“Don’t build a brand, be a brand.” ~Joylynn Ross
Joylynn M. Ross is also known as Author EN Joy, she also wrote secular books under the names Joylynn M. Jossel and JOY. She is the writer behind the five-book series, “New Day Divas,” the three-book series, “Still Divas,” the three-book series, “Always Divas,” and the three-book series, “Forever Divas,” which have been coined “Soap Operas in Print.” She also co-wrote An All Night Man an anthology with New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Jackson, earned the Borders bestselling African American romance award for her Urban Fiction title, Dollar Bill (Triple Crown Publication), which appeared in Newsweek and has been translated to Japanese.
Her children’s book titled The Secret Olivia Told Me, written under the name N. Joy, received a Coretta Scott King Honor from the American Library Association. The book was also acquired by Scholastic Books and has sold almost 100,000 copies. Elementary and middle school children have fallen in love with reading and creative writing as a result of the readings and workshops E. N. Joy instructs in schools nationwide.
With twenty-two year’s experience in the literary industry, Joylynn chauffeurs writers, authors, business owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs along their writing and publishing journey. As the CEO of Path To Publishing, Joylynn helps writers who love to write, as well as authors who don’t necessarily love the writing process but desire to publish content, find the right path to publication for their particular project.
LS: Tell us about your literary brand and journey?
JR: I have a saying, “Don’t build a brand, be a brand.” So, when I talk about a brand, in essence, it’s a “what you see is what you get” type of thing. The quirky, loud, funny, edutainer who isn’t some serious businesswoman, but who is a woman serious about her business — and knows her ish — is my brand in my eyes. Because that’s who I am. One of the hardest things in life you can do is try to be who you want people to think you are instead of being who you truly are.
I’m very cognizant, though, of the fact my brand is what people think and say about me, not what I think and say about myself. A brand goes beyond the colors of my logo, website, newsletters, etc. Who I am, what I do, and how I execute and deliver what I do is a perception of a conclusion made and defined by my readers (when it comes to my books) and my clients (when it comes to my literary consulting and coaching).
As far as my literary journey, after thirteen years of being a paralegal, I finally divorced my career and married my mistress and my passion; writing. I self-published my first book back in 1998, and my second a year or so later. My third self-published book eventually got picked up by St. Martin’s Press. What was so crazy about that was St. Martin’s was the first publisher to ever send me a rejection letter, but became the first publisher to give me my first book deal. Before becoming a published author and getting book deals, I had been writing since the days of elementary school journals and rainy day writings. I started out writing poems, then short stories. My first book, Please Tell Me If the Grass Is Greener, which I self-published, was printed on 8.5 x 11 paper, held together with a plastic spiral comb. I hustled that book in beauty shops, barbershops, gas stations, you name it. But since then, I’ve turned my book hustle into a book business. And I help other authors do the same.
LS: A black woman who can write is powerful. What does the power of your pen mean to you?
JR: My pen is a vehicle used to transport others into a different world — one I create, or it is a force that pushes the reader into creating a world of their own. In one word, my pen is the epitome of “empowerment”, as it can change the trajectory of someone’s life based on the content it produces.
LS: How would you describe your pen style?
JR: Besides providing an enjoying, entertaining, and literary escape that ministers to one’s soul, when writing fiction, it’s also my desire to incite the reader to not only — once they’ve finished reading one of my books to pick up another — but to pick up a pen as well, and begin telling their own stories. When writing non-fiction, my style is to, once again, incite the readers to make some kind of move. I’m not into writing words that simply inspire individuals (pull emotion), I want to incite them (push them to take action).
Whether it’s for entertainment, escapism, for personal (mental, physical), business, and/or spiritual development and growth, my style is to write in a tone and speak in a voice that gets the reader to take some kind of action. And what I learned is that I achieve this with both my fiction and non-fiction writings.
With my fiction books, my style often shifts to writing about characters readers may not always like, this includes the main character. And for an author, that can be a death sentence, as we know that often if the reader doesn’t like the main character, they are not going to the book. Throughout my “New Day Divas” series, several of the characters are not that likable. They do some ugly stuff and make some really bad decisions. Readers were having to slam the book close to calm their nerves. It got to the point where I had to take this issue up with my ghostwriter. Yes, I have a ghostwriter . . . the Holy Ghost. But His response to me was, “It’s not always about writing books in which readers will like your characters, but, instead, writing books where your readers are like your characters.” There’s something about a reader seeing themselves in a character (especially the not so likable ones) that makes them want to look in the mirror and change some things.
