Business Cards: Your Tool for Networking

As a writer, editor, encourager-of-artists, and blogger, I’ve got a lot going on. Writing, editing, and creating educational content for budding writers are my primary sources of income, and, as such, require a certain level of professionalism and marketing.

I hate marketing. I’m not good at it and I don’t have the attention span to keep tabs on what works and what doesn’t. Do not follow my example, if you can help it. I really am my own worst enemy when it comes to this sort of thing, so I’m going to give you some pointers on one of the most basic, and most useful, tools for marketing your business as a writer.

The Business Card

It sounds simple, and maybe even unimportant, but having something physical to put into the hands of an interested party is critical. Many people take information in the best when they have something to touch. A business card allows you to lay all of your information out in one place. Everything that’s relevant to your business as a writer can be slapped right on the front.

There are plenty of people that think a business card is a waste of time and money, but, let me tell you, I’ve gotten few bookings and sales off of the occasional business card, and that’s worth it to me. A 90,000 word editing gig more than pays for that box of cards.

What Do I Need it For?

1. Networking. Finding writers to mentor you in your genre, gathering others to do a book tour, a blog hop, or a joint giveaway will be much easier if you have a business card to exchange. Odds are, the other writers you meet will have cards to give you, so let yourself stand out!

2. Drumming up business. This isn’t always super effective, but it’s one more way to pull in sales or bookings. Tables at conventions, book fairs, and signings are never complete without a business card. (Another way to do this is to create bookmarks, but they get a bit pricey. A great investment, though, when you’re ready!)

What to Include

1. Your name. Use whatever name you’re doing business under. If you don’t typically go by your full name, if you’ve published or done business under a pen name or online handle, your best bet is to feature that. You can include your full name in one of two ways:

  • Use your nom de plume as your header name and your full name as a smaller, italicized title beneath
  • Use your full name, if you plan to do business under it in the future, and include your nom de plume as your smaller, italicized title underneath that.

2. Email address. Some people are squicky about phone conversations, especially when making contact with someone for the first time. Email is a great way to allow those people to contact you with a little less stress. Make sure you create an email specifically for doing business. I recommend using Outlook, as I’ve been told having the Windows email looks a bit more professional. I, personally, have an Outlook and a Gmail account for business, but I use the latter much more frequently. I made it before I realized and I don’t want to change it.

3. Phone number. This is optional. If you don’t have a dedicated business line, or if you don’t want to change your personal voicemail greeting to include your business information, just stick to the email. Also, if you offer your personal phone number and you don’t like taking calls from unidentified numbers (I don’t), then listing the phone number will just be frustrating to potential clients. You have to answer your phone for it to be a useful tool. Don’t list it if you aren’t prepared for that.

4a. Website. If you don’t have one, get one. I use WordPress, since my primary content is made up of blog posts. If you don’t blog, consider a static page to display your published material, progress on your current projects, and regular announcements. Wix and Weebly are popular, free options.

4b. Newsletter. My blog keeps everyone current on my nonsense. I can create and toss up a post on a whim, and the people subscribed to the blog will get an email. Newsletters, in my opinion, are generally overkill for a blog. If you have a static website, however, a newsletter is an amazing way to do a round up of your week or your month and keep all of your fans and followers current on your progress!

MailChimp offers a free newsletter service for up to 2,000 subscribers. It’s a great place to start!

5. Social media names and logos. Make them small. The Facebook “F” is pretty iconic. No one will miss it. Same for the Twitter bird. Try to keep all of your social media names consistent so that people only have to remember one name to hunt you down. Homogenize your brand!

6. Your logo or photo. Have something on your card that identifies you! It doesn’t necessarily have to have your photo on it, or a custom logo, but maybe create it to match the theme of your website. My cards are the same as my WordPress header, but don’t actually have anything else defining on them. I may add a photo or the portrait I commissioned in the next run. =]

Where Do I Get Them?

Good question!

I created mine in Adobe InDesign and printed and cut them at OfficeMax. It’s not cost-effective and the quality is not awesome. Their paper is thinner than most business cards, and they’re done on a standard, business-grade laser printer. I worked there at the time, so I got a good deal, that’s all.

Vistaprint has great options, and you can still create your card yourself, and upload a PNG or JPG into their creator. I advise saving it as a PNG at a high resolution so you’ll get the best possible quality. If your cards are full bleed, make sure to include a little extra space around the card so you don’t wind up with weird white edges.

InkGarden.com is even better than Vistaprint, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for coupons. Their prices can be a little high. I adored my last batch of cards from them, and I’d recommend them to anyone.

