Ep 310 Meet Jodi Gibson, author of ‘The Memories We Hide’.

In Episode 310 of So You Want To Be A Writer: Want to enter a short story comp about food and drink? Meet Jodi Gibson, author of The Memories We Hide. We have tips to stop procrastinating. Plus, there are five double passes to The Truth (thanks to Palace Films) to give away.

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Show Notes

Eat, write and be merry! Prize for short stories featuring food and drink

So You Want To Be A Writer – The Book

AWC alumna Petronella McGovern longlisted for the Australian Indie Book Awards

Conversations in the Community

Andreas: Is there some pill or potion to stop procrastination? I am suffering from a severe case.

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Writer in Residence

Jodi Gibson

Jodi Gibson is an Australian author of both contemporary dramas and light-hearted romantic comedy.

Jodi lives in regional Victoria on a mini-farm with her one husband, 1-4 daughters, (depending on who’s home on any given day), two golden retrievers, one grumpy horse, eight chooks and one cat who rules over them all.

2019 will see Jodi release her debut novel, a contemporary drama titled The Memories We Hide.

Follow Jodi on Twitter

(If you click the link above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

Competition

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This podcast is brought to you by the Australian Writers’ Centre

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Interview Transcript

Allison

Jodi Gibson is an Australian author of both contemporary dramas and a light-hearted romantic comedy. Her debut novel, a contemporary drama called The Memories We Hide is out now. Welcome to the program, Jodi.

Jodi

Hi Al. Thank you for having me.

Allison

You are most welcome. Now you and I have been in touch via social media for a very, very long time. It’s probably best that we don’t think about how long that might be. And I know that you began your journey as a writer a while ago. So maybe you could start by telling us a little bit about that. How you came to writing and how you got to the point where you are now.

Jodi

Sure. Yes it has been a while since we’ve been in contact, and it is scary to think about. I guess I came to creative writing… I’ve always written things. At school, I enjoyed writing. But it was never a career that, I was never going to be a writer. I was never going to be an author. That didn’t happen.

And it was only maybe ten years ago where I had this story running around in my head, and it just kept playing. Like every night I’d go to bed and it would play like you’d press play and it would just go in my head. And so one day I thought I’m going to get this story out because it’s really stopping me sleeping really. And so I did. And I wrote about 50,000 words over the space of a month. And it was great to get it out. And I think that was what… I had the bug then. I found I really enjoyed it. It was something that I looked forward each day to doing.

And so then I sat down and I started writing some more stories. And basically just went from there. And along the way, after I’d decided that, you know, I think I was okay at it. I could get the story down. Whether it was good or not is another thing.

So I found the Australian Writers’ Centre. Yay! And I’ve done a few courses with you guys, which were absolutely brilliant. It showed me about structure, about plot, about character. And I think from there, I’ve only grown as a writer.

And then I found out about Nanowrimo. And my first attempt at that was I think 2013 where I got about 40,000 words down of a story. And then in 2015, I did Nano again. And I won, yay!

Allison

Yay!

Jodi

And that became The Memories We Hide.

Allison

Oh, fantastic. So I’m trying to remember. Because it’s just this whole thing of where you’ve got these people that you like on social media. But you were a blogger, is that right? Did you used to blog as well?

Jodi

I did, yeah.

Allison

So do you think it was being in that blogging space and in that social media space that really sparked this? Like you were seeing other people doing it and you thought, maybe I’ll have a crack? Is that, do you think that’s what kind of like kicked it off for you?

Jodi

I think so. When I started out blogging, I actually started out as a business blogger. I was a virtual assistant. So I started out like that. And then the mummy blogger thing exploded. And although I wasn’t necessarily a mummy blogger, I guess I became more of a personal blogger.

And my blog has evolved from the business blog to a personal blog and then throughout the years to a writing blog. And now to a writing and indie publishing blog. So that journey has certainly helped me along the way. And it’s helped me discover myself as a writer. It’s helped me discuss my voice as a writer, which I think is really important. And I don’t think I would have found that voice without blogging.

Allison

No, it’s a funny thing isn’t it? Because I always talk about the importance of blogging from that perspective for me, as well. From going from that broadcast voice of journalism to that more intimate voice that you need to find your own creative writing voice.

Have you found… Because one of the things I know that I often see people talking about in the various groups and things that we have is that they struggle with this whole notion of, you know, I blog like this and I don’t know how to turn it into this kind of blog and should I change and start a whole new blog, or what should I do? Did you find that evolution through the blogging process, was it just something that happened quite naturally and you just changed direction slightly on all of your blogs? Or did you start again each time?

