Writing Advice: Business Cards

Since I talked about websites last week, I figured I should mention business cards. You know, the second thing you as an author need. It’s the one bit of promo you should have on you at all times.

Bookmarks come and go, just like books. Your business card is the one thing you can make a whole bunch of and it’ll never “expire” (unless you change email addresses or website URLs or something). My favorite question to ask people when they design their business card is this: if you ordered one million copies of your card (for whatever reason), would you be happy that you never have to order them again or frantic trying to figure out how you’ll get rid of them all in the next few weeks/months?

If your answer is frantic, then your card design is probably wrong. I’ve had the same card for almost five years (the length of time I’ve been published). Only in the last few months have I changed that card and that was to add my Twitter IDs to it.

So let’s get to it…

What should a business card have on it?

– Author Name
– Email
– Website URL
– Twitter / FB (optional)
– Brand (phrase that defines your books and you)
– Genres (this is helpful so people know WHY they have your card. Don’t just put “romance author,” put “fantasy romance author” or “erotic scifi romance author” etc. If you write more than one sub-genre, then putting “romance author” is easier. However, if you are firmly in one sub-genre, then say so.)
– Title (such as NYT Bestselling Author and the like. Though it’s tempting, don’t mention minor awards. The average reader won’t recognize it which means they won’t care.)

You can actually shorten the above list if you create an About.Me page (which is like an online version of a business card. This is one of mine). Then you can list one URL on the business card and that one URL will contain your email, website, Twitter, FB and most anything else. It’s a handy way of keeping the card short but also, if you need to change anything, you can change the About.Me page instead of the card.

What shouldn’t a business card have on it?

– Your physical address
– Your phone number (home or cell)

Think of it this way, if someone left a stack of your business cards in a public place like a busy mall, would you be happy for the promotion or scared a bunch of crazies now know where you live? Remember your safety first. These cards go to anyone and everyone.

Another thing you can leave off your business card is a list of your publishers. You don’t know what the future holds. That list could change, either from adding publishers or losing them. If you want to list your publishers, then do that on your website.

Now that you know what to put on the card, how about the card itself. Of course you want a design that’s eye-catching. My card was designed by my best friend, using the avatars depicted on my websites. Because I write under two names that I don’t hide from one another, my card is double-sided. That saves me from having to carry around and hand out two different cards. The only downside is that the card has no room for someone to write on it. But the pretty characters depicted on it more than make up for that.

If you can swing it, go for an original design. I know there are a lot of online print shops that offer great deals on business cards featuring stock photos/art. There’s only one problem with that. The design you pick is probably in use by a bunch of other authors (and other businesses) as well.

Your card is officially not unique, thus it isn’t memorable. There is an online print shop with this picture of a hunky guy’s chest grey-washed. I saw that on no less than five different erotic authors’ business cards when they sent them to me for a promotional opportunity. And after all this time, all I remember is the picture of the guy, not the authors who used him.

The other author favorite was a single red rose. It’s cheaper to use the stock photo and I don’t fault anyone for trying to save money, but realize that your card will look like 5 others (at least) if 30 authors laid their business cards on a table.

Which leads to my next point. Covers on business cards = No. But that would make it unique. Yes, it would. That would also guarantee you’ll have to change out your business card when your next book comes out. For short promotion, a cover on a business card is a good idea, but you shouldn’t order more than one box. Not unless you have a solid plan to get rid of them all, like in the registration bags of a large convention. Save the covers for bookmarks.

Other little tidbits…

– Stick to standard. Don’t try to be “unique” when it comes to choosing your business card size or shape. Stick to the standard 2×3.5 rectangle. People have business card holders that fit STANDARD business cards. Anything else will get put in a place they might never look again, thus your card is lost.

– Multiple colors for wording = NO. Think of a book. Would you keep reading if halfway down the page the font and font color changed and then did it again on the very next page. No. You expect the font to be uniform and consistent. The same goes for business cards and websites.

– Cute, scrawling fonts = NO! Your card needs to be legible or else it serves no purpose. It may be boring, but pick fonts that are easy to read — Times New Roman, Verdana, Tahoma, Courier, etc. Use bold and italics if you want to emphasize something. You can choose something fancy for your name but everything else needs to be a basic font. Make sure the lettering isn’t crowded. Ink spreads in printing. You don’t want your URL or email address looking like one giant smudge.

– LARGE TYPE. What looks big on your computer is going to be tiny on your card. There’s a reason 12pt font is the norm for printed material. It’s easy to read. Your font shouldn’t go below 10pt and even that is pushing it. If you aren’t sure your design will work, waste the ink and print it out. Sure it won’t look the way it would if a professional print place did it, but you’ll get a good idea how your card will look with a subpar print job. As well, your name should be the BIGGEST thing on the card. You want your name to be the first thing people see.

– Black/dark backgrounds and light text = No. Just like websites, it’s hard to read.

– Glossy. My personal preference is to skip glossy. It costs less to omit it, number one. Number two, having a matte finish (papery texture) means people can write on your card. At conventions/conferences, I write notes on the cards I receive so I can remember why I have the card when I get home. Short stuff like “check vampire book” or “contact about agent” and stuff like that. Don’t ever think you’ll remember something after a convention/conference. It’s not going to happen, but that’s a topic for another time.

– Do-it-Yourself Cards = be cautious. Your business cards represent you. Don’t hand out something that looks like garbage or else that’s where the person will put it. Make sure your printer and ink inventory is up to the task of handling 250+ cards. Also make sure the DIY cards you choose don’t have frayed/jagged edges when you pull them apart. You think it might be cheaper but, in the long run, it’s not. You have to buy the paper and the ink. My ink cartridges cost $23 a pop, and those packs of cards start at $4 for 100 and go up from there. Then you have to factor in wear and tear on your printer. Places like Got Print offer 5000 business cards for $50 (also free art uploads).

This post got way longer than I intended it to be, but all this stuff needed to be said.

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