assorted boxes he answers with pride: “Unlike many other card companies, we choose only our best images to go into those boxes.”
Memorial Products, of Cranston, RI, was founded 10 years ago to provide tribute card products to funeral directors. It is one of many innovative ways that cards can be used and the company produces thousands of prayer cards, thank-you cards, bookmarks and service programs each year.
Graphic designers Laura DePaul and Martin Bierer run the day-to-day operation where turnaround time has to be rapid –usually 24 hours– since funeral services are usually scheduled soon after death. DePaul describes one of their products, a typical “Thank You” card:
“We design these cards to reflect the decedent’s hobbies, interests, favorite flower and so on. Also, the family usually wishes to add a photo of the deceased. Just as much as we want to please the family of the deceased, it is just as important for us to pay a tribute to the deceased themselves.”
She explains that the company’s job isn’t the morbid side of death. “It’s all about creating something unique, meaningful and lasting for a grieving family. We’re here to help a family as much as possible during a difficult time. Our tagline is “Celebrating Life” and that is exactly what we do.”
You can easily print cards to send to friends and family with little effort. But you can also make money by printing and selling your cards to others. The market is wide open and you already have all the equipment needed. With Red River Paper card stock and some of your best images you can create beautiful cards that will be enjoyed and appreciated by both those who buy them and those who receive them.
Red River Paper’s Card Shop Everything you need to know about printing perfect cards including links to video tutorials, printer tips, paper types and more.
How-To Technical Tips