Jodi

I had a few reincarnations of my blog under different names. And then I guess it was maybe five or six years ago where I just stuck with my own name. And from there I was still, that was when I was personal blogging, and from there it really did evolve quite organically as I discovered more about myself and about writing and about how much I loved writing. And it was really quite a natural progress for me. And there were a few lightbulb moments along the way where I said, yep, actually, yeah, I do want to be a writer. I’m going to head in this direction and just tread the water and see how it goes.

Allison

And have you found also over that process of that ten years of that shifting and changing with your blog and with that platform that you have, have you found that there’s a core group of people that have stuck with you the whole way? And then you’ve picked up or dropped off depending on whatever content it is that you’re talking about at the time. But there’s that core community that has always been there? Is that the experience you’ve had?

Jodi

Absolutely.

Allison

Yeah. Me too.

Jodi

Yes. Which is fantastic to know that those people have followed my journey. And they’re signed up to my newsletter today. And it’s great to see those people commenting on your social media posts and being really excited about the book coming out, because they know where I’ve come from.

And the community evolves from there. Which is fantastic.

Allison

Yeah, it’s good. And it’s one of those things that I have noticed about your… Over the years, obviously, as I say, we’ve kind of there, you do see that community grow and you see… The community aspect of it I think particularly with blogging is one of the great, the great things about doing it from the start. And I know blogging is not as fashionable as it was. But I still believe it’s a way to connect with people that you wouldn’t find in any other way. Would you agree with that?

Jodi

Oh, absolutely. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that. And at the start I was probably talking to no one. And then maybe it was five people. And then maybe 20 people. So it has grown. And I’ve just kept at it. From starting out feeling like I’m talking to space…

Allison

I know. And it’s such a bad feeling, isn’t it? When you’re just sending this stuff out.

Jodi

It’s horrible.

Allison

But you have to just… It’s like writing anything, I think. You have to keep persisting to find your audience.

Jodi

That’s right.

Allison

Anyway, enough about blogging. Look at us, going on a nostalgia trip.

So tell us about The Memories We Hide. So, sorry, what year did you say you did it with Nanowrimo?

Jodi

I’m pretty sure it was 2015 that I did the first draft with Nano.

Allison

And was that a complete draft? Like the 50,000 words was the finished book in that 50,000 words? Of a draft, I mean, first draft.

Jodi

It was almost. I think I almost got to the end and then maybe there was a couple of chapters after that that I added. But for a first, it was basically a very, very rough first draft. And from there I had to flesh it out and restructure it about 3000 times.

Allison

Okay. As you do!

Jodi

It felt like it!

Allison

All right. So tell us about that process. First of all, start out by telling us a little bit about the book itself.

Jodi

Sure. Okay. So The Memories We Hide is the story of 27-year old Laura. And she’s basically been running from her past for the last ten years. When she was 17, her boyfriend Ryan was killed in a tragic accident. And the event was so traumatic that she left home and fled to the city and was going to put it all behind her. Now ten years later, her mum is sick. So she’s gone home to look after her mum. And she’s found that all of the nostalgia and all the memories are coming back.

And then she comes across a newspaper clipping that her mum had kept that sort of alludes to the fact that there’s more to Ryan’s death than she knew. So she feels compelled to find what happened the night Ryan died.

She connects with another friend, Tom, and they start to piece things together. But she doesn’t know that Tom’s actually holding a secret himself that could change everything.

Allison

Ooh, that sounds exciting.

So what has been the process of that novel? So you’ve written the first draft. How different is the actual finished book to that first draft that came out of your mind?

Jodi

I guess the essence and the premise of it is the same. But the actual structure of it is completely different. When I started out, I was going from what happened then and what’s happening now. A sort of alternate chapter way. And when I gave it to my editor after I’d done the first draft and done another draft after that, she said it’s a little bit too much in the past. So it’s turning into a YA novel. And I didn’t want it to be a YA novel so we had to bring it more into about what’s happening now in the present with Laura.

So we had to restructure it and include more things like flashbacks, and some diary entries, rather than going from then to now and flipping back and forth.

So that actual structure is very different. But the idea and the story, the basic plot along the way, is very much the same.

Allison

So at what point did you decide to bring in an editor on this project? At what point did you think to yourself, oh, I’m really loving what I’ve done here. I’m going to push this forward?

Jodi

I think it was after I spoke to you, Al.

Allison

Ha!

Jodi

Remember we had one little mentoring session way back when?

Allison

I do remember. You were in a moment of panic. And I said, we better have a chat.

