Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Business Cards and Computer Savvy

When I sign copies of my books, either for a fan or for a bookstore, I stick a business card between the pages to subtly remind the buyer about my other titles.

Writers should have two, or more, card designs.

The first should be a contact card, with your address and phone number(s), to give to media and people who need to get in touch.

The second (third, fourth, fifth...) should be a sales card. This has your book cover on the front, and the back can contain a blurb or two, your website URL (and possibly email address), and whatever little teaser or picture you can fit in the small space. This is the one I stick in books. Not only does it give the reader something portable to take to the bookstore with them (in order to remember the titles), but it also functions as a bookmark.

In the beginning, I made my own business cards on the computer using a program called Business Card Designer Plus. You upload your own jpg, add the various data, and print them on an inkjet or color laser printer.

The result is a so-so card. Single sided, not the highest quality cardstock. Not professional, but much cheaper than full color runs at Kinkos or Office Max.

When Bloody Mary came out, my publisher began to make business cards for me. These are always full color, double sided, slick and glossy.

I give cards to everyone, all the time. I drop them in books, my outgoing mail, on the table at restaurants, to people I meet outside the publishing biz---I basically am trying to give a card to every single person on the planet.

If business cards aren't something your publisher provides, and you don't want to go into debt buying ink cartridges, you should check out www.overnightprints.com.

You design your business card using Photoshop or any other picture editing program (I'm partial to Paintshop Pro 8) and then upload it to the URL.

Did I lose anybody when talking about the do-it-yourself option? If so, you might want to consider joining the 21st century.

For the first time in human history, amateur technology is on par with professional technology, and much more affordable.

You can take high rez pictures, design your own website, and make your own promo materials. When someone needs a headshot, or a book cover jpg, you can send these on your own, without having to go through your publisher. You can update your home page yourself. You can create business cards, chap books, and flyers without hiring experts.

Doing it yourself is faster, and cheaper. In my opinion, here's the least a writer needs to learn:
  • A photo editing program. The ability to save, retouch, resize, and alter jpgs, gifs, pngs and other picture files. People request these all the time.
  • A web design program. Your URL is your home. Learn how to take care of it.
  • Some basic HTML knowledge. Even if you're able to use a web design program like Frontpage or Dreamweaver, you still need to know your hrefs from your img srcs.

Other things techno savvy authors can do:

  • Learn Adobe Acrobat, for making pdf files. These can be used as website downloads and press releases, among other things.
  • Use a mailing list organizer, for sending out newsletters.
  • Use a GPS, for finding bookstores while touring.
  • Use a digital camera.
  • Use a laptop or some other way of accessing email on the road.
  • Learn audio editing software for podcasting.
  • Learn an ftp program, so you can upload and download large files.
  • Understand the potential of MS Word or Wordperfect, for making documents beyond simple manuscripts.

Every so often, while discussing this stuff with my peers, a writer will ask me, "You do that yourself? Why don't you hire someone?"

I'm not against hiring pros. Pros are pros for a reason, and are often worth what they cost.

But I do believe that we should all learn as much as we can. The more you know, the better off you are.

Technology isn't going away. It's going to keep advancing. You should advance along with it.