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Business Cards

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yesterday, Jess posted the following comment:

Hey, Kaye. I’m thinking of attending ACFW this year, and I was wondering if you’d mind posting about when you decided to get business cards, what you put on them (before you were published) how many you got, how you chose the style to match your novels’, etc.
If you don’t want to go into all that detail, would you mind posting what your business cards look like–currently or in the past?

I had two things going for me early on when it came to the understanding of the necessity of business cards: I worked as an admin/exec assistant and I was in in the advertising industry (mainly daily newspapers) for twelve years. That meant not only did I put my sales reps’/managers’ business cards into the mailings and proposal packages I put together for them, I had to order the cards for them as well. So from a business perspective, I knew one had to have business cards to be taken seriously as a professional. I also knew that a business card needed to be professional looking, demonstrating the image of the brand being represented (complete with white space and a logo/branding image of some kind—at the newspaper, it was the name of the publication in the masthead type along with the logo of the corporation that owned that particular paper).

I can’t remember exactly when I created my first business cards for myself as a writer, but I’m pretty sure it was before the 2004 ACRW conference—even though it was my third conference to attend, to that point, I’d really only been attending the conferences. But in 2004, I was prepared to go and network, along with pitching the new novel I’d just started, the one I was certain was going to be published (which was the initial idea for Stand-In Groom, of which only ten chapters was completed and I hadn’t come up with the most important plot point yet—George’s hidden identity!). The reason I can remember making cards for that one (buying the perforated, print-at-home stock and “designing” them in MS Word) is because, after much discussion about it on the ACRW loop, I printed my elevator pitch paragraph on the back of the cards (everyone was doing it then!). I wish I still had that on the computer so I could show you, but I’ve searched and searched and can’t find the document. I probably printed 50 to 100 of them, and ended up coming home with most of them.

Then, in 2006, I’d heard of a website called VistaPrint which offered “free” business cards—one only had to pay for shipping, which was much cheaper than buying the print-at-home stock, and they wouldn’t have fuzzy edges from the perforations. So, I got on, found a professional-looking template I liked, plugged my info in, and ordered them:

At this point, you can see that I hadn’t really been paying attention to how I’d been branding myself—as “Kaye Dacus” on my e-mail signatures, my interactions with all of the industry professionals (I was Vice President of ACFW by this time), and on my newly started blog—which I’d started earlier that year just so I’d have a web address to list. I had, however, come up with my initial tagline by this time: Inspirational Romance with a Sense of Humor. I ordered the standard box of 250, which is the quantity VP will do for “free.”

In 2007, I’d realized my error in thinking that using my full name would be a good idea, and had migrated the blog over here to WordPress and gotten a domain, so I ordered new cards before conference that year:

With this, obviously, I was trying to keep people from seeing me as pigeon-holed into only one career (author).

Then, before the 2008 conference, I needed new cards because my e-mail address had changed:

Three different iterations of the same card. The same boring, ho-hum, doesn’t really say anything about me or what I actually do, generic template. Cheap, yes. Utilitarian, yes. Adequate, yes.

For the past fourteen or so months since I’ve been published, I’ve slowly been figuring out what my “image” is as a writer. Did I want to be serious or light-hearted? Well, since my books are light-hearted, my peripherals needed to have a light-hearted touch to them, too. So all of my flyers and my blog started taking on a more light-hearted look.

But then there were my business cards.

When I went to Shreveport at the beginning of March to speak at the NoLA RWA chapter’s conference, I collected as many cards from the writers there as I could. What did the designs tell me about the writers? Which ones did I like? Which ones were too busy? Which ones didn’t give enough information/gave too much info? Like everything else in my life, before moving forward with a decision, I did my research. And my research told me it was time to update the look of my business cards—which meant actually paying for them. But I couldn’t spend too much, so it was still a matter of finding an existing design template I liked but that better conveyed my image.

First step: coming up with a new, more specific tagline.