Jodi

Yes. And so after we spoke, I did some more work and then got in touch with an editor who you had recommended. Which was fantastic.

Allison

And who was that who did the editing for you?

Jodi

Nicola O’Shea.

Allison

Oh yes. Who we have actually interviewed on the podcast. I thought it was probably her, because I recommend her to everyone.

Jodi

Yes. She’s fabulous. Thank you so much. I’m so glad I found her. And she was absolutely brilliant. So I gave it to her after I’d probably done another draft after that. So it was maybe third or fourth draft, still very rough. And she came back with that advice and we worked through that a couple of times.

And then working back and forth I finally got to the point where I thought, this is it. I really can’t do anything more with it. I think I’m finished.

Allison

Okay. All right. So now this is the point where you’ve chosen, this is where we get to talk about your publishing choices here, because you’ve chosen to indie publish The Memories We Hide. And I know that this is your A Plan. This is not – I’ve sent it out to the whole world. This is you going, this is what I’m going to do. Why have you chosen this path?

Jodi

I guess when I first set out, like everyone I didn’t know much about… Well, not like everyone. But many people don’t much about publishing. So I only knew about traditional publishing. So I did send it out to two publishers who did ask to see the full manuscript. So that was good. So I knew the writing must be okay. The story idea must be okay. Obviously I knew it probably still needed some work.

And then that was sort of like… I was in limbo for a long time just waiting to hear from them. And for whatever reasons they didn’t take it on. And I got to thinking that – what do I do now? Like, it’s such a long process. I’ve got more stories I want to write. I want to get these stories out there. Do I just keep plugging away, just keep writing, keep sending it out? And then I thought, well, one day what if I never get published? And that was I guess the indicator for me to look at something else.

I guess by that stage, indie publishing had grown a little. And the stigma was starting to fall away from it. So I looked into that. And I probably spent 12 months researching indie publishing to know if it was really right for me. And the more and more I learnt about it, the more I realised that was to be my A Plan. Because it really resonated with me. Having control and being able to put out my stories and keep working and moving forward with my writing career. So I guess that’s why it became my A Plan.

Allison

Okay. And so once you made that decision, you obviously had an editor, because you were working with Nicola already on the drafts and things like that. So how did you then approach the next stages in the sense of… Because once you’ve got the story how you want it to be and you’re happy with it, as far as it goes, what happens next? Like you’ve got to find a book designer. You’ve got to work out how to… How did you go about that aspect of it?

Jodi

Well, first I had to do a lot of research. Because I had no idea what to do! I was at that point where I’m like, okay, I’m going to do this indie publishing thing. How do I do it? Because I had no idea.

So there’s people like Joanna Penn, which you may have heard of. There’s another huge indie publisher, Mark Dawson. He runs some courses and has a great community on Facebook with indie publishing. So I joined those communities, listened to their podcasts, did a couple of courses.

And that’s where I learnt about the core aspects of indie publishing. And basically gave me a plan to work with, a step by step plan. Okay, you need to do this, you need to get a cover designer, you need to get it copy edited and proofread. You need to get it formatted. And then you have to learn about all the different distribution options available and how you actually do get it out there. And then there’s the marketing and promotions. So there was a lot to learn. And still learning.

Allison

So were there any things about the process or about the way everything unfolded for you that surprised you along the way? Like is there anything where you’ve gone, oh, that was easier than I expected, or that was more difficult than I expected? Have you learned something, some little tit-bit there that you’d like to share with So You Want to be a Writer podcast community?

Jodi

I think I’ve learned that it is possible. I think when I first decided to go indie I thought – this is such a huge thing, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it. Because there’s so many different steps along the way.

But I do like to be in control. So I think if you are going to indie publish, you need to be a little bit of a control freak. And like to organise things. And I think I learnt that there are steps you can take, but at some stages everything has to happen at once. You have to get your cover and you have to have your formatter ready and then you have to know from your formatter how many pages it is so you can tell your cover designer how many pages it is so they can finalise the format for the print edition.

So there’s just lots of things. And it’s a learning curve. But it is possible. And you can do it. It’s just, it’s a lot of hard work. But if you are focused and determined, it is possible.

Allison

How did you find the right people to help you? How did you find the formatter? How did you find the cover designer? How did you find… Because you then to need also get the book distributed I assume in some way. How do you find those people?

Jodi

Okay. With the cover designer and the formatter, I found them through contacts with Mark Dawson’s self-publishing formula community group on Facebook. Just basically asking for recommendations. And they put me in touch with an amazing cover designer who was just brilliant. And they came back with some concepts and basically the second one I saw I was like, yep, that’s it. So that was easy, almost.

