Merry Christmas from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the honor of interviewing author, pastor, and speaker Daniel Darling. Daniel serves as the senior pastor of the Gages Lake Bible Church outside of Chicago, and is a highly regarded speaker. He also is a frequent contributor to columns and blogs. And yes, he writes books too.
Dan, how did you get into writing? How many books do you have published?
I’ve been a writer and editor for about twelve years. For several years I worked as an in-house writer and editor for a large Christian media organization. I began freelancing about nine years ago and published my first book, Teen People of the Bible, with New Hope in 2007. I’ve since written two other books, Crash Course and iFaith, and have a fourth book releasing in the summer of 2012.
How did you get your first book contract?
I attended writers conferences and sought advice from a variety of people in the industry, who helped shape Teen People of the Bible. But it was while standing in line at a parade in support of a friend who was running for Congress that I was made aware of New Hope Publishers. My friend’s wife went to school with Andrea Mullins and recommended I send my proposal for Teen People to her. I humored my friend and sent the proposal. Then life overwhelmed me and I forgot about it until six months later, I got a call from Andrea Mullins who was interested in the book. After I picked myself up off the floor, the process of publishing began.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
I would say targeted marketing. For instance, with my teen books, I went after youth pastors and moms. Teens don’t buy teen devotionals. Youth pastors and moms do. I created a list of the top youth pastors in the country and mailed them a special invitation for a free book. I also went after teen blogs and mom blogs for reviews. I’ve found online marketing works when you go after popular blogs that focus on the niche in which your book is placed.
Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?
One thing that surprised me is that radio and TV interviews, even big ones, don’t always cause your sales to tick up. I still think they are important for platform building and credibility, but they don’t produce the immediate sales you think they will. However, a highly trafficked blog that reviews your book can make Amazon go wild.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I did have one radio interview at my home that was funny. I was home watching the kids, and my wife was running late to come home. I put on a movie for my kids to watch and told them to stay downstairs while Daddy did his interview. Well, you know how kids are. I was in the upstairs bedroom with the door closed, talking about my latest book, iFaith. My daughter started knocking on the door. So I went into the closet and finished the interview. The interviewer had no idea the drama taking place outside that closet!
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
I think getting good endorsements helped as well as going after the blogs. I’m relentless. When I find a new blog, I email them and ask them to do a review. I also network relentlessly. I make friendships and follow up on them. And I’m persistent.
It also helps to know your audience. You need to know the flavor of the radio show or blog and pitch your book accordingly. And you can do it when your book has many diverse sub-themes.
You can also write articles for publications based on the content of your books. Pitch articles to Christian periodicals. This is easy to do, because the process of writing the book gave you great depth of knowledge on the subject. Just pitch the content of your book in the specific way that publication is focused. You can also make some income off of this.
You can also go after writing guest blogs for highly trafficked blogs. You won’t get paid, but you’ll get traffic and build your platform. These are typically short, bullet-pointed pieces.
Did you see God open any doors in the promotion of your books?
Absolutely. I’ve seen God widen my platform for writing columns, speaking, and pastoring. I’m beginning to teach at writers conferences as well.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Prayer, professionalism, and persistence. And a practical note: Don’t give in to the “have-tos” you often hear in writing circles. Some insist you have to spend your life savings on a book trailer. Or that you have to do certain things. I say you do what you can do, and do it well. Most of my promotion has come through relentless networking.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Write the best you can. Don’t get so caught up in marketing that you forget to write a good book. Make sure you grow as a writer. That first book isn’t your first and only “magic bullet.” My writing has vastly improved from book one to book four, and I hope it continues to improve. I’m looking at creating a body of work that will glorify God.
Study the market, market well, build friendships, network well. But most of all, write quality books that will inspire someone to greater faith. In the end, that will produce the most success.
Wonderful and practical advice! Thank you, Dan!
To learn more about Dan and his books (there are a few shopping days until Christmas!), please visit Dan’s Website.
Writing for Him, Sarah Sundin