This past weekend some writing friends and I were discussing why we need business cards and how to use them. The business card, after all, seems like an outdated concept in our world of electronic everything.
As a marketing person from way back, I’m not ready to chalk off this ubiquitous form of personal branding just yet. Business cards have been around since the 17th century, after all, and are a handy form of advertising that meet some pretty hefty requirements. Business cards tell others about who you are as a writer, how to best reach you, and what social media you can be found on. Well duh! But did you know that you can use business cards to build your readership, impress the editors and agents you meet, and build great business relationships?
Lately, I've had the chance to dive into a fun read by Bob Popyk, called Here's My Card. He has some terrific examples of how to use your card that you can add to your own experience. I've used some of his tips, and generated some of my own to put together a solid marketing effort when meeting other people in the publishing industry.
Here are five ways you may not have known about, or forgotten to use, in employing your business card to enhance your writing business:
- Collect new readers
You’ve heard it before. When you’re standing in line at the grocery store, bagel shop, movies and more, talk with people. Even introverted writers can do this one-on-one activity. Almost inevitably, people will ask what you do. If you’re prepared with a card, not only will you make someone’s day by meeting a “real author” or “real writer,” but you’ll have them following you on Facebook or liking you on LinkedIn. Just ask. When you bring out your card to hand to them, bring a second one, flip it over, write “Important” on the back, and ask your new friend if they’d like to be on your mailing list. Ask for their email address. Presto! A new fan for you.
- Connect with total strangers
This tip is so simple it’s hard to understand why more authors don’t use it. You’re stuck on that first weekend of the month paying your bills. Blah, blah, blah. No one enjoys this task. How ‘bout adding a little fun to the process by stapling your card to the check you write? Yes, this means spending about three cents more on your bill, but it’s a very low cost advertisement for people you might otherwise not ever reach. If you send this card to the same vendor every month, again, flip your card and jot a note like, “This month’s recommended reading is . . . (a book you just finished reading).” Great community service on your part.
- Support your writing community
The next time you’re at a conference and talk to someone who has business cards, ask your friend for two or even three of their cards. Let them know you like their work and want to spread the word about them. Talk about making someone’s day! Just be sure to try to follow up and actually hand out those cards. This works especially well when your friend writes in a different genre from you.
- Public exposure for your work
We’ve all seen those bulletin boards at the grocery store, at the library, sometimes at church. People post business cards in hopes that they’ll get a call about their service. Here’s what I’d suggest. Cut a piece of colored paper a little larger than your business card, and write across the top of it, “Read a good book lately?” Pin your business cards (3 or 4) in the center of this sheet and onto the bulletin board. Check your stock every few weeks. You may not add to your mailing list, but you’ll add to your readers.
- Make friends with librarians
My neighbor is a retired librarian and she told me that these wonderful people are not in the habit of using their business cards either. If you go into a library and meet a librarian there, start to hand out your card. But then pull back and point something out on your card that the librarian needs to know. “Sometimes people have a hard time with my email. It is dot net and not dot com.” Don’t be obnoxious about this tease, but when you use it effectively, the librarian is going to read your card more carefully when he or she gets it. Then, be sure to ask for their card. When you get home, write them a note and perhaps suggest a display that just so happens to have your book in it.