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Friday, April 18, 2008

Win a Business Card Design

Sandra poked me the other day and asked if I had blogged about business cards.

If you didn't know this about me already, in my other life I am the art director at a mega-company that shall not be named --to protect the innocent. I've also been a graphic designer nearly all my adult life. (that equals to a very long time)

I know a lot about promotional collateral. But even I was hesitant on where to spend my promotional dollars. After much consideration, I decided on the business card.

Only yesterday, I had lunch with a (NY pubbed) author and I asked her where she invested her promotion dollars. She said business cards were the only things she'd spent money on so far. She didn't think postcards, bookmarks and brochures brought her as much mileage as the humble little business card.

I have to agree. Here's why.

I am not fussy about what holds my place in a book. It could be a piece of toilet paper for all I care. If you look at the slew of books I read on any given day, most of my "bookmarks" are business cards. They're small, portable and unobtrusive, and I will readily give them to strangers before I shove a bookmark in their hands.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE bookmarks. I collect them for their aesthetic value alone. Some of them are really gorgeous. But I don't need them--and rarely use them. Judging by the books I've seen in other people's possession, I'm not alone.

The whole purpose of promotion and networking is to get people to refer to whatever trinket or card you give them. No matter where you decide to spend money, always have that in the back of your mind. How often will people see your advertisement? This is why business card magnets are so effective. I constantly see those magnets on my fridge. And I use them too.

Regular business cards are stored in a very nice BC album. If I have your business card I can find you at a glance. Bookmarks, on the other hand, are usually in a box hiding in my closet. Sometimes when I need inspiration, I go through them.

Those are my reasons for banking on business cards. Now let me tell you what to put on them.

Layout: If you have a book to promote, use your book cover as the main art. People tend to be very visual. I might not remember your name, but I will remember a cover and will look for it on that basis.

I like art. I will be drawn to a card with art faster and retain it to memory longer than a plain card. So if you don't have cover art, think about color and graphics. Think about branding. What does your card say about you?

Steer away from cutesy clip art. Go for something more original and memorable. Do you write mystery or suspense? Black and silver looks stunning. Horror? I know your gut instinct is probably blood splatters, but consider something creepier. Like maybe one eye with the silhouette of a knife as the pupil. Romance runs the gamut between sweet to erotic. The key is to know your audience. Who are you trying to reach?

Fonts: I've said this before. Don't get fancy with your fonts. You can get away with a "display" font as your main heading (usually your name) but keep the rest of it simple and easy to read. You don't want people to get out their reading glasses.

Color: Complementary, please. Just because lilac and neon green are your favorite colors doesn't mean it belongs on your card. Think about what you're selling, not what you like.

Blurb: If you have room, add your catchphrase. If you don't have a tagline, go back to your brand. What is it that you write? What is the tone or atmosphere of your style of writing?

And if you don't have a brand, at the very least list the kind of writing you do. On my generic (good for all reasons) business cards it says:

SF • Fantasy • Paranormal
Freelance Writing • Print & Web

Information: In this day and age you have to be careful what kind of info you give to strangers. If you must give out a physical address, use a PO box. Use a cell phone number as opposed to a house phone, otherwise people can find your physical address through sites like Reverse Lookup.

Email addresses pose a different problem. I've had to change my provider once already--along with the extension to my email address. To get around this, consider getting a Yahoo or Google email account. It'll follow you anywhere regardless of who your provider is.

That's about all the wisdom I have for one post. But I'm feeling magnanimous today. So how about this: Leave a comment here. Tell me what you write. If you have a book out or have one coming out, give us the title, a short blurb and your release date.
In three days time, one poster will win a FREE layout design for a business card, designed by yours truly, set as a high resolution jpeg and camera ready.

But wait! There's more. Link this post to your blog. If you are the winner of the layout design on my blog, I will also give a free download of TOUCH OF FIRE (when it comes out in May) to one individual who comments about this post on your blog.