LS: Where does your creativity flow? How do you avoid burning out?
JR: My creativity flows through every crevice of my being . . . even while I’m sleeping. I can be standing in the bathroom washing Noxzema off my face and inspiration will hit. What I enjoy most about the writing process is acting out the words within the pages I’ve written. Whether I am writing nonfiction or fiction, I always find myself standing in the mirror reciting words — written or yet written — in the way (with the passion) in which I hope the reader will receive them.
I don’t always avoid burning out. I get burnt out quite a bit. But unless I can start incorporating this therapist bill and the co-pay for my Ativan prescription into the price of my books and consulting services, I need to be more consistent in sitting myself down somewhere. Seriously, though, I landed in the ER from one of the worst anxiety attacks ever. That was a wakeup call for me like no other. Since then, I am all about #selfcare #metime and any other hashtag that will keep me out of the ER, because if I have to incorporate that ER co-pay as well, my prices won’t even be affordable.
For the last few months, I’ve made appointments to take baths. I know that may not sound like a big deal (while sounding crazy at the same time), but I’m someone who, for as long as I can remember, has taken quick showers so I can either hurry up and get to an appointment or hurry up and go to bed because I’m so worn out. I owe it to myself to sit it down in a nice, warm bath with my self-care products, candles, meditation music playing (or Dwele, depending on my mood), and just be.
LS: If you could change anything about the literary industry what would it be?
JR: Because I’m an African American author, most people would expect me to say the politically correct statement of wanting more diversity and inclusion in the literary industry. But what I want is for the people begging to sit at someone else’s table (hoping to get thrown a few crumbs) to build their own table and bake their own entire loaf of bread. For the people cutting up their pretty little hands trying to break through someone else’s glass ceiling, to take a step back, look to their left, and realize God has an entire building with their name on it.
You want diversity and inclusion that badly? Build your own s&%$ and set it off! That’s what my company, Path To Publishing, is all about. Yes, we are an author assistance company and literary services provider, but more so, we are literary educators. We teach our clients about the process and the business of writing and publishing. We equip them with the tools and information to build their books, set up their profitable book businesses and create multiple streams of income to sustain and grow that business.
I’m about empowering others to build their own publishing companies to give a voice to the unheard and underserved. It goes without saying that’s part of my and my company’s mission.
LS: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
JR: Become a resource before you become an author. In other words, before you start going around saying, “I’m an author, buy my book”, be someone people can come to for inspiration and information in a specific area. This goes for both fiction and non-fiction authors. I hold a writing workshop twice a year in which I have the authors do an exercise where they have to define their book’s role and their role as an author in the literary industry. Part of this is defining the problem their book solves. Even if it’s a fiction book, what’s the problem — the issues the characters are dealing with? And from there, we hammer out the solution, the process, the results, using the symptoms in not only the marketing efforts but as part of being a resource. Give people who want information in your specific niche, subject area, topic, or genre content that keeps bringing them back to your table for those appetizers. Then when you serve them up the full course meal, your book, they’ll be ready to pay for the meal and eat! Heck, and they might even leave you a tip.
LS: You have become a pioneer for other African-American Authors, how does that make you feel?
JR: It feels good and well-deserved. Forgive me, but I don’t do fake humbleness. I have a charge and an assignment on my life, so I don’t have time to play around with words. Life is too short, so tell the truth while you’re alive so that folks don’t have to make up lies about you when you’re gone. God has me on assignment and there is a promise at the end of it. I’m working my butt off to meet God at His promise. I’m on fire! So there better be a trailblazing behind me or else I’m doing something very wrong.
I’ve taken my over 22-year literary industry career and developed a blueprint to turn your intellectual property into money . . . into a legacy. That’s what business owners do all the time. Every business starts with a thought, idea, and concept. Well, so does every book. So, it only makes sense (cents) to turn our books — our IP — into streams of income.
Look, too many people are afraid to say their book is their business and that they (want to) make good money from it, feed their family with it, send their kids to college, sow into their favorite charities, help family members in need, and invest in the campaigns of candidates they want in political office. To go on vacations, to visit Africa, England, Asia, or what have you to learn their roots — their family history, or to do volunteer work. Come on, let’s stop playing.
