Literary Treasures: E.N. Joy

enjoy_ross-headshot-2016KG: What is your favorite genre? Why?

ENJ: When it comes to reading, I do not have a favorite genre. Once a book calls my name and draws me in, it’s a wrap! When it comes to writing . . . now that’s a different story.

When I first started writing I wrote poetry, women’s fiction, and erotica under the name Joylynn M. Jossel. I wrote street lit under the name JOY. I now write Christian fiction under the name E. N. Joy (The ‘E’ stands for Everybody and the ‘N’ stands for Needs), and I write children’s and middle grade books under the name N. Joy. I’ve dabbled in some romantic short stories and I’m having an absolute ball with those, but I must say that my favorite genre to write is Christian fiction. I absolutely love how God uses me to deliver messages to His people. Keep in mind, the message is always for the messenger first, so I get double-blessed!

In writing in the Christian fiction genre, I try very hard to keep my mind clear; to make sure I’m in tune with the Holy Spirit when I’m writing. But I’m going to tell the truth and shame the devil; I’m human, so just like in everyday life, when it comes to my writing, I do sometimes allow my flesh to rise up and do its own thing. I have written things that I thought the reader might want to read without consulting the true author. Do I get convicted for it? Yes, via readers’ emails and reviews. And some of them, unlike God, have no mercy. So I try my best to stick to ghostwriting, Holy Ghost writing that is.

When I dedicated my life to Christ, a great deal of things changed for me and in me. I couldn’t do some of the things I used to do. I couldn’t say some of the things I used to say, and I couldn’t go some of the places I used to go. Well, I soon found that I couldn’t write some of the things I used to write. That’s what prompted the change in the genres I chose to write in. Joylynn M. Jossel and JOY the authors are retired for good. Are the Joylynn M. Jossel and JOY books still available? Yes, they are. They can still be found and ordered in bookstores and are in pretty much every online book store. My die-hard fans can even still find Joylynn and JOY books at www.joylynnjossel.com. That’s part of my testimony, my history, and foundation as an author. But readers who want to know what flows through my spirit today can find me at www.enjoywrites.com.

KG: How many books do you read a month?

ENJ: As an author, my number one form of studying the craft is reading. Having been the acquisitions editor for Urban Christian, which is also the imprint I write for, I read one to two novels a week in the Christian fiction genre, so of course those tend to be the types of books I gravitate to more. I love an escape just as much as the next person, but I love it even better when the escape is into a message God has waiting for me.

Although I’m no longer the acquisitions editor for Urban Christian, my life, career, and hobby still involves the written word. I’m a freelance editor, agent, ghostwriter, author and literary consultant. In short, I still get paid to read! But even if I didn’t get paid, I’d still read, read, and read some more. But it is nice to get a paycheck for something you would do for free. Isn’t that what some call their passion? Not only do I love to read for leisure and because it’s part of my job, but it’s my form of study. As authors, we must read the works of our peers to see and learn how it’s done.

KG: When did you decide to write professionally?

ENJ: I have been writing since the days of elementary school journals and rainy day writings. I started out writing poems and then graduated to short stories. Both reading and writing became my escape. Remember when your teacher would ask you to write about the trips you and your family went on during summer or spring break? I’d sit there looking at my teacher and saying in my head, Woman, my momma and daddy are both strung out on heroine. They may have been taking a trip (a mental drug trip), but I didn’t go anywhere. Figuring that wasn’t going to get me an A+ on my journal writing assignment, I’d make something up.

In my journal I’d travel to Fort Lauderdale like all the white teenagers did in the black and white beach movies I’d watched. The journal entries would sound so believable that I thought I’d really gone to some of those places. The imagery and description I used was so impressive that my teachers would always choose me to stand up in front of the class and read my journal out loud. The kids would be mesmerized by my words. That’s when I saw the power that I had in my pen. It would be years later, though, that I would decide I wanted to write for a living. That was only after my then boyfriend, now husband, kept pressuring me and encouraging me to at least give it a try by publishing my first book.

I self-published my first book, Please Tell Me if the Grass is Greener, in 1998 on 8.5 x 11 paper with a spiral plastic comb for binding. I took the money I made from those sales and actually got the book printed in trade paperback, only I couldn’t afford four color processes at the time, so my cover was black and white. After selling all the black and white copies, I was able to afford to get the book printed in color. After selling the majority of those books, I had the funds to move on to my next project, which was a hardback book of poetry titled World on my Shoulders.

