The Author’s Guide to Business Cards

Since writing is a business, an author needs to be a professional. E.J. Wenstrom shares advice on the do's and don'ts of business cards for authors.
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Since writing is a business, an author needs to be a professional. E.J. Wenstrom shares advice on the do's and don'ts of business cards for authors.

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A business card may seem like a stuffy networking construct for lawyers and other suits, but they can offer a lot of use to any author that wants to build a career. Still, many authors don’t keep these handy professional tools on them, and even more authors undermine their efforts by creating business cards that don’t reflect the quality of their actual writing.

What can author business cards do for you, and how do you make sure your card offers the best impression of your author brand? This author’s guide to business cards has everything you need to get started with confidence.

Why should authors have business cards?

The purpose of a business card is simple: To make the next steps of building a professional relationship after that first conversation as easy as possible. These are both important relationships for your authorial future. Which means business cards are not something to shrug off or create thoughtlessly. Put your best foot forward by designing them with care.

What should be on an author’s business card?

When deciding what information to include on your business card, focus on making followup connections as easy as possible, without overloading this tiny piece of real estate.

An author’s business card should include:

  • Name: If you use a pseudonym for your writing, use that instead of your real name. If you have multiple pseudonyms, you might want a different card for each of them. Consider: How transparent are you with readers about your various alter egos? How much potential for crossover appeal is there? The answers should give you the information you need to make this decision.
  • Email address: This is the simplest, most direct line to you for following contact.
  • Website: Your website is your home base, and the number one place both readers and publishing pros will turn to learn more about you and your writing.
  • Social media: For my business card I simply tagged my social media as “@ejwenstrom” because my handle is the same across all the major social networks. But if you are on several networks and your handles vary (avoid this if you can), you may want to prioritize a few where you’re the most engaged.

These few key pieces of information are really all your business card needs. Providing concise details help the recipient prioritize their next steps to engage with you, and ensures they are directed to the most important sources. Too much information can overwhelm, inhibit followup actions, and look sloppy.

What about a headshot?

I have never seen a headshot on a business card that looks good. Even a professionally shot image loses some of its panache when printed on a tiny card and then bandied about in someone’s pocket or bag. For this reason, I don’t like to see headshots on business cards. As soon as someone connects to you online, they’ll see your headshot on your website and social media anyway. (Right? Be sure to do this.)

But this is an area where I see some room for debate. Because while a headshot on your business card is not very polished, it is useful. Especially after a conference, when people are sorting through a large stack of cards and trying to remember who all these names are among their blur of remembered conversations.

So, it’s a judgment call. But if you’re going to do a photo, be sure it’s professionally shot and carefully placed in the layout.

What shouldn’t be on my business card?

Avoid anything time-sensitive, like the cover image of your most recent release or a book title. A business card should stand the test of time so it remains just as relevant as your body of work grows.

How should authors design their business cards?

If you want to go the extra mile, you can hire a freelance designer to customize a card design for you. If you have one who created a stellar brand for your website or other materials, this could help maintain consistency in your look and feel. But this is by no means necessary.

Online printing vendors like MOO and Vistaprint offer very nice templates that are easy to customize. Just choose a template that’s consistent with your author brand’s look and feel.

For size, square or standard dimensions are fine. This is a matter of personal taste, but I advise against oversized cards because this defeats the purpose somewhat. Business cards are designed to be easy to carry. An oversized card may stand out in the stack, but it also won’t fit as easily, which can make them the first to get dropped or lost.

How much do business cards cost?

Business cards don’t have to be expensive, but be careful not to go too “budget,” or they will feel and look cheap.

In addition to design-friendliness, MOO and Vistaprint are also very cost-friendly options that deliver quality cards. You can get 200 cards (which in my experience will last a good while) for a comfortable $70 or so.

I got my business cards. Now what?

When I started networking as an author, I worried about being too pushy. My business cards sat in my purse and never saw the light of day. What a waste! Networking for your writing future is no time to let shyness or introverted impulses win.

Any time you talk about your writing, a card should work its way out of your pocket or bag and into the other person’s hand. When you’re done talking, say, “It’s been great talking with you! Let’s keep in touch!” It’s as easy as that.

You never know when you’ll end up talking to someone about your writing. Stuff a small pile of your business cards into your wallet and every bag you use so they’re always within reach to help you make your next connection—you’re well on your way to growing a thriving network of readers and publishing friends!

More articles by E.J. Wenstrom

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