You’ll notice that the original tagline changed slightly from Business Card #1 to Business Card #3—from Romance to Fiction (Inspirational Fiction with a Sense of Humor)—this was because I’d pitched (and had taken to pub board) a small-town fiction series proposal in the fall of 2007 that wasn’t romance, so I didn’t want to label myself a “romance” author if there was a possibility of selling a non-romance series. But, in essence, I took what was already a generic tagline and made it even more generic.

I knew I wanted my new tagline to incorporate two things I adore: Happily Ever Afters and alliteration—something my readers should be familiar with by now. So I started with Happily Ever Afters. Then, naturally, there was Humor. Two Hs. I needed a third (good things come in threes). It only took getting an e-mail from a reader to figure out what the third one should be: Hope. (She wrote that one reason she enjoyed reading my books so much is because they have a very hopeful worldview.) I’ve also said in many interviews that one of my main audiences is women 30+ who’re still single who want to read something that gives them hope that Mr. Right is out there somewhere (hopefully closer than we think). So there was my third H.

Now that I had my new tagline, it was time for new design. New colors. New fonts. I went through several different templates and did quite a bit of advanced editing and finally came up with my final design:

This time, I ordered 1,000 of them (only because they told me I could get 500 more for something like $4 after I placed the original order for 500).

I’d always sworn that I’d never get business cards with my photo on them. Then something happened to change my mind. Several authors I know here in Nashville use an independent publicist, whom I’ve met a few times at their book signings. I even sat next to him at lunch after the local RWA chapter meeting last month and carried on a conversation with him. I’d given him my business card, because I was interested in having him come speak at the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers group. Out of the blue (because I hadn’t had time to follow up that request with an e-mail), he e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago. So-and-so suggested he should contact me about possibly doing some work together. He didn’t remember who I was—wasn’t connecting my face with my name. And it hit me—if he’d had a business card with my picture on it, he’d have remembered who I was. Thus, the picture.

To whom do I give them? Anyone I want to give my e-mail address to (gave a couple of them to people at church yesterday morning), anyone I want to give my website address to, other authors and industry professionals, and I put them out on the table at book signings.

Now, who noticed the one design element stayed the same from the original template to this new one? And Jess, does that answer your questions?

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Monday, April 19, 2010 5:36 am

    I love seeing the transformation of your cards and the thought processes behind them! There’s a lot of information that I never thought of, but will remember for future reference. I did notice that the little colorful squares were in all of the cards. 🙂

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 3:40 pm

      Yep–for some reason, I’m drawn to squares—well, really, any symmetrical geometric shape. When I doodle, that’s what comes out—geometric shapes!

      Like

  2. Monday, April 19, 2010 5:50 am

    You still have the blocks on your card. 🙂 I just went through a redesign of my business card for my homeschool blog. Mine has changed over the years too ~ but keeping my tag line has been important to me. Since I redesigned my blog I wanted a cleaner feel to the card. They have come in handy not only for conferences and homeschool conventions, but even when meeting up with other moms in our area to stay in touch.

    I like that your new card has your picture on it too. 🙂

    Jolanthe

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 3:41 pm

      Do your cards have the same “logo” design that you have at the top of your blog?

      Like

  3. Patty Hall permalink
    Monday, April 19, 2010 8:11 am

    Good topic, Kaye. I’ve been thinking about adding my photo to my cards for a while now but after reading your post, I think it’s time.

    My other problem is trying to find cards that are the essences of my writing–writing historicals lends toward aged paper but VisaPrint has a limited paper stock. Maybe it’s time to actually visit Staples and buy real cards.

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 3:50 pm

      I figure in this day-and-age, we’re so accustomed to identifying each other by those little thumbnail head shots through Twitter and Facebook and blogs, that it seems only natural it should become part of our marketing mix.

      Like

  4. Monday, April 19, 2010 10:13 am

    After seeing your card, I wonder whether mine were a mistake. I didn’t put a picture on mine (mainly ’cause I’m ugly) but rather the logo that I have on my blog and as my avatar for comments on the sites of other blogs.