Finally feeling as though I was longwinded enough to put out a full-length novel, I wrote The Root of All Evil. While selling copies of my novel from the trunk of my car, I was also shopping it to major publishing houses. I remember when I got my first rejection letter. I wasn’t discouraged. I just kept on selling those books. Funny thing is though, that I ultimately created such a buzz for my novel that the same publisher who gave me my first rejection letter ended up offering me my first book deal.

KG: What is one word to best describe your writing style?

ENJ: Dramataining. Yes, I made that word up; that’s the power of the pen. I write drama filled entertaining novels. Now if my work was a style of music, I’d have to say it would be a mixture of gospel jazz with the Fresh Prince-Will Smith kind of hip hop vibe. Like Will Smith back in his days of rapping, I give readers an entertaining real life message without all the hardcore keepin’ it real cussing and explicitly. I add a little humor as well to break up the monotony of some of the issues that may get dramatically heavy, all while there is this gentle message from God playing softly in the background; not necessarily words, but just a feeling that is ignited in the reader.

KG: Describe your writing life.

ENJ: After ten years of working as acquisitions editor for Urban Christian, the imprint was dissolved. That enabled me to really dive more into my own writings as well as into my freelance editing and other literary projects. etc.).

About twelve years ago I’d branched off into the business of literary consulting where I provide one-on-one consultations and literary services such as ghostwriting, editing, professional read-thrus, write-behinds and more. In the last couple years I upgraded my literary consulting services to literary concierge services. The difference is that with my literary consulting services I guide, instruct and provide the necessary resources for writers/authors to achieve their desired goals. With my literary concierge service, my clients who don’t want to do the legwork pay me to do it for them (get barcodes, ISBNs, cover designs, press kits, editing, printing quotes, typesetting, and you name it. So outside of being a wife and mother, my life consists of writing and everything literary.

My actual writing life is random and all over the place. I don’t have a particular writing schedule, I just write. On the other hand, I do have my favorite times I prefer to write, which is when the house is empty or everyone in it is sleep. That’s usually in the wee hours of the morning or in the middle of the night. Don’t get me wrong, if need be, I can write anytime my characters begin to speak to me no matter where I am (airport, grocery store, in the middle of watching a television show I’ve tried a million times to force myself to write at a particular time/hour, but life happens and it never works out as planned.

I envy writers like Brenda Jackson, who is the master of time management, and Nora Roberts who says that she gets up in the morning, writes for eight hours and then takes a break and lives life with her family. That is my dream writing life right there!

I am glad to say that when I do sit my butt down and write, I’m not easily distracted by whatever may be going on around me. But Lord have mercy, let there be clutter and disorder and I totally lose focus. I do not do my best writing in unkempt environments (Thank God for rewrites and editors). The clutter or disorder doesn’t even have to be within my view, like on my desk for example. If I know there is clutter somewhere around me, I can’t easily focus or concentrate. If I walked past a sink full of dishes an hour ago and know they are still sitting in the sink, I can’t sit down and write without thinking about those dirty dishes. The same goes for if there is a load of laundry that needs to be put away or lint on the carpet that needs to be swept. I can’t function properly until things are complete, decent and in order. My atmosphere must represent what’s going on in my mind. I can’t operate under clutter…physically, literally, or in the mind. Clutter clogs up my creative flow. I can write a novel with my kids arguing, fussing, and fighting in the background . . . as long as their rooms are clean (smile).

KG: How have you handled an unhappy reader regarding a book you wrote?

ENJ: When the first book in my “New Day Divas” series released (She Who Finds a Husband), I had a whole lot of unhappy readers. Somehow the book was printed and sent to book stores with missing pages. The last page in the very first chapter had somehow been omitted. The first chapter!!! The chapter that is supposed to reel a reader in hook, line and sinker. Really?

I rarely re-read my books once they’ve come off the printer. That’s because no matter how many re-writes I do or how many times I go back and forth with my content, copy and proof editors, I can always find something I want to change. I spare myself the loss of power by choosing not to read my book once it’s been printed

For some reason, though, when UPS dropped my case of author copies of She Who Finds a Husband on my doorstep, the first thing I did was flip through it. Every page my eyes landed on was missing something (a chapter, a page, a paragraph, a period). I found typos and punctuation errors galore. It was as if someone had accidentally sent my first draft (with missing parts) to the printer.

The wind was knocked out of me. I felt as if all of my internal organs had exited my body and was in a messy pile at my feet. What arrived on my doorstep that day were free author copies, so I could only imagine how all the readers who had invested their money felt when they went to read their books and found such a catastrophe within the pages. Mind you that at the time I was also the acquisitions editor for Urban Christian. So of course you had those reviewers who decided to pour salt in the wound by pointing that out in their review, not even knowing (or caring) about the details and facts surrounding the mishap.

