Best practices for Business Cards

one of my first business cards. This was before I published my first novel. Hubby designed it on vista print.

Are business cards really a thing anymore? With the digital age do I really need one?

The answer for writers is a resounding yes. It’s necessary to provide information for both prospective publishers, agents, fellow-authors and potential readers.

Business card musts

They need to look professional and give the right information. Most business cards at a minimum should have your name, email, website, and social media links.

Adding a headshot puts a face with the conversation that led to the card being given.

Blank space on the back of the card is awesome. It leaves room to write a note reminding the receiver why they have it. For example: send them your guidelines. Call them about the XYZ group. Send them your manuscript ASAP

My most current card.

Additional items:

Theses are your personal preferences, only choose one or add the addition to the back of your card so it is not cluttered. But then you lose the blank space.

A tagline.

Your author tagline, not your present book. The one you use on your website. The thing that defines what you write. But it isn’t necessary.

Links to your latest books. (This might require a larger card that folds.)

Text code

My agent offers a free video course if you text a specific number on his card.

I’ve seen some HQ codes to take you to an author’s website or a free download offer.

Addresses.

This is not as common because you gave an email which is most publishers preferred way of communicating. The blank space on the back of the card is available to jot it down if it is requested by specific people.

Phone numbers are an option too. Your agent may hand you a business card with a phone number. Your email is the best substitute for a phone number. Again use the blank space on the back to offer it to those who need it.

Design your cards and order a reasonable amount

Order between 100 and 250 cards from www.vistaprint.com or a local printer. Look for the best price before agreeing. Yes, you can make your own. But be sure you use business card stock. There are templates online. You may find that 100 is too many if you don’t attend conferences or do book events. Think about where you will be handing them out before ordering. I have a friend who gives them to everyone he meets. He goes through several hundred cards a year.

Reorder when you must

I always have cards left over when I update to new ones. You might prefer to be all out before you update or reorder. I don’t like writing new info on a card, so, I’m fine with creating a new card and reordering before my supply is gone.

Keep your business card as clean as possible.

Don’t try to fill every space or use graphics that cover the whole surface. Simple is better. If you have a photo make it a professional shot that is current. (within the last few years.)

A photo helps those you meet with at conferences and other events remember who you are.

The colors on your card should be readable. A simple font or if you prefer a more artistic font be sure it’s not too busy or too strange. Those are hard to read. Make sure the color ink is legible on a card’s color background.

White letters on a yellow background are hard to read. While black on white is always a good choice. If you have a website try to match the colors on your cards to the theme on your website or blog.

Glossy vs matte finish depends on your theme and color choices. I prefer a matte because it is easier to write on notes on the back.

Think about what you write and choose a theme that fits your genre. Westerns might have a cowboy hat or boots as a watermark or in the corner. Historical romance might have a parchment color background. A thriller writer might have artistic black on white that pops but is still readable. Regardless of your genre, a clean plain card is an excellent go-to design.

Look through the business cards you have on hand and see which ones catch your eye and why. Ask the printer you are using for suggestions. They are happy to design them for you. Vistaprint has templates to choose from and a spot to design it before ordering.

Last piece of advice

Proofread your card. Have a few other people look at it too. If there is a typo it will go to print that way. You don’t want the expense of reordering because you missed an error. Even if a printer does your cards be sure to read through it carefully. They usually have a disclaimer that they are not responsible for errors once you approve the card.

What are some things you’ve discovered as you created a business card?

 

 

Biggest Reason Great Writers Get Rejected By Big Pub Houses

A fellow author shared a personal experience on her blog that resonated with me. She’s a great writer. She self-published several books and is also traditionally published with a small house.  There are awards on her wall for all her hard work. With all those books under her belt, she went to one of the larger writer conferences this past summer and made an appointment with the editor of a prestigious publishing house. She hoped to gain their interest and a contract.

Despite her fantastic writing and numerous books, let’s not forget awards, the editor told her without hesitation that her sales didn’t justify taking a chance on her. Her platform wasn’t large enough to garner the kinds of sales they expected from their authors. Heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, this is the truth of the matter. Like my friend and most authors, I too am struggling with this same quandary. Not only do our books need to be stellar to catch the eye of the larger, therefore, more lucrative publishers we need to market the dickens out of them and have the numbers to prove it.

