Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed musician and writer Kaitlyn Fox about her work in music, what inspired her new book, Stay On Beat, and the advice she has for others.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m a 21-year-old from Grand Rapids, MI, and a current student at the University of Michigan. This past April, I released my debut book, “Stay on Beat: Aligning Yourself with Winning Trends in the Music Industry”.
I’ve been writing music since I was 12 years old and grew up performing at local coffee shops and festivals in my hometown of Long Grove, IL. While I still enjoy performing at local venues in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, most of my time is spent supporting other artists through my work as a public relations coordinator and music journalist.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Writing a book has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. Growing up, I filled dozens of journals with stories and spent a lot of my free writing time in school developing ideas for novels. To be honest, I always thought my first book would be a fiction work (especially since I’m majoring in creative writing at school), but I was handed a neat opportunity to write a nonfiction book about an industry I’m really passionate about.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As a college student, I had my sights set on getting an internship during my summer break, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, every company I had applied to told me that they were no longer hiring interns. As I was frantically searching LinkedIn for internships, an ad came up for the Creator Institute book writing program. When I reached out to the founder, Eric Koester, he offered me a spot in the program and suggested that I write about the music industry, since he could tell it was something I’m very passionate about. Within a few weeks, I was assigned an editor and drafting my manuscript!
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I started writing the book in May 2020, and the book was published in April 2021. In that time, my book was sent through several rounds of revisions (more than I can count, honestly!), marketing workshops, cover designing, and lots of writing and rewriting.
What made you want to write Stay On Beat?
Shortly after I learned to play guitar, I started writing my own music. One of my dad’s good friends owns a recording studio and invited me over to record a few tracks, and soon thereafter we were looking at markets where we could sell a song I had written. While the song had some good traction, it didn’t wind up going anywhere, and I quickly realized how difficult it is to break into the music industry.
“Stay on Beat” is largely a source of support and encouragement to new artists. As I was writing it, I felt like I was walking alongside my readers, reminding them that I am also trying to figure out this complex industry. A very helpful piece of advice I was given as a young, new artist was to educate myself and to be original, so “Stay on Beat” is a way for me to help other artists understand the industry’s intricacies and find their unique voice.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Stay On Beat?
I’ve really struggled with imposter syndrome throughout this process. As I would write the book’s chapters or share what I was working on with friends, there always seemed to be a little voice in my head saying “What makes you think you have the expertise to educate other artists?”
After I received a very critical comment about the book towards the end of the publishing process from a distinguished member of the music industry (basically when it was too late to change anything), I even reached out to the director of New Degree Press and told him I didn’t want to publish the book anymore. He called me and reminded me that the book was meant for new artists, not the people who’ve been working in the industry for 30+ years. Keeping my focus on the people I’m trying to reach has been a huge struggle, but I’m slowly learning to find confidence in my hardwork and use criticism as a tool rather than a setback.
What was your research process for Stay On Beat?
The bulk of my research was conducted through conversations with music industry professionals. I wanted this book to be story-based instead of a how-to guide, so I spoke with several people in music, from executives to songwriters to journalists, to hear their stories and what they’ve learned from their experiences in music.
One of the most surprising parts of the process was how many people were willing to talk to me for the book. I reached out to dozens of people and was shocked to see that many of them replied. I had the amazing opportunity to connect with people I admire most in music, which was a very cool and unexpected benefit of the book.
How did you plan the structure of Stay On Beat?
The structure came pretty organically from the first few months of the process where I was free writing about the things that interest me in music. The book covers a lot of ground, so I set it up like a story: It starts with the history of the music industry and ends with where the industry is heading, especially in the wake of a global pandemic.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Stay On Beat need?
Yes, I had several editors throughout the process and I had friends and family serve as “beta readers” who shared their feedback on some of my chapters. The editing process was SO valuable to me, and it’s continuous. I had an editor right when I started writing the book and transitioned through four or five more by the time it was published — I had people checking my work constantly! Having editors along the way keeping me on track was so helpful and much needed, especially as I got into the weeds of the book.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Let people read your writing! I highly recommend that every author hires at least one editor (I had several!) to go through the process with you. Not only do they strengthen your writing, but they’re also a source of support and encouragement through a long and often frustrating process. There will be times when you hit roadblocks and question your ideas, but your editor will be there to help you push through obstacles and uncover the stories you have inside of you.
I also recommend that you let friends and family read your drafts! My publisher, New Degree Press, required me to bring on people from my social circles as “beta readers,” or people who would read drafts of my chapters and provide feedback before the book was published. As a perfectionist, I was terrified by the idea of my friends and family reading my work before it was edited completely, but I received some great feedback, and it got people excited about the finished product! People like to follow along on your author journey, and allowing the people I love to read what I was working on was a great way to build more momentum toward the final book launch.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
This winter, I will be writing a collection of short stories for my Creative Writing Honors thesis. I’m hoping that some of those stories will wind up in print after my thesis is completed.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It’s hard not to be proud of publishing your very own book! I poured a year of my life into this project, along with balancing a hefty course load and the other responsibilities that come with being a student. Plus, I am trying to break into the music industry myself, so I have been BUSY. New Degree Press always shares a crazy stat with their authors…something like only 2% of authors who start a book wind up publishing it, which is crazy! I totally see why that’s the case, though. People are busy, and writing a book is a very time-consuming and tedious process. Sure, there’s things I wish I had done differently along the way, but in the end, it’s so cool to say that I am a legitimate author and to see people reading my work. I still get butterflies when I see a new reader post about how much they liked the book! Basically, I’m proud and grateful to be part of the 2% 🙂
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