Braden Graeber writes freelance greeting cards for independently-owned Sapling Press and for Paper Rebel, a subsidiary of Papyrus. His cards are sold in Target, Madewell, and gift and bookshops around the country.
How did you get into greeting card writing?
While I was in design school I created this meme, Hipster Ariel, that was picked up by Buzzfeed and got pretty popular. That got me a lot of Twitter followers, and on my feed I was writing one-line jokes — puns, rhyming, short statements expressing my frustrations. Lisa Krowinski, who runs [the small greeting card company] Sapling Press, reached out to ask if she could license some of it to run on their cards.
These days, we have texts and email and Facebook to tell people we’re thinking about them. How do greeting cards compete?
When I was growing up, greeting cards were a thing you got on your birthday from your grandmother and your aunt. Just like, “Happy Birthday, Grandson,” and not expressing anything deeper than today’s date. Now, with social media, we’re sharing our opinions and voices more. Our senses of humor are out there. You know which of your friends is always in a grumpy mood, which one watches The Bachelor or loves coffee. So instead of just “I’m thinking about you,” it’s “I’m thinking about you and we both think this thing is absurd, so I’m going to share that joke with you.”
They’ll ask for a bunch of ideas about getting drunk on Halloween.
How has social media changed the business?
Sapling specializes in short, text-based cards. Those perform really well on Instagram; they photograph well. A majority of those get [physically] sent, but they are also shared online, and that’s baked into the design and marketing strategy.
How do you pitch ideas?
Paper Rebel [another greeting card company] will send out a brief: Here’s the demographic we’re trying to reach, the holidays coming, things resonating in popular culture. For Halloween, they might send an article about how Halloween used to be only a children’s holiday, but over the past 20 years more sales have gone toward drinking. So they’ll ask for a bunch of ideas about getting drunk on Halloween. My full-time job is in advertising, and it’s similar to a brief for an advertising project.
What occasions do you like to write for?
I love doing dumb turns of phrases that make you laugh and think of a friend, so you grab it. But also taking on big holidays that have been sentimentalized, like Christmas or Mother’s Day. Family Christmases can be stressful; people have complicated relationships with their parents. So figuring out funny ways of cutting through that tension with a joke is a fun challenge. I did one for Mother’s Day that says, “Mom, I love you. But your comments on my Instagram posts are ruining my brand.” That one pops up online every year, and last year Julianne Moore got it from her daughter and posted it on her Instagram!
Valentine’s Day is here — the ultimate greeting card holiday. What’s your favorite card that you’ve written about relationships?
“I wouldn’t want to put up with anyone else’s shit.” It’s an honest sentiment that a lot of people have for their partners. Other ideas I might try to play with are, “Here’s a person you can hate the same things with. But it’s also someone you want to get naked with, hopefully.”