That platform consists of multiple social media streams with sizable followings. You must interact on group sites and post every day about things, other than buy my book. And that doesn’t include making memes and producing ad copy. Writer’s newsletters must be engaging and offer something of value beyond information about the author.

Then we must find the right places to draw attention to our books in order to increase sales. Free on Amazon requires so much more than arranging the dates to be free. We have to spread the word everywhere that it’s free. Place ads to announce it’s free. It makes my head spin.

Do you often repeat the mantra, all I want to do is write?  Don’t we all wish that was true?

My goal for 2020 beyond staying on tasks with writing is increasing those numbers; sales, newsletter subscribers and followers. If I can get notoriety through other creative means then awesome. I lack the ADD drive of some of my fellow writers and have hired someone to help with my social media marketing. Even so, there are still things I must do, personally engage with followers. *sigh*.”Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but I prefer to interact face-to-face rather than on social media Call me old fashion.) So, I will cling to a motto that has helped me in the past, inch by inch everything’s a cinch, yard by yard everything is hard. I’ll take on what I can without making myself crazy and lose my creative muse and in time I hope to reach my goal. When I do I might be as nervy as my friend and pitch one of the big five publishers and see where that lands me.

What are some marketing tips you can share to help build a platform?

 

Simple Goal Setting for 2020

The New Year is just hours away, and I wanted to talk about setting goals. I know, again, lots of blogs and articles appear today on this very subject. I apologize and hope my thoughts are of value and perhaps freeing.

Goal setting for me gets complicated. It’s supposed to help set a course and give direction. But for me, goal setting ties me up in knots, because I can’t keep it simple. Which means I set myself up for failure before I begin.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a list maker and they can get quite long and exhausting. Unfortunately, that is the way I approach goals. If three goals are good six is better and four hundred nineteen are optimum.  I exaggerate. Well, maybe a bit.

Let me explain. I can’t make myself settle for a few specific goals. I must grab as many as I can, like a child who doesn’t want to share any toys. They fall out of my hands and into the hole of failure. Can any of you relate?

This year I want to strive to keep my goals simple: write, social media and sell books. Only three. Sounds reasonable, right?

Now, I’ll break those down into more specific goals. Again, my list-making gene comes into play and I must be careful not to micromanage each goal.

Writing words:

  • Write 1,000 words on my novel a day.
  • Write two blogs a week.
  • Write one guest blog a month.

And then take my hands off the keys before I add write five articles a week and fifteen devotionals a month. Some writers can do all these additional things handily. I am not one of them.

Social media:

Next, I’ll break down social media into manageable bites. I have a marketing person who does much of this, but I still need to interact personally on social media. Overthinking content makes this a hard area for me. (An excellent idea for another post.) I often place my hands on my keys and can’t think of anything earth-shattering to post, so I post nothing. When I post a picture of my elderly mom or share, I’m ill that often produces more responses than clever prose. This year I want to try to be more fun and spontaneous and see if that doesn’t promote more interaction.

Book Sales:

Sell books is a large category with lots of sub-goals. I need to decide which book events or local festivals I want to devote Saturdays to and add them to my calendar now.  Find book clubs, talk to bookstores about book signings. (There aren’t that many in my area anymore.) Decide where I’ll invest my money online to make sales and look for podcasts and radio opportunities. And write a compelling newsletter every month that keeps my readers eager for my next book.

Few goals still take time

I think even these simple goals will take more time than I expect so I’m going to tie my hands behind my back least I’m tempted to add writing three novels at once while editing four others.

I’ll let you know if I kept it simple in 2020. I’d like to know your thoughts on goals setting and what you hope to accomplish this year.

May you have a productive writerly 2020, my friends.

 

Let me repeat: It’s a Business

Writing is a business word cloud

Writing is a business not just art. Success hinges on more than your well-written words. Unless we view it as a business and dig in to learn how to run it, then our words will always be a hobby and few people will see them. That was the theme of many of the classes and workshops I attended at a recent writer’s conference.

Don’t stuff your ears

It’s been the trumpet call for years and yet writers resist the call. We stuff cotton in our ears and say I just want to write. My words have value. Let’s not sully them with marketing and social media forays.

