Book Character Trading Cards

First, I’d like to say congratulations to the two winners of my first Goodreads giveaway for Vaetra Unveiled! The books have been shipped and are on their way as I type this.

Now, on to my title subject…

I recently joined an online conversation about book character trading cards. Yep, it’s just what it sounds like: trading cards for book characters, done in the sports card tradition. The romance genre already has a nice site appropriately named Romance Trading Cards that lists authors and their cards.

How readers acquire the cards is a bit vague. Some authors offer a free card at book signings and conferences, but those venues seem awfully limited in scope to me. Plus, some of us don’t do signings or conferences. Other ideas I’ve seen were having readers who wanted a card send a SASE to the author, or simply selling the cards through an online store.

I’m not sure what the right approach is, but I suspect that a group of authors, like the fantasy authors of the Magic Appreciation Tour, could do something fun together, like mimic the old bubble gum pack of random trading cards from days of yore. For example, we could sell a pack of 5 or 10 with a random selection of cards. Readers would occasionally get a card they already owned, but that is what would stimulate the “trading” part of the hobby. The logistics necessary to pull something like this off would be daunting, but it’s fun to think about.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about promotional items a lot lately, and my first Goodreads book giveaway really brought it home. When my wife ships her books, she throws in a custom bookmark or some other goodie. I’ve got nothing.

We are planning to produce Vaetra Chronicles business cards and bookmarks soon, which will be great. When people find out I’m an author, they frequently ask for more information about how they can find my book. We usually have to scramble for something to write on/with so I can pass on the info. A business card would handle that situation nicely. And bookmarks are great freebies to offer any place readers gather.

But when it comes to promo items, I have to admit that the trading card concept intrigues me the most. I can’t help but imagine what a Ru-Rahl the Arbolenx card might look like. Or Sulana Delano the Sword Sorceress striking a pose with her crossbow. Who knows, perhaps I’ll get my chance to explore these dreams if trading cards become popular in the fantasy genre.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with good old business cards, bookmarks, and postcards.


What do you think about the idea of book character trading cards? As a reader, would you collect them? As an author, would you be interested in creating them? Tell me in the comments!


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  1. You know, I like the trading card idea in theory, but a couple issues crop up in my mind: 1) Expense. I imagine a really well designed and attractive card would be a professional production. If you wanted to produce five or ten or twenty of them, the expense could be daunting. 2) Do I want to nail down exactly what my characters look like? I like the idea of leaving the specifics up to readers’ imaginations.

    Bookmarks, on the other hand, sound problem-free.

  2. Hi Becca! Those are good points. I considered #1 myself and thought the same thing. My wife is a pro designer, which would save me a bunch of money, but it would still take a lot of time for her to create cards–time she could spend earning money on other projects.

    I actually hadn’t considered #2, but you’re right. Romance authors might not worry about that because they often include character images on their covers, so they’ve already made a commitment to showing what their characters look like. Fantasy authors couldn’t as easily get away with using a random stock photo of a bare-chested, ab-monster or scantily-clad woman.

  3. I’ve been thinking about these myself. I even have the artwork already, through a bit of luck. I’d be very interested in joining the conversation.

    Which reminds me that I need to apply for the Magic Appreciation Tour! My book is ready to start promoting.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Louise. In case you are interested in seeing the conversation I mentioned, it is over on Here’s the URL of the thread:,129328.0.html

    Congratulations on publishing your new book! I look forward to your Magic Appreciation Tour registration. It has been so cool to see many of the authors I met through Rachel Harrie’s platform campaign publish their books.

  5. It’s a very cool idea – my biggest concern would be artwork. I mean, I could always have my wife work on some 3D images for me (like the ones on my blog now) but they wouldn’t be my ideal. Unfortunately I don’t currently know any artists that I could enlist for help on that front, so I’d probably have to significantly compromise. I know very clearly what my characters look like – the trick is getting that across. 🙂

    It’s a very cool idea, though. I’ll have to think about it some more.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Chris. You reached the same conclusion I did. Production would probably be expensive, and there’s no decent distribution method other than handing them out in person.

    If readers really like the idea of trading cards and they start to get some traction, some enterprising company will come up with a solution. They’ll devise an easy way for authors to create the cards and sell or distribute them. The other half of that equation will be to give readers an easy way to trade them.

    The web developer in me can’t help but think of ways I would put something like that together, but I can’t go there right now. Too many other projects to do first, like finishing Vaetra Untrained!

    FYI, I’m also adding membership features to the Magic Appreciation Tour so authors can manage their own listings.

  7. It’s too bad there’s no easy way to create ‘digital’ trading cards somehow without a pre-determined, closed environment. Because that would be cool.

    It would definitely be a neat convention-circuit thing. Too bad there are hardly any out my way.

  8. Digital trading cards are an interesting idea. But I think you are right…it would need a closed environment to work.

    One of the primary characteristics of a "collectible" is scarcity, but there is no scarcity in the digital world. If digital trading cards became popular, sharing sites would pop up instantly. We see that kind of thing with every digital product that exists, and most of them don’t have the mania behind them that any kind of collectible would have.

    You really got me thinking though. Is a "digital collectible" an oxymoron?