Wynn-Wynn Media
CJ Darlington

C.J. Darlington's first novel, Thicker Than Blood, has just been released by Tyndale House after winning the 2008 Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest. CJ has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in Thicker than Blood before cofounding her own online bookstore. She also cofounded the Christian entertainment Web site www.TitleTrakk.com. A homeschool graduate, she lives in Pennsylvania with her family. When she's not writing, she's reading. Her hobbies include book and art collecting, fly fishing, painting and drawing. Visit her Web site at www.cjdarlington.com.

Publicity Before You Sign

It’s easy to get lost in the prepublication waters. There’s so much information out there about what you should and shouldn’t do before you sign a contract. But how many of these ideas really work? What’s absolutely necessary, and what can be left by the wayside? Here are a few prepublication must dos, as well as several suggestions:

Must Do #1: Buy your domain name.

I bought cjdarlington.com years before I ever needed it. I wasn’t risking it not being available when I wanted a Web site. Because some people buy up multiple domains in the hopes of selling them to you later for a much higher price, it’s a good idea to buy your domain name now.

The best option for what to make your domain is the simple one—your name.com. But if your johnsmith.com domain isn’t available, you do have a couple courses of action. You could go for a common variation like johnsmithbooks.com or johnsmithwrites.com because it’s always better to use a .com rather than a .net or .org, since most people remember .com better.

Another option is to decide to write under a pen name now and buy that domain. But trust me—a Web site is absolutely necessary in this day and age, so you will eventually need it. Why not get started now? I use GoDaddy.com to buy and host my domains for under $10 a year per domain, but other options are available as well.

Suggestion #1: Start your Web site or blog now.

I started blogging in 2006, three years before I ever saw publication. Having a blog gave me an excuse to get my words out there for others to read, and it was great practice. Most publishers recommend their authors start blogging as a way to garner interest in their books. Search for “how to start a blog” on Google, and you’ll find several very easy ways. I use Blogger.com; others swear by WordPress.

But there’s no point in having a blog if no one reads it. Three ways to get blog traffic:

1) Comment on other blogs. A certain percentage of folks will check out your profile and visit your blog, especially if your comments are interesting. Instead of saying only, “Great post!” Add your thoughts on why it was a great post.

2) It’s not all about you. Okay, in some ways it is. After all, this is your blog, but if you can tailor your posts to be helpful or inspiring to your readers (and not blatant self-promotion), by all means post along those lines. My friend Gina Holmes originally started her hugely popular blog “Novel Journey” as “First Novel Journey,” all about her own trials and tribulations on the road to publication. She had five readers, including herself. But as soon as she started featuring interviews with other authors on the blog, she noticed much more traffic, and that’s the site’s focus now.

3) Include your blog in your e-mail signature line. People will often click on these links.

Must Do #2: Be professional.

During this prepublication time, remember that sooner or later publishing professionals will read what you post. Whether in blog comments or your own blog posts, it’s imperitive to keep your tone professional. You do not want to be flaming people or speaking negative of anyone. No exceptions. I don’t care what you think about someone or what the other guy/gal did to you. And you might consider leaving the posts about controversial

topics to someone else, too. Unless you’re feeling led to write about a controvery, it could get you into trouble later if you’re not careful. It’s easy to tarnish a reputation, but difficult to restore it.

Suggestion #2: Get a Facebook page and start Twittering.

Many successful writers have managed to get by without FB and Twitter. But why not give yourself a leg up? Will being involved in social media make or break you? Probably not. If you write a terrific book, an editor isn’t going to reject you because you’re not Twittering. But what if that editor saw your pithy comments on Twitter and checked out your clever blog as a result, then clicked on your sample chapter link, liked what he/she saw, and asked you for more? You never can tell, and I don’t know about you, but I want to be doing everything I can to positively promote myself.

Warning: If you’re easily addicted to video games and the like, be warned. Social media is addictive. I haven’t completely mastered it myself, but I know I must. So enter with caution. They don’t call it Twitter (away your time) for nothing. But social media can also be a lot of fun, and you can meet some really cool people.

Suggestion #3: Write book reviews.

Writers are readers. We all know that. So when you read a great novel, why not write up a quick review and post it on Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or even on your own blog? Then while you’re at it, send that review to the author. I guarantee they’d love to read what you wrote. By doing this you’ll make an author’s day, and you might make a friend in the process. One can never have too many like-minded friends in this solitary business of writing.

Book reviewing isn’t for everyone, but one thing writing book reviews has taught me is how to summarize a 400-page novel into a paragraph or two. That comes in really handy when it’s time to summarize your own novel.

Must Do #3: Write.

There’s only so much time in the day, especially if you’re like me and have a day job besides your writing. So while social media and prepub publicity is important, it’s not as important as your actual writing time.

Thicker Than Blood