And the same thing with the formatter. There’s a company, I think they’re actually based in Tasmania, Polgarus Studios. And they do a lot of formatting and editing. So I just emailed them and yeah, it was quite easy. Once you knew who to go to it was quite easy from there.

Allison

Did it almost feel too easy in a funny way?

Jodi

It almost did! Because I was very… I didn’t know. So I’m just sending off these emails going, like, this is my first indie book. Can you do this for me? And they’re like, yeah sure. They do it all the time, of course they can do it!

And just send it off. And then it came back and it’s done. And I was like, oh, okay. Well that’s done. Move on to the next step.

Allison

And what about the distribution. Sorry, I interrupted you with that question.

Jodi

No, that’s all right. So distribution. So you can choose if you want to just go eBook or if you want to do the paperback version as well. I decided to do both. So there’s a number of distributors that you can use who you can join up with them and they take care of the distribution to different platforms. So they will get your book out to Amazon, to Kobo, to Nook and to Google Play, to iBooks, and to… There’s so many of them.

So you upload all your information to them and they take care of the distribution so that when you say you want it available, it’s available on those online platforms.

With print, you can do it through a distributor as well. But I actually had a contact with the Australian Society of Authors and they have a distribution deal with an Australian distributor. So this is just for Australia. John Reed Books. And I was able to work out a deal with them so that they will distribute the print copies, the paperback copies to smaller bookshops and places like Booktopia online. So I signed up with that. And for overseas readers, who are on Amazon and Kobo, they can order it like a print on demand paperback.

Allison

All right. So moving on a little bit. Have you had to put as much time into thinking about marketing the book as you did in writing the book?

Jodi

Probably more.

Allison

And is that something you enjoy?

Jodi

Yeah. Oh look, I do have a background in marketing. I do marketing for our family business. My husband’s a builder and we have a bathroom renovation business. So I do all the bookwork and accounting for them and also the marketing and promotion. And I’ve done it for clients in the past as well. So I do have a background in marketing, particularly online marketing, social media marketing.

So that has certainly been a bonus to help me. And I do actually enjoy it. I do enjoy coming up with ideas on how to get things out there. Different platforms to use. So that part of it, I do enjoy. And it has taken a lot more time than probably I would have liked. But I mean, I’d rather be writing, of course. But yeah, when you choose to go to indie, you do have to do… Well, you have to do it all yourself, pretty much. And even traditional authors these days have to do a lot of the marketing and promotion themselves. So…

Allison

Yeah, very true.

Jodi

So it’s got to be something that if you like doing it, great, if you don’t, you’ve still got to do it. Pretty much.

Allison

So what are some of the things that you are doing to launch? What have you done to launch the book? What sort of things were you thinking about?

Jodi

Apart from obviously on my own social media platforms, I’ve reached out to book bloggers who have and are in the process of reviewing the book, and they’ll put it up on their social media and on their book review sites. I’ve done a few interviews with more book bloggers. I’ve done podcast interviews. And I’m reaching out, I’m in the process of reaching out to bookstores, local bookstores in the area, to head out to sign some copies of books and let them know it’s available and just chat to them. And the local library, actually, contacted me to do a book launch. Which I wasn’t planning on doing. But they contacted me, so we’re doing that.

And it’s just about getting yourself out there and making contact with people in your community, people in your online extended community, and just asking. They can only say no or ignore you. But they could say yes.

Allison

Look at us, chatting away here.

Jodi

That’s my view! Sorry, I’ve gone way off topic.

Allison

No, no, that’s fine. Do you think you have to be prepared to invest money as well as time to ensure the best possible product? Because I know that there’s a lot of ways that if you do everything yourself, like you can make your own book cover, you can edit your own book, you can do all that kind of stuff. But if you really want your book to be the best it can be, you have to be prepared to invest in cash. Would you agree on that or not?

Jodi

Yeah, absolutely. When I started out and I decided that I was going to go indie, my main focus was to make the book look like a traditionally published book. Obviously the story has to be good. But it has to look good. So the cover has to be representative of the genre that you’re writing in. And it has to be nice. It has to be professionally done. Obviously you have to have it professionally edited and proofread and all that so there’s no errors.

So I want someone who picks up my book or looks at it online to look at it and not think, oh, that might be self-published. I don’t want them to be able to pick it. Because really, I think that readers don’t care who published the book as long as it’s a good story and as long as it looks good. They don’t… Like, how many times do you pick up a book and go, oh, who published this before I read it? You don’t. So as long as it looks the goods… Yeah.

