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Joy DeKok is the author of five published books, a professional speaker, and an author coach. She recently opened an office in Rochester, MN where she offers private coaching, group coaching, and holds writing seminars. Her debut novel, Rain Dance, released with Sheaf House Publishers in August. You can learn more about Joy at www.gettingitwrite.net, www.joydekok.com, www.raindancebook.com, or www.believe4kids.com.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Joy. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
A: Thanks for having me. I have four books in print right now with a fifth releasing in March 2010.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
A: Under His Wings was published by Barbour Publishing. After a couple of years out of print, it is being re-released by Sheaf House Publishing in March. I didn’t set out to write this book. At a writer’s conference a speaker invited us to send her our bird stories. I picked a couple I’d written and submitted them. She asked for a few more. Eventually, Cristine Bolley edited and agented the book and although all the stories are mine she is listed as my co-author. Cris taught me a lot about the writing, editing, and publishing process.
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
A: None. It was a much different story though for Rain Dance. Every major publishing house and several smaller ones rejected it. With those dreaded responses came several personal letters encouraging me to self-publish. After carefully considering the options, I chose Print-on-Demand. My new publisher discovered the novel after reading the POD version.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
A: Rejection is hard. I tried to separate the emotion from it and see everyone as a professional decline. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
A: Barbour Publishing chose Under His Wings and I accepted. I had done my homework though. Their devotionals were priced low and popular with book sellers and readers. It felt like a good match and it was.
A: I was excited. I loved the cover, format, and the way my name looked in print. My husband took me to our favorite restaurant.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
A: I did a bunch of stuff all in one day. I made and printed book marks and postcards, and sent them out. Then, I sent out emails and set up a book signing at a local store. I sent out a press release to our local newspaper as well as the radio and TV stations.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
A: No. Even with Rain Dance. Utilizing POD got the book in the hands of a publisher who not only liked it, but had a vision for it. I learned so much from the POD process and am thankful for it. Some people think that POD or any kind of self/vanity publishing is the easy way out. That cracks me up. I became the investor, designer, and marketing department. If that book was going to get into the hands of readers it was up to me to get it there. I was told I was vain and my book was illegitimate and would always be second class. Vanity had little do with the decision – I followed the advice of two very big publishing houses and two well-known and experienced agents. As for the illegitimate part, I know they meant it was unauthorized. (see Webster’s Dictionary) It hurt to hear that. I’d put myself into the book heart and soul. Then I’d invested financially and become a professional who had readers writing to her weekly. I saw then that no matter what someone says, readers are the only authorization needed.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
A: I am published traditionally and I continue to publish using a POD press as well. My children’s books have not been accepted traditionally and I enjoy the POD process and my books are selling well.
A year ago, I became a co-owner in Sheaf House Publishers, a traditional publisher who has contracted 17 authors in both fiction and non-fiction. I’m the VP of Marketing and Promotions as well as the acquisitions editor for their non-fiction imprint, Journey Press.
At first glance this might all seem contradictory. To me, it makes perfect sense. I believe there are many publishing options and none is more acceptable than the other. Being traditionally published is great. Publishing via POD is great. All my books are selling and I hear from readers who are asking for more. They don’t care where the books were published as long as the writing satisfies.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
A: I’m not sure. It’s so easy to shoulda, woulda, coulda ourselves. Every experience in the process was valuable – even the painful ones.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
A: Joining Sheaf House Publishers. We are publishing some fantastic books. In fact, we recently signed with Joe Bonsall (a member of the Oak Ridge Boys) for his latest project One Man’s Perspective. I get to work with all our authors and while we’re all working extremely hard, we’re also having a blast. Joan Shoup stepped out in faith and then I got to step up and join her. What a privilege!
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
A: Well, I sometimes day dream about being a NASCAR driver. Really. Or maybe that’s what they call fantasy – the dangerous thing you think about doing, but wouldn’t really do?
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
A: No. I love writing, speaking, publishing, and coaching. For me, when a coaching client succeeds or one of our authors sells a book, it’s as for me exciting as when it happens to me.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
A: I see me doing the same things and loving them just as much or more.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
A: Trust your heart with your story and your publishing process. Write and publish like no one’s looking. Then dance.