Friday, September 3, 2010

The Business of Business Cards

When I attended the RWA National Conference in Orlando, I had the opportunity to meet many other writers in the industry. Some were published, many were on their journey to publication and some were in  a league of their own. I was just happy to breathing the same air as they did.

Random meetings, in elevators or in the lobby, occurred with strangers. People who I shared space with for a brief moment while I waited to pitch or stood in line for food. During the keynote lunches and speeches, we sat at round tables and ate various versions of the same chicken. Old friends and new acquaintances shared a laugh and made new memories. I also attended the planned meetings: pitch sessions. Another type of exchange occurred. Story teller to an audience of one. An audience I hoped would like my story enough to ask for a part of it or all of it.

And during all of these random or planned meetings, one thing occurred: we exchanged business cards.

Now the coveted agent/editor business card is the special one you pray you don't lose before you get home. But the other cards are just as important. They are the building blocks of new relationships and friends; a network of support for now and in the future.

But how do you keep track of all these new friends? Acquaintances? I have a trick or two. First, I write down where and when I met the person on the back of her/his business card. I might even include a small note about our conversation so I can reference it later. Then I put all the business cards together and wrap them with a rubber band so I don't lose them.

Now the goal is to reconnect with these people. But all things in good time. First, I must respond to the coveted agent/editor cards. They are my first line of business. You can thank them for meeting with you in a separate card and post. Or you can do so in the query/follow up letter as part of the introduction. These cards are put in a special card holder. The first line of business also means preparing and sending in the requested materials.

Anyone who has received requests for full or partial manuscripts at a conference knows how daunting this task is to perform. First of all, that story? Well, we return home and look at it and think we need to polish it to the nth degree. It must be as PERFECT as we can make it before we send it to the editor/agent. This is an opportunity to shine. And believe me, the scrambling that goes on to make transform a pretty decent MS into a stellar MS is nothing short of painful, time consuming work.

And anyone who has returned from an RWA National Conference also knows that it's hard to start this work right off the bat because you're just so tired. I'd say bone tired isn't even an apt description. The conference is a high energy, fast paced, on the go and just plain "on" all the time experience. I think it takes me at least a week to recuperate and restore my bopping brain cells into a normal, steady rhythm.

So a week or two might go by before one even starts responding to the important requests. But eventually, at least in my world, I finish and am ready to move onto reconnecting with my new friends in the writing world. Some of them are here--new writers or writers I just met that live in my area. I can meet them for coffee, call them, see them at a chapter meeting or connect via one of the social networks like Twitter or Facebook.

Now I am almost ready to send out a short note via email to the many people I met at the conference. I will look a their cards, flip them over and see what we talked about and be able to send a personalized note. Then I'll file their cards in my holder and hope to meet them again at the next writing conference I attend.

How do you handle all the business cards you receive when you attend a conference?


Martha W said...

Great post, Christine. And very, very true. :) I didn't get to attend Nationals this year (and had to trade M&M for a closer, local conference...) but the conference I went to earlier this year, was a scaled down version of the same. Exchanging business cards, bone-tired afterward, and requests that you want to start on immediately but can't see straight enough to do it... lol.

I had my planner on me while I was there. So any business cards went right into the empty slots in the holder for that and I made notes in my organizer about the people I met.

It was so much fun and worth every moment!

Piedmont Writer said...

Thanks for this advice. You hear so many conflicting stories about business cards but I've always used them (in my former career) and networking is the best.

Someday I'll get to a conference.

Wendy Marcus said...

Hi Christine!
I also wrote down where I met the person and something about them on the back of their business card. Although I have to admit, I had so much fun talking to people we often forgot to exchange cards. And I was frustrated that a good portion of the writers whose cards I collected, didn't respond when I sent them an e-mail. What's up with that?

Christine said...

Hi Martha: I am so sorry you're not coming to the M&M this year, but I hope to see you next year! I am going through all my cards this week (a month later, but it's been busy here!). I hope to touch base with my new contacts.

I like the day planner idea. I have a holder that is specific for the cards. But I forgot to bring it to the conference this year.

Christine said...

I think it is a good idea to keep the cards, Piedmont, and follow up when you can. Of course, the agent/editor cards are like gold to me. I am constantly looking them up and making sure I still have them.

I am a little OCD about them LOL.

Christine said...

Wendy: I don't think everyone responds because they get busy, they don't remember or they are overwhelmed with life. I find that happening in real world time as well. Even the fine art of dining in other people's homes, reciprocating, is dying. I love entertaining and just getting an RSVP is difficult these days. I'm not super formal. But a yes or a no to an invite would be nice ;-) As in life, with the business cards, I try to build on the relationships that act in kind.

So follow up on the ones who you heard back from and don't worry about the rest (my Christmas card list undergoes similar pruning for this reason LOL).

Oh, and I'm still sorry I didn't get to see you at the conference :-(

Gwen Hernandez said...

I have a similar system. I was glad I had my cards with me in Orlando. I was surprised how many I used. =)

Christine said...

I love to see how many I can give away. I'm still playing catch up on the follow through. It's been super busy this summer.