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Dash of Inspiration: Marketability – No Thank You

September 16, 2013

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Marketability: No Thank You

We are nearly finished with the Submission Guidelines series. Next to last up is today’s topic and that’s:


The Submission Guidelines state this: A card design can meet all the requirements and still lack impact, rendering it unmarketable in GCU’s market. The card needs to draw the eye, invoke feelings, and attract an interest in being purchased. Greeting Card Universe reserves the right to say No Thank You to any card, store, or artist which they feel are not a good fit for their market.  

GCU, in its efforts to help the artist community, does their best to give the reason(s) behind a declined submission. It’s critical that the artist community understand this level of ‘detailed reasons for decline’ is not the norm. Any artist who submits their work to publishing and/or licensing houses will receive a short rejection notice worded in a manner which ultimately translate into a simple “No Thank You” for their submitted work. In the real art world, most artists receive submission decline notices more often than they receive acceptance. It’s just part of being an artist.

It’s also important to note, that though GCU offers their assistance by giving the specifics of the decline, this also impacts the amount of time a given reviewer spends on a single design; especially when the decline reason is challenged and therefore communication continues with additional time spent not only by the reviewer who made the decline, but additional reviewers for a second and often third opinion. GCU is leaning towards giving a simple “No Thank You” decline in the future to reduce the time spent by reviewers explaining reasoning that a professional artist making submissions of their work, should already know. So keep that in mind.

Remember, GCU has no obligation to accept any cards even if they meet all other guideline criteria. This is their business and a market which they understand better than any of the artists, therefore they know what they want for new submissions. As any business which promotes and sells art of any kind, they know what areas within their market are already saturated with good designs, therefore they look for the unique, the ‘stand out in a crowd’, the designs with ‘wow’ factor, rather than just accepting every design that may meet all other guideline criteria.

In other words, you can submit a ‘fault-free’ design when reviewed against the submission guidelines and still receive a decline of ‘No Thank You’.

Ask yourself these questions about a submission you are about to make which meet all other guidelines.

Will it pass the Marketability criteria for …

Visual Creativity – there is a difference between a simple design and an uncreative design.  Simple, clean designs come in variety of styles, yet regardless of content, still be very creative.  An uncreative design looks as though there was no thought or imagination involved in creating the card and as if the card was designed in a matter of moments.

Look at this example I threw together which took all of 3-1/2 minutes and resulted in an uncreative simple design. Though the layout, typography and elements all fall within the guidelines, it’s simply boring, uncreative and absolutely can not compete with the 5000+ cards in the Birthday >> Mom category, therefore that translates to zero marketability value.

image september 16

Here are some simple, yet very creative designs which will hold their own against the competition and are highly marketable.

Creative Message

In most greeting card publishing houses, they license artwork from artists and hire writers to write verse for the artwork they’ve selected. At a place like GCU, the artist has the responsibility to not only create marketable, quality artwork, but also to write a verse to accompany the artwork.

The Greeting Card Association states this:

“The visual design of a greeting card is first to capture a customer’s attention, but the words will make the sale. More than three-fourths of card purchasers base their selection on a card’s text and the special me-to-you connection that those words create.”

“The ideal greeting card is a seamless marriage of art and verse. The successful card designer needs to create an image that’s eye-catching enough to capture the customer’s attention, yet reflects the tone and emotion of the card’s message.”

You see then why a lack of creativity in the verse may also result in a “No Thank You” decline from GCU.

Keep these things in mind:

  • Being a greeting card designer means you are most often inspired visually first. When you look at what you are creating visually (especially photographers), the emotion which the image evokes should drive the verse to suit the image and the occasion.
  • Don’t use the same boring verse over and over and over again.  I’ve seen this done by some GCU artists, nine out of ten complete different Birthday images, yet all say the same thing inside.  That’s uncreative and unmarketable.
  • Don’t put every occasion Happy Birthday, Missing You, Congratulations, etc. on the same image if the imagery does not evoke those expressions. In other words, don’t overuse the image.
  • Don’t use identical verse and cover text, again that’s boring and not marketable.
  • Do get creative and match words to imagery and occasion. Learn to play with words and feed off the image and occasion to create a verse to match the mood of the image.
  • Don’t just create occasion and relation specific cards which are all blank inside. GCU is a place where most shoppers come to purchase a card for a specific person for a specific occasion. Creating blank cards for ‘general’ categories is often successful such as Holiday cards or Thank You cards with a message only on the front and inside left blank. Or creating cards for the Collections >> Any-Occasion blank card categories are fine too, but if that’s all you create then your sales may be lacking. When a customer looks for a greeting card to wish their Brother Happy Birthday, they are not likely to chose a card that says Happy Birthday Brother on the front and is blank inside over the nearly 3000 other choices at GCU which match the image with a verse to evoke a great message.

Being a greeting card artist means being creative, unique and always trying to create a greeting card that will not only be competitive, but may even stand out in the crowd. Writing verse certainly is not something every artist is capable of doing and that certainly does not mean you aren’t a greeting card artist; but it does mean in order to reach success at GCU, you need to combine your talents with a message using whatever means you have access to.  This does not mean copying verses from the internet, in most cases you can’t use these for commercial use and you certainly should not copy other artists.  However, you might have a friend or family member who’ve always had a knack with words.  Utilize your social network if you need to – put your image for a new card out and ask your contacts to offer their thoughts on what the image says to them. Being a successful greeting card designer means you learn to adapt to the needs of the market.

Here are some examples of matching imagery to verse to occasion for a highly marketable result:

So, remember GCU can just say No and give no other reason. However with all the tips and examples given throughout this blog, the Wiki and the Critique Clinic, you should be able to design cards with solid marketability value every time you make a submission.

Next week we’ll finish this segment with the final section of the Submission Guidelines: MARKETABILITY: Intellectual Property. Till next week, may you be inspired to be creative!

For great resources & tips visit the SalonOfArt

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2013 1:30 pm

    Great article, Doreen, as always 🙂

  2. Cathy Gangwer permalink
    September 16, 2013 1:56 pm

    Love reading your article! Thank You!

  3. September 16, 2013 3:01 pm

    Thank you Sharon & Cathy for stopping by!

  4. September 16, 2013 7:58 pm

    Spot on, Doreen!

  5. September 17, 2013 10:13 pm

    Thank you Doreen!

    And I will emphasize this statement: GCU is leaning towards giving a simple “No Thank You” decline in the future to reduce the time spent by reviewers explaining reasoning that a professional artist making submissions of their work, should already know.

    We have made many valuable and detailed resources available to our artist community to refer to when creating new submissions and to reflect on when receiving a return for edits or decline.

  6. Sheila Fitzgerald permalink
    December 10, 2018 9:03 pm

    I guess I’m the odd person out because it doesn’t inspire me to “be more creative”. It tells me not to bother submitting anymore.

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