The DIY Stub
Author Solutions, who I will not link to, once again, are offering a new service called Bookstubs(TM) through AuthorHouse. Gotta add that trademark - very important... They are, in essence, business cards for your book. The front is your cover, and the back is a standardized bunch of links and a QR code with a link to where you can buy your book online. For twenty (20) of these plus a press release, they ask a starting price of $1,199. My utter contempt for them truly knows no bounds, at this point. I read the article from Writer Beware on this and became instantly, irrationally angry that a company would dare to ask such a price for so little. In my considered opinion as a graphic designer and technical expert, this is a colossal rip-off that is an insult to every good author out there.
I'm going to prove it to you by telling you how to do it for close to nothing, step by step.
Step 1: Figure out your promo
There are plenty of different ways to do this, but I'll stick to just a few: Amazon, Smashwords, and Goodreads. The promo is what goes on the back of your card, and the text is going to vary a little depending on which service you use. In every case, make sure you've allowed about two to three weeks extra lead time on the promo for the cards to be printed.
Smashwords: My personal favorite. The coupon generator is here. Generate a coupon as normal and choose the length of time you want it to run, then get the little five digit code. Get the Smashwords link to your book.
Amazon: KDP Select free days. Figure out when they're going to happen and write the dates down. Get the Amazon link for your book.
Goodreads: Set up your giveaway. Get the link from the 'Enter to Win' button on it. It'll be in the format of 'http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/enter_choose_address/00000-book-title'. You may not be able to get this until the giveaway is active, so be careful when you're choosing when it's going to run.
Step 2: Get the QR code
This you can do off just about any free QR code generator that's available online. I googled 'QR code generator' and got this nice website. Put in your link to whichever service you're using, hit Download QR Code, and you're done. You get a nice little PNG file - save that some place handy.
Step 3: Get your cover ready
The cover goes on the front of the card. This will be a little different from your usual cover, because a business card has a different aspect ratio. Just to make it easy, use an image size of 1039 x 697 pixels and adjust your cover elements to fit, or use the usual cover and accept that the top and bottom are probably going to get cut off.
(I recommend Inkscape for this if you've got no other program - open it up, make a new default document, then go File -> Document Properties and change the resolution to 1039 x 697px. Then File -> Import -> choose your cover illustration -> embed, and then resize it to cover the page box. Remember, everything in that box is what's going on the card - everything outside it will be cut out. Once you're done playing around with it, export it by File -> Export, make sure PAGE is selected at the top of the dialog box, choose where it's going to export to, and hit Export to get another PNG file.)
I get all my business cards from Moo. Bless their little cotton socks for being so customer friendly. You could go to any printing company for this, but I prefer them. Use their dropdown menu like so: Business Cards -> Classic Business Cards -> Use your own images. Upload your cover, and click Next Step.
Here's one I did earlier over on the right. You'll want to watch out for the 'safe area'. Anything outside this could be cropped out when the cards are printed, so make sure all the important stuff is inside it.
Click the little button at the bottom right of the image that says Flip Cards Over. This will get you to the back of the card, where you can add your details. What you add in here is largely up to you, but make sure to include the length of time over which the promo is running and a little spiel about your book. If you're using Smashwords, put the coupon code here at the top in big letters. You'll have to play around with it a little to get the text to fit properly. Add a bit.ly link to the promo, your website, your Facebook page, whatever if you want to accommodate people without smartphones.
Once you're done with the text, click on the little box to the side to add an image. Get your QR code image and add it here. The Moo image doodad might complain about it being low resolution, and it'll blow it up to fill the frame. Don't worry if it does. Turn the zoom slider down to shrink it, and then position it where you want.
Here's the one I did for my book. Very straightforward. If you wanted to and if you had the skills, you could do a custom image for the side frame that incorporates your QR code - like, say, a picture of your main character with the code below them or something - to make use of that big chunk of white space I'm leaving in there. (My book's not actually free on Amazon - this is just for illustration. Sorry!)
Step 5: Check out
Review your design, check out, and order whatever else you want from Moo. You can have rounded corners if you like for a little extra. Their usual card stock is good, high quality stuff, but I like to get the recycled stock because it's easier to write on. Did I mention they also do little 1x1" stickers? Yes, if you have some dead tree copies of your book lying around, you can make glossy stickers to stick to the front of them for ten bucks.
It's $19.99 for fifty cards to start with, takes about two weeks if you're not in a hurry, and you can pay by Paypal.
So there you have it. Stubs, or business cards, or whatever you want to call them, for your book.
This is effectively what AuthorHouse wants to charge you over a thousand dollars for. This is something that you could do yourself in a couple of hours, if anything, and that a professional designer could do in a couple of minutes. The cost? Twenty bucks plus whatever you want to spend on a copywriter for your press release, IF you want a press release.
(In my opinion, this is a half-assed ploy to get authors to spend money on just that - their idiotic 'web optimized' press release service. One which, I might add, has grammatical errors and no less than FOUR links to AuthorHouse in in the sample; links that are very obviously placed there for SEO purposes. I conclude, based on this, that authors are pretty much paying a ridiculous amount of money for nothing more than the privilege of boosting AuthorHouse in Google's search results.)
Lastly, I would like to say that I think you shouldn't do this at all unless you have a very definite aim in mind - like, say, you're a fantasy author going to a convention and you want to have promo cards to hand out to people you meet. The usual marketing caveat applies; don't just do this for the hell of it, do it because you have a plan for each and every card you pay to have printed.
And don't waste your money on AuthorHouse.