Print Collateral: Three Real World Things Authors Need

Showing up as an author means you need these three things.

Are you a new author?

Do you have your print collateral?

Sorry to do that to you if that was a new term. I realize if you are a new author, you are in the middle of a season of being bombarded with unfamiliar terms and info, new things to think about (and to try not to worry about).

You likely know the stuff I mean when I say collateral, even if that term is a new strange one.  

Collateral is a marketing and printing industry term that just means the bits and pieces, print or digital, that talk about your book and promote your author brand.

And if you are an author, you need to be thinking about marketing of various types.

Although the publishing and the marketing is primarily and every-increasingly digital, most authors I meet also plan to do some in-person events such as book signings or speaking engagements, or attend events such as NRB, writer’s conferences, and other events.

But with so many new things to absorb, and most of them in the digital space, some authors may need a minute to get around to thinking of the implications of their participation in live, in-person events.

For those face-to-face encounters, I believe every author needs to start with these three basic real-world items:

• Business card

• Bookmark

• Pull up banner

If you are an author, you are a businessperson or ministry leader and need to think like one. And if you want people to remember you, tell other people about you, and sometimes just literally see you, you need these things.

We won’t talk today about other marketing and PR printed items you also need, because those require more development and writing.

Nor will we discuss establishing your brand as an author. We are going to just get you started and assume you can use design elements you already have on your book cover and hopefully website.

We may well come back to some of those other topics.  

But today we are starting with the absolute basics on print collateral. We’ve spoken about them before, but it’s been a while.  

These three pieces of collateral need to be professionally designed and coordinate with each other (which means they are basically variations on the same design). That unified look and those professionally produced items play a subtle but important role in how people see you. If you design and produce your own business cards and they look like it, and are flimsy and unmemorable, people that matter to you will take you less seriously. That applies to potential book buyers and other readers, those seeking speakers, as well as the media.

If you show up with a well-designed and nicely printed business card, an eye-catching bookmark, as well as a coordinating banner you display next to you at book signings, you’ll look more serious. I believe that will translate into people being more willing to take a look at your book, as well as consider you for an interview or speaking engagement.  That doesn’t mean you can’t design them yourself with appropriate graphic tools, but some of us are better off not trying to do it ourselves.

I’d suggest you get all three of these things done at the same time. You’ll have some savings on design but the main reason is so you show up looking put together and professional. Also, I’m assuming you have already gotten your website done and it also is going to coordinate with these items. Whether someone comes to the website before you hand them a card or afterwards, you want a unified look.

A business card is still a must, and many authors find it fun and helpful to also have a bookmark that encourages readers to connect with you, and asks for reviews. The business card can be just about your book, but if you are launching a ministry or author brand with more books to come, I’d suggest you make the card with that contact info and let the bookmark promote this first book.

But that’s just me.

Just getting your brain to think of yourself as an author might be enough for a starting point. And, business cards are not that expensive.

Recently I saw someone who coaches authors on their author journeys, and I was reminded that I had met some of the women in her coaching group at NRB. They were quick to have ready their business cards so we could stay in touch. They had their book cover on one side of the card and their photo on the other, along with text for contacting them. Some folks increasingly use QR codes as well – but still print at least some business cards with the QR code on it.

Then about those banners. I’m a big fan of them because they have a lot of visual presence and will survive multiple uses.

You’ve all seen them, and there’s one in the photo with this post, which illustrates well how important they can be when you are in an otherwise visually sterile environment. 

Most people are familiar with them, but if not, basically the way they work is that the banner unrolls up from the base like an old-fashioned roller window shade upside down.

They cost a few hundred dollars but should last years. You can find a dizzying array of them online but if you aren’t familiar with how they work, get some input from someone who does. You can determine what width and height you want, and think about the settings you’ll be using it in when deciding that.

And please be careful to read reviews and not simply purchase the cheapest one.

You may want to imagine yourself showing up somewhere as the professional author who will be having to quickly set the thing up while people are standing there watching you, so get something strong and easy to manage. I’d say sturdiness and ease of assembly are more important than ease of carrying them.

The best ones have a base with a bit of weight in it about two-three feet or more long, and come with a sturdy telescoping pole that connects the top of the unrolled banner to the base. The whole thing should then be free standing without any additional support needed. The graphic is on vinyl and will withstand multiple times of rolling and unrolling.

They will be a bit unwieldy to carry, admittedly, and if you fly often for speaking engagements, you should consider also buying the travel bag with a shoulder strap for carrying the banner onto a plane.

I’ve seen ones that fold into a carrying case that’s a nice suitcase size, but those may sacrifice sturdiness and that’s a problem you don’t want.

Regarding the design for the banner, you will get more years of use from it if you make the design more about your ministry or organization (and yourself, with your headshot) than just focusing on your book cover. You also need to check with your banner vendor regarding the technical requirements for the images and artwork.

There are some other considerations as well to keep in mind when doing this planning and designing of the banner as well as the business cards and bookmarks. Prices can also vary by a lot for producing them. If you would want to get some help with this, let me know as we at Buoyancy PR have resources.

Perhaps that’s more detail than you need or want, but we believe sharing your ministry message will be more effective with a professional presentation of you as an author.

More in coming weeks on other things to consider along the author journey as we share some new things we’ve been learning as we meet more authors.

Originally sent as an email to the Buoyancy community on March 22, 2024.
Joni Sullivan Baker
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