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 3:55 pm

      The first time I saw your avatar, I wondered what hockey team it was for, then what video game it might be from.

      To me, that avatar doesn’t represent you, what you do, who you are—mostly because I’ve never seen you walking around in a hooded black cloak. (And even though you write thrillers, is a hooded black cloaked figure really the image you want to leave with an editor/agent?) As writers, we’re selling ourselves as much as we are our writing. Remember–they’re not just looking for people who can write stories, they’re looking for people who will connect, on a personal level, with readers.

      It does look cool, with the 3-dimensionality the reflections give it on the business card, but it makes it look like you’re peddling paperweights or something like that, not branding yourself as a writer.

      I know you’ve got some thriller authors’ websites/blogs bookmarked. Spend some time studying them from a design/image status. Are they using avatars like this on their websites/blogs?

      Like

      • Monday, April 19, 2010 4:37 pm

        Well, the obvious answer to that is no. Guess I’ll pitch these and try to come up with something else before Blue Ridge.

        Like

        • Monday, April 19, 2010 4:39 pm

          Plain is okay for just getting started. Don’t stress yourself out by overthinking it.

          Like

  5. Jess permalink
    Monday, April 19, 2010 12:26 pm

    No, Kaye. Not helpful or thorough AT ALL. 🙂
    Seriously though, thank you! I loved seeing how they evolved and your thought processes behind them.
    I’ve heard so many people talk about Vistaprint that I’m scared to use them–I feel like the few free designs that are classy will all be taken. I found a site that will do it on nice lineny paper with optional writing on the back, for $31 including shipping. Of course, that’s only 200–but that’ll be way more than I need.
    For my slogan, I have “Edgy Contemporaries. Inspirational Romance.” Which is sort of blech. But I’m working on it. (I was thinking “Cutting-Edge Contemporaries” for some alliteration, and also because “edgy” is SO overused. But I dunno.) Also, I’m afraid it sounds like I’m trying to market two different things at once, which I’m not.
    Thanks again for your willingness to share!

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 3:59 pm

      If you’re willing to pay for them, check out all of the design options VistaPrint has available. I was surprised, after having only seen their free templates before.

      And it’s not a bad idea to go for a plainer, more “professional” look to your cards when you’re just starting out. As Chip said in a session on branding two years ago at conference, you don’t determine what your brand is before you’re published. Your readers determine what your brand is after you’re published—in how they react to and label your books in their reviews/feedback. So as an unpublished author, don’t kill yourself trying to come up with a branding statement. Keep it simple and something that an editor/agent isn’t going to roll their eyes over because you’re trying too hard.

      (And yes, “edgy” and “cutting edge” are cliché/overused—and a phrase that makes many acq. editors and agents I know cringe when they see it coming over their desks/e-mail in-boxes. Goes back to the whole idea of showing vs. telling in our writing—don’t “tell” them that your fiction is “cutting edge”; let the work speak for itself.)

      Like

      • Jess permalink
        Monday, April 19, 2010 4:17 pm

        Thank you so much for saying that, Kaye! I don’t really like the word “edgy” (What does it mean? Violent? Postmodern? Post-trib? ‘Here be lesbians’?) but I knew other people might think of my story as edgy, so I thought it might help people remember who I was.
        But you’re right—it sounds like I’m saying “I’m the next big thing,” and, since I don’t have a sales team making projections for me, I have no right to say that.
        Maybe it’s a better idea to choose a design that hints that this romance isn’t all hearts and flowers. Of course, this leaves me with something pretty boring–Contemporary Inspirational Romance.
        Which brings me to another question. I noticed you had the word “inspirational” on your cards. I’ve heard people say that ACFW is a great conference for any Christian who writes, not just those trying to break into CBA. So is it important for me to have the word “inspirational” in there, or will they just assume that it is?

