Author Business Cards
I’m going to go out on a limb and be riskily honest. When authors hand me business cards at conferences, I politely take them, glance down at them for the three seconds etiquette dictates, and then I never look at them again. I throw them out when I get home.
Hang on, hang on. Quit your outraged rabble-rabble and hear me out. Please. By throwing out an author’s business card, I’m not throwing them out. I just can’t remember who they are by that business card. It’s a generic-looking piece of cardstock with butterflies on it. Even though the author claims to write women’s fiction in which no butterflies are featured. I’m not calling that author’s cell. I’m not emailing her to see what’s up. And here’s the last nail in the business card’s coffin: there is only one reason I would need to be in contact with the author, and that is if I requested material. And if I requested material, I’d have the author’s email address when the proposal or manuscript was delivered to my trusty inbox.
At my last conference, The Portland Rose City Romance Writer’s Conference in Vancouver, WA, I received the typical stack of author business cards. I glanced them over with bored, half-lidded eyes. Yeah, yeah, more business cards. That’s not to say I didn’t like the authors–I did!–just not the cards so much.
And then an author handed me a business card after pitching her very interesting book to me in the lobby of the hotel. I took one look and my attitude about author business cards was forever changed. I saved this business card not only because I liked the author’s book and her professionalism and apparent dedication to her dream, but because her pitch was on the back of the card! Looking at this card days later, I knew exactly who this author was. I knew what her book was, I remembered our conversation and her energy. I even remembered how we laughed about the faces people make in their Facebook photos. (Ever see the duck-face teenage girls make? Or the classic shot taken from the ceiling?)
Here are some suggestions for stellar business cards:
1. Print your pitch on the back of the card. It’s okay if your card needs to be a little bigger than a business card. The agent or editor isn’t putting it in her wallet with her kid’s school photo anyway. But don’t hand them an index card, either.
2. Put your photo on the front of the card. This doesn’t make you vain, and it doesn’t make you look self-centered. Make sure, however, that you’re not making the Facebook duck-face, and that it’s only a head shot. You might have a great body, but we don’t care because we don’t recognize you by it. We want to see your face, because that’s what we were looking at when you were pitching.
3. Have a tag-line that you use during your pitch that is quick and compelling. The line should be simple and should express a.) what you write b.) your personal brand of that genre. For example, here’s a great one from Christina Dodd: “Classic romance that sizzles.” From four words set in a snappy way, we can tell she writes historical romance and specifically, it’s very hot. But she didn’t say “I write hot historicals” either. She was witty about it.
4. Personally (and I can’t speak for other agents) I do not need your address and phone number. I’m not stopping by your house, and I’m probably not dialing you (or really, anyone else. Email is king). You can include your email address if you want to. But I probably won’t be emailing you. If I requested material, I’m expecting you to email it to me. Make sure that email address is professional, as in Lauren@LaurenRuth.com. If I see that your email address is PinkKittenGurl@gmail.com or “Hollafirstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll assume you’re out partying and not serious about being an author. A website or blog address is great to have on your card.
5. Don’t get cute. You might really love butterflies. They’re iconic to you. You might enjoy the aesthetics of lighthouses, or the calm the comes over you when you see puppies. I don’t care. If I see a puppy, I will rightfully assume your book is about puppies. And if you write mysteries about a P.I., you’re giving me the wrong idea. If you write erotic romance and you have a huge lighthouse in the middle of your business card, I’ll think it’s phallic humor. Is this a joke to you?
6. Be clear and concise. If you have a branded look with colors and graphics, go ahead and put it on the card if you’re going to be consistent about it. Otherwise, a white background is fine. Making your card neon will not make you stand out, it will hurt my eyes. And that’s all I’ll remember about that card. Do not use a font you think is pretty, but I have to strain to read. I won’t strain, I’ll just put it down. Times New Roman is ol’ faithful.
I’d love to hear your great marketing ideas!