Hello everyone. I'm Gavin Phillips, author of "Hummingbird". Ask me anything about my book, my writing/publishing experience and what I've learned about music through the book.

Gavin Phillips
Dec 6, 2017

Writing Hummingbird was an amazing experience with both ups and downs (mostly ups). From discovering the protagonist voice, researching her environment, and the whole process of self-publishing.

My debut novel is available for downloaded on Amazon

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

You can also visit my webpage here:



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What topics interest you?

Dec 8, 10:29PM EST0

Are you cooking up another material? What is the theme that you're working on?

Dec 7, 10:55AM EST0

Yes I’m always writing. I’ve played with a few more literary works until finally I’ve decided to focus on two books. A sifi and a fantasy. I’m actively writing in both. I’m also in a couple of writing groups, which works out great, as I’m getting great feedback for both books.

Dec 7, 12:51PM EST0

What was the most interesting regarding your publishing experience? 

Dec 7, 5:31AM EST0

Reading the rejection letters. It’s just rewarding getting a response, especially it their response is genuine and not generic.

But honestly, the most interesting experience in the process was being in control. I wrote the book, I’ve set the price, I’m marketing it and you don’t feel tied down or helpless on how well it’s doing as I can see first hand in real time.

One other interesting aspect to self publishing is your power to offer promotions. I realize how much people love promotion, whether your book is free for a day or 99 cents for a week, it’s a great way to get your book noticed.

Dec 7, 8:33AM EST0

First of all, I have followed you on Twitter and Facebook from my author pages! What I was wondering is how long you attempted to traditionally publish for, before going the self-publishing route. I'm trying to give myself a timeline for how long I wait before giving up on traditional publishing and just self publish

Dec 7, 4:50AM EST0

First, thanks for following, appreciated. When I sat down with my editor, after the book was done. We both agreed self publishing was the way to go given what I wanted, the free time I had and my timeframe to get it published. I also have a friend who has been successful self publishing on Amazon and he’s one of those guys that have figure it out through a lot of trail and error. So I learned a lot from him and continue to learn. So please understand, I aways had it in my mind I was self publishing.

That said, I still wanted to give it a go for a publisher cause you just never know and a lot of the time everything is taken care of, ie marketing, editing, design, distribution etc. My threshold of “giving up” was NOT because of disappointment and frustration. I wanted my book published by my birthday (I was a couple week late on that promise). So I took the latter part of summer and sent to agents. Some agents have a rule about sending your manuscript/excerpt to multiple agencies, wink wink nod nod, if you do that and their response time is 2 to 8 weeks good luck in getting your book published within five years. Anywho. I sent my blurb and sample out to 30ish agents. I received a response back from over half.

So if you truly want it published by a traditional publisher you just gotta keep sending and sending. I know people who stop counting after 70 rejections letters so we're taking over a hundred. But hey you might get something in your first couple of submissions, you just never know (that's the exciting part, and the nail biting part).

Here’s one tip I can give you. In my research, and my experience, if you send directly to a publisher, I think, you’ll have a better chance of your book being represented. After sending to 30 or so agents I submitted to two publishers directly (Most of the time they request full manuscript) I got a response from one that qualified in two of their three qualification, the content and quality of writing, what it didn’t meet was their salability. BUT, this was the first time I’ve had a response as such and they referred me to another publish by individual name. Promising! Didn’t turn out, but I got a lot more from one publisher submission than I did with 30 agents.

That’s my experience, and I’m not saying don’t go the way of the agent. I absolutely suggest you do BOTH. Another note is, don’t get discouraged by the rejection letters. I printed them off and put them in a nice pile by my printed manuscript. It’s all part of the process. Oh and one final note. As you’re sending and waiting for a response, KEEP WRITING!!!

Dec 7, 8:23AM EST0
Show all 4 replies

Where did you get the inspiration to write such a story?

Dec 6, 10:00PM EST0

That is a very good question because my first thought is I have no idea. I previously attempted to write a book about a recent high school grad who travels with her father across the US during the summer. I nearly finished the book. The main character was too much of a cliche (of course everything is a cliche these days), so I scraped it.

Anyway, while writing that book I came up with the idea of Hummingbird about a young singer songwriter who travels the US busking and gigging. So maybe it comes from the same idea of traveling the US and I wanted less of a cliche protagnonist. But to your quesiton, is there something I can specifically pinpoint to a trigger, or sparked the idea? I wish I could say yes. I’ll just deem it one of physicist Fred Allen Wolf’s scientific phenomena of "popping the quiff". It came from the soup of possibilities.

Dec 6, 10:15PM EST0

You have such beautiful storyline but intriguing. Do you love to watch chick flicks?

Dec 6, 6:09PM EST0

Ha, good question. I have watched chick flicks, more so because of my other half or during my dating years (so long ago), but for whatever reason I’ve been told I have a knack for writing female point of views. Maybe I’m in touch with my feminine side, I don’t know. Would this be a chick flick movie? Sure! I can see that. But when I was writing it, the thought never crossed my mind.

Dec 6, 9:05PM EST0

Are you also a victim of a family tragedy called "divorce"? How did you handle your own struggles when you were Mercy's age?

Dec 6, 6:02PM EST0

I am not. I have experienced divorce from outside know a few close to me, and watched them go through it. I will say, the process is obviously stressful, but luckily from what I experienced it didn’t get too messy as I know can happen in those unfortunate situations. As far as handling it. I’m close to both sides, so it was just a matter of being a civil and balanced voice for both of them and to not take sides.

Dec 6, 8:59PM EST0

What were some of the challenges you faced with trying to be published and what worked for you?

Dec 6, 4:17PM EST0

What ultimately worked was self-publishing and the idea of publishing on Amazon was there from the beginning. But of course I attempted the traditional route via an agent/publisher. My list of rejections grew and grew. About half where generic responses and the other half were more heart felt response with some encouragement and positive language. One of the big reasons I wanted to go traditional is if you land a deal they’ll provide editing and distribution etc (not always though).

Truthfully, the more I researched traditional publishing, the more I realized how difficult it was. And I also discovered, sometimes even if you get a book deal, you still may have to put money into it and a lot of effort.

I commend those that have been successful and have had a great experience going that route. And it would be easy for me to say, I tried to get publish via agent/publisher failed and settled for self publishing but honestly, there is a lot of benefits in self publishing. Higher royalties, you set the price, you market it, you’re your own boss. You can set promotions up and your book is open to virtually the entire global digital market. Whereas traditionally they could say, we’er printing 1000 copies and will distribute it here, here and here and we’ll see what happens.

Another bonus for self publishing, often times there is an option for your book to be “print on demand” so a reader can have a hardcopy. The royalties are smaller but still much higher than traditional publishing.

I’m sure there are other benefits, that’s what I can think of now.

Dec 6, 4:48PM EST0

How long did it take you to finish this book?

Dec 6, 1:00PM EST0

About two years ago I had an idea for the book. Eleven months later the first draft was done, with nine more months of personal Editing of countless drafts (I'm dyslexic so self editing can be painful). And the last four months having it edited (for real), a cover design made, beta-readers and building up the nerve to actually follow through. So two years but I could have realistically completed in a year or year and a half.

Dec 6, 1:14PM EST0

Mercy has gone to the quest of finding his father guided by her songs. Did you write some songs for her in the story?

Dec 4, 6:50AM EST0

Good question. No I did not. But that said, I did go out and buy a guitar so that I could learn some chords, know how it feels to hold it, and strum and pick the strings. A person can learn a lot on the internet but I learned a lot fooling around with a real guitar.

Writing a song would have been cool but I don’t think I would ever be happy with what I wrote to add it to the book.

Dec 6, 1:17PM EST0

This is yet your first book but have you done any writing for anybody aside from this?

Dec 4, 6:50AM EST0

As far as being published no, nothing else. I few years ago I wrote a lot of micro-poetry on Twitter. There were many daily prompts I would participate in. I attempted a couple of books before Hummingbird. One I barely started and another I almost completed. They were my first attempt, nothing worth pursuing, but they were part of the building blocks of becoming an author.

Dec 6, 1:09PM EST0

Strong family creates a stable personality. How do you think we can strengthen familial bonds in present society?

Dec 4, 1:58AM EST0

That’s a big question. I have no expertise on this subject, so I can only offer my opinion on how I see family bonds are currently, and I can only speak of my experience from North a American perspective (but even that is a broad spectrum). Perhaps it is better that I answer what my hopes are for family bonds in the near future. Maybe for when my daughter starts a family.

Family is obviously important, but I wouldn’t stop there, I think if you coupled strong family values with strong community ties, we are one step closer to a society that cares more about human value then, profit or stuff. How to strengthen our family bonds in a world inundated in stuff, we need to accept technology, learn how to use it to bring communities closer together. I think it’s important that focus on human value in happiness and good health, because we are suffering from a value system disorder as a whole.

Dec 6, 12:34PM EST0

Would you be interested to dig your teeth into other forms of arts and what are you eyeing on?

Dec 4, 12:24AM EST0

Sure. When I started writing Hummingbird I actually went out and bought a guitar. I did have a craving to learn guitar in the past, but the passion was never large enough to spend good money on a guitar. But that passion grew when I starting writing the story. I just needed to buy a guitar and learn to play so I can get a sense of what it feels like to play and learn and pluck the stings and hold down cords.

I used to write poetry. In particular micro twitter poetry. I also have a small passion for drawing but I’m not very good at it. From time to time I’ll play around with some doodling. Beyond that I have no interest in any other arts, yet.

