By Makula Dunbar
Aliya S. King is and has been a major player in the publishing industry for years. Known in the magazine world as someone who “isn’t new to this, but true to this;” as a freelance journalist, King has managed to land positions and bylines in publications including VIBE, The Source, Essence, US Weekly, Upscale and others. As co-author of two memoirs, Faith Evans’ Keep the Faith and Frank Lucas’ Original Gangster— in accordance with book and magazine writing genres, she’s written it all.
In February King released Diamond Life, the sequel to her urban fiction novel debut Platinum. Read on to learn what she had to say about the business of freelance journalism, transitioning to book publishing and the logistics in-between.
The Never-ending Hustle
You’re always pretty busy. What do your days consist of now that you’re just coming off of a book release?
I’ve been doing a lot of publicity for the book. I’m working on an investigative story for VIBE right now. That’s been taking up a lot of my time. I’m also trying to figure out what the next novel is going to be, which is kind of nerve-racking. I’ve always thought, ‘What if this book is the last one.’ I’m always kind of scared. I can’t speak for other writers or authors, but I never take anything for granted. I’m always hustling like I just started.
Do you mean in terms of coming up with new material or the way things play out in book publishing?
In terms of the publishing industry. I don’t know for sure that I’ll get another deal. I always have my eye on what’s next. I feel like I have to work as hard now in 2012 as I did in 1998 when I got into this game.
I don’t think people understand how much of a hustle freelance journalism is. Can you compare it to something or elaborate on that?
It’s like juggling 10 different fruits in the air —and not of the same kind. There are all these different editors and magazines that have preferences and deadlines. It’s challenging to keep your eye on each one, because if you drop one you can damage your career.
How did you get into writing?
In 1998 I was teaching and I was reading an article about the Columbia Publishing Course. It’s a course for people who want to move from any career to publishing. I signed up for it and got accepted. You learn everything there is to know about publishing and from there they try to help you get a job. After I finished that I got a job at Billboard magazine. From there I went to The Source. In 2000 I left The Source and started freelancing— and have been ever since. I’ve taken little jobs here and there in social media and marketing, but for the most part I’ve been freelancing ever since.
On the Business of Freelance Journalism
For people wanting to move into freelance, what’s a misconception about the business that you understand now?
The biggest misconception is how you have to nurture the relationships with editors. Other than the quality of your work you have to be in their faces. I don’t always like to go out to the album release parties and different functions, but I have to. Sometimes I’ve gotten assignments because I made it my business to get up, go into the city and see somebody. It’s been a long time, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can e-mail an editor and say ‘Hey it’s Aliya, I have a great story for you.’ You want to be on their radar and know you’re going to get that e-mail back right away.