I’ve been struggling to do what I can to build a platform. Every time platform was mention groans of frustrated echoed in the room.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Groan worthy moment

I just discovered the reason I couldn’t post on Instagram on my laptop. Instagram is a mobile app only. That means I can read and follow on my PC, but it limits posting to my cell phone. (Sigh!!!) I’ve still got a lot to learn.

 

Cross-pollination

The key tidbit I took away from the conference was cross-pollination. Writers need to add speaking, coaching and teaching to their toolbox. I’ve been writing for years and speaking on occasion. Expanding my speaking platform makes sense. I’ve made a list of how I need to go about making that happen.

animal bee bloom blooming

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another part of cross-pollination is writing articles from the content of your books. Write on the same theme in a variety of venues. My heart is to help others. This blog and articles I publish are how-to and helping pieces about writing, and a few other topics near to my heart. My novels have characters who need help to find healing and open their hearts to love.

person holding black pen

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Dreaded paperwork

Another piece of the business of writing is having a tax advisor who knows what you need to sell books at venues in your state. Some authors feel awkward charging customers sales tax. You are selling a product. If you don’t charge it, then it comes out of your pocket. The IRS will not be happy if you don’t pay taxes. You must understand what paperwork they require for your income tax at years end too. What can you claim as a deduction and where to send your sales tax?

Hire help

You can hire accountants, tax advisors or marketing gurus to do these things. My marketing gal does most of my social media, creates memes and tracks results. I choose to do some of it myself too. Numbers and I have never been friends. My tax guy is outstanding, and my hubby keeps the books for free.

Ask others

I wasn’t shy about asking other authors what resources they used to run a successful business. I’ve a lot of work still ahead as I navigate building my writing career. Longing for the days when publishers built careers won’t sell books or grow my income. It’s up to me to make it happen. And that is a tough steak to chew. But chew it I will.

How do you run your writing business? What new things have you taken on to make it a success? Comment below so we can encourage one another.

 

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Watch Your Tone or Writers on Social Media

broken computerRecently, I told a fellow-writer after reading his Facebook posts, “So, is your goal to sell books?” Every post he hoped would create discussion turned toward an undesirable direction. He is learning what all authors struggle with on social media. What can they post that gets many responses without setting off hate bombs?

My husband, who is a writer, loves a good debate on FB. He enjoys discussing history and current events.  Lately, however his “friends” have reverted to name calling because he stood on the opposite side of an issue. The last draw was when a gentleman with a PHD in History refused to read a book my hubby suggested that explained a statement he’d made regarding American History. (I’m being vague to protect all parties.) Based on my husband’s post the “friend” stated my hubby wasn’t smart enough to teach him anything, referring to my college graduate hubby as dumb. (And no, my sweetie, did not defend himself.) Instead, with a heavy heart, he stopped posting. He plans to remove hate speech posts in the future.angry-woman

 

Another relatively innocent post ended with the “friend” getting on her discrimination soap box and insulting my husband unjustly. My daughter got offended with the way this individual demeaned her father. She made some strong points only to receive the same wretched hate speech in return. Broke my husband’s heart to see his daughter so upset and placing herself in the line of fire for her dad’s sake.

My point

Be careful what you post on social media. If you write non-fiction and a little controversy related to your book subject may up your readership, be careful. If you write fiction, I’d tread very lightly. This past presidential election found a few fiction authors being told by readers they’d never read another of their books. I heard of one reader who threw all the author’s books away because their political views were different.

abstract fire on black background in orange and yellow colors

Why I avoid posting hot topics like the plague

Not only do I not want to lose readers, I find people pick up unintended tone. This same daughter reacted to a text message I sent her because she thought I was mad. I’d asked a question—no tone—just a question. I had to reassure her I wasn’t mad. I’ve read hastily written emails at work that captured an unintended attitude.

When I write my novels, I want my readers to sense a tone. The characters mood needs to be clear on the page. Readers need to experience the heroine’s angst toward a situation or the hero. It makes for great fiction.  However, that doesn’t always translate well in the world of social media. I don’t take hours and days to write and rewrite my blogs before I post.

Watch your words

An innocent statement about something on the news can explode into hundreds of angry posts from people who aren’t even friends on your page.  Because a friend of a friend saw the post and made a comment. This has happened to my husband a few times. He’d posted a comment on something in current events and after a few scathing commenters, he left the conversation. Two days later the debate continued on his page between his friends on opposite sides of the political arena and many people he wasn’t friends with on Facebook. He removed the post because the thread of words increased in tone and went to a dark place.

