How many times in your life have you had a dream you wanted to pursue, but for one reason or another you never achieved your goal? You go through life with a constant reminder of what life could've been like had you committed yourself to your pursuit years earlier. It could be a TV commercial, a story from a colleague or maybe an article like this one, which reminds you that great things are only accomplished when you move forward and commit. This is the story of Barbara Freethy.
Barbara Freethy is a best-selling author with 18 of her books having become New York Times best-sellers including Summer Secrets, Don't Say a Word, and On a Night Like This just to name a few. With over 4.5 million units sold, she is also the bestselling Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Author of all time. Beyond her tremendous accolades is an incredible story of hard work, dedication and determination that we could all become inspired by.
Barbara began her writing career while also working full-time and raising two kids, proving that success comes to those who are willing to work hard despite their circumstances. After receiving a publishing deal with Harlequin/Silhouette, she went on to write for Harper Collins, Penguin and Simon and Schuster and later entered the realm of self-publishing in 2011, releasing backlisted titles on Amazon's Kindle eBook platform. Within 6 months she was selling thousands of copies of her backlisted books as well as new titles. In order to build upon the momentum, Barbara began building a brand. She fine-tuned the look and feel for her book covers to ensure consistency. She began establishing an email list and a social media following, and she reached out to book stores to carry her books.
In an age in which tools like social media, email lists and e-commerce platforms allow you to connect directly with your audience and sell products direct to consumers, what reason do you have for not pursuing your passion? Is there any reason why your story can't resemble Barbara's?
Thanks to the evolution of commerce and connection provided by the Internet, Barbara's story is becoming more and more common as thousands of individuals are flocking to the Internet to share their expertise', products and services with the masses. The best part is these people are actually making a living doing it. Bringing stories like Barbara's to the mainstream is the mission of I Can Be Society.
Icanbesociety.com chronicles the stories of Internet elite's like Barbara Freethy, who have turned their passion into an enterprise. I had the opportunity to interview Barbara, where she shared her story and encouraging words of inspiration for aspiring authors.
In 2011, you began self-publishing your backlisted titles. Many of them became instant hits hitting Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The New York Times and USA Today's best seller's lists. What do you attribute this success to?
When I first started self-publishing in 2011, I had no idea the exciting adventure and exhausting journey I was about to begin. I had no expectations. The eBook industry was very, very new. Within six months I was selling thousands of my self-published titles and now three short years later, I've had 18 of my books appear on the New York Times Bestsellers list, including one in the #1 spot, and I have sold over 4.5 million units across all retailers. I also just found out that I am currently the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Bestselling Author of All Time! So that's pretty exciting!
To what do I attribute my success? Lots of things. When I started putting out my backlist, I worked really hard to create a Barbara Freethy brand. I made sure that all my covers really fit the tone of my books and were professional in appearance. I tried various covers in the beginning before I settled on a look that fit my particular blend of romance, mystery, and adventure. I knew I had the right look when sales took off. I was also able to release several books within one year, both backlist and new original work, which helped build my momentum. Once a reader found one book they liked, they had another one to buy. I also continue to build a mailing list that is filled with subscribers who are genuinely interested in my work, so that I'm not spamming anyone with emails they don't want to read. I also contacted the retailers, who have been very supportive in merchandising books by Indie authors. Success is never the result of one thing, at least not in my experience. It's putting together a lot of great content and then working hard to get that content discovered."
As both a self-published and traditionally published author, what have been the pros and cons of each outlet?
Self-published authors have the ability to control content, covers, pricing, frequency of publication, sales and marketing. They also make on average between 65-70 percent on most book sales at a retail price between $2.99-$9.99. That number fluctuates depending on the price point and territories, but it's a huge number compared to what traditionally published authors get. While the money is high, the flip side to that reward is a lot of work. The author has to become a publisher as well as a writer.
Traditionally published authors have the benefit of a publisher providing art, editorial support and distribution. However, the authors don't have any control over covers, pricing, sales, etc. They also on average receive 25 percent of net (which is basically 25 percent of the 70 percebt the publisher gets from the retailer). Most authors also then have to pay their agent 15 percent out of that 25 percent so the number gets pretty small. But the big five publishers can get books into the print market. And they can provide some advertising opportunities that Indie authors can't get.
When it comes down to the marketing and promo -- it's basically the same no matter which path a writer chooses. I do the same promo for my Indie books that I did for my traditionally published books."
How has the direct line of communication social media provides between you and your readers allowed you to grow as a writer?
This has been a huge advantage for me. I have more freedom in my content now because it's just me and the reader! I know what my readers want in my books, and I can give it to them. I have the agility to add to a series or to veer off in another direction. Since I know what I'm going to write, I can plan further ahead without worrying about whether I will get a contract with a publisher and whether they will want that particular story. I feel much more connected to my readers now than I ever did before.
If self-publishing didn't exist how would this have impacted your career?
I'd probably still be putting out one book a year and worrying about the dwindling shelf space in the print market. I'd also definitely have a lot less money and a lot less opportunity. For me, self-publishing has been a total game changer!
To review the full Q&A interview with Barbara Freethy, visit: icanbesociety.com/barbarafreethy
Michael Price is an entrepreneur and author of What Next? The Millennial's Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World endorsed by Barbara Corcoran of ABC's Shark Tank. An advocate of ideas for radical change, he has received critical acclaim for his lessons in education, career, entrepreneurship and personal finance.