Sure, Fifty Shades of Grey may have defined the romance market in the recent past, but Barbara Freethy will tell you there is plenty of room under the romance umbrella for various niche markets and all “levels of heat.” She should know. The New York Times bestselling author of 43 novels ranging from contemporary romance to romantic suspense and women's fiction has sold over 5.1 million books since making the switch from traditional to Indie in 2011. Freethy, who plans on launching her bestselling Callaway series into print through an innovative partnership with Ingram Publishing Services, shares her insights as someone who has seen both sides of the publishing world.
What prompted you to self-publish in 2011 after publishing traditionally?
When retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble offered up their platforms to self-publishing authors, I decided to publish several of the books from my backlist for which I had gotten back the rights. While sales started off slow, within three months I was hitting all the bestseller lists.
What’s been the most pleasing or revelatory aspect of self-publishing for you? What are the differences you have noticed from the traditional model?
I have total control over every aspect of my book release, from writing the story my readers want to read to branding the cover, determining frequency of publication, setting a price point and a release date, and then promoting that novel through my individualized marketing plan. The other biggest advantage to self-publishing besides control is money. I get 70 percent of the retail price between a sale price of $2.99 and $9.99 on most of the platforms.
Can you talk a little about the new partnership with Ingram Publishing? How is it innovative?
One of the few disadvantages to self-publishing is the inability to distribute print books into physical bookstores across the nation without the help of a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers have been reluctant to make print-only deals because they want the digital profit too. Ingram Publisher Services is now working with me as a publishing partner, and I will be releasing my print books all around the world.
Your work in contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction has been wildly popular. What is it about these genres that have been especially successful in the indie space?
It's only natural that because love is so much a part of our lives, we like to read about it. I love to write not only about romance, but also suspense, mystery, family relationships, female friendships, and sometimes paranormal. I can do all that as a romance and women's fiction writer. There are no rules; I can respond quickly to stories that readers want to see come next.
What has been the most difficult aspect of self-publishing?
The workload is very heavy. I'm running a multimillion dollar business with the help of a team of freelance professionals, but I still do a lot of the work.
What is your advice to other writers considering self-publishing?
Join writers groups and email loops with Indie authors. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn and how easy it is to get help. Writers need to spend enough money to present a professional product, because there is a lot of competition now, and those competitors know what they're doing.
How critical a role has marketing played in your success? What steps have you taken to market your books once published?
Marketing and promotion is the one area that all writers have to do whether they are traditionally published or are self-publishing. As a traditionally published author, I did exactly the same thing I'm doing now, because most traditionally published authors receive little if any promotional dollars from the publisher. A writer's work is never done. There are always more stories to tell. And a fantastic story is the heart of all successful publishing, Indie or traditional.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-based freelance writer and editor with a passion for books. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.