 Yes, I express my opinions

I have opinions on many things outside the writing world. Things I prefer to discuss or debate in person. Face to face, I can see their expressions and ask questions for clarification. I have lovely friends who disagree with me on various issues, not to mention family members. That’s fine. We share our thoughts on a given subject without resorting to vile name calling. I find I gain a deeper understanding of their position. Interesting food for thought.

But on social media the darts fly. They not only wound the heart but can destroy your book sales. How many celebrities, politician and even teachers have post inflammatory things online in the heat of the moment that ended their careers.

I’ve made a few errors in judgement in my wording on posts and had to eat crow. Not something I ever want to do again. To avoid the backlash, I don’t respond to posts that irritate me.  The more I respond to a friend’s posts the more posts I receive from that friend. Which is how the Facebook algorithm works. Negative attitudes and hurtful words don’t look very professional or welcoming to people checking out my page.  I want people to find my posts interesting and encouraging.

My goals for social media

  • Keep in touch with the people I care about: family. former classmates, friends far away, other writers.
  • Engage my readers with posts that are fun, informative and welcoming.
  • Pass on useful links.
  • Oh, and sell books. 😊

How do you engage with your followers on social media in a positive way? What subjects have your learned to avoid?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn What You Don’t Know

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Marketing tip #4 Learn Stuff

To quote Leroy Jethro Gibbs (NCIS) when he tells his agents to investigate. “Go! Learn stuff!” They need to do interviews, research facts, and revisit the crime scene and evidence. This same directive applies to marketing. When it comes to marketing “we don’t know what we don’t know.” And for me, there is a gob of stuff I don’t know.

I just spent time building my author page on Amazon. Once you get in there it is a step by step process. Clear instructions and examples helped me put all the components in place. Then I came to the part where I could add my blog address. I know my URL. It’s http//www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com. But the site asked for my RSS. Without it, my blog post would not be part of my author page. What is an RSS and how do I find it? I didn’t have time to email a friend and ask for instructions. As I pondered this, the words of a young member of my critique group came to mind. You can find anything on YouTube. Thank you, Erin. So, I googled “how do I find my blog’s RSS.” Voila! I clicked the first reference. A blog about it with a—wait for it—YouTube link at the bottom to find your RSS for WordPress blogs. The RSS for WordPress blogs is simply—feed. You add a forwardslash and the word feed. Other blog servers have different RSS that must be added after your URL. I didn’t bother to learn those. Sorry! I’m sure there’s a YouTube video for those as well.  So, my URL with RSS looks like this. http//www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com/feed. I learned what I needed to know.

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Learn what you don’t know

Educate yourself about any social media you don’t know. I’ve used Facebook for years. Twitter is fairly new for me. I’ve been reading blog posts about hashtags to figure out how best to mark my posts. Twitter is an awesome place to market because your tweets go out live to every one of your followers and on feeds that match your hashtags i.e. #amwriter. You can retweet the same thing often because unlike Facebook people usually don’t go back once a week to scroll through what they missed.

I accidently got a Pinterest account. How can you accidently sign up for one? I needed a picture for my blog. Signing up gave me access to all those Pinterest pictures from various boards. Now I have Pinterest and their admin constantly emails me boards I might like to pin to my site. I need to learn more about Pinterest and create some boards myself. It is easy to use. My sister loves it. Other authors swear it is an awesome tool.  That brings me to the next point.

Make time to learn stuff early on

The learning curve for new things for some of us is long. I do better if someone talks me through steps while I do them. But I can follow step by step instruction, it just takes me longer. Learning how to create a blog site and figuring out how to reach more people has been a big learning curve for me. Blogging is part of my marketing toolbox. I have been using it for a few years. Years before my novel got a contract. Years before my novel is due to come out. This is key. Don’t wait until your book is out to learn stuff. That is like reading about CPR while your spouse is having a heart attack. Your novel may die before it has a chance to be part of many reader’s libraries.

 

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Be proactive

Ask marketing questions and do what can be done long before your book is published. I couldn’t create an Author page on Amazon or Goodreads before I had an ISBN number for my novel. But I could create a reader page on Goodreads and post lots of book reviews. Goodreads is a great place to engage with other readers. My Facebook friends who are avid readers follow me on Goodreads. Now I’ll build an author page on Goodreads and those same readers may follow me as a writer.