I teach people that they can write their way to freedom: financial freedom, time freedom, and physical freedom (not being confined to a cubicle or space from 9 to 5). Heck, maybe even spiritual freedom, because when you are running your own literary business, you can take off on Saturday, Sunday, or any other day of the week to fellowship at church.
So, again, how does it make me feel to have become a pioneer for other African-American authors? Good and well-deserved, and what feels good, I want more of. This means I’m going to continue on my journey, being the vessel to let people know that their gold MIND is their goldmine.
LS: You are a very accomplished author. What made you create Path To Publishing? Tell us about your journey?
JR: It wasn’t until after my mother’s passing when I realized she was, indeed, the most influential woman in my life when it came to building my business. In hindsight, her story is why I decided to commit my life to telling my own story in one of my publications, and then helping other people tell theirs through the services we offer at Path To Publishing.
I’m a writer by trade, having published almost 40 books under multiple names. Not a wordsmith. Not a master of words, but instead, someone who has a way with the written word. But when I found myself having to deliver my mother’s eulogy, I was at a true loss for words.
Before writing my mother’s eulogy, I researched what a eulogy was, who was to give it, and what one should say. One thing that was consistent in my findings was that in giving a eulogy, everyone doesn’t have to agree with what you say, but it has to be the truth. Armed with that single fact, I stood before dozens of people and told Joan Ellen Windom’s truth.
“Joan was hard, had a tongue that could slice you in half,” I said. “She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it, how she wanted it, and however many times she wanted it. She was no-nonsense, never diplomatic with her words, sharp, a handful, could give you the business whether you deserved it or not, and would call you a dummy if you did something dumb.”
There was a time when I used to think my mother was mean-spirited and hateful. But as I mentally re-read her life story, I realized that she was none of those things. The person I had dealt with for so many years was not a mean and hateful woman, but a young girl whose uncle violated her. A young girl who didn’t have an active relationship with her father. A young girl who got pregnant in tenth grade and got kicked out of school for being pregnant. A young girl who was abused horribly by some of the men in her life. A young girl who had turned to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. For all those years, she’d been a grown woman carrying the soul pains of her younger years. Each of those pains were only part of a full story that no one knew.
Sadly, I never got my mother’s full story from her. I’m only left with those few bits and pieces I was able to gather over the years. As a child growing up, I would often ask my mother questions about her life, with hopes that I could understand mine a little better. But with some of those questions came a look in my mother’s eyes of guilt, shame, regret, humiliation, and embarrassment. Not wanting her to relive whatever pain my questions were causing her to experience, I always backed off, finally to the point where I stopped asking altogether. So, on July 14, 2015, not only was my mother’s story buried with her but so was part of mine. The answers to questions that burn through my soul — causing soul pains of my own — the answers that were embedded deep within my mother’s soul — will never be answered.
On the outside looking in, Path To Publishing looks like it’s only a full literary service provider helping others to write and publish books, build a book business, and create multiple streams of income to sustain their book business. But our mission, message, and purpose go beyond that. We’re about empowering you and others with YOUR message, system, strategy, techniques, and testimonies. Whether it’s for personal development and growth, business development and growth, or spiritual development and growth, there is something about your story that can help someone else. And it’s my mission to make sure that story gets told . . . in excellence!
LS: What services do you offer?
JR: I am a literary consultant and publishing coach as well as a literary educator. I refer to myself as a literary chauffeur because I chauffer authors along their literary journey to their final destination of both literary and financial literary success. There are a lot of tasks involved in building a book, building a book business, and making money to sustain the business. I should know, because I created the blueprint, and authors across the map have purchased it from my website (www.pathtopublisihng.com/conferencestore) in order to increase their book sales and accelerate their literary careers. I customize my consulting and coaching to meet authors’ wants, needs, and goals, advising them on which tasks, of the many, line up with their vision and will get them to the finish line.
Path To Publishing offers almost every literary service an author needs to publish and market their book: Ghostwriters, book coaches, editors, typesetters, book cover designers, graphic designers, website developers, social media strategists, managers, and consultants, marketing experts, media packages and more. We’re the triple-A of the literary industry, meeting you wherever you are on your literary journey.
As a service provider, we hit all four corners of the square: We can tell you what to do, teach you what to do, show you what to do, or do it for you on your behalf. With our annual “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” conference (that doubles as an MBA in Publishing program) and our monthly Pop-Up Publishing School sessions, we provide writers, authors, and even self-proclaimed non-writers, how to create literary legacies while building literary empires.
