Booksellers looking for a sideline product that complements their book-lined surroundings need look no further than Story Cards, a line of blank greeting cards launched in November by Maryland's Tell Tale Press. The sides of the card boxes resemble book spines and the back of each card begins a story that continues on the company's Web site (

The cards, which are the brainchild of company president Harvey Solomon, have interactive elements for both booksellers and customers. The stories are designed to encourage customers to visit the company's Web site , where they can read a continuation of the story. Those who want to write their own ending can enter it in the site's free writing contest. Winners will receive a $400 prize package, including a $200 U.S. Savings Bond, a complete set (eight boxes) of greeting cards and their bylined story published on the site. The contest also benefits booksellers: every store where winners purchased their cards will win $250 worth of Tell Tale Press merchandise of its choice.

Solomon, a longtime journalist and screenwriter, said the idea for Story Cards was inspired by the many hours he spent doing research among archival documents. "Whenever I saw those magnificent old letterheads that companies used to use, as a writer I started wondering: what were the stories behind them?" Solomon writes the Story Card stories himself and hires illustrators to bring them to life.

The card line consists of 24 designs of 5"×7" cards and envelopes, which come either individually packaged in acetate sleeves (with front sticker reading "Blank Inside: Story on Back"), or in boxes of nine (three each of three designs). The cards are in eight themed collections: collegiate, culinary, fashion, gay, Hollywood, indulgence, New York and resort. A dramatic, four-color, cleverly captioned and subtitled illustration on the front relates to an original and exclusive short story, complete with quirky characters, on the back. As the collection titles suggest, the cards' broad appeal includes students, gays, cooks, coffee drinkers, chocolate lovers and fans of fashion, film, wine and travel.

So far, the cards are in about a dozen bookstores around the country. Rondi Brower, president of the general bookstore Blackwood & Brouwer Booksellers in Kinderhook, N.Y., told PW she received the cards in a monthly Book Sense mailing. While she was unpacking the white box, a nearby customer said, "Those are way cool!" That feedback was enough for Brower to place an order at NEBA. Although sales were slow during the holidays, Brower is confident in the product. "December is not the best time to explain a relatively unique product to customers," she said. "We anticipate a good 2005. I'm excited. To my mind, they are perfectly suited to bookstores—they have good stories, good illustrations and even the tag lines are funny. Right now it looks like I'm running low... guess I'll have to reorder."

Tell Tale Press, Box 5434 Takoma Park, Md. 20913; (301) 588-4131; Wholesale prices: boxed cards (9): $9; individual cards: $15/dozen.