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 “Holla!@aol.com, 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!

 

LR

 

Posted on April 6, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on betweenasleepandawake and commented:
    Things I wish I knew before ordering my cards at Vistaprint. Next step: printing out my pitch on address labels to attach to the back of my cards, which thankfully do not feature a picture of a butterfly, puppy, or phallic-looking lighthouse.

    Back to editing my book!

  2. Hey, this was my first time at your blog, pretty great. Love the advice, especially about putting the photo on the card. It feels kind of vain but it makes a lot of sense.

    And I LOVE the ideas about stickers on the back. I do several different types of writing (fiction, screen/TV, memoir, essay, etc) so that makes a lot of sense.

    Thanks,
    Emilia J

  3. It is a fantastic idea to put a pitch on the back of your business cards and there are some excellent tips amongst the comments. I had been wondering how to get information on the back of existing cards – use a sticker of course! It would have taken me ages to think of that.

  4. I get compliments on my business card. I’ve heard bookmarks are no longer popular so I combined the two. I carry them plus I’ve added it to my website so people I don’t see can download it. Would you throw this one away? :) http://tonilynncloutier.wordpress.com/free-puzzles/free-business-cardbookmark/

  5. Great advice! I really love the pitch idea and the tagline as well. When I got to conferences, I end up hanging out cards to fellow writers more than anything. I love making connections and new friends and it’s far easier to hand a card than jot down info.

  6. Fantastic insight. I was hesitant about putting my photo on my card for conferences, but figured that agents would appreciate a visual reminder.

    I’m personally turned off by business card “book marks,” which seem to clutter up tables more than enhance publicity. Any thoughts on this?

  7. This is a great post, Lauren, and your advice is sound. I would just like to suggest that conferees not overlook one fact: that the agents will not the largest segment of the intended audience for your business card. We all get excited about meeting agents at conferences, and once in a blue moon, an agent/author match is made. More important might be the networking you do with other writers and even presenters. Your relationships with these people will inspire and sustain you through many years of polishing your craft, and may eventually lead you to that perfect advocate for your work (my friend’s agent is looking for exactly what you write…). You might also meet other writers with expertise that can help you with your project in one way or another (research, ms swap, etc.). So include at least an e-mail address for that reason, and distribute your cards widely—and the agent, especially as one as kind as Lauren, can feel free to ignore it! ;)

  8. So now I am feeling just a tiny bit of panic. I am hoping to meet you at the upcoming Las Vegas Conference and my business card will be very inappropriate for the occasion as it was designed for the purpose of advertising my writing and reciting western poetry. Perhaps I will leave it in my pocket…unless of course, you ask me for it!!
    Janice

  9. Excellent advice. I often wondered about the purpose of ph numbers on cards. I’d never thought of the pitch on the back. Love it.

  10. This was a terrific for me, Lauren! I almost ordered business cards a couple of days ago but decided to wait and ponder my choice for a bit longer. Then I read this post!

    I am glad I chose the design with a photo of myself. I simply figured that plenty of agents are like me: They’ll know a name or a face, but can’t put the two together without a little help.

    Looking forward to meeting you at the DFW Writers’ Conference. I will definitely have my pitch on my card.

  11. Great topic, great suggestions, and funny comments, too! As an author attendee, I even end up with cards from other authors, only to look at them later and ask myself, “Wait, who was this again?” The one I’ve kept had a photo on it, and she and I are still friends and have hung out together at conferences since that first meeting.

  12. I give out cards with my pitch on the back, and I always get kudos. Instead of printing the current pitch on the card, I print the pitch out on envelope sticker labels they fit the back of a card. That way I don’t have to reprint cards when I’m pitching something new. I just prestick a handful to carry around at a conference for the book I’m pitching that year.

  13. Colin is right. An author should consider their whole persona, colors and images, that is to be used on all promotional materials. Even the font used should be consistent on everything to promote the author and the books. QR codes will probably become standard on all promo material in the next year.

    My advice is: create your friendly handout material to present the author on one side and the book on the other. The tactile action of looking at both sides creates an extra glance, an extra second of attention from the reader.

    • Terri, thanks for commenting and it was a pleasure to be “partners in crime” at the conference. :)

      Excellent point about the turn of a card buying you more attention from the reader. I wholeheartedly agree!

  14. Business cards can be a great marketing tool but can also be a bust as you’ve pointed out. We need to know who we are handing our card to and what we want it to do for us. If we want our ‘audience/customer’ to remember us, I think it takes more than ‘here’s my card’.

    You mentioned several things you liked (professionalism, interesting story, enthusiasm) and the card was unique. Would you have kept the card if the story wasn’t interesting, the writer was ho-hum, or she wasn’t professional?

    When I’m talking to potential readers, I chat with them and make an effort to connect so that when I give them my card, they do remember me. I may take my cards to a writer’s conference but I don’t pass them out to agents and editors unless asked. I do pass out Romancing The Genre’s group blog business cards because I’m promoting our site, looking for new readers, which is a very different purpose for the cards than when I’m talking to an agent.

    Thanks for the great useful tips.

    BTW I enjoyed your workshop and the round table in the evening.

    • Judith, it was a pleasure meeting you! Please feel free to plug your blog/site here. I’m guest-posting there soon, everybody!

      Honestly, no matter how stellar the business card, if the pitch didn’t grab me or the author was extremely unprofessional, I would toss the card.

      Yes. Judith is right. Giving cards to readers and promoting a blog or a cause with cards is completely different. That’s because you want something different from readers than agents and editors.

      Thanks for your comments!!

  15. I absolutely never would have thought to put my pitch on the back of a card! That’s such a good idea, especially because business cards are not at all expensive. If you get a new pitch, make a new card!

    This is maybe a little irrelevant to most authors, but the form of a card (if thought out) can be really helpful. I’m about to exhibit my Senior Thesis for my BFA, and all of my cards have been folded into tiny accordion fold books (http://runningawaysouth.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/bidness.jpg) that match the work I’m planning to show. One of my friends has a sculpture focus where she makes cool geometric forms, so her cards are all cut in funny shapes and scored so that people can slip them into their pocket and fold them up into a take home sculpture later.

  16. Thanks for this post. Very interesting. I would have never thought of putting a pitch on the back, but it makes a lot of sense. I have my releases for the year on the back of mine. But I’m really glad now I didn’t put a cute photo of cat on it! Of course, I didn’t even think to pass out any at the Spring Intensive. BTW, it was nice to meet you!

    • New releases on the back of a card are good too, particularly if you can get a tiny thumbnail of the cover that looks clear, or a QR code linking to a sales page for the book (Amazon, etc.)

      The Spring Intensive was a great time!

  17. Good advice. It makes sense to use a different business card to give to agents and editors than you would readers.

  18. I don’t know that I have any great marketing ideas, but I’m learning some. Putting the pitch on the back of the card is *inspired*! What a great idea. If I were a consultant, or in some line of work where I would expect my card recipient to call me or visit my office, then address and phone information would be important. However, if I’m a writer at a conference, I’m giving my card out to literary agents and possibly editors. And if I know anything about literary agents, they care most about the story I’m pitching. And if they love the pitch and want to know more, they will email me, or be looking for my email address among their queries to see if I queried them, or be waiting for an email from me containing a submission. So it makes sense that a business card should provide the agent my email address and some means of jogging his/her memory about my story (the pitch on the back, a tag line, etc.). And it should be informative more than pretty. It might not be a bad idea to use the same design scheme as your blog or website–even if it’s just using the same font style, so there is a thematic connection.

    Tips to remember. Thanks, Lauren!

  19. Great advice! What about QR codes?

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