LS: Tell us about your company’s philanthropy efforts. How can someone partner with Path To Publishing’s mission?
JR: I volunteer for Spread the Word Nevada, and it’s also one of the organizations Path To Publishing and Pathfinders (our tribe members, clients, and community members) support during the “Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business” annual conference by way of donating copies of our books. Due to COVID-19, their inventory of books has taken a hit. The organization is in great need of children’s books, especially in the 4th and 5th-grade reading levels. If you’re looking for ways to help Spread the Word Nevada or a similar organization in your own community, consider hosting a book drive with your family, friends, and organizations.
You can also ship your donations (using the United States Postal Service Media Rate) directly to Spread the Word Nevada at the following address: 1065 American Pacific Drive Suite 160, Henderson, NV 89074 .Phone: 702–564–7809
LS: What is the hardest part of your journey?
JR: The hardest part of my journey has been when my family had to suffer because of my passion. With passion comes suffering. And although I was aware of my own suffering and sacrifices, I wasn’t always aware of the same when it came to my family.
Although I wouldn’t change my mind about hopping on this entrepreneurial journey over 22 years ago, I do have one major regret. That regret is having spent so much time working inside my business, that even though I was physically there for my family, or at least accessible, more times than not I wasn’t (mentally) present. More times than not, whether I was at one of my sons’ baseball games, one of my daughters’ dance recitals, or in the movie theater with my husband, my mind would always seem to travel to the next project or unfinished project I had to do in order to grow my business.
If I could do it all over again, I would never spend more time on the phone and meeting with clients than I did with my family and friends. It’s hard to get rid of the images of your children coming into the room with news they want to share with you, but you hold up your hand and “shush” them because you are on a business call.
That’s why I’ve been hiring myself out of the positions inside my company and taking on (and delegating more projects too) team members. That and what I heard Bishop TD Jakes say during an interview last week: “Great leadership works itself out of a job.”
With the state of the world, my family needs me now more than ever. It’s tough, though, because so do my clients. So, I make it a point in my daily prayers to ask God to take care of every last one of my clients as well as my potential and future clients. I have peace knowing they couldn’t be in better hands during the times I’m not being hands-on with them. As the acquisitions editor for Author Carl Weber’s Urban Christian imprint for 10 years, I’d watch him sit in the meeting room with the top execs at a publishing company and the top buyers for bookstores and retailers, and if his wife or children called, regardless of whether he was in the middle of speaking or anyone else in the room was in the middle of speaking, he would exit the room and take the call. If he’s on a phone call with the top film producers in Hollywood and his wife or children call, he will put that top producer on hold to take his family member’s call. He showed me that no one in any room or on the other end of any call is more important than family.
LS: What is next for Joylynn Ross’s journey?
JR: When people ask me who I am, I say, “The author who put down her pen so that others could pick theirs up. So that authors getting discouraged along their literary journey wouldn’t throw in the pen — give up on this “writing thing”. When I say I had to put my pen down, it means I had to press pause on writing my E. N. Joy Christian fiction books. I had to press pause on writing my N. Joy children’s and middle-grade books. I call that my “fun writing”.
I had to press start on creating non-fiction resources and curriculum that would teach authors the business of writing so they could make money from their books and publications, allowing them to share their messages with the masses. So, they wouldn’t get so frustrated trying to learn the publishing process, how to make money with their books, and how to monetize their role as an author to the point they give up . . . taking their life-changing stories to the grave.
With that being said, what’s next is me making sure I position my company (bring on the right team members) to be a well-oiled machine that can operate without me while I get back to my “fun writing”. My #BossReaders have been very patient, and I love them for that. But it’s time for me to deliver them another book in my “Divas” series.
LS: Are there any success quotes you’ve adapted that you now live by that you want to share to encourage others?
JR: Not too long ago I made a TikTok video titled “The REAL secret to success”. In the video, I stated “The road to success ain’t no joyride, it’s a journey.” That alone will preach, but I continued with, “For anyone aiming to achieve success, please know that overnight success takes a whole lotta nights! Some of the most successful people in the world did everything right after doing everything wrong. So, don’t beat yourself up if you make a few wrong turns along your journey. It’s okay to make a costly mistake as long as you learn a priceless lesson.” And with that, I’m wishing everyone reading this much success in life and all its endeavors.
Author E. N. Joy
Literary Educator for Path To Publishing