Link me, baby, and win a chance for a free business card design.


N.J.Walters said...

Very good advice!

Business cards are one of those things that I know I haven't spent that much on. I've used a generic card that I wasn't really pleased with.

But, you're right. A good business card can have an impact. Having a graphic art background must really help you with your promotion!


Pauline B Jones said...

You make some points I hadn't thought of before. I've done business cards and bookmarks, though I only started with bookmarks when I "found" my personal brand.

Thanks for so much helpful information!
Pauline Baird Jones
The Perils of Pauline
The Key

J.K. Coi said...

Maria, very interesting. I was hesitant to spend a lot of money on this sorts of promotional tools myself, but I went and got some business cards a little while ago. They had a picture of my cover, my name and brand and the websites where my books are (will be) available. But I was disappointed. I don’t know if it was because they were very basic and quite plain and to the point, but I don’t think they generated very much interest. It wasn’t until I picked up some postcards where I could have a nice big picture of the cover and the blurb on the back (also with websites and publishing information) that I started to really notice people noticing. Whether or not that actually helped anyone in the long run to remember my books when they were surfing the net and direct them to my sites, I’ll never really know for certain—and that’s the trouble with this whole promotion thing in any case—but I know a lot more people have “displayed” my postcards on their desks at work, their counters in the stores, drag them out of their purses to show friends, etc., than they did with my business cards.

Josi said...

I also prefer business cards over other things, the last time I did them I had them done vertically, more like a bookmark, and listed no phone number or address at all, just e-mail and blogs. I figured if someone needed to contact me they can find me online, where I spend most of my time anyway. Great post.

Cheryl said...

Ah, business cards. I love them. I ended up using VistaPrint for two reasons:

1) I'm cheap
2) I could easily design my own

I received 250 business cards free and only paid shipping.

My challenge was in coming up with some sort of memorable tag line. I have no books out, but I do dabble in fiction. Mostly I write articles for Writer2Writer to help writers increase productivity through time management, stress management, and organization.

My tag line ended up being a simple, "Writer of fiction and nonfiction".

Thanks for the great post.


Sandra said...

Thanks for the advice, Maria! After reading your e-mail, I ordered two sets of cards from VistaPrint. They have the same abstract artwork (it reminds me of a wormhole) but are in different colors. One has my address and phone number on it for me to give to agents and editors. The other lists my short story title and the anthology but lacks my address and phone number; this one I'll give out to promote the book. Both sets of cards have my e-mail, website, and blog.

"A Reptile at the Reunion" appearing in Firestorm of Dragons, available in mid-May from Dragon Moon Press.
"The real reptile isn't always easy to spot..."

Rosemary Jones said...

Having passed through several careers on my way to becoming a writer, I'm always amused to find my various business cards. Right now I could be a publicist, an ad sales rep, a freight forwarder, a publisher, a bookseller, or an editor.

My bookseller card is my favorite because a friend designed it to my specs and the paper is really nice.

These days I do my "personal" cards through VistaPrint. They are nice and it's great to be able to whip out a card so easily.

Carol Burge said...

Ahhh, promotion, promotion, promotion...

Ever since I signed, promotion is all I've thought about. How to promote, the best way to promote, promote, promote, promote!

I've joined a few promo groups and have heard a lot of different ideas from other authors. Some good, some not so good. I still don't know what to do. The only thing I HAVE decided on doing is getting bookmarks, business cards and maybe post cards. Business cards are no. 1 on my list, however.

So far I've found two different printers to order from. Vista Print and Prints Made Easy. I've messed around and made sample business cards (with my book cover on my card) on both sites, and I do believe I prefer Prints Made Easy. The sample turned out awesome. I just haven't gotten around to ordering yet. :)

Jules Jones said...

I've linked from my LiveJournal.

Useful tips, and timely for me, because doing some business cards is on my "To Do" list for the next con I go to.

Nell said...

