I soon realized that you have to start thinking of marketing long before you ever get a publishing contract. You have to start marketing yourself -- to agents and editors. And to market yourself, you need marketing materials.
My point is that I took my goal seriously enough to present myself as a professional. I think it not only helped to make me look professional to agents and editors, it helped to give me confidence that, yes, I
was a writer in a professional capacity.
I know not everyone can afford to have professionally designed business cards, and in all honestly any card with your image and contact info will probably do. If I had to choose between a homemade photo and a homemade business card, I'd choose the card. A professional image is worth the price. If you can't afford it, barter it. You are a writer, right? Write advertising copy, and trade words for images.
Eventually I hired a designer and printed new business cards. Here's a picture of my cards. (I couldn't decide on which I preferred, so I bought two different sets.)
I purchased my cards at clickbusinesscards.com. Check them out--they'll even send you free samples. I chose the card with the matte celloglaze finish. It feels nice to the touch, doesn't smudge, and you can write on it with a pen.
If you're an unpublished author, start thinking of yourself as being president of your own writing business. Invest in your business with time and well-crafted marketing pieces. I thought of my writing as a (potential) business, and thank goodness my husband thought so as well. To be honest, there were times when I felt it was fiscally irresponsible to spend the family budget on my writing dreams. But my husband believed in me and encouraged me to keep working. Believe me, I know it's not cheap to buy books, create marketing pieces, and attend conferences. But what business doesn't have start-up costs?