Let’s break it down.
What is your author brand? Who is your audience? What impression (that your card will make) is most in line with your books? Answering these questions will help you figure out the style of card you want. For example, if you write dark paranormal you aren’t going to want the pink card with the wedding script writing because it doesn’t fit and build on the impression you are striving to create.
What are you selling? Hint–it isn’t you so much as your products (your books!). Use your latest book cover–not your face. We don’t want to see your face. Okay, I don’t want to see your face. Being able to recognize you in a crowd isn’t going to make me buy your book, recognizing your book cover when I am book shopping is going to make me buy your book. (If you don’t have a book yet, then your face might be okay. Or possibly skip the image altogether and feature something like your author tagline or a related image (make sure you have the rights to use it) that is uniquely you and your brand.)
Don’t use a stock image provided from the printing company. You know how many business cards I’ve seen with the same tree printed on it? That does you no favors and does not help you stand out, be unique, or make you memorable. No picture is better than using a common one that someone else might have–can you imagine swapping cards with someone and discovering they are visually the same? Ouch.
Back to selling:
Maybe you are using a free book as bait to gain a readership? Add the cover to your card. That will be useful for years. Or possibly you are selling a feeling–use your author tagline. (Mine is: Read, Dream, Laugh, and Love.) Or maybe if you are using a book’s cover you will want to include the book’s tagline. You want your card to create a feeling. It isn’t just information on cardstock. It can be so much more!
Where can people find you? What do you want them to do? I don’t care if this is a card for your street team announcing your latest release. Connect. Give them a URL so they can follow you. Make the cards about more than just this one book. (Make them evergreen as much as possible that way you can still use them. You hand them over and say, this is an old card from my book release, but this is where you can find me online–and you point to your website’s URL. Bam! You used up an old card, shared some of your work while providing your contact info.
BUT don’t provide every place someone can find you online. Pick the most effective (we’ll get into this in a bit) and share those links/addresses. They don’t need your phone number–they aren’t going to call you (and in that rare instance that they are, you can write it on the card). They don’t need to know where you live. They need your online stuff. Even if you are connecting with agents, they want your email, not your mailing address.
Take it Further:
Add a QR code on the back. Use a QR code that uses the cover art from your book in it for further branding. What does the QR code do? It hooks people up with your mailing list. Also share the URL that the QR code goes to in case people don’t have a QR code reader. (QR Code readers are a free app on a smart phone that can read the black code using the phone’s camera. That takes them to a URL you’ve set up for the code… like a mailing list sign up page.)
Are you someone who will go to a lot of conferences and want to add your bookmark to the author’s bookmark table? Then make bookmarks. Check your actual needs and your actual opportunities to get these branded promo items out there and take it from there.
Author business cards can have extra space at the top right where you can add a signature should you use them to hand out at speaking engagements or to add to prize packages you send out. (Remember–your signature makes it special!)