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Monday, March 31, 2008

5 Things Writers Need For Stand-Out Business Cards

Moo Business Cards from Creative Commons
Writing conference season is upon us, so I've been contemplating business cards. I need to update mine, and there are a dizzying array of options.
VistaPrint and 123Print are two great options for inexpensive cards.
The print-my-own route looks sneaky good too. No fuzzy little edges that I can see, so the new blanks are hard to tell from professionally printed cards. Some even let you print on the back.

But my main procrastination is what to put on the cards. Based on what I've heard from agents, editors, and other writers, there are some must-have features to create effective business cards for writers.

1. An Email With Your Name In It
Many agents and editors say if they meet you at a conference and your name rings a bell when you submit my email, they'll look at the submission themselves instead of passing it off to an assistant. But as my cohort Tricia Sanders says, they can't recognize your name if you're fairyprincess234. So I found my name wasn't taken in gmail, and signed up for a free account for my new business email I plan to use if for all my professional correspondence. I'm building my brand, and the brand is me.

2. A Tag line or Slogan
Think about all the business cards you get from people and don't look at twice. What will make yours stand out from the others (and please, god, not the holographic rainbow). You need a tag line or slogan that is associated with you as a freelancer. You're a creative writer, so come up with something that shows it. No pressure, right?

After researching what editors want from freelancers, I'm kicking around several at the moment. I decided to focus on the strengths I have that meet editors' desires - dependability, my extensive research of their style/needs, and creativity/fresh angles. I'm leaning toward one of the following. Any votes?

Articles Made-To-Order

Get Your Fresh, Hot Articles Here

Deadline Diva

3. A Personal Website Address
It doesn't have to be fancy, or expensive, but many agents and editors go to your website after you splash on their radar. Mine has my basic info and current clips. That internet-loving trend it likely to expand rather than get smaller as technology marches on. At least buy your domain name before someone else does. You can generally "park" it with an under construction sign that lets them know you're on your way to getting web savvy.

4. A Niche or Area of Specialization
I came up with a series of questions I asked to identify my key strengths, so I could highlight them on my cards. You should have several different cards, depending on their use. If you are an aspiring novelist as well as a freelancer, have a separate card so agents and editors don't get the message that your focus in on freelancing because that's all you feature on your card. Give one card to prospective magazine editors, and another version to fiction agents and editors. Go the print-them-yourself route for at least one of these, so you can create cards as needed and update them with new clips and awards.

5. Something For the Back of the Card
Don't take up all the space on the back or no one can write where they met you on it, but list a few awards, publications, your book titles, or other credentials to remind them who you are and what you're known for. If you aren't published, you might put a quote about writing or a list of your strengths. If you print your own, you can update this periodically as you publish more.

Caution: Don't use the listed items as an excuse to procrastinate. Give yourself a time limit on coming up with your tag-line and areas of specialization. Otherwise the writer fiend perfectionist in you can revise you into a corner with no business cards. And don't worry too much about getting a website spiffed out until after the cards are printed - just make sure you buy your domain name.

Is it time-consuming? Yeah, I drove myself a little crazy (down perfectionist personality, down boy), but you don't have to be as anal as I am. But you're a pro and you need a professional, creative business card for the passionate wordsmith you are. Don't sell yourself short with a anemic, puny, hum drum business card.


Tricia Sanders said...

Ummmm I like Deadline Diva. That sums it all up. Now I need one for a blood and guts type cleaning gal.

Come on people. Help me out.

Tricia Grissom said...

How about:

Crimes cleaned and solved

We get the blood out! LOL

Cleaning up the case

This is hard!

Tricia Grissom said...

Oh! Oh! How about Sissy is there to help when the sh#t hits the fan.

You can shoot me now.

Tricia Sanders said...

How about Grime Pays or Blood Money

Dante's Heart said...

I think I liked the first of the 3 options best, but yeah - that's hard work.

How about a good old-fashioned "Writer For Hire"? :)

Or "Writing That Catches Attention"

For my 2 cents - the mini-resume on the back would be too crowded, I think. Maybe list one achievement. An editor or agent ought to have a LOT of room on the back to scribble notes, if need be.

Tricia Grissom said...

I mostly agree, Dante. You shouldn't list too much. But I can't stand a blank space. It's the writer in me :)

Tricia - How about "Out, out damn spot." I guess that's probably for a crime scene cleaning English teacher.

Dante's Heart said...

"Who you gonna call? CRIMEBUSTERS!"

I'll be quiet now. :)

Q said...

I once worked for a producer who if she saw the word "diva" on any title page would automatically throw out the script. She said it sounded attitudey. True story.

Tricia Sanders said...

Well, Tricia G. does have attitude.

Tricia Grissom said...

Hey! Um, okay, I guess I can't argue. I'm not attitude-challenged.

I like crimebusters. She sees dead people. Oh man, I gotta stop.

Q, That kind of stuff gives me nightmares. I read an agent blog that says JUST ONE PERSON is in charge of deciding what non-fiction books Barnes and Noble carries. What if it's a de divaite like the producer? I can't handle the universe being this arbitary. *gags snuffles collapses*

How's that for attitude, Tricia S?

Dante's Heart said...

I won't name the editor responsible, but.... A very good friend of mine, now a well-published and well-regarded writer, once received an unusual rejection letter. The letter praised her work in nearly the highest possible terms, to close with the sardonic note, "Unfortunately, X [the chief editor] does not wish to publish your piece."

The other editors at that place had all vouched for my friend's work, and vouched hard. But I have also met X, who is a person of some fame and glory. X is also one of the most cantankerous old writers or editors I have ever run into.

Publishing can be a wildly political world. Stay true to what matters: the quality of one's work, and raw unfettered determination and gumption. Given those 2 things, and both in high quantity, you will get your work in the door. There are stories of stories like Watership Down being rejected 79 times before it found its home....

Thinking too much about the vagaries of editors can make you lose your mind. Just keep crafting beautiful paper airplanes and shooting them through the windows of the insane asylum known as the publishing world. Someone will pick up one of the airplanes. Try to step inside and get rhyme or reason out of that world, though, and you are in a dangerous place. :)