The US greeting card industry, though a large customer for art, has been tough for artists to break into - that may be changing, thanks to the internet and a new technology out of Silicon Valley.
The problem most artists have is that entry into the greeting card market is through one or two large companies that already have relationships with the artists they are going to work with. Today, these card giants make very few of their sales online - even as Americans spend more and more time shopping online. “That has created a new opening for independent artists,” says greeting card industry expert Andy Meehan.
A new online technology has made buying cards online much more attractive for customers and thereby made it easier for artists to sell their work on cards. Now a card customer can sign a physical card in her own handwriting from anywhere using her phone. Here is how it works.
Artists upload their card designs. Designs range from sketches, watercolors, photographs, and abstracts. Some are even just text. Regardless of the design, the system automatically adds all the best keywords to each card so that customers can easily search and find them on the site directly and through Google.
Once a customer has found a card that she wants the new technology comes into action. The customer writes a note on a blank piece of paper, takes a photo of it, and uploads the photo to the website. The website then uses a special signing machine to faithfully reproduce the handwritten note inside the card. Minutes later the card is mailed. The result is impressive, as you can see in this side by side comparison of the original note and the reproduction inside the card.
This new technology has been developed by Blow Birthday Cards. Blow currently specializes in birthday cards but has plans to expand the card selection this winter to other occasions.
Blow has designed its terms and conditions to allow artists to maintain maximum flexibility. Artists retain all rights in their artwork and are free to take their artwork down at any time. Artists are also free to sell their card designs on other sites, stores, and venues even while these designs are on Blow. All cards are printed with artist attribution prominently on the back of each card.
Standard royalties in the greeting card industry typically range from 4% - 8% of the wholesale price of the card. That works out to about $0.12 per card. Blow prices all cards at $4.95 (that price includes the card and first class delivery through the US Mail). Blow pays artists 10% of the retail price which works out to about $0.50 per card sold.
Blow does not charge any fees for artists to list cards or use the website. Blow handles 100% of the production, fulfillment, customer billing, and customer service on each card order. The company also shoulders 100% of the marketing expenses incurred to promote the artists’ work on the Blow website.
Interested artists are required to submit a few examples of their work through this link before being invited to exhibit their cards on the website. Blow says they want to be sure there is a fit between the artist’s creative vision and their own commercial vision before asking an artist to spend time uploading images. If both sides think there is a fit, Blow invites the artist to create his or her own account and to upload his or her card images. The Blow technical folks help with any problems, but “artists rarely ask for help, so maybe we built the website correctly” said Chris Spiek, the technical maestro at Blow.
Artists working with Blow today seem pleased. Colleen Kennedy owns The Vanity Studio where she creates her unique brand of edgy cards for women. Collene says that she enjoys the exposure that having her art on Blow cards brings and that she likes the people at Blow: “These [Blow] guys are a lot of fun. They truly like artists and they don’t miss a chance to promote our work.”
Artists interested in learning more will find additional information at www.blowbirthdaycards.com/newdesigners