Monday, February 9, 2015

New Business Cards! (Are They for You?)

This is his good side.
So, after returning home from New York, I found my new business cards waiting for me. (Not at my house, of course, because that would require someone to pick up the mail in my absence, and who are we kidding?)

I had heard of writers getting business cards, but for a long time I didn't really see the point. Cards seemed handy when offering up services, not actual products like a book.

Why did I bit the bullet? Do you need them? How do you know?

You will know you need business cards because you find yourself saying, "I wish I had a card on me," over and over again.

Over the last year I focused on my web presence. Currently I have all sorts of online projects that I will often need to direct people to my website.

I realized I needed a business card because...

1.) My name has to be spelled out.

Most of my websites are deliberately straightforward: www.charleydaveler.com, facebook.com/authorcharleydaveler, twitter.com/charleydaveler. But not only is my last name hard to remember, my first name isn't spelled typically. Directing people with a "Just type in my name," doesn't work. Even if a person knows me, they might not know what my name looks like written out.

If you're lucky, you have a name that is unique to you and isn't difficult to spell. Remembering StephenKing.com is easy, and not just because he's famous. It's spelled exactly how you would expect. If your name is spelled phonetically and traditionally, if your last name is a noun (King) or adjective (Brown) or any common word, people are more likely to find you without aid.

If it's is too common, a little weird, or has a lot of typical variations, or if your website isn't straightforward, having numbers or maybe the title of your work, having a business card is a good idea.

2.) It's easier to self-promote.

If a person looks mildly interested, that's when to attack. But, I'm not going to take the time to find a pencil and paper (even though I carry them with me) to write my info down. I will, however, throw out a business card. They can do what they want with it. And because a lot of the business is about impulse, I'm much more likely to get their attention when they randomly find that card and are reminded about it then trusting even the interested people to remember anything I told them.

Plus, they don't have to say no to you. The worst part about being pitched to (and pitching) is the responsibility to answer. They can accept the card and throw it out later, giving them permission to just smile and nod and not feel guilty about saying, "Not gonna happen."

3.) People want the information.

After a while, it stops being just an issue of readily available advertising, but actually needing quick access to your personal details when someone actually asks.

I'm not giving out business cards asking people to like my Facebook page. (Although, in some situations they would come in handy.) I find myself getting asked for information about certain things, like my giveaways, and constantly had to take the time to write it down or explain it, which always comes off as awkward, even if they really are interested.

4.) It makes it easy to give advice.

A lot of fans I get are aspiring bloggers or writers. Conversation starts up about what I do, and they mention their interest in writing. As casual small talk at a check out counter, you really can't have the conversation they want, or that would be most beneficial to you. Instead, I give them my card and suggest they get in contact with me if they want any help.

These connections are more lasting than anything and are extremely powerful. When you don't have a moment, a card can be a great rain check.

5.) I'm often in networking situations.

I go to writers' conferences, writers' groups, book signings, and all sorts of situations where I make a real-life connection with someone. Making that connection last often needs to transfer into social media world (unfortunately), and again having info written down will make it more likely to be remembered.

It's something to give out to fellow authors or even just potential readers you've engaged and would like to keep in touch with. Again, real-life interactions and deep, long conversations is where you'll get your continuing fans, so making it easy to get in touch via the internet is extremely useful.

Where do I get business cards?

I used Vista Print. It was quick, cheap, and reliable. Also, for once I wasn't worried about having a unique, original graphic, (it's just about the information) so I could just pick a pre-made design I liked and had it done in less than a half-an-hour online.

It was flexible and $16 (including shipping) for a glossy, backless set of 500 cards.

BUT, sometimes it's important to support the Ma and Pa businesses near you. Any place that offers copies, flyers, or any sort of paper-based products will offer cards.

You can also make them on your own, if you wish. Use Adobe Photoshop or, print it out on card stock, cut it up, you're done. I know many people do this with professional results.

I don't believe this saves you all that much money, especially considering the time involved, and how much card stock that comes in a package. It is important for it to look good (it's advertising), so you should have a graphic design skill set if you plan on doing it yourself.

How many should I get?

I got 500. I don't need many (I probably give out one a month unless I'm attending an event, and even then it's like ten.) Five hundred was a little cheaper than less, and I'm pretty well stocked without being overwhelmed.

Unless you're going to do some sort of interesting promotional event, you won't need much.

What should they say?

This varies based on who you're giving them to and what you're giving them for.

Because mostly mine are going to random fans who show mild interest, I didn't use a phone number or personal address, not professional contacts (potential bosses, agents, etc.)

I included...

-What I do: Writer
-What genres I write.
-My main website.
-My blog.
-My email.
-My Facebook.
-My Twitter account.

You want the business card to immediately remind them who you are and why they have your card. You should clearly state your name, your job, and anything else to tell them if they're interest. You should have direct links to what they would care about, making it as easy as possible for them to find what is important to you.

If you have an agent who fields most of your questions (Will you come to my school for a signing?) You may include a way for someone to contact them (or just carry around their business cards.)

You might include a direct link to where they can buy your book, or just your book's name. If you have more than one, pay for a double sided card and list out the titles on the back. (Do not just put "Amazon.com." They can find that on their own.)

Make the card easy to read, without clutter, but with complete information. If you are getting requests for something ("Where do I enter your giveaway?"), write it so it takes the least amount of explanation. ("Go to my blog, which is that one.")

If you're considering getting them, it's a low risk proposition. If you're still questioning important details (pen names, domain names, etc.), then I would wait until you have to make an absolute decision. People use their business cards as an excuse not to make an important change all the time. But, for the most part, it might be nice to have them on hand, even if you never use them. At worst, you're out twenty bucks.

Plus, they're nice to look at.