The business of cardsby Terry McLaughlin
In the interest of lowering the pre-conference stress level, I'm going to offer the following observation: a lack of business cards never prevented any writer from selling a manuscript or making a connection or beginning a friendship with another writer. So if you have no hope of getting business cards made before you head to San Francisco, relax.
But if your conference plans include business cards, keep this in mind: just as your choice of clothing and the firmness of your handshake will make an impression on the people you meet, so will your business card. Will that impression be the competent professional? Or will it be the clueless amateur? It's relatively easy and inexpensive to make a good impression, so check out places like VistaPrint, Earthly Charms, Online Print House, or your local print shop to order some cards for yourself.
Some of the best advice I've seen about business cards for writers can be found in this post on Miss Snark's blog archive. Her discussion is so logical and thorough, in fact, that all I can add is some personal experience.
How many cards did I used to take with me to a conference? About fifty, just in case. How many did I ever use? About half that many. What was my first business card lesson? To keep the cards handy--in a pocket, so I could produce one quickly. What was my second lesson? To provide plenty of white space for adding important information (difficult to do on a dark or crowded card).
What was my third lesson? You'll notice the sentences in that previous paragraph were all in the past tense. As I mentioned in a comment earlier on this year's blog, now that I'm published, I don't use business cards. I use bookmarks instead. There are several reasons for this choice to do away with the cards: my editor and my agent both know how to get in touch with me; the other published authors I meet don't exchange cards; I'd rather offer any readers I meet a bookmark instead of a business card, and my essential contact information--my Web site address--is on my bookmarks, anyway.
But while I was unpublished, I enjoyed making my business cards (yes, I broke one of Miss Snark's rules). I always used the graphics, colors, and fonts found on my Web site, and I always kept the design on the front of the card--the all-important contact information--fairly simple and clean. Here you can see the front and back views of the last card I created, for the RWA conference in Atlanta, more than two years ago.
And it was in Atlanta that I enjoyed a fun luncheon where everyone at my table exchanged business cards. Those cards were wonderful conversation starters, and they helped me make nine new acquaintances.
A final lesson: consider your business card a treat for yourself--a sign of your commitment to your new profession and a tool for making some new friends.