Authors—whether self-published or traditionally published—can't afford to be meek. You must get comfortable talking to strangers. If you're afraid to toot your own horn, you'll have to hire someone to toot for you.
A business card is an important accessory to tooting, or pitching. It's a powerful and inexpensive 'souvenir' of a brief encounter or lengthy meeting that can lead to business. (Traditional cardboard bookmarks don't work with ebooks but do have legitimate use. See below.)
- Books are often sold one-at-a-time, and each happy purchaser can tell someone else, and each of those purchasers can tell other people, and so on. You hope. Business cards make it easy to pass the word about a book or author.
- You can have cards that promote specific books, or a series of books, and cards that identify yourself as an author, as a publisher, an editor, designer, illustrator, or provider of other services.
- Always have several cards of each type in your pocketbook or wallet.
- If you are going to a trade show, convention, reading, panel discussion, interview, networking session or other business event, take lots of cards.
- If you have a car, boat, airplane, motorcycle or bicycle, keep lots of cards in it, and keep them easy to get at. One of my books is about my late dog. If I see someone walking a dog while I'm driving, she or he often gets a card about my dog book.
- If you have a "go bag" for unexpected trips—put cards in it.
- If you're going on vacation, pack cards and know where they are.
- Business cards are a good reason for a male author to carry a "murse" (man's purse).
- Separate your various cards so you can quickly grab the right one.
- Replace depleted cards from the primary inventory in your office.
Some of my cards:
Any time you sign or send a book, stick in three to six business cards that show the book cover and maybe "at Amazon and B&N" or your website address if you prefer to sell directly. Make it easy for happy customers to recommend the book to others. While some of the cards may be used as bookmarks, crumb sweepers or be thrown away, assume that some will be passed on to potential purchasers.
For years I've gotten my cards from Vistaprint, a major maker of business cards and other promotional products for businesses. For the cards shown here, I uploaded a TIF image copied from the PDF of my cover. Most of my paperback books measure 6 x 9 inches, and fit fine on the business card with a little space above and below the cover image for promotional copy. Keep in mind that the more text you use, the smaller it gets, so write efficiently as well as effectively.
- The recent price was just $17.02 for 250 cards—under seven cents each with shipping. A thousand cards would cost $33 (just over three cents each), and 5,000 would cost $132 (just over 2-1/2 cents apiece). If you spend a little more, you can have Vistaprint use the space on the back to print some blurbs from readers or reviewers who like the book.
My wife and I carry cards to give to possible "customers." Marilyn has turned out to be an excellent salesperson. She motivated our dentist to order a book from Amazon and I signed it for him when I had my teeth cleaned. My podiatrist, however, asked for a freebie. I gave it to him and he displays it in his office. So does my urologist. Nice.
What about bookmarks?
bookmarks to give to potential readers. Bookmarks obviously don't work with today's popular ebooks, and they take up more space than business cards—but it may make sense to get some.
Bookmarks are available from Vistaprint and other sources for a few cents each.
- They are good giveaways if you will be having a book talk, especially if you will be selling books from the back of the room.
- If you sell books with autographs or inscriptions, insert a bookmark or two into each one before you send it out.
- Some readers collect bookmarks (I have a bunch), so it can't hurt to cater to their addiction.