If you have a conference or writers retreat coming up in the next week or so, you can still go to OfficeMax or Office Depot (they’re the same company and both suck equally, so don’t worry about which. Neither is better than the other) and get the minimum 50 cards printed. It runs about $17, unless you snag a coupon. At least that way you’ll have something. Definitely don’t go to something like a conference or retreat without cards! This is how we network, even if it isn’t specifically drumming up business!

How Do I Make My Card Stand Out?

Another great question.

I’ve gotten cards with Hershey’s chocolates taped to them. I love me some chocolate. It made an impression.

Use your cover art! You paid a lot for it if you self-published, and your publisher paid a lot for it if you’re traditionally published. Use that investment to market for you!

Include your author bio on the back. Who are you? What do you write? What titles have you published? Give the recipient a reason to follow up with your website or social media.

Get your cards, writers, and battle on!
Kit

What have you used on your cards that was most effective? What have you used that you’ve found has been extraneous?

A Writerly Christmas List: 6 Gifts for The Writer in Your Life

The holiday season is upon us, my loves!

It seems that, every year, the ‘gifts for writers’ posts start cropping up, and they’re always pretty awesome. Etsy and various geek-centered shops, like ThinkGeek, tend to put out some creative and fun ways to delight the writers and readers in your life during the holidays and all year round.

I’m not going to be posting links to shops here, but I will share a list of ideas for that special person in your life—especially if that special person is a writer. I encourage you to go to Etsy or Amazon or wherever, just pick your poison, and search one of the ideas below. Add your own flair. =]

1. Notebooks. All notebooks are nice, but there’s something special about receiving a journal that caters to our tastes. You can find them at Michael’s, A.C. Moore, or OfficeMax, among others, and they come in a variety of prints, covers, and designs.

If you really want to get fancy, buy a leather cover that takes sized refills. I have one from Barnes & Noble that takes size 4 refills, which is a pretty standard size. I think Mead makes one for cheap. I got mine for about $20, and I’ve had it for 6 years. Last year, my boyfriend made me a new one out of deer and cow hide when he was trying out leather working. It fits the size 4 refills as well, so I can still make use of the ones I bought and stocked up on!

2. Pens. I have a particular type of pen that I like—the Uni Ball Jetstream in 1.0 blue ink—and I can guarantee the writer in your life probably has one, too. Check out what they write with and see if you can get them a package of them. If they don’t write with a particular variety of pen, then buy them a pen you find neat. Cross, Parker, Pilot, and Shaeffer all have awesome refillable pens, and they tend to put out gift sets around this time of year.

I personally like ballpoints, but I’ve got a neat Cross rollerball with gel ink that writes nicely and fits inside my leather notebook. Ballpoint, rollerball, gel, and fountain pens are available in most of the aforementioned brands, so you’ve got some variety to choose from. Cross and Parker pens start at about $20, but you’ve also got options like Monte Blanc that start at $200. It really depends how extravagant you want to go with your pen gift.

3. White board and dry erase markers. I have a 24” x 36” porcelain white board that I do all of my initial brainstorming on, and I love it. If I could upgrade to a wall-sized white board, I’d probably outline every page of my novels on it. You can get inexpensive 18” x 24” boards for about $17 at Walmart, or you can go to somewhere like OfficeMax and get a massive board for upwards of $70, and every size and price point in between. They are absolutely invaluable to my process, and I know many writers who use them as well.

4. Scrivener or Storyist. If your writer has a love for finding new ways to write, one of these writing tools could prove to be revolutionary for them. It allows you to write your story, organize your notes, compile outlines, all in one easy-to-manipulate file. I love Scrivener. I have no idea what I’d do without it.

Scrivener has a Windows and Mac version, but I believe that Storyist is only compatible with Mac. There are tutorials for both all over the internet. Storyist goes for about $40, Scrivener is also $40, but if you’ve won NaNoWriMo, or can get a code from someone who has (Literature & Latte encourages the codes to be shared, so don’t feel bad about it!), then you can get the license for either program for half price.

5. A writers conference or retreat. These are pricey, and I know it’s hard to plunk down, like, $500-$1000 for a weekend-long event, but, if your writer is getting serious about publishing and networking, conferences are invaluable. They allow your writer to network with publishers, agents, editors, and other, more experienced writers.

They’re not hard to find. Just google “writers conference” and your state or surrounding area. There are sites that compile them by location or genre, and niche sites that host their own.

There you have it! Happy Holidays!
Kit

What are some gifts you’d recommend for the writers in your life? What do you, as a writer, want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule?