Independent Publisher and Zondervan Author, Eddie Jones Offers Some Advice

Eddie
Jones is the author of eleven books and over 100 articles. He also serves as
Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a
three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers’ Conference, and his YA
novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s
Book Award and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult Fiction. He is also a writing
instructor and cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. His He Said, She
Said devotional column appears on ChristianDevotions.US. His humorous romantic
suspense, Bahama Breeze remains a “blessed seller.” When he’s not
writing or teaching at writers’ conferences, Eddie can be found surfing in
Costa Rica or some other tropical locale.
Tell us about your
upcoming release, Dead Man’s Hand, with Zondervan.

First, it’s a fun, fast read aimed for middle school boys,
but we’re also getting nice reviews on Goodreads from teachers and mothers. But
my aim is to give boys a book they can enjoy, one taps into today’s fascination
with the occult. This is the first book in the Caden Chronicles series and each
story involves one element of the supernatural. Book one explores the concept
of ghosts, spirits and what happens to our souls when we die.
Zonderkids is a
Christian publisher, so the paranormal aspect is surprising.

I added the paranormal aspect because I want parents and
youth to struggle with eternal questions. We’ve created such a culture of
blood-letting through books and movies involving vampires, zombies and survival
contests, that the reality of death doesn’t carry the sting it once did. In
high school my youngest son lost several friends to driving accidents. When
another friend recently died, we asked how he felt and he replied, “I’m numb to
it.” I fear that’s what we’re doing with our youth: desensitizing them to the
horrors of death. In Dead Man’s Hand,
Nick and his family discuss spirits and ghosts and the afterlife because I
think it’s important for teens to wrestle with these questions before they’re tossed
from a car and found dead on a slab of wet pavement.
You’ve spent the last
few years dedicating yourself to helping others get published. Tell us a little
about your publishing company and what motivated you to take on such a huge
endeavor.

We started the publishing arm to
publish devotional compilations for Christian Devotions Ministries. We wanted
to give some of our devotional writers their own byline in print. Part of
mission is to launch new careers for first time authors. We wanted to create a
publishing house where writers who were happy selling from 2,000, to 5,000
copies of their devotional book. There is a big jump from unpublished author to
“three-book contract” author and we wanted to serve as a stepping-stone for
those writers.
My problem is I hate telling people
no, especially when they have a solid project. When it comes time to reject a
manuscript, it pains me because I’ve been and continue to be on the other end
of rejection. I will delay saying no as long as I can in order to rework the
e-mail. I try to give authors good advice for how they can improve their
writing. The problem is, if I’m too nice, then they keep coming back and asking
to resubmit the same project. My advice to those authors is, improve your
writing and send me something new.
We currently have forty authors
under contract, have published over thirty books and distribute around four
thousand dollars a month in royalty checks. We pay our authors monthly, not
quarterly, because we want them to feel like writing is a real job. In fact, I
teach a class on how, if an author will write five books a year, they can make
over twenty-five thousand dollars. And these are large books. Most are under
thirty thousand words. The goal is to have five books that sell 125 copies,
(print and ebook combined). a month.

I get jazzed when one of our books launches or sells well. I know what it would
feels like to see your book growing legs and garnering positive reviews so I
get excited for our authors. Sometimes I think that’s how God feels when we’re
doing the thing He’s called us to do. When we’re in our zone, doing the thing
we love, we feel His joy. That’s what is great about working for God: sometimes
you get paid for playing. J 
But the only reason I’m able to
publish books and write full time is because four years ago I told God I’d work
for Him full time. I figure if I was working for God I’d never be out of work.
I may not make a lot of money, but he says there’s plenty of work and not
enough labors so to me, that meant job security. I took a blank sheet of paper
and signed it one day during my devotions and said, ‘Okay, God, I’ll do
whatever it is you ask me to do, because I’m tired of working for other people.
I want to work for You.’ Making up stories for boys, writing devotions,
creating humorous romantic novels for adults, I get to do all this plus make
dreams come true for other authors all
because I agreed to work for God full time.     
You’re passionate
about getting boys interested in books. Why do you feel it’s so important to
get boys reading fiction at an early age?

