In 2006 C.J. Darlington started Christian entertainment website TitleTrakk.com with her sister Tracy and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews ever since. Her first novel, Thicker Than Blood, was the winner of the 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. It will be published January 2010 by Tyndale House. When she's not writing, she's reading. Her hobbies include book and art collecting, fly fishing, painting and drawing.
People ask me how TitleTrakk.com got started, and it’s always fun to tell the story. Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved books. They’ve been a huge passion in my life. My twin sister, Tracy (who’s also a freelance writer), feels the same way about music. Back in 2006 we were brainstorming for ways we could do some writing together. At first, starting a Web site on Christian entertainment was a way we could combine our writing interests. The plan was Tracy would provide content on music, and I would cover the book angle.
But first we needed a name. We wanted something that applied to both books and music. (We hadn’t yet branched out into movies.) We still have the sheet of paper with all the name combinations we came up with. Somehow we hit on the train theme. Then Tracy said, “Title Trakk.” I was writing the names down. I immediately circled that one, and we ran with it.
We now have an incredibly talented team of writers working with us to bring great Christian books, music, and movies to the forefront. TitleTrakk.com is a ministry to the public who might not be aware of Christian entertainment. Hopefully, people will be inspired to read/listen/watch something uplifting and edifying that they might not otherwise have known existed. We also want to let Christians know about new material as it comes out. Maybe they’ll buy a book they see featured and give it to their agnostic neighbor. Or they’ll give an uplifting CD to the teen behind the counter at McDonald’s. They might take a depressed friend to a movie they read about on TitleTrakk.com, which will encourage the friend.
Tracy and I have been honored to interview some of the top names in the Christian entertainment industry. One of my favorites was the first interview I did with Ted Dekker. He was so nice. I remember him going on and on about his new latte maker. I was eating it up because I love coffee. Writers, musicians, and film makers are people, too, trust me! Another fun memory was being on Point of Grace’s tour bus. Those ladies were so friendly, and it was cool to see they were just like us. Chips and snacks littered the table!
As the book editor at TitleTrakk.com and a novelist myself (my first novel, Thicker Than Blood, will be released from Tyndale House, January 2010), I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when pitching your book. And since this is a column about publicity, here are three tips on how you can impress Web editors with your projects:
1. Make a good first impression by writing a great book.
If I read a great novel, I’m going to want to talk about it. It’s that simple. Often authors worry about marketing and promotion too soon. I believe we need to focus on writing the very best story we can—first. Yes, build your network when you can. Make connections. But ultimately, if you don’t have a great story, you won’t have any product to promote! Word of mouth sells books better than anything else.
Author Jenny B. Jones is a great example of someone whose book made an impression on me at TitleTrakk.com. Jenny contacted us after her first novel, In Between, was released. Her e-mail wasn’t
pushy; it just let us know about her as an author and asked if we were interested in reviewing her book. I liked the premise behind the Katie Parker Production series, so I told Jenny to go ahead and send us a copy. The book came promptly, and I started paging through it. I was hooked! I haven’t laughed so much reading a book in I don’t know how long. We had to feature it on TitleTrakk.com and passed it along to one of our reviewers specializing in YA. She loved it too. Then I gave the book to a different friend, who also wrote a review for her blog, and the word-of-mouth phenomenon began. If Jenny hadn’t written a stellar novel, I wouldn’t have felt the need to tell my friends (or mention it in this column)!
2. Don’t push.
Sometimes an author will contact us like Jenny did, but they’ll go about it the wrong way. They’ll insist we review their book. They’ll send multiple e-mails if we don’t respond in an hour. Folks, as much as we’d like to, we can’t review every book we receive. Make it easy for us and be an author who’s great to work with. This doesn’t mean you can’t remind an editor about your project. Sometimes I’ll get so bogged down with projects that an author’s book slips my mind. That’s when I welcome a gentle reminder. But the key word is gentle.
I know how desperate authors can be for publicity. If readers don’t find out about your book, your careers won’t be long for this world. But being polite goes a long way. And really, isn’t that how Christians are supposed to be anyway?
3. Make it simple for us to find out more about you.
When Jenny contacted us, she included a link to her Web site and blog, so I hopped over and took a look. Often the first stop we make is to your Web site. But if nothing is there to tell us more about you, sometimes we’ll look no further. I encourage every author to have an Internet presence. If you don’t know how to set up your own Web site or blog, then hire one of the many talented folks who can do it for you. But you really must do it. And take the time to write an informative bio. Don’t worry if you don’t have many writing credits at first. If you’re a teacher and your novel takes place at a high school, mention that. When I see an author bio that’s professional yet also includes some personality, it makes me want to learn more. First impressions really do count!