Above is the image of the folded business card from Vistaprint. It is pretty easy to design them online with just about any image you want. You can also design in a different program and upload, but that's WAY too much headache for me. Now, why folded business cards? Easy. One of the downsides of e-books is the lack of a tangible product AND no one gets to flip the book over to read the back unless they are near a computer. So what if you are somewhere and there are potential readers all around you? For me, that's the hair salon, library, coffee shop, book store, toddler Mom meetings, the YMCA, and on and on. I am a very social, talkative person. Now when I tell people I'm a writer and they go "Oooooh, like books?" And I nod, I can give them my card.
On the front will be my title, name, and personal website for my readers. Inside? Ready? The blurb for the book. That's right! the 4-5 sentences with a hook that would have been on the BACK! And on the back? All of the websites where they can buy it, or a coupon code, or other promotion as I'm running them.
Now, as with all marketing, it is important to consider cost for effort. This is also called evaluating a channel. By placing a unique website on the back (perhaps I will make one off my reader site like www.eawestwriting.com/buy, this doesn't exist yet so don't try it) I can watch my traffic and click-thrus. So, on that page I would put the links to the various places you can buy my book, but by using the unique website name, I can tell if people came from a business card vs. a "Buy My Book" link that goes to an identical page but located at www.eawestwriting.com/buymybook.
How much will this cost? Current quotes are $40 for 500 non glossy or $63 for glossy. I'm going to go with glossy, and with shipping that will be roughly $80. Alright. Pricing my book at $2.99, I will make roughly a $2 profit on each book. This means to recoup the cost of producing the business cards, I need to sell 40 books from the 500 cards I give out. Breaking out my sales experience, given that most of these cards will not be cold cards (meaning they are just sitting somewhere for someone to take one, or use one to wad up their chewing gum, etc) but given to qualified prospects (people I have spoken to personally, found out they like my genre of books/own an e-reader) that is not a high threshold at all.
The uses of these types of business cards is infinite. For a little extra, you can buy the kind that are perforated, where you give a coupon or other information and on the other piece, the reader fills out an email address to join your mailing list.
What if you are on a tighter budget? Check out the "free designs" where you could maybe do a teaser line and your website. You only pay for shipping, and the back advertises vistaprint.com.
For cold business cards, ones you would leave out, I would suggest using single sided. On the front, maybe put something to grab someone's attention, and then on the back put the places to buy the book.
Another promotional item I have thought about since my first novel collection is the Red Ink Collection (Cancelled, Past Due, and Served), buying limited edition pens with the "Red Ink Collection Book #1" etc. as a promotional item. These are pricier and will need to wait until after I start seeing significant sales. For example, I could wait and use these as promotional items when Book #2 comes out, perhaps a contest. I could mail these out with a personal thank-you note from me and the pen in a standard sized envelope. Since I would want the pen to write in red ink, they are a bit pricier, but I found a quote for $0.39 a piece at The Printed Pen Store. It would cost $200 plus shipping for 500 of them, but after the people who bought the book asked for them, I could pass them out to places as well.
Enough Swag, Other Plans
Marketing is about reaching your intended audience. Most self-published novels do not have a very large marketing budget, until the author sees royalties. Every dollar counts. J.A. Konrath's recently blogged about appearances. His position is that going to conferences etc. doesn't really raise sales. I didn't comment because I planned to address this issue long ago. Traditional author appearances aren't going to work for self-published authors. First, we probably won't be invited, and secondly, we wouldn't want to go, anyway.
For an appearance to matter, it needs to be where readers are going to be, and be receptive to hear about a new book in their favored genre. If I was writing a sci-fi, then FAN conventions and the like would be where I want to go. Not even as a "featured" person necessarily, but maybe just as another attendee and talk about my book as appropriate. For my genre, my readers are where I go everyday. The grocery store. The playground. I have a new project brewing to compromise on the $.99 issue, a serial story following three college freshman in their first year. Not idealized college, either. The real "I-am-mad-at-you-so-I'm-hogging-the-shower-for-an-hour-when-I-know-you-have-an-eight-o'clock-class-and-mine-is-at-eleven" college experience. Each "episode" will be $.99. I plan to talk to the Student Life Offices of various colleges and see if I can't offer the first episode(s) for free to the student body, perhaps as part of Freshman Orientation. If it's any group of people who can use the Internet efficiently, it's a college student!
I wish I could talk more about that, but it's still growing as we speak. ;)
We aren't tied to just bookstores anymore. Think about where you see people use e-readers. Train stations. Airports. Coffee shops (maybe talk to the coffee shop about in exchange for them handing out your business card with a cup of coffee, you will advertise their coffee shop on your other cards?). Gyms. Another place people forget are doctor and dentist offices (if you can provide reading material for their waiting room, many will take it!). If you write Christian fiction, talk to local churches! Maybe offer to do an e-reader demonstration one week night for the congregation and help them download a sample of your book. The possibilities are endless.... and at that, it's back to actual writing for me :)
CANCELLED arriving September 2011. A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.