A professional business card is the one thing you must have, especially when you are attending a conference. You do not want to be scribbling your contact info on Post-it notes or torn-out notebook pages.
There are lots of places to buy business cards: any of the big-box office supply stores, Zazzle, and others. Expect to pay about $20 for 250 business cards, which will last you for ages.
I don’t recommend VistaPrint — their cards are flimsy and smaller than standard. I use PrintRunner, and paid $23 for 500 cards, which will last for ages and ages.
Most of these websites allow you to either upload your design file or create a design online using a template. Most of the templates are good, but not all.
When you’re designing your card, here are some things to keep in mind:
Have a strong focal image. This could be your photo or a graphic of some kind. The problem with using a photo as a background and putting text on top is that the text often comes out illegible.
Use a clear font. If you can find one that reflects your genre, you get extra points, but clarity wins over cleverness. A good balance is to use a big, fancy font for your name and a simple font for the rest of the text.
Use high contrast. If the color of the background is too close to the color of the text, readability suffers.
Avoid reverse type. That is, white type on a dark background. If you write horror or suspense, it may be genre-appropriate to use a dark background. If that’s the case, make sure the type is large and bold, otherwise you risk losing readability.
What information goes on your card
At a bare minimum, your card must contain three things:
- Your name: If you use a pen name, put Your Real Name, writing as Your Pen Name.
- What you do: You are a writer. Put “writer” on your business card. If you are attending writers conferences pitching a book, you are a writer. Not aspiring. Just “writer.” If you’re also a speaker, coach, designer…you can put those things also.
- Your e-mail address: Please have a professional one like firstname.lastname@example.org. Gmail or other accounts are fine, as long as what’s before the @ is something like your real name.
Other good things to include are your genre, a slogan, phone number and website. Some writers still put their mailing addresses, but I see no reason for this. For a business with a public office, this is important information, but for a writer who works from home, it’s not.
I strongly recommend putting your photo on your business card. There is nothing self-aggrandizing about this. It’s not about you. It’s about helping the person who brings your card home from conference to remember you. If they have both your name and your face, it will make recall much easier. You’ll not only be giving your card to agents and editors, but to other writers. If they look you up on Facebook or LinkedIn, a photo will help ensure they have the right person.
I like business cards that are blank on the back so I can write notes on them, but if you are promoting a particular book, the back of the card is a good place to do that. Just remember to keep your copy brief so you can use a readable font size.
Just like writing, design involves thinking about your audience first. What will be most helpful to them? It’s as true in designing something as simple as a business card as it is when writing something as complex as a book.