After twenty years of using the same business card design, I decided a couple of weeks ago that it was time for a change. There wasn’t anything wrong with the old card, exactly, but it looked old and un-cool. The front featured a stock picture of a fountain pen and showed my name with the title of “author.” Then it was junked up with the URLs for my website, Facebook page, YouTube channel, and my Twitter handle (JohnGilstrap201). The back of the card listed the names of my most recent books. It’s what I would call a busy image.
What’s the point of having a card in the first place?
I’ve done a lot of soul searching on the question of whether a business card is even necessary in this day of emails and file transfers. Clearly, my answer is yes, and for one very good reason: I leave my business card everywhere. In restaurants, I leave my card in the payment folio. When I drop off my dry cleaning, I leave a card. When people work on the house, I give the craftsman a card.
More importantly, whenever I meet someone, I ask for their business card, for which I exchange my own. Often as not, the exchange will trigger a question that goes something like, “You’re an author? What kind of books do you write?” Then, after the 10-second elevator this-is-me speech, the conversation generally ends with, “I’ll have to look up your books.” I’m confident that only a small percentage ever do actually look me up, but at least it’s a start.
Those among us who say that marketing is the part they hate most about the book biz do a real disservice to themselves by not taking advantage of such a simple ice breaker.
Who am I today?
Back when I had a Big Boy Job with a trade association, my position was a prominent one through which I met hundreds of people every year. My corporate business card listed my title as “director of safety” and offered up my various phone numbers. I tried to keep the two parts of my professional world separate. I would never, for example, present my author card to a member of the association when I was on association business.
But worlds are small. Word inevitably leaked that I was also an author, and when asked (and never before), I would present my author card and encourage the requester to go to my website for more information.
After hours, however, I was an author. Period.
What makes for a good business card?
I can answer this one from only my point of view, which comes from a place of serious thought and introspection. In no particular order:
- The business card needs to be attractive. I’m not talking extensive design costs here, but rather a sense of proportion and symmetry.
- It needs to be read and understood in the course of a one-second glance. If you want to trigger that elevator speech, people need to see everything they need to know right away.
- Contact information. I jealously guard my phone number, so I know I don’t want that on the card, but I certainly want my email address and website information to be easily found.
- Traditional shape. When I accept someone else’s business card, I slip it into a special place in my wallet that is reserved specifically for that purpose. If the card is too large or too small, it won’t fit. I like to think that I’m not the only one who’s a touch on the OCD spectrum (or CDO–alphabetical as it should be).
This is what I came up with:
I wanted to keep thing relatively simple–minimalist, really–so I went to Vistaprint.com and scrolled through their business card templates till I found one that I thought came close to the design I wanted. I thought the glossy black kinda popped. Everything I wanted the recipient to know was right there on the front.
I confess that I struggled with the job title. “bestselling thriller author” sounds clunky to me, but my old title of “author” felt too generic. This is a marketing piece, after all, so I oughta be marketing, right?
But what about all the other cool stuff? The social media platforms and my website? I solved that with QR codes on the reverse side of the card. Rather than listing all of the books I’ve written, why not let them use their cameras to zap themselves right to my website, where they’ll find everything from the various titles to how to hire me as a speaker. I don’t understand how any of the technology works, but I figure I might as well take of advantage of it.
It’s your turn, TKZ family. What do you think about business cards in this age of electronic media? Did I miss anything in what considerations go into the design of an effective business card?
One last thing . . .
Remember, I told y’all that I’ve got a spot open for you and your book if you want to want to appear on morning radio in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Our own Debbie Burke too me up on the offer and I think she had a good time. Last week, my buddy Jeffery Deaver stopped by for at thirty-minute chat about his books and his upcoming television series. Let me know if you’re interested!