Traces of Her Lipstick: Joy King
“Wow, that book is my baby. I put my last dime into publishing So Pretty in Pink.” I can relate to that story still peddling copies of Hold on Be Strong, which was re-released in that same year. “I didn't print up a lot of copies but I distributed them to vendors in New York. I always knew I wanted a major publishing house to put out that book but I didn't want to go through the whole process of getting an agent because all that takes so much time. I felt obligated to tell that story and was willing to put all my money into it in order to make it happen.” Monique Patterson got her first copy of So Pretty in Pink from a vendor in NYC. She later emailed Joy to let her know that she loved the novel. “Thanks, make sure you tell all your friends to get my book.” That's the plea that majority of the authors make when a reader writes to us to tell us they like the book. Self-published authors have it extremely difficult because they don't have access to major marketing campaigns and the connections to get a book out there. Luckily for Joy, someone was able to explain to her that THIS Monique Patterson happened to be an editor for St. Martin's Press, one of the larger publishing houses in New York. Realizing her error, Joy says, she got back to her and the rest as they say is history as she snagged her first publishing deal.
“I knew it was going to take a year for St. Martin's to come out with my novel. I just couldn't imagine sitting around for a whole year and doing nothing. When I self-published So Pretty I realized just how huge street lit was and I wanted to write a book and put my own spin on it.” Joy would be referring to her title, Bitch, which she produced under the name Deja King for Triple Crown Publications. She had even considered self-publishing that novel too but later decided to submit the novel to Triple Crown. “I figured if I got the TCP (Triple Crown Publications) stamp of approval then I must be doing it right. The day Vickie received the first few chapters she called me immediately and told me she wanted that book. I wasn't finished at that time because I figured it would at least take them a month or so to get back to me so I went ahead and knocked that book out in all of three weeks.”
Within a year's time, Joy would have two books coming out in two different genres for two different publishing houses. Triple Crown, for those of you who don't know, is a leading publishing house for street/urban/hip-hop fiction based in Columbus, Ohio headed by Essence Bestselling author Vickie Stringer. As where St. Martin's strength lies in its massive distribution network that it and its sister labels, Henry Holt and Farrar, Straus and Giroux and can compete with Simon & Schuster and Time Warner Books; Triple Crown Publication's strengths lie in its ability to gain followers who are willing to purchase the next title it publishes. Having access to different publishers with different strength's and weakness's, I asked Joy what the difference was between working with a small publishing house and one that is part of a conglomerate. She replied:
“TCP is smaller so they will push your book harder but at the same time how they distribute your book is harder to track which isn't cool when it comes to knowing just how much paper you're making. Also a smaller publishing company will focus getting your book hot on the street. With a major you have to do that yourself because they have no clue or interest of hustling the streets for your book. But of course major publishing companies always got your money right and on time. They also give you mainstream credibility, because unfortunately the corporate world doesn't respect you as an author unless you have a major backing you.”
Her next novel for St. Martin's Press is called Hooker to Housewife, which is the sequel to Dirty Little Secrets, that she is excited about. In this project, she also has the opportunity to introduce new characters, Chantal Morgan and Andre Jackson into the Tyler Blake saga. “It's funny because I came up with the idea for that book when I was on the phone late one night with my girlfriend. She had a friend that we both knew and she was involved with this really rich powerful music mogul. They had a child together and my girlfriend asked me why the guy wouldn't marry her girlfriend. I said,'“Because a man ain't gonna wife a ho.' My girlfriend was like that is so hot you need to write a story about that. So I did and incorporated the continuation of Tyler Blake's story in it. Chantal is trying to go from jump-off to baby mother to wife. The story is fire, they not ready for Chantal's crazy ass.”
Being with St. Martin's Press has also afforded her the opportunity to work on the book Mr. Satisfaction with Delilah Dawson, Brenda Jackson, and Maryann Reid. Having only communicated with Delilah through email hasn't stopped her from considering other anthologies or group projects. She is working on an urban erotica with three other authors for HarperCollins. She's also had a chance to reach out to a number of street/urban/hip-hop authors as well.
“I have a few authors that have reached out to me in the book world from both genres and they all have shown me love. But I do get the sense from just things that I hear from other authors that a lot of them are shady. Everyone is so scared that another author is going to come along and take away their shine. I believe some authors should fall back and embrace each other. At the end of the day there is room for everyone.”
So I asked her about her thoughts and opinions on the state of street/urban/hip-hop literature. I notice how everyone who doesn't have anything to do with the genre got their mouth open with something to say, so I figured it was only fair to let an author IN the genre speak on it. “To me the street lit game is like when crack cocaine hit. It's a new sort of hustle that can generate a lot of money if you play your cards right. But a lot of people are putting their all into a book thinking they will become rich overnight. That's unfortunate, because just like in the music game, it takes time for you to see some real money or any money for that matter. But I like the fact that street lit is putting money in people's pocket that would've seen a dime from writing if this form of literature hadn't exploded on the scene. It is also getting people that would never read to pick up a book because they feel they can relate to some of the stories.”
Having said that, the million dollar question is will she do another project for Triple Crown? “That's up in the air.” She tells me via email. “I signed a one book deal with TCP and my agent is currently shopping Bitch Reloaded which is the sequel. I don't know where that book will end up. I might do another book with TCP, I might not. It depends. In this book game I take things day by day because I've seen first hand how scandalous things can get.”
Seeing as how she got her roots in self publishing, would she consider publishing other authors or going back to it if necessary? “No doubt. If you're lucky enough to get a deal with a major publisher I still recommend you self publish because (that's) your side hustle money and it will also give you some sort of control over your writing destiny. I actually started a publishing company called Young Diamond Books with another author. Its street lit that is entertaining for adults but also suitable for kids who love the genre. I came up with the concept after doing a speaking engagement at a high school for Bitch. Some of the material in that book just wasn't appropriate for young kids but since they love to read it, I wanted to give them what they wanted but also make their parents feel comfortable. The first novel Ride Wit' Me by Katina King will be out later this month. I'm really excited about the project as we will also publish other authors so they can write novels in a positive light. There isn’t any graphic language, sex or violence in Young Diamond Books.” And they said we couldn't do books for the children.
JAY: State any personal facts about you that you want us to know.
JAY: Let's talk about So Pretty in Pink. You self-published what is now known as Dirty Little Secrets in 2004. What was your experience with that?
JAY: How did you capture the attention of St. Martin's Press?
JAY: You wrote Bitch for Triple Crown Publications, how did that come about?
JAY: Have you experienced any differences between working with a small publisher (TCP) and a large publisher (St. Martin's Press)? If so, what was the difference for you?
JAY: How do you feel about interaction with other authors in the street/hip-hop/urban genres versus other genres?
JAY: Do you enjoy participating in group literary projects as you did with Delilah Dawson, Brenda Jackson, and Maryann Reid for Mr. Satisfaction?
JAY: Would you do another group project? Why or why not?
JAY: Tell me about your next St. Martin's Press novel, Hooker to Housewife.
JAY: Will you do another project for Triple Crown? (go as detailed as you would like)
JAY: What is your view on the state of street/urban/hip-hop literature?
JAY: Are you interested in going back to self-publishing or publishing other authors? Why or why not?
Joy King is the author of Bitch and Hooker to Housewife. For more information, visit: www.joykingonline.com
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