Getting carded

Dear Miss Snark,

Writing conference season (in my neck of the woods) is approaching. What is your opinion on business cards from writers? I have business cards, but it’s all the info from my day job. That information is irrelevant and not the contact info I would use with an agent anyway. Should I go to my local Kinko’s and have some cards printed up with my name and address?

How important are business cards? Will having them or not having them make a whit of difference? Will I seem like a pretentious poser if I have them? Will I seem like a complete nitwit if I don’t? Is this in the same category with the stamp obsession?

Lounging Labrador sends her regards and a half-chewed slipper to Killer Yapp.

Killer Yapp accepts with pleasure and wonders if the toe was there when it got sent?

This is covered in the Snarkives but it bears repeating. Business cards are a networking tool for your conversations with other writers. Don't give them to agents, or editors. Yes, we take them. Yes it appears we put them in our card case. Don't be fooled. It's the first thing I throw away. I don't even take them home. They hit the trash bin in the hotel room along will all the other useless crap I don't need.

Here's why: first I don't keep a card file anymore; I keep everything electronically. Second, I don't keep names and addresses of writers until they are at the "we want to offer you a contract stage". Until that point, I have your query letter, and I keep it in a file. NO agent I know keeps writers' cards in a rolodex. If they keep them at all, they are in a box somewhere with other junk.

However, for the other writers you meet at this conference, cards are a good idea. I beg of you: avoid cute. Avoid logos of feather pens and colored art and photos. Please please please make this straightforward information. Name, email, phone. Your city and state if you want. Website. NOTHING else. No motto, no slogan, no nothing. Those things scream "amateur".

When someone gives you a card, you write on the back of it why you got it. When you give someone a card, you make a note on the back of it to remind them you met at this conference and you both are looking forward to reading Space Ark (in other words, the venue and reason you were in contact with this person).

Don't buy 1000. Chances are good at least your email will change before you use anywhere near that many.

Don't make them yourself. (Don't give me grief about this. The only people who should make their own business cards are graphic artists and they generally know how to get them professionally produced anyway). Really don't make them yourself if you want to save money. There are a LOT of places that do template business cards very inexpensively. Homemade cards scream "amateur".

Don't include them in your query letter. I throw them away. I throw away a lot of what you send anyway, and it offends my preference for living lightly on the earth to see this kind of thoughtless waste. Don't do it.


Liz Wolfe said...

You can get 250 professional cards at VistaPrint.com FREE. Well, shipping is about 9 bucks, but still a great deal. And they have lots of templates to choose from.

Petrea Burchard said...

Damn. Mine are so purty.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I don't use no stinkin' cards. ;)

I wear a professionally produced visor with Preditors & Editors logo on it. No one forgets me at a conference. ;)

kat said...

For perspective, Jennifer Jackson has said that when she requests a partial submission verbally she notes the information down somewhere -- on the author's business card, if said author has one. (This was said in the context of "so don't send me stuff marked REQUESTED and think I won't notice, 'cause I will.")

I suspect this is a bit like pitching random agents at a con -- if they ask, go ahead, but otherwise don't waste your breath/paper. However, cards are cheap, and they are useful for odd situations like this, keeping in contact with other writers, and answering that ever-present question of "what the heck *is* my phone number, anyhow?"

Though that last may just be me.

Julie Polk said...

True about VistaPrint, though I'd add this: There's only one template that struck me as professional and classy enough to use (and it's actually quite nice), so you kind of have to troll around their site for it.

Also, two upgrade options I chose: first, for a few extra dollars they'll print your card on regular cardstock as opposed to the more lightweight, immediately-identifiable-as-a-freebie stock that's the default. Second, for a few extra extra dollars (very few, don't worry) they won't print their logo and "free cards from VistaPrint" message on the back. The total for 250 cards with those upgrades was about $22, which I thought was well worth it. The first set of cards I got from them were the cheaper paper with the logo on the back, and the logo was visible on the front through the lighter cardstock. I never used them because it just looked kinda cheesy.

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't get it. You're sharing your cards with other amateur writers. You aren't giving them to agents or editors. So who cares if you make them yourself? Or if they have a pretty picture? What's all this "look professional to other dweebs like yourself" nonsense?

My feeling is, if a card isn't a real business card, it's going to look weird. It will be obvious that you either went out and paid to have your name and address printed up or that you printed them yourself on those tear apart cards. You're not fooling anyone. So, hell, go for it.

Just, er, no quills or typewriters or cats on books, yeah, I'm with you there.

Anonymous said...

I've had agents and editors ASK for my card at conferences. I don't proffer it, but I'm ready.

Mine has no cats, but Kinko's printed it very reasonably priced off mine own design.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a cocktail napkin and a pencil would do just fine here.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely that if all you're going to put on the card is your name, website, and email and it's for other writers, the cheapest and most practical thing to do is download a free word template from Avery ( http://www.avery.com/us/Main?action=software.BlankTPLHierarchy&catalogcode=WEB01&node=0 ) and choose cards. It will allow you to lay out the information for card stock. You can even buy preperforated stock at places like Staples, Office Max, etc. If your printer doesn't print on card stock of that thickness, then print on plain paper and have Staples, etc. copy to the business card stock (or use their copier to do it).

The business card stock comes 10 per sheet for the standard sized card.

Anonymous said...

I am about to graduate with a degree in graphic design and Miss Snark is right about a lot of the extras screaming amateur. Some very cool things can be done with business cards, but if you don’t know what you are doing, it can get ugly fast.

