Bring business cards to share.
This is one of many pieces of advice I read prior to attending my first SCBWI Winter Conference five years ago. It was one of the few I didn’t heed. Why would I bring business cards? I thought. I had no publishing credits. I didn’t have a website. I’m not an illustrator with a portfolio. I figured that advice must only apply to those who were already published, or at the very least had an agent. So I didn’t bring any cards. I saved my money. I was prudent.
I met so many fascinating writers at my first conference. And in most instances, when I asked, “What do you write?” the response would be “Oh, I write ‘X’” quickly followed by, “Here! [pulls out business card] Let’s swap cards.” I hung my head in disgrace, icy waves of mortification crashing upon my unprepared, unprofessional self. “I don’t have a card.”
Okay, perhaps it wasn’t quite that theatrical, but you get the valuable nugget I’m hurling in your general direction. Bring business cards.
What to include on aforementioned card? Well, your name (says Captain Obvious) and the genre(s) you write (Pocahontas Smith, YA historical fiction). Include your email and/or phone number, if you choose, and any social media info you have, such as your Twitter handle, website, or Facebook page. You can elaborate on what you write (I specialize in children’s nonfiction picture books about zero gravity hula hooping and underwater blindfolded archery) or you can keep it general (Joe Schmo, PB & MG).
You don’t have to spend big bucks on your cards. No need for glossy, hologrammed, and lemon-scented (actually, scratch and sniff would be kinda cool…). There are many online printing sites that are reasonably priced. Or you can print them yourself. Got a time crunch? Buy the pre-cut perforated sheets (Avery is one brand), download a free template, and print them at home.
Now…lean in close. Can you hear me? Good, ‘cause this is the most important part: HAND THEM OUT! Those lovely little business cards will do you no good whatsoever tucked away in your Vera Bradley laptop bag. Share them with those at your critique roundtable. Offer them to the agent who expressed an interest in your work during a critique. Pass one to the writer sitting next to you in a workshop. Heck, throw one into the Win a Free Dinner fishbowl at your local restaurant (Okay, that's not networking, but you might recoup your business card money in the form of complementary sushi!) With your cards, you can make connections with future critique partners or gain a valued peer with whom to share your writing trials and joys. So build those bridges. By sharing business cards, you'll walk away from your writing conference with more that just useful information from keynotes and workshops. You'll leave the conference connected with a network of writers who are journeying with you.
Side note: I keep all the cards I’ve received at conferences. I follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page. No, I’m not a stalker. I’m a supporter! And when their books get published (and they do!) it’s thrilling to have witnessed the progress and successes of those I’ve have the pleasure of meeting.