Pay for what you don’t know or don’t want to learn

There are wonderful people out there who can design bookmarks, flyers, and postcards for advertising in no time. Then there is me. I would rather pay for someone to do it for me than do it myself. As I journey through marketing my novel, Secrets and Charades, I will pay for others to do some of the work for me. Research which marketing people are right for you. Ask around for referrals. Learn stuff.

Share what you know

Gibbs always gathered his team for a briefing. Each agent shared what they found out and all the pieces were put together. Share the stuff you learn. Even if it’s little. There is always someone who doesn’t know what you know. Don’t be a negative Nellie. Be sure the things you bring to the cooperative marketing idea table are truly helpful. And if you must warn someone of a bad experience, package it in carefully chosen words. The right attitude may set the stage for you to be offered an opportunity to share stuff in a speaking or teaching venue in the future.

Tell me what you’ve learned about marketing along the way that made a difference for you? What services would you rather pay for? How do you learn stuff? I’m anxious to hear your answers.

 

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Be like Bull in Developing Your Characters

bull-posterThere’s a new show on CBS that parallels the writing life. Bull stars Michael Weatherly (NCIS) as a psychologist who specializes in trial science. The science of getting in the heads of jurors to help present a case you can win. Bull and his team take on cases of innocent people (of course I suppose trial science can be used to help the guilty get off.) and analyzes what is needed for those individuals to be found not guilty when the media and initial evidence points to their guilt.

Dr. Bull preps the defense counsel on what questions to ask during jury selection to find jurors who will be sympathetic to his client. After the jury is selected he hires people to be a mirror jury. Each juror’s personality, convictions, and worldview are matched to the real jurors to create a fake replica jury. Bull’s team have mock trails to discover what the outcome would be based on various scenarios.  What is in the background or character makeup of each real juror that could influence the verdict and how can they present the case and the client to these twelve to gain their confidence for a not guilty verdict. Fascinating stuff.

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As a writer, we create characters we want our readers to sympathize with. Otherwise, they won’t read to the end. We need to dig deep as we create our characters and find out what is their underlying motivation. They must be more than one-dimensional. If your heroine had an FB page what would she post? How are your hero’s finances and do your characters love their jobs? We need to get into their heads. Did the protagonist have a wonderful childhood or is there a family secret that taints his view of the world.

Bulls team digs into the background of each juror and based on that information creates a profile on how they would probably respond to various pieces of evidence and information shared during the trial. A recent episode was a malpractice trial. The doctor was a brilliant physician but an egotistical jerk. The patient was suing because a lifesaving hysterectomy prevented her from ever having children. She felt it could have been avoided. The sympathy of the jury squarely with the patient.

Challenge of winning over the reader

Of course, Bull’s team discovered the special machine used to do the surgery was the culprit that caused the excess bleeding that led to the doctor’s decision. The challenge was to get the jury to look beyond the doctor’s arrogance to be open to the idea the manufacturers of the surgical equipment were at fault. The doctor had to allow himself to be vulnerable on the stand. The dramatic scene with the doctor admitting he only has one talent—being  a surgeon—but he lacks people skills in every area of his life. It wins the jury to his side.

Our characters must win over our readers. The cranky old guy should reveal how much he misses his son who died in the war. The addicted mother needs to share with her daughter what pushed her over the edge. The fiancé admits his fear of being a father because his dad was abusive.

Keep up with social media and current events to create believable characters

Research into each juror helps Bull craft questions for the lawyer to bring the desired result. We writer’s need to know what our readers want. What questions are we seeing on TV and social media? What is trending? Those are the things that make for fresh plots. Things that address real or perceived needs. Settings and situations that make the reader curious. A friend of mine has her character building a tiny house. Another author explored negative mothering that left the heroine struggling with self-worth.  Reality shows are all the rage and those settings can make for interesting plot twists whether romance or murder. Again, the types of characters populating these settings draw the reader to follow your story to the end.

Each episode of Bull ends on a high note for the client and a takeaway lesson. Our novels need the same sort of conclusion. And if our characters are relatable to our reader the conclusion will meet the felt need. And just as I look forward to the next episode of Bull, your readers will anxiously await your next novel.

How do your characters mirror life?

How do you build character’s your readers relate too?

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