Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Skinny on Business Cards for Writers

I admit it. When I opened my first retail store in the 70s, I thought of business cards as too officious for my branding--you know, something that CEOs handed out, though I'm not sure they even called them CEOs back then. How wrong I was. Business Cards are essential and even if you're branding isn't . . . mmmm . . . corporate, there are lots of ways you can jazz them up.

Then I became so firmly convinced that business cards are a must, I suggested that authors use them in The Frugal Book Promoter (http://www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo).

The thing is, it never occurred to me there was so much to say and know about business cards until I met Reno Lovison, author of Turn Your Business Card Into Business (www.businesscardtobusiness.com). Of course, he knows that business cards are still woefully underutilized in everything from the retail environment to their use by authors and other artists. And that they're often designed poorly for their purpose.

Mine, as an example, may be designed poorly. They are more like cramped mini advertisements that include my books' images, their awards and even little blurbs (or endorsements). None of that corporate well-designed, lots-of-space look. Right or wrong, I know they work and recommend them to other authors in my UCLA Writers' Program classes and in my books.

Reno hasn't seen my cards but it iterates my thinking when he says, "Think about it. Your business card--if properly designed--is like a small advertisement. You probably see the value of advertising in a newspaper or magazine or on the web where we often speak of “impressions.” That is to say how often the printed ad has influenced or made an impression on a potential customer.

A business card is no different. It is an opportunity to make an impression on a customer. If your customer [or reader] takes the card and looks at it three more times in the course of the week that is three more impressions. Three more times that she is reminded of your business."

Reno's chapter on communications strategy is a perfect tutorial in helping people consider their branding when designing a business card. And you've heard me talk branding, I know. On my blog. In my books. Everywhere I can. Authors, in fact, are their own brand but we still have to think about what that constitutes before making marketing decisions.

Reno also reminds folks:

1. "A card is a better way to advertise than many others because it will probably be seen more than once and is far less expensive per impression."
2. "Do not be concerned that the customer will eventually dispose of the card. Customers eventually throw away their newspapers, magazines , flyers and e-mail too."
3. "Distribute your cards to friends, family and people you meet. Enlist others to be your sales staff by providing them with additional cards."

Per card (and even better, per impression), business cards are very nearly free advertising. You can learn more about business card marketing in Reno's book at www.businesscardtobusiness.com and in The Frugal Book Promoter.

Oh, I should have said this earlier, but business cards are not just for writers with published books or for freelance writers. They're also for new writers. One of the biggest psychological hurdles we writers must overcome is beginning to think of ourselves as writers. Having a card with our name and the title "Writer" beneath it is a tangible beginning for that process.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a former New York publicist for the world of fashion. Though she eschewed business cards when she first founded and operated her own chain of gift stores she has come around and now offers them liberally for all of her books—from her novel, to her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers to A Retailer's Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques at www.budurl.com/RetailersGuide. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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