Lynda Schab on Writing Greeting Cards and Christian Mom Lit
In this interview, Lynda Schab shares tips on writing greeting cards, describes the changing landscape of chick lit and Christian fiction, and talks about her award-winning novel manuscript, MIND OVER MADI.
A Conversation with Lynda Schab
Q: You have had quite a varied freelance writing career so far, from writing greeting cards to winning national fiction competitions. Could you tell us about some of the ways that you've found to make a living with your writing skills?
A: That's true! I have dipped my toes in quite a few different bodies of water. I have been published in greeting cards, a handful of print magazines, several anthologies, and many e-zines. Primarily, however, my income comes from work I do for an online entrepreneur and web designer. He has kept me busy with ghostwriting, editing, newsletter writing, message board moderating, conducting various interviews, and other miscellaneous writing and marketing assignments. I am also the National Christian Writing Examiner and Grand Rapids Christian Fiction Examiner for Examiner.com. I've taken the summer off, but hope to get back to business with Examiner.com in the fall.
Q: You got your start as a writer by writing greeting cards. Could you talk a little about how that happened?
A: It was not long after I got married that I was picking out a greeting card for my husband (back when giving each other greeting cards was a regular thing.) I remember turning the card over and glancing at the price. Then something else caught me eye. Right below the Blue Mountain Arts company logo, in small print, was the following phrase: "Notecard poetry welcome."
Well, that’s all it took for my brain to kick into high gear. Without having a clue what I was doing, I went straight home, whipped up a six or seven sentimental poems I thought would fit with that particular line, and sent them off. A few weeks later, I received an option agreement for two of them. Of course, this wasn’t a contract to publish the cards, only to go through the market research process, which allows them two years to decide whether they can use the poems. In the meantime, I continued to submit material and eventually, a few years later, my first card was published. Since then, I’ve had a couple more cards purchased by Blue Mountain Arts and also three verses purchased by DaySpring, the Christian division of Hallmark.
Q: What are some of the dos and don'ts of writing greeting cards?
- Write tight. Make every word count, whether writing a one-liner or a long, sentimental piece.
- Research the market and see what’s out there. Don’t copy, of course, but use as a springboard for your own original work.
- Browse greeting card aisles and make a note of all the companies, then go home and Google them to get an idea of the types of things they publish.
- Write as if you’re writing to someone specific. It often helps to have a person in mind when you’re writing.
- Expect to get rich. While some companies pay very well ($300 per card), most average between $20-$50. But that’s probably not bad when you consider the amount of time you spent writing it.
- Get too attached to your work. Most companies purchase All Rights, which means once you sell it, it’s no longer yours – it belongs to the company.
- Give up. Just because a company rejects your ideas the first time, doesn’t mean they won’t accept one or more ideas next time.
Q: For someone interested in writing greeting cards, what are the steps for making contact with greeting card companies and selling the work?
A: The best advice I can give is to purchase a copy of The Writer’s Market or, if writing for the Christian market, Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide. These wonderful reference books include a nice section on the greeting card/gift market. There are many companies listed, along with the specific guidelines on what they’re looking for, how to submit, and how much they pay.
I also suggest (as I also mentioned above), browsing your local stores for other companies that might not be listed in the guide. And, of course, Google is a wonderful tool.
Q: Apart from your freelance writing career, you are also a fiction writer. Your novel manuscript, Mind Over Madi has been a finalist in three national competitions in two different fiction genres -- chick lit, and Christian fiction. Could you talk a bit about each of these genres and what readers expect from them?
A: Well, Christian fiction covers all the genres. Chick lit is a form of Women’s Fiction and is described as lighthearted, humorous fiction for modern women. Most main characters are single, young and trendy and many of the first chick lit books centered around “finding a man.” Lots of subgenres turned up, including Mom Lit, Lady Lit (for those past child-bearing age), chick lit suspense and mystery, paranormal chick lit, even lad lit (for the guys). A few years ago, the market got saturated with chick lit and now editors turn their noses up at that term, preferring something like “Women’s fiction with elements of humor” instead. So that’s what how my agent is marketing Mind Over Madi, which would have previously fit into the Mom lit category.
Some people think that chick lit is all fluff and no substance but that is definitely changing. The Christian fiction category in general is also changing. There are certainly still Christian novels out there with preachy undertones and spiritual messages tacked on at the end, but the quality of Christian fiction has improved so much in the past few years. Today you’ll find real issues handled in believable ways with not always neat and tidy endings. But one thing readers should walk away with after reading a Christian novel is either hope, faith, or at least a realization that there is a God who loves them and whose grace, forgiveness, and mercy abounds.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your novel?
A: Mind Over Madi is a lighthearted Women's Fiction about Madi McCall, a 38-year-old mother of three whose insecurities are destroying her marriage. Convinced her husband is having an affair with the mother of one of his fourth-grade students, Madi wrongly accuses him of cheating. He moves out, sick of putting up with her mood swings. Through counseling, determination to not turn out like her bitter and unforgiving mother, and an emotional confrontation with "the other woman," Madi learns to hand her insecurities over to the One who always has her on His mind, even when she's acting like a total moron.
That pretty much sums it up. Although the tone is lighthearted, the story really does deal with deeper issues, such as insecurity, jealousy, and trust.
You can learn more about Lynda and read samples of her fiction on her website, Lyndaschab.com.
Did you enjoy Lynda Schab's advice on writing greeting cards? You might also like our interview with Alyssa Ast about other freelance writing career options.
Also, check out our interview with Merric Davidson about magazine publishing.
To get more ideas for writing greeting cards, browse our poetry prompts section.
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