Peter Gibbons taught himself everything there is to know about writing and self-publishing, using our Manuscript Assessment service to refine his work. His Viking Blood and Blade books became Amazon Bestsellers and received numerous Kindle All-Star Awards. More recently, his self-published book King of War was shortlisted for the Kindle Storyteller Literary Award 2022.
And if that wasn’t enough, Peter’s first traditionally published book is out with Boldwood Books in October 2022. We caught up with him to find out about his journey into self-publishing, and how to harness your self-motivation to get your book finished.
JW: Tell us a bit about your background as a writer. When did you start writing, and how did you find the process once you’d started?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but had never done anything about it. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and fantasy novels, as well as historical non-fiction books. Writing was something I felt I had the skills and imagination to be good at, but life got in the way and I had never actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
In my day job I head up a global sales function for a large insurance company, and I’m married with three kids – so free time is at a premium. Those elements can be, however, excuses not to write. Here’s something I figured out by training and running the Dublin Marathon six years ago: there is time in everyone’s day if you want something badly enough. During the Covid lockdowns, I gave up physical training and decided to use that time to try and write a book. So, I just sat down and wrote it. I got up at 5.45am each day and wrote for an hour and a half each morning. The words poured out, and I wrote very much in the “pantser” style. Eventually the word count was huge and the story was finished. I’d written a Viking Historical Fiction novel, which it turned out I didn’t want to share or show to anyone – that’s something I’m sure will resonate with many first-time writers.
There is time in everyone’s day if you want something badly enough.
JW: What prompted you to have your manuscript professionally assessed?
My first draft manuscript was an odyssey of multiple points of view, sprawling journeys, and battles. I feared that, although I had accomplished my goal, what I had written was not very good. That’s when I came across the various tools and services available via Jericho Writers. On the website, I found blogs on plot structure, character development, and advice on POV characters. I had no knowledge or experience of any of these important elements, and so I worried that my precious manuscript was, in fact, a bit rubbish. So I invested in the Jericho Writers Manuscript Assessment service.
I had been heavily consuming all the info available on the website, and the assessment seemed like the best next logical step to get an honest review of my work by a professional. The feedback came back, and it was candid, challenging, and amazing. I needed to ditch at least one POV character, learn about story structure, cut around one-third of the story, and the novel started in the wrong place. I acted on the advice, and have never looked back.
The assessment seemed like the best next logical step to get an honest review of my work by a professional.
JW: Why did you decide to self-publish your work? In what ways has it been the best route for you?
After working through three further drafts, I submitted the manuscript to a couple of agents but received no replies. I did that mainly because I was completely unaware that self-publishing existed. Once I discovered that, and understood its power and opportunity, I decided to self-publish what became Viking Blood and Blade, my debut novel. . I realised that with self-publishing I could be the master of my own destiny: I wanted to be a writer, and I didn’t have to wait for approval or acceptance from any industry gatekeepers. I could just do it. And so, I set about learning everything I could about the key elements of self-publishing and building up a playbook that would drive my novel to success.
I realised that with self-publishing I could be the master of my own destiny: I wanted to be a writer, and I didn’t have to wait for approval or acceptance from any industry gatekeepers.
JW: How did you find the initial steps of self-publishing (building a mailing list, getting reviews, etc.)? Do you have any advice for authors embarking on these first steps?
Advice on how to put together the elements required for a successful self-published book is available on the Jericho Writers website, and elsewhere online. I set a target number of reviews I wanted to get within the first month, set up a pre-order and a free offer, and then engaged with book promotion sites. I also worked at setting up a simple website using WordPress with a mailing list and call to action. All of these things were new to me, but actually getting each element up and running was fairly intuitive. My advice to authors starting out is to make sure you do the basics, and do it in a simple way that you can then build upon. You need a good book, a strong cover, solid metadata, a website, and a mailing list capture service.
JW: Once you’ve started to build some success in self-publishing, what’s the best way to hold on to it? How can you make it sustainable?
This one is simple – keep on writing, release more books in a series, engage with your audience and learn how to master Amazon/Facebook ads.
So for any new or aspiring writers out there, I would say that your reach is within your grasp. Do all
you can to write your best book, follow the advice and get the basics right – invest some time in
yourself and your ambitions. Good luck!
Peter Gibbons is an Insurance Professional and author of the highly acclaimed Viking Blood and Blade trilogy. His new Saxon Warrior series is set around the 900 AD Viking invasion during the reign of King Athelred the Unready. The first title of the new series, Warrior and Protector, will be published in October 2022 by Boldwood Books. Peter originates from Warrington and now lives with his family in County Kildare.