Kiki Swinson has written a full spectrum of fiction novels that has topped Essence® Magazine’s best sellers list for years. Debuting on the urban fiction scene with her infamous Wifey series, the author has garnered media coverage with Black Entertainment Television, Essence Magazine and recently landed in the Atlanta Post article “8 Urban Fiction Authors Who Overcame Prison and Forged Lucrative Careers.”
Kiki Swinson is a woman who turned her life around after a five-year stint in federal prison has prospered by faith and resilience in the publishing industry as a self published author (KS Publications), as an author who launched her Wifey series (600,000 + copies sold) with a small press (Melodrama Publishing) and as an author landing a deal with a major publishing house for The Candy Shop and Playing Dirty series (Kensington).
With twenty titles in your catalog, clearly you are a very busy woman! How do you find ways to fit it all in?
Believe me it’s hard. Even with two assistants I’m managing.
You are one of the earliest street lit authors in the genre. What can you say has been the source of your “staying power”?
The Wifey series. That series definitely kept me on the map. Every year I came out with another installment, so my fan base grew. Not only that, I’m very social and personal with my readers, so I’m always replying to emails, attending book signings and book club discussions. Facebook has also given me a platform to stay connected with my readers.
You are currently joining the campaign to get more Urban authors on the New York Times Best Sellers List with your current title, “Cheaper to Keep Her part 3”. Why do you think it’s important to get more Urban authors and titles on the list?
It’s not important it’s critical. We need to make it known that we support one another. We need that recognition. To me I view the The New York Times Best Sellers list as the music equivalent of getting a Grammy® or an Oscar for actors. That list represents prominence. It shows the world that you are among the elite and I want to be apart of that.
Cheaper to Keep Her has picked up much steam. What are you plans for the story of Lynise Carter?
I picked my series Cheaper to Keep Her to move forward with a production schedule for my writings. Cheaper to Keep Her is my first series released by KS Publications which is my own publishing company. So far there are 3 parts to the story of Lynise Carter. Cheaper to Keep Her. The reviews have been great, so I expect great things for the release of part 3 in December 2011.
It’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the release of Wifey part 6. I will say that the book has been written and it’s ready to go straight to the printers but I have to wait for a judge to give me the green light. It is my wish that he allows me to publish it in spite of the fact, my former publisher is trying to block it. It’s a travesty how greed will effect a relationship. But in the end, I will prevail.
You are proof that hard work and hustle can get you huge amounts of success in the business. What do you say about the growing amounts of authors stepping into the industry that want the success and fame without the time and work?
It will never work. I remember busting my butt when I first came into this book publishing industry over ten years ago. Luckily for me, it wasn’t as saturated as it is now. There are more authors than readers now so they makes it a little bit more difficult to stand out amongst the rest of us. My advice to those just coming into this literary arena is to network and attend as many literary conventions you can. The goal is to get readers to pick up your book. So, if you’re constantly in their faces, then there’s a huge chance they’ll pick up your book and read it.
What do you feel are some of the things that aspiring writers should NEVER do?
Never use the same title as another author, or anything remotely close. Also, never print your book when it hasn’t been properly edited. The readers will slam you when they post their reviews and comments concerning your book. Please invest the money and get yourself a good editor. It will be the best investment you’d ever make.
Out of all the memorable characters you have created, which one(s) would you say are your favorite? Least favorite?
My favorite character would have to be Kira from my Wifey series. And my least favorite, well……I really don’t have a least favorite. I love all my female characters because they show that they have enormous amounts of strength. Now, if I can name one of the men characters as my least favorite, then I’d say Ricky. Ricky was Kira’s husband in the Wifey series. He was dirty and selfish. All he cared about was making money, killing those who got in his way and screwing every chick that opened their legs. He definitely got what he deserved in part 2 of the series called I’m Still Wifey.
All the stars in your books are women. What do they all have in common?
All my characters are strong ladies. Kira (Wifey), Yosi (Playing Dirty), Faith (The Candy Shop), Maxine (A Sticky Situation), Lynise (Cheaper to Keep Her), Naomi (New York’s Finest) They aren’t ashamed to play up their sexy-feminine qualities in their roles of leadership.
Most of your solo novels are in series. Why is this?
I feel like when I tell my stories, I can’t do it all in one book. The way my mind works, there is so much to say about my characters. I want them to have a life span like us. I want my readers to form the love/hate relationships with them. After 2-3 books with the same folks, readers know them well.
What/who inspires KiKi Swinson?
My children inspire me to push pass the challenges of book publishing. I am a career author. When I look at my children, I say, “okay Kiki, it’s time to make the donuts sis. You got mouths to feed baby girl!”
My creative inspiration comes from my readers and their feedback. Wifey as you known was inspired by my own testimony, but every book that has come after that has been inspired by the reviews and feedback of the readers. When I see how they praise me for the stories, I want to give them more. It’s like an actor or artist on stage, when the applause is loud and seems never ending, you have to come back out and take another bow or sing just one more song. I try to come with another adventurous tale to keep Kiki Swinson fans entertained.
If you could give aspiring authors (in the urban genre especially) any advice about the industry what would it be?
If you’re self-publishing, then do your research. Please don’t enter into this industry with your eyes closed. You gotta know which distributors to deal with because there’s a few that will not pay you your money. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Another thing, if you’re signing with a small press like I did when I first stepped inside this arena, PLEASE…..read your contracts. You will be signing away all your publishing writes and potential movie and TV rights if you do. Also know that you can negotiate some of the terms in your contract too. A lot of publishers won’t tell you that, but you can.
After a decade of publishing books, I know you have some great experiential wisdom regarding contract negotiations. What is the most memorable mistake you’ve made in this business?
I cannot reiterate this enough. The worse mistake I could have made in this business was not reading my contracts when I first got my publishing deal. I was so wrapped up in the fact that my book was going to get published that I neglected to look at the fine print. When I finally realized that I was signing away all the rights to books that I created, it was too late. While the author may have the copyrights, the publisher’s own the characters and the likeness of the story. So, if you wanted to do a sequel to a story you wrote for your last publishing company, they can prevent you from doing so because of the term “intellectual property”. Again, please read your contracts.
What’s been the best decision you’ve made outside of publishing your first novel? What did you learn from them?
The best thing I‘ve done outside of creating these novels, is deciding to go off and start my own publishing company KS Publications. I have complete creative control and it pays more!
E-Books sales are growing larger by the day. What is your take on this growing trend? Do you feel E-books will eventually take the place of paperbacks?
I love E-books. For a small publishing company like KS Publications it’s great thing. It reduces overhead expenses considerably. There are better returns. Amazon.com give you 70% off the retail price. I do believe that the major publishing houses are feeling the effects of E-books in a negative way. Unfortunately for them, I do believe that e-book will eventually take the place of paperback books sooner than we all anticipate.
Where can readers find you on the web?
Go to www.cheapertokeepher.net or www.kikiswinson.net for more information.
Vonda Howard is the author of four novels, including the widely popular, D-Cup Dives Series that features sexy, and confident plus sized women. She is also the Editor-In-Chief of Black Literature Magazine. She also enjoys appletinis, gummy bears, Chipotle and all things filled with glitter and sparkles.