Needless to say, I was swarmed with bad reviews and emails from disappointed readers. I reached out to as many as I could with my deepest apologies, offering them a corrected version of the book once they were off the printer. Let me just say that my readers are some forgiving folks. Almost all of them, in spite of the errors, read the jacked up book and was able to still grasp the message and be moved by the story. I’m glad to say that the good reviews now outweigh all the bad; and I accomplished such without offending or pissing off my readers.

My readers are my literary heartbeat. Becoming a published author meant that I was no longer the boss of me. Readers are now the boss of me. My advice to other authors is, “Don’t argue with the readers on social media or shoot them a nasty response for a review they left that you might not agree with. That’s called insubordination, and the last thing you want is for a reader to fire you . . . and tell everyone else not to hire you.”

KG: What are your thoughts on the e-book craze? Do you think paperbacks are becoming extinct?

ENJ: We had vinyl, we had eight track tapes, we had cassettes, and we had CD’s; all of which have become, or are now becoming extinct, due to modern technology, which is the ability to download. Need I say more?

When I signed my last book deal I made sure I kept my eBook rights. It doesn’t make sense for an author to sell their eBook rights; not with all the distribution channels available (smashwords, allromance.com, draft2digital, barnesandnoble, amazon, ingram, bookbaby, and more). It doesn’t make cents for an author to sell their eBook rights. I made the mistake of not keeping my audio rights as well, because audio books are becoming more and more popular. For each of my older titles in which the audio rights reverted back to me from the publisher, I immediately released in audio format. Before we know it, folks are going to be on video doing table reads of an entire book!

KG: What do you think about e-books priced $2.99 and below? Is this a reflection of the authors’ worth?

ENJ: I put out a 99 cent eBook titled Behind Every Good Woman. It was originally a short story I’d written almost ten years ago to be a part of a multiple author anthology that was released by a major publishing house. I’d practically milked that cow dry. I’d made a nice hunk of money off it, so when the copyrights reverted back to me, I rewrote the story, had it edited again, then threw it up on eBook format just to make sure I hadn’t left any money on the table; even if it was just 99 cents.

I co-wrote a book with Nikita Lynette Nichols titled She’s No Angel. Originally Nikita and I put the book out in three parts in eBook only format. Some readers slammed us in our reviews for doing that. Even though the three parts have now been combined and will come out in print, that’s not the issue most readers gave us flack about. They were upset that the first part (She’s No Angel) had an introductory cost of 99 cents. It was right around 25,000 words. Part 2 (Angel on the Front Pew) was 35,000 words and had an introductory cost of $1.99 the first few months then went up to $2.99. Part 3 (California Angel) was $3.99, as it was novella size (around 45,000 words). Put that word count together and you have a full-length novel for only $8 bucks. Believe it or not, readers complained about the price going up with each part; mind you the word/page count went up as well, which means our editors’ pricing went up because they charge per page.

Readers, I love you; you are the boss of me, but if you want a cheap book practically free of charge, it won’t happen from this duo. We hire professional editors to make sure we are giving you the cleanest read possible, not to mention the time and effort we put into penning the story.

There was no trickery involved when putting out the series. We used the Penny Dreadful, formula. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, penny dreadful is a pejorative term used to refer to cheap popular serial literature produced during the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom. Back then, some people couldn’t afford the cost of a full-length novel, which was around 12 cents, so it was sold in parts for a penny.

I know sometimes my money be funny, my change be strange, and my month be longer than my money, so I thought that would be a good way for readers to be able to get the book without having to break the bank all at once. Honestly, that was our true intention. So I hope all those who ripped us a new one on the reviews now have a better understanding of why some authors publish their series the way they do and price them the way they do.

KG: How important is pricing?

ENJ: The pricing of a printed book or eBook depends on whether the author wants to eat or not. Is the goal of putting the book out there to make money off the sale of the book, or make just enough money to cover the cost? There are authors out there whose interest is primarily to share the message in the book and not profit. I had a client who paid me for my literary concierge services to publish a book of which she turned around and donated to prisons, churches, and shelters. Simply put, her book was priced at zero dollars.

