Joy "Deja" King: Queen B

Friday, 26 June 2009 10:57 Written by  Frances Moffett

National bestselling author Joy “Deja” King has made a name for herself as the “Literary Sweetheart” of urban fiction. With a publishing deal with Triple Crown Publications, she penned the first installments of her popular “Bitch” series and later went on to establish Young Diamond Books and her own publishing company, A King Production.

GMO: You had quite an established career before becoming an authorjoy. You were a journalism major who went on to work with The Terrie Williams Agency. Then you attended the Lee Strasburg Theater Institute and were later offered a position as the Director of Hip Hop Artist Relations for Click Radio. What inspired you to pursue writing full-time?

Deja King:
I had a story to tell and I wanted it to be told. Never did I believe it would turn into a full-time gig, but once I started writing, I knew it was meant to be. It flowed effortlessly for me and I got this rush of excitement that normally only a drug could give you. Writing is my high.

GMO: Why did you decide to become involved with the urban lit genre?

DK: My very first book was loosely based on my life. After that, I never wanted to do it again because it was so draining. But at the time I was writing my first book, urban lit was beginning to completely dominate the market. I had never read an urban lit book, but I decided to see what the craze was about. When I read the stories, I found them somewhat interesting, but I couldn’t totally relate. See, I’ve been around drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, crackheads and then I’ve been around moguls, NBA superstars, rappers, high-class groupies and Wall Street businessmen. In a lot of ways, their makeup all has the same ingredients: good and bad. When you read one of my books, that’s what my voice reflects. Although it’s part fiction, it’s also my reality. And urban lit is the only genre out there that gives you that.

GMO: How do you get inspiration for your books?

DK: Honestly, my mind is crazy. I remember when I was a little girl I would stay in the basement for hours, playing with my Barbie dolls creating stories. I could do it all day and night. Back then, never did I believe I would grow up to be an author. But it’s still like that now. Ideas constantly pop in my head. I can see or think of one little thing and just from that I’ve written an entire story in my mind. So then I take that story and implement various incidents, the colorful people I’ve encountered in my life and the drama that always seems to follow me and incorporate them in my books.

GMO: The books that you write are based on the entertainment industry and street life. A lot of times, people disapprove of urban lit because of its sometimes negative focus. Have you ever experienced criticism for writing about these aspects of life? If so, how do you handle it?

DK: I’ve never been criticized directly per say, but I know it does exist. The closest encounter I’ve had with the negativity is at book signings. A person may walk by and frown their face up at one of my titles or say something like, ‘I don’t read books like that.’ I find it rather humorous. That’s what makes this world so wonderful, it’s a free country. You have the right not to like what I write and I have the right to write it. But the support I get from my readers makes that a breeze to deal with.

Why did you start your own publishing company?

I had a great and rocky start to my writing career. I was signed simultaneously to two different publishing houses, which caused me a serious headache. I considered myself out here just hustling so I could do something that I love full-time, but the powers that be felt I was breaching my contract, and they were right. Eventually everything worked out and I had successful books out under two different names.  

After I fulfilled both contracts, I was looking for a new deal, this time trying to do it the legal way, but these publishing companies wanted to basically own everything I penned but from a financial standpoint I didn’t feel it was worth my time. If you want me to be a slave then at least let me work in the big house with all the benefits. But these editors that sign authors are programmed to get as much as they can for as little. I wasn’t budging. I knew what type of numbers I was pushing. My fan base was strong and I wasn’t about to sell myself short. Plus, most publishers don’t know how to really market urban lit. They’re not going to take it to the streets and for this genre, that’s where it begins and ends. If you’re not buzzing in the streets, you’re not going to buzz anywhere else. The time and money I was putting into having my name buzz in the streets; it was like why let them reap all the financial rewards when I can do it myself?

I’m also a very creative person, not just with my stories but with my covers. Everything that has A King Production on it, I put my mark on it. It’s a reflection of me and my taste. A major wasn’t going to give me that sort of control. But I know my market. I study my market, I am my market. That’s why I’m maintaining and with all the money the majors have, they’re struggling to move decent units. There was a time when you didn’t have to do much work and an urban lit book would move. But now with the market being so saturated you have to create a brand that the readers recognize and support. I have the BEST readers. I love them, they truly support me.

GMO: You will be going on tour soon. What will it consist of?

I’m trying to hit cities that I’ve never signed at before, but have a huge following and want to make it bigger. Like Houston, Chicago, Indiana and Detroit. I also want to hit more colleges. But ultimately on this tour, I want to reach people who have never heard of me or my books. I need new readers. I’m trying to broaden my brand. Urban lit hasn’t even touched on the level it has the potential to reach. It can be so huge and I want to get there, hopefully this tour will be another stepping stone.

GMO: What is some advice you would give to aspiring writers who want to get involved in the publishing industry?

DK: Wow, every time I get an email from someone asking me that question, I tell them to focus and be ready to grind. A lot of people think that writing a book is some sort of automatic get-rich-quick scheme, and they are so sadly mistaken. The only reason I’m able to make good money at this is because I’m the writer and the publisher so the only person I have to pay real money to is me. But even with as much money as I have coming in, it’s going right back out on promoting my books and keeping them in print because of the high demand.

Even if you decide to sign with a publisher and just write, you still have to promote yourself because they’re not going to invest the money to do so. It’s not guaranteed your book will be a success, so these publishers are just trying to at least make their money back and get a little profit. So again, be prepared to grind. It’s worth it if you want a career as a writer. Some people just want to be able to brag and say they have a published book and sign a few autographs, but if you’re looking for this in the long-term, get ready to put in some serious work.

GMO: What are some of your future plans?

After I’m done writing a few more books, I want to eventually start publishing and building other authors. I want to also have my own talk show and inspire young women not to sell themselves short. Today, young girls are brainwashed to believe that the only way you can have success is by using your body and beauty. And it’s great to take care of yourself and look good, but the real weapon is your brain. Nobody can take that away from you, and if you learn to master both, you’re a force to be reckoned with.

Frances Moffett

Frances Moffett

GMO Editor-At-Large Frances Moffett is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. She has worked with GMO since its inception. With a love for journalism and all things writing, she is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. Frances is also an editor at the country’s largest association management company and has written for a variety of publications, including Jet magazine, The Chicago Defender and The Chicago Reporter.

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