Monday, August 17, 2020

In Praise of Character Cards

A post by Mary Fan
What are character cards anyway? I'd never heard of them until I started following book bloggers on Instagram. They're portraits of characters from a book -- usually one character per card, though sometimes cards can feature couples/pairs or small groups. I believe they originated from book subscription boxes, particularly YA ones, as swag for subscribers.

They're great fun - a way to see an artist's interpretation of a favorite character and see a book's cast come to life. I know some authors don't like seeing their characters' faces, preferring to leave that up to the imagination, but personally, I've always been a big fan of character art, whether official (e.g. on a cover) or unofficial (e.g. fan art).

The last time I finished a series, the JANE COLT trilogy, I commissioned a set of illustrations from artist Fauzy Zulvikar Firmansyah to celebrate:

This was before I really knew what character cards were, so I didn't really do anything with them other than post them on social media and print them out for my wall at home.

I just finished another series, the STARSWEPT trilogy, and I decided that this time I was going to do character cards. Partly for marketing purposes, but mostly just for fun as a reward to myself for completing the trilogy and for any fans out there who might enjoy them.

I hired the fantastic artist Niru Sky, whose fantastic character work I'd spotted in my Instagram feed a while back, to draw up a series of portraits featuring 8 major characters from the series and then hand them printed as cards:

It was really amazing getting to work with such a talented artist to bring these characters to life - to get to see them after spending years visualizing them in my head. I felt Niru really captured not only the characters' physical traits, but their personalities as well.

So what do you do with character cards once they're printed? Why, you give them away to fans, of course! Outside of subscription boxes, some people use character cards as a preorder incentive (e.g. "send proof of preorder and receive a set of cards") or a raffle to grow their followings (e.g. "RT and follow me for a chance to enter a set of cards"). 

I decided, however, that I just wanted to give them to anyone out there who might like the STARSWEPT series enough to post about it, so I set up an image challenge instead, essentially saying "post pics of the Starswept trilogy's book covers and get a set of cards," on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

View this post on Instagram

Guess what, y’all?? Starswept character cards, featuring gorgeous artwork by, are printed and ready to go! Which means it’s time for... ✨ STARSWEPT CHARACTER CARD GIVEAWAY!!! ✨ For instructions, swipe through the album above or read below. ✨ To celebrate the completion of the #Starswept trilogy, I’m giving away sets of cards featuring 8 major characters from the series. To enter, complete the following image challenge (no purchase necessary!). *Public accounts only, please.* ✨ Yes, this giveaway is 🌍 INTERNATIONAL 🌏 ✨ No, there is no deadline :-) ✨ STEP 1: Post one image each of the following: Starswept, Wayward Stars, Seize the Stars, the whole trilogy. So 4 images total. Can be photos, digital images, just the covers, whatever! Can be individual posts or an album. (See album above for examples). You can download the cover images from my website,, the Snowy Wings Publishing website, or Goodreads. ✨ STEP 2: Use #Starswept in your caption and tag me (so I can see your post!). ✨ STEP 3: Fill out the form with your mailing address (link in profile) ✨ STEP 4: That’s it! Please be patient with me as I package and ship the cards :-). If you have any questions, please feel free to DM me or email astralcolt at gmail dot com!

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And here are some of the entries that have come in!

View this post on Instagram

Look at these amazing pics of the #Starswept trilogy by @moonlightpages!!! 🙌🙌🙌 So gorgeous 😍 ✨ Posted @withregram • @moonlightpages So heyyy 🌿 This is my first time editing the book cover! 🙈 I told myself that I'm never gonna do it because I know it'll be a mess, but here we are ✨ And I wanna say I kind of proud that I posted it for everyone to see? HAHA 😅 But honestly, I'm just ready to risk it for Starswept series, which was THE ONE that got me into science fiction!!! 💫 Thank you to @astralcolt for creating this story 🥰 Seize the Stars will be out this month which is the final installment of this series!! and I couldn't be more excited to be able to follow Iris throughout her story 🥺 I'm excited for it but also sad that it's gonna end. But what's more exciting is that it'll be out ON my birthday?!! heck yeah!💃🏻💜 #starswept #waywardstars #seizethestars #maryfan #bookstagram #bibliophile #book #booklover #bookworm

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If that gets me some publicity on social media, awesome! I also figure I can use them as an incentive to pick up the whole series at events once those start up again (e.g. "if you buy the whole set, you also get a free set of character cards!"). But as with any marketing venture, it's hard to say how effective it'll be. If nothing else, they're just a delight to have :-).

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