The first rule for being a successful author is to write.
The second rule for being a successful author is to write more.
The third rule for being a successful author is to always be networking.
You never know where your next fan will come from. It might be someone who finds your book on Goodreads, but it might also be the person in front of you at the grocery store or the guy you bump into when you’re out for pizza. You might get chatting with someone at the bowling alley. You might end up discussing your book at the DMV.
Your next reader could be anyone, anywhere.
So you need to be prepared!
That’s why business cards still matter in the digital era.
Although we all tote tiny computers in our pockets all day, it’s still a pain in the butt to exchange contact information on a phone—not everyone uses the same system, vCards work with contact and email programs but aren’t universal, and NFC transfers are kind of clunky.
Besides, after you dump your information into someone else’s phone, they’re not likely to ever look at it again. Phone to phone transfers are fine for swapping info with your new jogging buddy, but to promote your books?
Not so much.
Keeping a stash of business cards on hand might seem old-school, but it solves the issue of making sure that the person you were chatting to in line has a way to find your book even after you both move on.
They’re inexpensive, portable, and can cram a lot of information into a teeny space. It’s worth having a handful on you at all times!
What To Include
An author business card can be as simple or as fancy as you want it to be—it’s all up to how you want to present yourself.
At a minimum, your business card has to include your name (or pen name), your author website URL, and a basic description of what you write.
Think of this part as a tagline for your author career, much like a tagline for your book. Make it easy for people to understand exactly what you focus on in your writing.
- Bestselling author of sweet cowboy romances
- #1 bestselling healthy living author
- Award-winning personal finance author
If you plan to give away your business card at networking events, writers’ conferences, and other places where you want to make sure people can get in touch with you directly, instead of just finding out where they can buy your book, add a little more information to your card.
Including your author email and a few select social media profiles gives the people you meet even more ways to find and follow you, and increases the odds that you’ll turn them from “mildly interested” into “new fan”!
It’s also worth including a list of your current books, particularly if you make relatively few business cards at a time. You don’t want to make 1,000 business cards only to realize that you’re going to end up publishing 5 new books by the time you’ll have used them all up and be ready for more!
Some people like to include QR codes on their cards to direct people to a specific landing page on their website or straight to the Amazon purchase page for their book. You can make a free QR code on sites like QR Code Generator or Kaywa.
This can be a great option—but remember that a lot of people don’t actually scan QR codes, so you’ll want to be sure that you also include regular ol’ text information for your new fan to connect with you.
If you want to upgrade your business card presentation, consider making a two-sided business card.
There’s a few options for how to approach this.
You might want to put a graphic that represents you and your author brand on one side, with your contact info and tagline on the other.
Another approach is to put one or more of your favorite book covers on one side, in thumbnail scale, with your contact information on the other.
My personal favorite is to put a list of your books on one side, with your author website at the bottom, and then to put your contact info and tagline on the opposite side. This makes it easy to see exactly what you write, find where to buy it, and get in touch to keep the connection going.
How To Design Them
For a lot of folks, the idea of having actual printed items made up can be intimidating. Don’t you need to be a graphic designer or an artist for that?
While a great graphic designer is worth their weight in gold, particularly when it comes to creating your next book cover, business cards don’t need to be super-unique or perfectly crafted in order to do their job well.
You can easily get away with using a pre-made template provided by a printing company or online design tool.
If you want something a little more custom, a simple business card is a great way to try working with a new designer.
This is one of the few times I recommend working with a friend of a friend or your cousin’s neighbor who is trying to get started in graphic design. Everyone has to start somewhere, and while you might not want to entrust your next book to a newbie designer, a business card is a perfect opportunity for them to get some experience and you to get inexpensive custom design work!
Try asking around to see if friends, neighbors, or coworkers know anyone—like a teen or college student—who might want to do some inexpensive design work for their portfolio, or check on Fiverr to get a semi-custom business card made up.
Who knows, you might even find a gem of an artist you’d love to work with on your next book cover!
Where To Get Them
From local print shops to big online operations, you can get business cards made just about anywhere, any time, at any price point.
Very simple business cards that are just printed on one side, on normal thick paper, with no fancy upgrades are super-cheap—between online coupons and specials, you can usually get cards made for $8 or less.
If you want to get fancy, you can choose nicer paper, special matte or glossy effects, rounded edges, cool shapes, and more.
Just remember—as nifty as those star-shaped business cards might be, they don’t fit easily into most people’s wallets or pockets and they might be harder to get all your information onto. A business card is only worth having if it fills its purpose—and some of the super-fancy ones may not do that!
The quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to get just a few business cards at a time is to print them yourself.
If you have a decent printer, this is a great way to get just 10 or 20 cards for an upcoming networking event, or to top up your stash if you’ve run low.
Be sure that your ink or toner levels are solid so that the colors don’t appear faded, and make sure to print a test page on regular paper so that you know the cards align with the design.
You’ll also probably want to download the paper company’s special template for the business card blanks—most companies offer these free on their website—to make sure that everything lines up.
If you’re taking the DIY route, don’t use the normal business card blanks—most are perforated to make sure that the cards stay together through the printer and then separate into neat rectangles when you’re done.
Only those rectangles aren’t really so neat—they show little bumps and dips from where the perforation happened.
Instead, pick up some “clean edge” business card blanks. They come in smooth and textured types, and in white or ivory colors so that you can customize your look even more.
A ton of printing services exist to make fast, inexpensive business cards for you.
Be sure to Google for the site name plus “coupon” to see if you can get any special deals, and check in on RetailMeNot too—you can usually find coupons for 20% off or more. If you’re willing to use whoever’s cheapest, you can score great deals!
They all offer a range of paper types, optional two-sided printing, special finishes like gloss or texture, and even special shapes.
The minimum order quantity and shipping speed and price vary, so check out a few different sites to find the deal that’s best for you.
If you’re looking for something a little special, consider springing for Moo cards. These smaller-than-average cards are awesome for authors who have a few books out, because you can print a different design on every card you order.
That means you can put a different book cover on every card! It’s a unique option that’ll make your in-person marketing that much more memorable.
The good ol’ business card isn’t dead—it’s a great way to spread the word about your writing no matter where you go.
Share your business card in the comments!
Read on to learn about more effective old-school marketing techniques:
- How to Write a Press Release that Gets Attention from Reporters
- Merch, Swag, Goodies, and More: How to Make Great Tie-In Products for Your Books
- How to Write an Outreach Email (plus a bonus email template)
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!