I use Vistaprint and as I have no art or it skills I use a stock layout. I did a batch lately just to promo one book and punched a hole, threaded a short piece of sparkly ribbon through to make a tail and voila. Cheap, eyecatching, useful and they've been snapped up whenever I've done a promo.

Michelle Cary said...

I think business cards are the one thing I have spent a little money on. I have a holder that fits in my purse and they're great to use if you need to write something down for somebody. Flip the card over and write the info on the back, then hand them the card and you're giving the person extra info they didn't know they needed.
I also go to the local libraries and slid my cards inside the romance books. People will think I used the card as a bookmark, but they might actually look at it too.

Zebee said...

Great insight, thanks. I live on a boat and am a 'cruiser'. When we stop in new ports and meet other 'cruisers' we exchange 'boat cards' which is our type of business card. It helps us keep in touch as we go our seperate ways.
As for my writing, I'm in the process of publishing (independent publisher) my first book and have been looking at ways to market. Since it is a children's picture book, I am looking at bookmarks but now that I read your post, I'm going to include a good business card in my mix of promotional materilas. The book 'Zooprise Party / Fiesta Zoorpresa' (bilingual) should be out late summer if all goes as planned.
Thanks again for the insperation.

Joy Delgado aka Zebee, or is it the other way around.

Cat Rambo said...

Useful post - thank you for going through the basics of business cards like this. -

Lisa said...

On an unrelated note, I read on Tia's blog that you lost a kitty a few weeks back and I wanted to offer my sympathies.
My Precious died November 8 last year after quite a struggle, so I know how much it hurts.

It doesn't help that so many tend to blow off the loss of a pet but it is quite painful for many of us.

Maria Zannini said...

Contest is now closed. Thanks for playing. I'll call the husband and ask him to choose a number from 1-14 and that will decide the winner.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

I was thrilled to meet so many new people, and you guys had some great ideas.

Michelle: That was a super idea about slipping your bc in a library book. Good thinking!

Joy/Zebee: What a cool lifestyle you have living on a boat! I love the "boat cards". I've never heard of that.

Lisa: Thanks so much for your condolences. Actually it was my dog who died recently. Our kitty has been gone for a while. He too lived to a ripe old age, but you still grieve for them regardless. Thanks for stopping by.

Nell: Any time we can do for ourselves is a plus. Sometimes it's the human touch that makes us stand out in a crowd. Good job!

Jules: Thanks for linking me! {{hugs}}

JK: >>I’ll never really know for certain—and that’s the trouble with this whole promotion thing in any case...
This is very true. Very little print promotion can be monitored, but it can be done. I'll try to cover that in a later post.

Pauline: You are way ahead of the game if you've discovered your brand. I think that's one of the hardest things for an author to find.

Carol: Oh darlin' I KNOW where you're coming from. LOL! Don't wait too long to order. Your moment in the sun will be here before you know it.

NJ: I use my generic cards for multi-purpose writing jobs. While I use my "book cover" cards for readers.

I took a quick peek at your site and I see you have a lot of books. In your case, I would concentrate on the brand--yours being, if I sized up the covers correctly, erotica. It might not take anymore than an abstact "Georgia O'Keefe" image to get your message across. You want something to express sexuality without being x-rated because you'll never know who you'll hand a card to.

Cheryl: I'm cheap too! We are kindred spirits. :o)

Rosemary: Good paper shows quality. I save those for special occasions. There are a lot of options if you want to spend the money. Embossed cards, metallic cards, folded cards. I designed a folded card for a stand-up comic once. It was great because I was able to list some of the venues where he'd performed. Authors can do the same thing and list their books.

Sandra, Josi, Cat: Glad I was helpful. :o)


This was my first official contest and it was great fun. I'm glad I'm able to offer something that will be useful to writers.

I hope you'll come back. By all means, keep linking each other. This is how we get the word out for each of us.

If you have a blog, I will be adding you to my blog reader so I can keep in touch.

Thanks again! And good luck!