Deja Joy King: The Right to Bitch
by Taylor Nix
Deja King also known as Joy King or Katina King, has obtained the exclusive rights to her popular Bitch series from her former publisher Triple Crown Publications (TCP) after a lengthy two-year legal battle. According to King, she decided to retain a lawyer after disputes over royalties and unpaid advances started to arise. "I first began having serious problems where I needed to get a lawyer in early 2008. Initially, I was very excited. I had signed a new three book deal with them to have the remaining part of the Bitch series and all three books drop in 2008 ... After I signed the papers, they immediately started playing with my money."
King will launch a book and speaking tour with the same title, “The Literary Game: The Cutthroat World of Publishing,” and she has re-published the entire Bitch series under her own company, A King Production, along with a series of children's books and other endeavors. Here’s a look into Deja King's journey.
What was the impetus for you to decide to pursue ownership of the Bitch series?
Actually, TCP sued me first. I always planned on pursuing ownership because I wasn't getting paid royalties and I was owed a publishing check for The Bitch Is Back. I wanted to wait to get my money right, because I know legal battles can be costly. Vickie Stringer came at me so I came right back.
Why did it take 2 years to come to resolve the legal issues with TCP?
Initially, when TCP sued me, they knew they owed me a lot of money and thought I was broke. So, they figured they would win by default. But when I retained a lawyer and they realized I would fight this all the way, the games started. People need to understand that the Court system isn't set up for people without money. Most victims don't have money. So, crooks usually win because they have the money to drag things out. God is truly good and when you stand up for what's right you will prevail.
Did you work on any projects or did you do any writing during the two-year ordeal?
Of course, I was writing. How do you think I was paying for all those legal fees? Luckily for me, I made sure not to have an option clause in my last 2 contracts with TCP. Queen Bitch did great for me but that one book wasn't going to get me through the financial storm I was facing by fighting this case. Remember TCP wasn't even paying me. I hadn't received a royalty statement or check since June 2007. Yet, they were still selling my books making a great deal of money. My Stackin' Paper, Trife Life To Lavish and Stackin' Paper 2 series, all those books are what saved me. I love my readers for that. They didn't know it but their support was my saving grace.
What are some clauses or language in a publishing contract that authors should pay close attention to or try to renegotiate if possible before signing on the dotted line?
Get a definitive release date for your book or have the rights revert back to you if the book isn't released within a certain time frame. Be careful about the option clause. Read your audit rights carefully. It's hard to track your real sales especially since a lot of our books can't be scanned since they're sold in non-traditional places. Make sure the advance money you're supposed to receive has date stipulations on them. You don't want people holding on to your money just because. Finally, be extra careful with those cross-collateralization clauses, it's a sneaky way for a publisher to try and screw you out your money.
You have worked with St. Martin’s Press, Triple Crown Publications and now your own publishing company? What advice do you have for upcoming authors or publishers?
I definitely don't regret starting off with St. Martin's or even the drama I had with TCP because it prepared me for where I am now. Upcoming authors need to understand that even if you get a deal, you have to grind and market yourself and your book. Majors are great for distribution but if nobody knows your name or have not heard of your book they're not going to go in the stores or in the streets and pick it up. Stay on your hustle and not only be creative but learn the business. That's what will make you successful on a long-term basis.
How did you get your start as an author and as a publisher?
I started writing in 2004. My first self-published book was So Pretty In Pink, which later became Dirty Little Secrets, it was published in 2006. As an author, I got my start on a professional level from Monique Patterson of St. Martin's Press. Ms. Patterson got a copy of my book from a vendor in Brooklyn. She reached out to me and the rest is history. As a publisher, I started A King Production because I wanted to take what I learned, the good and the bad about publishing deals and utilize it to own my material.
What is your reason for writing under pseudonyms?
Initially, it was because I had a book deal with two different publishers at the same time, St. Martin's and Triple Crown. It was my way of not having my books compete with each other and I thought I was protecting myself legally but I was wrong.
Give us a brief introduction to the Bitch Series. Where did the inspiration come from?
The Bitch series is based on the character Precious Cummings. The inspiration for that character came when I first started reading street lit books they all seemed to be centered around a girl holding it down for her man. The female was never in charge. Precious is not that type of chick, she would rather run the show.
What do you say to critics who say that you are perpetuating negative stereotypes of black women by using “bitch” in your titles? What are you trying to convey with the Bitch Series? Is there a message or moral to the story?
If that's what the critics are saying, that's funny. I'm a black woman, making my own money, legally, by using my brain and not depending on a man to make it happen. The only image I'm perpetuating is being an independent woman, which more young girls need to see. I use the term, “bitch” as a chick on top of her game, handling her business, that's a “bad bitch.” If you read the Bitch series, you will know there is a message. It's entertaining but you also see a young girl who came from nothing and made a lot of bad decisions, grow into a woman who loves her family and wants a better life for herself and her daughter. So yes, you do have to be held accountable for your mistakes but you can also rise above them and come out on top.
What challenges have you faced as you transition from writing street lit to children's books?
With publishing a children's book, the biggest challenge is marketing. Of course, I can't market the book the same way I do my adult titles but at the same time it's my hope that my adult readers who have children will get the book for them. Besides finding the right way to market, the experience has been wonderful! I've done a lot of readings at schools and the kids really love it.
You are currently on a speaking tour called, “The Literary Game, The Cutthroat World of Publishing.” Why do you think the business of publishing is so cutthroat? What is something that you would like to see changed in the industry?
I'm actually starting that tour at the beginning of next year because I will have a book coming out under that same title. The business is cutthroat because you have a lot of people with no talent trying to eat off of people who do have talent. Instead of wanting to see everybody make money, greedy people want to keep it all to themselves. That's not right.
What's next on the horizon for you?
I'm doing a radio talk show right now, which I want to expand on. I want to continue to write books and eventually have them done in audio and then straight to DVD movies all based on my books. I also want to eventually publish other authors. I will build a mini empire all under A King Production.
For more information on Deja Joy King visit: www.joykingonline.com
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