PS I suck at guitar playing. My character is way better.

Dec 6, 12:35PM EST0

Is it fair for a parent to keep secrets from children especially if it has to do with their real history?

Dec 3, 7:03PM EST0

That’s a thin line isn’t it? Ultimately, the truth should set a person free, but there are so many factors in play. The state of mind of the persons involve. A secret revealed that was meant to protect a loved one could change the relationship dramatically.

I think it’s also important to be truthful. Those with the secret, which was portrayed as protecting I.e. a child, were to suddenly come clean, there needs to be a good foundation of support laid out for when it does come out. Especially if mental illness is a factor.

Dec 6, 12:42PM EST0

What comes first? Inspiration or motivation?

Dec 3, 12:23AM EST0

Interesting question. I’d have to say inspiration. But I think they can be interconnected. I may have been motivated and inspired ar the same time. It was Ken Robinson that both inspired and motivated me to pursue my dream of writing. Thanks Ken!!!

Dec 6, 1:08PM EST0

What is your best practice to stimulate your imagination?

Dec 2, 1:54AM EST0

It is not very often I can not write when I’m in a coffee/cafe shop. Something about writing in that kind of public space, whether busy with chattering or quit I can alway write. But to pinpoint something specific. Driving always sparks or stimulates my imagination. So I like driving around the city listing to music. Oh I should also note that each of my characters from story to story have their own playlist based on there personality. So I listen to there music which usually sparks a scene or two.

Dec 6, 1:07PM EST0

How does your story communicate to the youth of today who might be battling their own inner evils because of family issues?

Dec 1, 8:57AM EST0

Although this story brings mental illness to the forefront, it is not a story about mental illness. It’s a story about Mercy. That said, I hope young adults reading my book who suffer from mental illness, understands that most of the times mental illness can be managed with a good stable environment and health provider. BUT you are not the sum of your illness. You are a human being with a long list of wonderful things that make you who you are.

Dec 6, 1:05PM EST0

What's the feeling now that your book is already on Amazon?

Dec 1, 12:57AM EST0

Relieved. Most of the emotions came before I clicked the publish button. I was truly excited and terrified at the same time. Now that it’s published, I still have some of those feelings and I know for every bad review that terrified feeling will pop up, but I’ve learned that all the bad reviews are reminders of how to appreciate the good ones. And constructive negative review is positive more or less.

I’m happy now. And I continue to write, with a few other books on the go. 

Dec 6, 1:02PM EST0

What do you want the reader to know about the main character, Mercy?

Nov 30, 5:24PM EST0

That she is not her illness (bi-polar). That she is ignorant (in the true sense of the word) to the world. But this gives the reader a reason to root for her, because she’s dedicated and delicate, sweet and naive, depressed and manic, confused and focus. She’s a lot of things that we all struggle with from time to time.

Dec 6, 1:00PM EST0

What was your "downs" writing this book?

Nov 29, 9:27AM EST0

Oh boy. I had just finished my first draft when I took a novel writing class. At the time, I was writing Hummingbird phonetically and I mean dialogue and her inner voice. My first three submissions to the class was dreadful, in particular my third submission. I was devastated that people could not get past the phonetic writing. I can honestly say I was depressed for a few days. It was a vary low point in my writing.

What I learned from that? One, how to take constructive criticism when it is overwhelming and across the board, and not just opinion. And two, that I can use the negative feedback to write a better story. And to view it as not being negative, but positive. And I did.

And my next submission, with the phonetic writing gone, was the complete opposite. It was a very surreal moment for me. One by one around the class nothing but good things were said. Turns out I didn’t need the phonetic writing, because I write her voice well enough, you know her dialect.

Dec 6, 12:57PM EST0

What is so particularly intriguing about the story and how did you get the plot so interesting?

Nov 29, 8:25AM EST0


I am a character driver writer, and more often than not the story moves along with the protagonist. I didn’t have a clue Mercy would fall in love with a rapper form Watts LA. I didn’t have any plans of her heading to LA until about half way through the book. So maybe this is a cliché to say, but the story is very organic and the plot just kind of grow from Mercy without any plan.

What I will say, Hummingbird started out as a story about a bi-polar young adult who travels on the road, singing and busking. That along I would imagine is intriguing to some. So the bulk of the story didn’t change too much from when I first started.

However, there were some major changes at the beginning and the end. First, about the quarter they way through, I added her father as not her father and a man from down south was. I did this to separate Mercy’s mother somewhat form the Mennonite community.

This also gave Mercy a trigger to set out on an adventure along side her passion of busking. She had a goal to not only find herself but also find her biological father.

As well, her voice for first 20 thousand words was completely different.

What is intriguing, how she pushes her way through her bi-polar episodes and her interactions with the people she meets along the way. All of them unique in their own way. She learns something from each of them.

Dec 6, 12:51PM EST0
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