JT sent us an email with a whole slew of business-related questions. We're going to take her questions in stages, starting with one about business cards. (Don't forget -- you can email us at edittorrent@ gmail dot com with questions, or just post them in the comments.)
So, let's start with the basic proposition that writers don't use business cards the same way that, for example, an attorney or salesman would use them. In those professions, business cards are used to try to connect with new clients. Basic contact information is included, maybe a logo, and that's it. The professional hands out hundreds of cards over the course of a year. Every new encounter is a chance for a new business connection.
Authors can use business cards in the same way to promote new releases or backlist. Wherever you go, you meet potential new fans, and passing out a little reminder in the form of a business card is probably a cheap and easy way to promote your books. Bookmarks might be a bit more friendly, but it won't hurt to have business cards with your pen name and releases listed, your website url, your twitter or facebook profiles, and that sort of thing. You can select graphics that build your brand, and you can use the front and back side of the card to include more graphics or blurbs.
But you wouldn't want to hand out your phone number to strangers in the checkout line, would you? So in that case, you might leave off some of your contact information, just for privacy's sake.
And in that case, the card won't do you much good at an industry conference. When you're at a conference and you hand your card to an agent or editor, we want it to have contact information. In fact, it's the main thing we want, plus something that will help us remember you when we're thinking back over the hundreds of people we met. I frequently jot notes on the backs of business cards indicating where I met the author, who introduced us, hair color, details of the conversation, anything that might trigger my memory when I pick up the card later.
Notice that I do actually make use of these cards. I know some folks will toss them after the conference, but I tend to keep them. Not always, though. The ones I toss are the ones from casual encounters (not pitches or other formal meetings) where there was no place for me to write my notes. The card may be beautiful, with glossy roses and swirly text and stars and rainbows and all good things. But if it doesn't help me remember my particular encounter with the author, it's not serving my purpose.
A very smart author once came into a pitch and handed me a very ordinary business card together with a fancy bookmark with all her book covers on it. That impressed me right out of the starting gate. It told me she understood the difference between promoting herself to readers and interacting with other professionals. I was able to use the card to make my notes, and you better believe that one of my notes was about her pretty bookmark.
Another author handed me a somewhat fancier card with her log line pitch pre-printed on the back. This was during a pitch, and that approach made a lot of sense. But outside of a pitching environment, it might not be as effective. And the logistics are a bit confounding. How many pitch cards do you have printed? Do you still get regular cards, too, or just go with bookmarks? I don't know the answers to those questions, but perhaps Team Comments will have better insights.
Another author once handed me a postcard with her book cover and jacket copy on it, and as we were talking, she peeled a sticker off a label sheet and affixed it to the card. The label had her contact information. I thought that was clever, and I'm surprised more people don't do something like that. It let her get around the problem of whether to get different kinds of business cards printed, or whether to spend her money on promotional items or cards or both.
That said, I appreciate business cards more than bookmarks or postcards, mainly because they're easier for me to index and store. I have a plastic case for them. They're alphabetized for search purposes, though I run into problems sometimes with the whole pen name/real name thing. I'm bad with names to begin with, and it's a new fresh hell to have to remember two names for everyone. Please consider putting all your various names on your cards. This won't help me with my indexing system, but it will help me connect your names and brands to the person I met in the bar.
Another helpful thing -- put something like Author or Freelance Writer or something on your card. I keep my author cards in a separate place from all the cards for typesetters, e-book designers, web designers, freelance editors, cover artists, SEO specialists, publicists, booksellers, distributor reps, printers, and all the other non-author business types I encounter. I don't care what job title you assign yourself, though my weird personal quirk is that I tend to read "Author" as someone already published and "Writer" as someone at the beginning of their career. I don't know if this is universal, but I doubt it. And I have no idea where I absorbed that particular distinction.
So that's my take on author business cards. If you have particular questions or tips, please do post them in the comments.