        Like

        • Sylvia M. permalink
          Monday, April 19, 2010 4:46 pm

          I don’t particularly like the word edgy either, but I don’t think of “the next best thing” when I see the word in association with Christian fiction. Isn’t it a particular category name now to let people know that this is still Christian fiction, but a little more blunt and steamier than regular inspirational/Christian fiction? That’s what I thought Edgy Inspirational meant and I think the majority of readers who have heard the term will think it’s a particular category.

          Like

        • Monday, April 19, 2010 5:01 pm

          Dear writing friend Krista Phillips told us after the ACFW conference last year that she was told not to label what she writes as “Romantic Comedy”—that if someone read it and didn’t find it to be “comedy-level” funny, not only would the reader be disappointed (and angry they’d “wasted” their time?), they’d feel like it had been false advertising. Same thing goes with slapping the label “edgy” on your work. (And what does “edgy” really mean? http://thesaurus.com/browse/edgy)

          That’s why Chip says that you don’t really develop your brand until after you’re published and other people tell you what your writing is. If all the reviews come back and say it’s edgy, then great. But what if it’s marketed as “edgy,” but everyone who reads it thinks it’s comedic instead? Obviously, that’s quite a contrast, but you don’t want to pigeon-hole/label yourself prematurely.

          Like

        • Monday, April 19, 2010 4:52 pm

          I use the word “Inspirational” on mine because that’s what I write. Everything I write has a Christian worldview, even if it’s very lightly treated. I know the industry well enough to know that’s the segment of publishing my work will fall into. It’s “sweet” in that there isn’t even a lot of kissing going on in my books, much less any “bases” being reached. But they’ve got too much of a spiritual thread to be considered “sweet.” And I don’t want to give a false impression by excluding any kind of qualification whatsoever and just going with “Contemporary Romance” and leading the person to believe that I’m writing the stuff with all the “woo-woo” in it (as someone so eloquently put it at that conference in Shreveport).

          It’s all part of choosing how you want to identify your product. Where do you see it fitting in the market.

          Like

  6. Becky Miller permalink
    Monday, April 19, 2010 1:30 pm

    I love that you put so much thought into branding and marketing yourself…so few authors/businesses/churches etc. know how to do it right!

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 4:02 pm

      It’s all those meetings I had to sit in (and take notes in) and presentations I had to develop about selling, creating proposals to get clients to buy, and selling the image of the newspaper that did it to me. But since I couldn’t afford a focus group back when I first started developing those cards (i.e., feedback here, on FB/Twitter, from my readers) it just took a little while longer to develop!

      Like

  7. Monday, April 19, 2010 2:02 pm

    That was very helpful! I hadn’t really even thought about business cards. Might I ask if there will be sessions on branding and marketing at the ACFW conference this fall?

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 4:08 pm

      There are a few on marketing/branding, but it looks like they’re all for D & E levels (recently contracted to multi-published).

      A great way to start getting a grasp of marketing/branding is to follow blogs like Chip MacGregor’s or Rebeca Seitz’s (http://rebecaseitz.wordpress.com/), who’s a professional publicist (as well as a published author).

      Like

  8. Monday, April 19, 2010 3:51 pm

    After a lifetime in corporate America, I probably would have come up with something staid too. I love that your new card shows your beautiful smile, and I think a sense of your personality. This was a very useful post.

    Like

    • Monday, April 19, 2010 4:09 pm

      As I said . . . I think in the beginning, the plain, very “business-y” (i.e., staid) designs are fine. What you’re really doing at that time is making sure that you’re leaving the correct contact information behind with the person.

      That said, though, I think including the headshot thumbnail isn’t a bad idea, even for unpublished/just-getting-started writers, because, as I mentioned, we are getting so accustomed to identifying each other by those.

      Like

  9. Monday, April 19, 2010 6:57 pm

    Great post, Kaye–just the jump-start I needed to order my first set of cards! Crossing fingers the extra $4 in shipping gets them here before my conference!

    Like

  10. Carol permalink
    Monday, October 24, 2011 4:28 pm

    Thanks for pointing me to this article. Helps a lot.

    Like

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