The thought pops into your head. It’s brief but it’s funny. It makes you laugh out loud. It’s a slogan that says it all. Why not see if a button company likes it enough to pay you for it?
As a long-time freelance writer, editor and journalist, I’ve always looked for ways to expand my business. Over a decade ago, when my kids were little and I was a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t have much time to write articles. Instead, I kept a pen and notebook on my nightstand, on the kitchen counter and in the car, so that every time a humorous thought occurred to me, I’d write it down. Later on, I’d look at these ideas, honestly assessing which needed work, which were a definite miss and which was the one-liner that would make a heck of a button slogan, bumper sticker, key chain or refrigerator magnet. I’d add it to a “batch” of ideas, code-numbering each one, and, when I had a dozen or so, I’d send it to a company via postal mail, with an SASE enclosed. Today, e-mail submissions are accepted by the top companies that produce buttons, magnets, key chains and bumper stickers.
About ten years ago, you might have seen “It’s not PMS – I just hate you” on a key chain at your local gift shop. I sold that hormone-induced idea for $50 to Kalan, a greeting card, gift and novelty company located in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. That’s approximately seven bucks a word. Not bad, considering I make about the same scratch writing a 500-word freelance newspaper article.
I also sold “Let gay people marry—they should suffer like the rest of us” years before it became—pardon the pun—the hot button topic it is today. That slogan earned me $50 from Ephemera, a Phoenix, Oregon-based company that specializes in offbeat and off-color humor.
Here’s how it works. After you submit your ideas, the editor will let you know if he likes any within about three months, depending on the size of his slush pile. (Note: I wrote “We Lied – Size Matters” a couple years before that Godzilla movie had “Size Matters” as its promotional slogan.) If he picks one out of, say, 10-15 ideas, then you’re doing better than most writers, since less than one percent of freelance submissions are purchased. Often, there’s a test-marketing phase, which can take another three months. If your slogan passes, the company will buy all rights to it and send you a check, along with a few finished samples.
Jim Buser, owner of Duck and Cover Productions in Oakland, California, is a wholesaler who sends slogan possibilities to his retail clients to see which they like. And they have to really, really like an idea before he adds it to his line and mails you that check for $40. For Buser, it’s a business, but it’s also about having fun.
“It’s very satisfying polluting the public consciousness,” said Buser.
Among the most important things for a slogan-writer to understand is the demographic—exactly who is buying that button, bumper sticker or magnet from the store. Also, since it’s generally an impulse purchase, the product has to make a big, spontaneous impact in just a few words.
“Buttons identify the wearer,” said Buser. “Or how they feel about the person looking at it.”
Duck and Cover doesn’t have a Web site, but you can see many of its products at http://www.stickergiant.com. Just type the name “Duck and Cover” in the search box and you’ll see that the humor is clever, sarcastic, raw and, sometimes, over-the-top.
“Honestly, I find most of the unsolicited submissions we get to be way off the mark or, more often, similar to material already on the market,” said Buser.
Before I send an idea, I’ll Google it to make sure it’s not something that’s already been done and that I’m not subconsciously plagiarizing. It isn’t worth potentially ruining your reputation even before having a chance to establish a relationship with an editor. What I’ve learned is that, if your humor is in line with these companies’ products, and your work is short, sweet and original, then they’re happy to continue to review your ideas—and maybe even buy a few.
Where to Submit:
Duck and Cover Productions, no Web site as yet, but Buser’s guidelines are as to-the-point as his products: “Be as original as possible, edgy, weird and thought-provoking.” E-mail your ideas to Jim Buser at: duckcover-at-comcast.net. Don’t forget to code your ideas and include your contact information.
Writer’s Guidelines –
Wendy Dager is a professional freelance writer who sees life as a series of one-liners. For more about Wendy, visit http://www.wendydager.com.