One final thing, I haven’t use them myself, but I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about the business cards from overnightprints.com.

Maria said...

I know Miss Snark doesn't like cards, but it doesn't hurt to have them ready--have the front professional, as she says, with contact info, especially your website--on the back print (or put professional looking printed labels) with any publishing credits.

And please. PLEASE to any agents/editors reading this blog. If a writer gives you a card, DO NOT hand it back and say, "I won't use this, I'll only throw it away."

It's rude. Many of us come from day jobs where handing out a card is standard practice. Yes, even in our day jobs many of them get thrown out--but in the professional world it is like a handshake--it's just part of the etiquette. To turn your nose up when a writer hands you a card--but not when an editor or agent hands you one...leaves a very, very bad impression.

Anonymous said...

it's so true about how useless business cards are. they're equivalent to introducing yourself by first and last name to a stranger at a cocktail party. people pretend to care who you are, but they really don't. and those that aren't faking you probably don't want to know anyway. same applies to business cards. my wife is a high-profile figure in a very seemingly glamorous profession, ergo at speaking events she does, she is usually handed a number of business cards by everyone from suppliers and distributors to lay people who want her advice on how to get into her business. she takes these cards, and, if i'm standing next to her, which i typically am, she hands them to me. i put them in my pocket. sometimes, when i get back to my desk the next morning, i'll empty my pockets and leave the business cards on my desk. then, after i've had a bowl of cereal, i check my teeth for bits of lodged kashi go-lean! crunch. without getting too graphic, let's say if there's maintenance to be done, i'll reach for the nearest business card and let it serve me in its one true function. i can repeat this process until all four corners are blunt. sometimes i'll write directions or reminders for myself on the backs of others of these cards. like miss snark says, just stick to email. in this biz, nobody cares about you unless your sentences are good, so save your money for a writing class instead.

Scott said...

All of this leads to an almost related question:

What about letterheads?

I've read in a couple of books that a professional-looking letterhead makes a good first impression when querying.

Does it? Or is it just another thing for us to obsess over and for you to ignore?

Anonymous said...

Just the facts, ma'am. It's all I need or want.

Cute cards make me cringe. My least favorite was a cartoon dragon drawn in a shaky hand. On just the one card. The writer had tiny little smiling, friendly dragons on each that she'd put there one at a time!

It told me she had time to waste on bad art and thus possibly none to spare for writing. I kept that card for years to pass around at the bar, but thoughfully blotted out the neo's name.

Use some good sense and good taste, kids.

Less is more.

ORION said...

I guess I'm the sole dissident. I have professional business cards that I hand out if someone wants to email me / check out my blog / website or needs my address. I can't keep napkins but I keep cards. Other newbies? Yeah. Three years ago they were, but now several of them have been published.
That newbie three years ago could be a future published author.
Ya never know...

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'll change mine. Frabjous day! It's so much easier when I print my own. I put my book cover in the upper left corner. It's about the size of a postage stamp. If we have cards at all, then by all means, they should all be the same cookie cutter design. It shows our originality, right?

Joni said...

Ooh, a warning about VistaPrint. There may be plenty of people who are happy customers, but there is also a contingent of people getting unwarranted charges on their credit cards after orders. There's an entire consumer blog about it at www.consumeraffairs.com/online/vistaprint.html

(not sure the link will work but you can type it)

Buyer beware.

Jo Bourne said...

Dear Miss Snark --

This doesn't apply to me, so it's just random curiosity.

Would you give the same advice to non-fiction writers?

Might non-fiction types not, plausibly, run into editors who do want to keep note of 'that fellow who can write about astrophysics'?

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Guilty!I made up Vista cards before backspace - found COOL art the coordinated with my title! I dreamt up a tag line. I agonized over character counts. My "Free" cards cost me $70
(express shipping, a little copy on the back.) Apparently "Kim" spells "idiot" in some other language. I handed out 5, sent one to my Mom and now have 244 to throw out - MY TITLE CHANGED and I'm pretty sure my agent didn't keep his.... Live and loyne!

Kanani said...

Bingo. Vistaprint is a wonderful resource for anyone who owns a business, or wants a personal use card. It has a simple gingko leaf that is truly non offensive.

I like getting cards from other writers and I really like it if they put their url on the card.

But make sure you keep your email address current on the cards. And can we talk about email addresses? I think name@domain is best. I can't stand it when someone does "Chikkygirl69@yahoo.com" or "Masteroftheworld@hotmail.com."

Kat said...

Check out Moo at www.moo.com
Nonstandard card shape, reverse uses photos from your Flickr site. These are great little cards and people end up taking several.

Anonymous said...

"Throw out"?!?
Miss Snark, if you want to "live lightly on the earth" I sincerely hope you recycle.

Detail Muse said...

Good heads-up re: VistaPrint and its "free lunch."

BTW there's some nice irony going on over at the site Joni posted about ... the entry about VistaPrint has caused the Ads by Google to overpopulate the page with VistaPrint links!

Delle Jacobs said...

You're right. But you knew that. Most authors use business cards because they've been told they have to, and they will do whatever they think they have to do to sell. They don't understand how to use cards effectively.

I use cards, and make my own. But I am a graphic artist. My cards are promotion for my books so they are about my books, not about me. They are designed for quick, dramatic impact, like a visual "elevator pitch".

I've seen people, even editors, actually caress my card as they study it, so I don't care what happens to it once I'm out of sight. The card made the impression I wanted in the amount of time I needed.