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Monday, July 13, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Business Cards

For those of you new to the Killer Campaign series, this is a set of posts that analyze promotional venues for writers. I've been doing this for about a year, but this series will draw to a close soon. (More on this later in the week.)

I've been an artist and art director for nearly 30 years so I know my way around the world of advertising. I'm also a shameless skinflint when it comes to spending money for promotion and advertising, so I always try to point you in the direction of the most cost effective methods I can find.

In cooperation with Lynn Viehl's Left Behind and Loving It virtual workshop tour, I am putting up an entire week's worth of Killer Campaign posts. Also this week, anyone who posts a comment from now through Saturday is in the running for a print copy of my post-apocalyptic fantasy, Touch Of Fire.

Tweet or Follow this blog and earn extra entries for the book drawing. (be sure to let me know in the comments that you Twittered or Followed.)

On with today's workshop.

Killer Campaigns: Business Cards

When faced with the decision on where to spend my advertising money, the first thing I invested in was business cards. While many of my peers prefer bookmarks, I think business cards make better business sense.

• Business cards are universally accepted.

• Your wallet has compartments specifically sized for them.

• People don't feel that you are 'selling' to them when you hand them a card.

• Business cards make perfectly acceptable bookmarkers.

• You can offer information and gorgeous art in one little package.

• And most importantly…business cards are CHEAP!

You can get them free at VistaPrint if you use their templates, or for very little money if you upload your own design.

So what should you put on your business card?

For the purposes of this post, we will discuss the promotional business card.

My promotional card uses the cover art for TOUCH OF FIRE. The only information I put in is my website, blog and email address. I'm trusting that the cover will be enough to draw people in. I haven't been disappointed so far. It is a stunning cover!

If you have a book out, by all means use the cover art as the background for your card. You want to achieve consistency when it comes to your promo collateral. The more often people see your cover, the better your recognition factor.

At this point, I will warn you that some cover art does not translate well once it's been reduced to business card size.

If it turns out your cover has too many details it stands to get muddy-looking once it's shrunk down. Do the next best thing and crop the image to its most essential elements. This will give you the recognition factor you want without destroying the sharpness of the original.

What if you don't have any cover art yet, but you want to start promoting your next book? Or what if you have many books out and want to promote your brand?

When starting from scratch, remember that less is more. You don't have a large canvas to work with so you want to make sure you have only the most essential information. On the same token remember that you are promoting your book (or brand). Be bold and be consistent. Consistency is the key to good branding.

Here are some tips to get you started.

• Graphics: If the cover doesn't exist yet, browse one of the many stock photo libraries and pull a few images that tells your story well. Remember my earlier warning about too many details. You're going to shrink the image down to a 2 x 3.5 inch space. Look for a clean image. Practice shrinking it down to see what it will look like in its Lilliputian state.

If you prefer something sans art, use color and theme as your graphic. Dark novels such as horror or mystery might rely on dark or bold color schemes. Young adult fiction is smashing with spring-like colors. Let your core audience dictate your color palette.

• Fonts: Simple, please. Make this your mantra. Try not to mix fonts too much, or at the very least keep the font in the same family to give your layout a nice uniformity.

Display fonts, those typefaces with a lot of personality are best used for your name and the book's title since they are usually set larger than the copy. Regular copy should stick to a nice clean font with a little weight for best readability.

• Color: Keep colors complementary. When you use two colors at opposite ends of the color wheel it makes each color brighter. That's important to remember because on a small canvas like a business card, legibility is crucial.

• Layout: Art and text orientation can be either horizontal or vertical. I've seen it set diagonally too, but I didn't think it was too successful. Try your layout both ways before committing it to cardstock.

• Information: If there's one area that people often run into trouble, it's placing too much information on a card. A business card is a teaser. It's an introduction and a taste of what you offer. You don't have to cram a lot to get a lot out of it.

If you really feel you need to say more, there are oversized business cards and fold-over business cards. Or you could print your info on both sides of a standard business card.

For traditional purposes, all you really need to include is your name, book title, blurb, website, blog and an email address. I don't recommend putting in a phone number or a physical address because you will be giving this card out to EVERYONE. Play it safe. If you really want a particular person to have your number, write it down on the back.

As a matter of fact, you stand to make your card more meaningful if you actually write something on it before handing it to someone. Cards that are written upon are less likely to be thrown away.

A business card is the cheapest, most useful tool you can place at your disposal. Leave them everywhere and spread your name.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. For more articles in the Killer Campaign series, go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --

Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.


Marianne Arkins said...

I have both bookmarks and business cards -- I think they both have their place. My biz cards promote ME and my bookmarks promote a particular book (or books).

You give some good points! And, since I'm in the midst of changing my Google Reader stuff over to "follow" stuff, I'll take care of that for your blog now.

Are you on Twitter?

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Marianne!

Ref: Twitter
Yes, woman! Look for: MariaZannini

Margaret Yang said...

I came here via Lynn Viehl's blog. Thanks for the useful information. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the killer campaign series.

Maria Zannini said...

Glad to have you over, Margaret!

Di R said...

I have been considering business cards, but didn't know where to begin. Thanks for all the great tips!


Maria Zannini said...

Hi Di R!

Business cards have always been my selling tool of choice.

If you can't decide between layouts (happens to me all the time) invest 10 bucks in perforated sheets that are sized for business cards. This way you can try out several cards and see how you like them.

Sherri said...

I linked over as part of LB&LI and will be checking out the rest of your series. Great post...Thanks for the info.

Kaz Augustin said...

I'm with Marianne on this one. I started with "book cards", which are like yours, M, but then it all started to mount up once I had a few releases under my belt. So I'm down to a generic card now. As I also do a bit of ad hoc English teaching at schools, something non-explicit also helps! When/if I ever get to bookmarks, I'll use my covers then.

Maria Zannini said...

Welcome Sherri! Thanks for popping in.

Maria Zannini said...

Kaz: One card? LOL! Girlfriend, I regularly keep three different cards on my person. All of them do different things.

If you have one book, like moi, the cover art for the card works great. I can't begin to tell you how successful that's been for me. Everyone wants a card. I've had to order them twice already.

If you have many books or are more interested in branding, I'd use thematic art and a catchphrase that represents my work.

For freelance work (in your case, teaching) I'd have a third card strictly for that purpose.

Trying to be a jill-of-all-trades on a business card isn't good advertising. It's a little like telling a prospective editor that 'my' book will appeal to everyone.

The key is to make it unique and special.

Sandie Hudson said...

Thanks Maria, great post and interesting. Not being published yet it is always great to get marketing ideas for future reference.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Sandie! Don't wait too long. Business cards are great to have on hand when you go to writing events like lectures, classes or conferences.

It's a painless way to introduce yourself and network.

Thanks for popping in!