Meet Author Jon Gibbs

Today’s featured debut author is Jon Gibbs. Born in England, Jon now lives in New Jersey where he’s a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and several other writing groups. He is also the founding member of The New Jersey Authors’ Network and FindAWritingGroup.com.

Name: Jon Gibbs

Name of book: Fur-Face

Book genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Date Published: June 1, 2010

Publisher: Echelon Press

What is your day job? I’m a “housewife.” I haven’t had a paying job since 1995. My son was 17 months old when my twin daughters were born. My wife (aka Senior Management) and I wanted our children to have a stay-at-home parent. We looked at our respective salaries. At the time, I worked for the Ministry of Defence, she worked for an American bank, so you can imagine how that discussion ended. I planned to go back to work once the children were a little older, but things changed when both our daughters were diagnosed as being severely autistic.

What is your book about? Fur-Face is about a shy teenager who meets a talking cat that only he can hear. It’s a tale of unusual friendships, unlikely alliances, and wanting to belong.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Getting published. When I started writing, I thought finishing a book would be the hardest part, but I soon discovered there’s a world of difference between completing a first draft and getting a novel published.

What motivates you to write? I’ve always enjoyed making things up, whether they be songs (back in England, for many years I was lead singer for an unsuccessful rock band, Gentleman Jones) or stories.

Did you experience writer’s block? I don’t believe in writer’s block. That said, I do believe writers can get distracted with all the other things a newly published author has to do these days, but I think that’s more a question of setting priorities and getting organized.

How long did it take you to write this book? I wrote the first draft between March and August of 2003. Mind you, I soon learned that when you type “The End,” it’s really just the beginning.

How long did it take you to find a publisher? From first line to written offer, almost six years. I wasted a lot of time trying to get an agent before I realized that the first draft I’d written simply wasn’t good enough – no matter how many times I ran it through the spellchecker. In December 2007, it finally dawned on me that I needed to learn a lot more about writing if I ever hoped to get published, so I joined a writing group, started attending conferences and read a lot of “how to” books like Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.

In March 2009, I pitched a very different version of Fur-Face to Karen Syed, who owns Echelon Press, at the Write Stuff Conference in Pennsylvania. She offered me an eBook contract on December 30th that year. It came out as an eBook six months later.

So you didn’t have an agent? Not for Fur-Face, but I’m about to start looking for an agent to represent my latest novel, Waking up Jack Thunder.

What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? LOL! The idea that it’s easy. Sure, just about anyone can write a first draft if they really put their mind to it, but writing a book that a publisher will take a chance on? That’s a different matter entirely.

What was your favorite aspect of the writing process? I like the outline stage best. It’s where you get to know the characters, all their little quirks and foibles. You can see the story unfold for the first time.

What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? Let’s see… I made a book trailer. I promoted Fur-Face on my website, on my blog, and also on Facebook and Twitter (I still do). When the ebook first came out, I did a prize draw promotion, aimed at getting folks to post reviews online. After a couple of months I started a Win a Kindle Contest (which ends in April 2011). Echelon Press gave me the various eBook formats, which I put on a CD, so I could sell it at author events like the ones we organize through the New Jersey Authors’ Network, and at book fairs etc. And to help CD sales, I had some “I are a writer!” mugs made up, which I offer as a special combination deal.

It takes several years of consistent effort to develop an online platform. Don’t wait for your book to come out before you start. When you do start blogging, tweeting, facebooking, etc., don’t forget the golden rule of social networking for not-already-famous people: It’s not about you!

Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I imagine every published writer can look back and see where luck played its part. That said, there’s a lot more to being successful than being in the right place at the right time, or knowing someone who knows someone. Personally, I’m a great believer in the idea that the harder you work, the “luckier” you’ll get.

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