I fear we’re on the verge of losing the male reader. I don’t
mean men and boys won’t learn to read: they will. But the percentage male who
read for leisure continues to shrink and this could be devastating for our
country. We can’t lose half our population and expect America to compete on a
global level. Reading forces the mind to create. With video the scene and
characters are received passively by the brain. There is very little
interaction; it’s all virtual stimulation, which is different from creation.
When you read, you add your furniture to the scene, dress the characters, add
elements not mentioned by the author. This is why readers so often complain,
“the movie was nothing like the book.” It’s not, because the book is your book.
The author crafted the outline of the set but each reader brings their emotions
and expectations to that book, changing it forever.
In general, boys would rather get their information and
entertainment visually. This is one reason books have such a tough time competing
for male readers. It can take weeks to read a book, even one as short as Dead
Man’s Hand. Meantime, that same story can be shown as a movie in under two
hours. So in one sense the allure of visual gratification is robbing future
generations of our ability to solve problems. I believe Americans only posses
one true gift, creativity, and it’s a gift from God. 
Other nations build things
cheaper and with fewer flaws. They work longer hours for less pay. But the
thing that has always set America apart is our Yankee ingenuity. We have always
been able to solve our way out of problems. That comes directly from our
ability to create solutions to problems we didn’t anticipate. If we lose male
readers and fail to develop that creative connections necessary for the brain
to conceive of alternatives, then we will lose our position as the world’s
leader. 
What advice would you
offer to parents to get their children interested in reading at a young age?

Watch for clues. If your child shows any interest in
reading, reward the activity with trips to book fairs. I remember in grade
school how excited I got when we were allowed to order books. All we had to do
was check a box, (or so I thought), and wham! A few weeks later boxes of books
showed up and the teacher began dealing them to the students. I didn’t learn
until later my parents had mailed the school money for those books. I still
have most of them.
But not all children like reading and you can create an
anti-reading environment if you push too hard. An alternative for boys are
comic books, graphic novels, or simply cartoon books. I read a lot of Charlie
Brown cartoon books and still remember the plot: Lucy has the football. Charlie
wants to kick the ball. Lucy promises she will hold the ball in place but at
the last moment… We know this story because it’s repeated, not in a novel, but
in a cartoon.

What’s one thing you
wish I wouldn’t ask you and pretend I asked you that question.

How I became a writer. I started my sophomore year of high
school when he told my English teacher I wanted to write for Cat Talk,
Millbrook High School’s newspaper. Mrs. Hough said, “Eddie, you can’t spell and
you’re a terrible grammarian.” But I wrote a couple of articles, and she seemed
to like the way I could put words together, so I won a spot on staff. My senior
year Mrs. Pollard begged not to major in English. In fact, she was shocked I
would even consider going to college because I’d never be accepted. She was
right. NC State rejected my application. A few days later I made an appointment
with the admissions office. The day of my interview I wore a pair of red and
white checkered polyester pants my mom made me, white shirt and a red tie.
State admitted me into Industrial Arts, which I thought would be pretty cool
since I though Industrial Arts meant I’d get to paint buildings. I flunked
English 101 twice before passing with a D. I graduated from N.C. State four
years later with a degree in English/Journalism and four years of writing
experience for the Technician. I’m still a lousy proof-editor but I learned
long ago storytelling trumps grammar.
You’re writing for
children right now with Zondervan. Besides the upcoming Cadence Chronicles
Series, what are your dreams for your writing future?

Each day I walk around my yard reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
This is my conversational time with God. Part of that prayer time is me putting
on the armor of God. When I’m about halfway fitted out I say, “Lord place
across my chest your breastplate of righteousness that my thought may be pure,
honorable and good and my dreams secure: my dreams of sailing around the Caribbean,
writing a best selling novel and surfing reef breaks.” Beyond that I don’t have
any grand writing goals.

Do you have any
advice for aspiring authors?

Write devotions, don’t focus on the praise, book sales and
reviews. Forget about trying to find an agent and editor. Once you’re
successful, they’ll find you. Explore the wounds in your life and minister to
others through your writing. If God allowed you to be hurt, you can speak to
that with authority. The rest of us, cannot. Ask yourself where your passions
lie. I love surfing. If I could do anything, be anywhere, I’d be in a hut on a
beach surfing a point break alone. I love playing and hate work. This is
reflected in the types of books I write. I love pulling for the underdog, this
comes out in the ministry God gave me. Only you can write the stories God
dropped in your lap and if you do not, they will die.

Where can we find out
more about you?

Please come find me on www.Eddiejones.org