For authors whose books is their business/livelihood, when pricing their printed books they have to keep in mind that there is a middleman or two who may get a piece of the pie. For example, an author with a distributor should list their printed books at a 55% off retail discount to the distributor and make their books returnable (that’s an unspoken rule if they want bookstores to order their books from the distributor). Without these two parameters, bookstores will more than likely not order the author’s books. The retail price of a book is split three ways between the author, the bookseller, and the distributor (the distributor is the middleman that gets the author’s book to the bookseller. The bookseller, in turn, gets the book into the hands of the reader. The author gets 45% of the retail cost (because they’ve given it to the distributor at a 55% discount), while the distributor and bookseller split the 55% between the two of them. Keep in mind that sometimes the bookseller offers the reader a discount (sale) off the retail price. All of these things must be taken into consideration when pricing a printed book. Keep in mind that even if a printed book is priced at $14.95, when doing direct consumer sells (selling the books out of the trunk of your car) the author can sell it for the full $14.95 or discount their customer however they see fit. When doing direct consumer sells or book events, authors with traditional publishers typically have to sell copies of their books at full retail cost because they had to purchase copies of their own book from their publisher.

The pricing of an eBook all depends on the author’s purpose for putting out the book. Like I mentioned before, there is a method to the madness of an individual’s choice in what they price their eBook at, or at least there should be. Yes, I put an older short story out for 99 cents, but my latest full-length novel, One Sunday at a Time, is priced at $9.99. I don’t follow pricing trends any more than I follow writing trends. I do what works for me and my readers (and my bottom business dollar). So I say to authors when pricing their books, “Know your audience and what they are willing and not willing to pay. At the same time, be fair as to what you are giving your readers, quantity and quality wise.”

KG: What advice would you give an aspiring author?

ENJ: If you want to get into the business of writing, there is one thing you must do first. I’m sure the majority of people will think the first thing they have to do is write, but that’s not the correct answer. The first thing you have to do is read. That is the number one way an author studies the written word, which is by first and foremost reading the written word. There are writers and then there are authors. Writers just write; plain and simple. Authors take their writing to the next level. They study and hone in on the actual art and craft of writing.

When I first decided that I wanted to go from just being a writer to being a published author, I lived, breathed, ate and slept (well, not much sleep) this literary thing. It’s real for me. It’s not a hobby. It’s not something I do on the

It’s my life. I take it serious. It’s my craft, my career, my first love, and now it’s my passion and ministry.

If I were going to do this entire becoming a published author thing over again, the number one thing I would do differently is to form an audience for the book long before I ever even pen it. There is absolutely nothing like having a fan base and readership sitting on the edge of their seats just waiting for you to release your masterpiece. I would have worked harder to gain exposure and an audience for my book before I ever even had it written.

KG: What are your thoughts on the current state of literary?

ENJ: Removing my writing genre completely from the equation (because believe it or not, Christian fiction is a hard sell), the printed book business itself is declining. Readers are moving from hard copy books to electronic and audio. This is apparent by the closing down of brick and mortar book stores, the closing down of the Borders book store chain, and now Barnes and Noble closing down quite a few of their stores. Even libraries had to start offering eBooks. I quiver as if waking from a nightmare at just the thought of the public library ever having to close down its doors. I’m someone who visits the library several times a month.

By no means am I saying that people are not reading. I’m simply expressing that the state of the way in which people are reading is shifting. Because more and more people are no longer flipping through the pages of a book, but instead reading the words on a device, even the word count of books is declining. Remember how your favorite author used to write those 300-400 page books, but that last one they wrote barely hit 250 pages? James Patterson’s new imprint only publishes books 150 pages or less. I try my best to look at the glass as half full, so instead of readers reading fewer big books a year, maybe now they’ll have time to try some new authors like myself by reading smaller books a year.

KG: What is literary success to you?

ENJ: Book sales are not the only indicator of my success as an author. Once upon a time, one of the main things that motivated me in my literary career was obtaining the title of New York Times Bestselling Author. I obsessed over achieving that honor. Then I watched Spike Lee do an interview in which he stated that one cannot allow an award or organization to validate who they are in their craft/profession. Talk about a revelation! I heard his words. I got it. Plain and simple, I got it. It was at that moment I knew that my success was not based on sales, awards, titles, honors or anything else. Success is personal.

I spoke at a graduation. Afterward I had a mother of five who was in her thirties purchase one of my books. It was the first book she had ever purchased in her life, so this was a milestone for her. To be a part of a milestone in someone’s life . . . to make that kind of impact on someone’s life was beyond anything I could have ever imagined achieving as an author. It was beyond the typical idea of what success is.

Social Media:

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Periscope: @Author_E_N_Joy

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/enjoywrites

Author Website: www.enjoywrites.com

Virtual BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Party Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1586905054933340/

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/One-Sunday-At-Time-Forever/dp/1622867173/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466453757&sr=1-1&keywords=One+sunday+at+a+time

YouTube video trailer link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1-f4KPOPwc