And you do need to invest money in that. If you don’t know how to design a cover, don’t do it. Get someone to do it. Because you don’t want it looking second class.

Allison

So what do you reckon the average is that it would cost to bring a quality product to market? I mean, you’re obviously in a lot of those communities so you would have some understanding of the kinds of costs, the kinds of money that people are spending. What sort of, you know, give me a ballpark of what sort of money people are actually spending to create a quality product?

Jodi

I guess it’s really hard because there’s so many people out there. Like, you can find good designers on places like Fiverr. But you are taking a risk. So my choice was to go with a professional book cover designer who specialises in book covers.

Allison

So obviously you’re going to pay more for that.

Jodi

Yeah. So that was about 5 or $600 for that. And then obviously the editing, there’s different levels of editing that you can have. You might just do a structural edit and then do a copy edit and a proofread yourself. Or get someone who you trust and who you know reads quite well to do a proofread. So it just depends on your budget. But you do need to be prepared to put in some money to make it the best you can.

Allison

Okay. All right. So what happens next?

Jodi

Next is promotion. So like I said before, I’m on the promotion trail. Just getting it out there. Just getting the word out and talking about it and just seeing what happens. And keep writing.

Allison

I was going to say, are you working on another book at the same time?

Jodi

Yeah. I’m working on a couple. I have another contemporary drama which I’m just finishing off the next draft and that’s going off to my editor. And I’m also working on a romantic comedy series which will be a series of three books. And hoping to get those out by the end of the next year.

Allison

And are you planning to put the three of those out at the same time? Is that your strategy with those?

Jodi

I think I am. Yes. So I am thinking about how to do that. Because particularly indie readers, if you’re doing a series they like to keep reading. So if you have one book out and you say, oh yeah, the next one will be out in six months out, they’ll forget about you. So my strategy is to maybe put the first one out, and then a few weeks later the second, and a few weeks after that, the third. So I really want to have them all ready to go so I can approach that in that way.

Allison

So that’s all part of it, too, isn’t it? You’ve got to be thinking strategically as to how you’re gonna actually manage your launches/

Jodi

Oh absolutely. Yeah, you do.

Allison

Well, you know, all I can say is good luck with that. That sounds amazing. It sounds like a huge amount of work as well. And I think that’s the thing with indie publishing, isn’t it? You have to be prepared – I mean, with any kind of publishing, let’s face it – but you have to be prepared to do the work. It’s not something where you can just fling an eBook out there and hope for the best.

Jodi

No, you do. You have to be prepared to put in the time and the effort and the money. And you’ve got to make the time. Not even just find it. You’ve got to make it.

Allison

All right. So thanks for joining us today. We’re going to finish today, Jodi Gibson, with our three top tips for writers. So what have you got for me?

Jodi

Okay. Really boring. Keep writing.

Allison

You can’t be boring.

Jodi

Everyone says keep writing, but it’s true!

Allison

I should make it, there should be a new rule, where you have to start with one that we haven’t had before.

Jodi

I’ll finish with one you haven’t had before, how’s that?

My first tip is keep writing. And keep writing. There’s so many people who write a book but who never finish it. So if you can at least finish it, you’ve got something to work with. And even if you don’t think that it’s good, at least you’ve got something to work with. So keep writing and find that time each day to make time. Even if it’s half an hour, just to sit down, get some words down. That would be my first tip.

My second tip I guess would be specifically for indie publishing is head into it with 100% dedication and focus. As we were talking about. Be prepared for the time it’s going to take. Be prepared to do your research. Be prepared to make your book the best you can by getting it edited and professionally designed and all of that. Because you really want to put the best product out there.

And my third tip, which might be a little bit different, is keep your ears open. Because story ideas are everywhere. and I’m a firm believer in the bit of the Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert, that the stories are out there waiting for you to hear them. You might be on the train and you overhear a conversation, it piques your interest; write it down. Because I think once you’ve got it out, you allow more ideas to come in. And story ideas just pop up from everywhere now that it’s like I’ve opened the faucet. And they’re just everywhere. So keep your ears open, because they’re out there.

Allison

Well, that’s a good one. I don’t think we’ve had that one before. So well done on that. Okay. So where can people find you online, Jodi?

Jodi

Sure. My website is www.jfgibson.com.au. And you can find me on the social media platforms from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and my handle is @jfgibsonwriter.

Allison

Fantastic. Well, best of luck with the book. And hopefully we’ll be able to follow your journey as a podcast community and we’ll look forward to it.

Jodi

Thanks so much, Al.

 


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