Barbara Freethy

#1 All-time best-selling Amazon Kindle author Barbara Freethy shares how she overcame her fears and became #1

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Most Popular to Share on Google+ and LinkedIN:


Essence of Business

“My keeping control and focus on really key points of my business is why it’s successful.”


Focus on Your Core Business

“The core of my business is that book so I try to not ever forget that.”


Importance of a Product Line

“You definitely have to put out more than one book.”


Getting to Automatic Promotion Momentum

“The more books you have, the less time you have to spend promoting.”


#1 Path to growth

“The #1 thing I take out of all my experience is NOT to operate out of fear. This happens a lot in businesses and publishing is no different.”

Why Listen to Barbara Freethy:

In the audio, Barbara shares:

— The biggest thing (hint: a limiting mindset) that hampered the growth of her career and kept her early audience small

— The #1 “divorce” she recommends for authors

— The most important person she recommends a self published author have

— She reveals her biggest key to building business momentum

— The unbelievable way she reached the New York Times bestseller list that you can model

— How writers get away from the core of their business and how this applies to a business in any industry

— She debunks a myth about her transition from the traditional publishing world to the Kindle dominated new digital publishing reality

— She was no overnight success despite her back list of books. Find out how long her growth curve took

Barbara Freethy is a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of 40 novels ranging from contemporary romance to romantic suspense and women’s fiction. Traditionally published for many years, Barbara began independently publishing in 2011 and has since sold over 4.8 million books. She has put 19 of her self-published titles on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists. 

She was named the Amazon KDP best-selling author of all time.

She started out publishing with traditional New York publishing houses many years ago. She had the traditional career arc of a writer with an agent and all. She wrote one book per year maybe two. It would go well at times and not so well at others. She got frustrated with the ups and downs mainly because she, the author, had so little control over her books.

In the 2010 to 2011 range the publishing world was turned on its ear as Amazon’s Kindle platform and the devices to access digital books reached the tipping point. Many retailers opened up platforms to give access to millions of readers for authors who publish their own works directly.

The main player was Amazon and Kindle. Barnes & Noble had their Nook. Apple, Google, Kobo and Smashwords were also players in this new digital publishing movement.

Barbara was thrilled with this development and opportunity. The first thing she did was republish a couple of titles from her back list that she’d recently re-acquired the rights back to from her original publisher. She didn’t know what to expect but they just took off and she gained a whole new readership. From there she formed her own publishing company.

Amazon is the big player but she has sold a significant percentage of her 4.8 million books through the other retail platforms. She encourages authors to take advantage of all retail avenues.

Some Shareables from Barbara in this episode…

#1 Path to growth

“The number one thing I take out of all my experience is not to operate out of fear. This happens a lot in businesses and publishing is no different. I feared that the few publishers might not treat me as well if I branched out or didn’t write it exactly the way they wanted. This fear led to some of the big mistakes I made early in my career. Once I took control of my own career, my destiny changed dramatically.

It’s tough to go back because publishing has changed so much. The way I started is irrelevant to someone who would start today. A lot has gone digital. The print market is shrinking. I had to reinvent myself and learn a whole new publishing model when the digital revolution took over.”

How she deals with haters — the vocal minority

“Publishing is a really ruthless business. It’s not for anyone with a thin skin because you are judged from the second you finish your book. In the old days you had to find an agent and a publishing house. All throughout that process your material is critiqued over and over again. Then you sell your book and think everything is rosy.

But in reality the critiquing it just continues. You go through editing processes, then you put the book out there. Then there are reviews and the readers. Anyone who ever wanted to leave a review about your book can do so.

You really have to divorce yourself from the process after you’re published. You have to write the best book you can write, then step back and let the readers have their own reaction to it.

I always advise authors to stay away from reviews and not get engaged because it’s the readers experience and they can share their thoughts with other readers. That’s awesome they have that opportunity.

Focus on putting out the next book. Don’t let your creative process get interrupted by too many opinions because reading is subjective. What one person loves another person hates. That’s the exciting part of being a writer but also the downfall of it. You really have to develop a thick skin and be prepared for negativity. Not everyone will understand what you’re trying to do but you just have to keep going. Start and keep building your readership of people who like what you do.”

What is useful about reviews

“You can look at reviews to improve your writing. I recommend anyone who is self-publishing have an editor. There are many freelance editors who have come straight from the publishing houses so they know what they’re doing. Negative reviews stay forever so you want to put your best foot forward which an editor helps you do. Just because you’re not working with a publishing house doesn’t mean you can’t put together your own team of professionals.

In the reviews, if a lot of people are saying the same things, you can take note. Many times though, there’s such a huge disparity between what’s said in the reviews because it’s so subjective. A lot of people who write reviews tend to do so when they don’t like something than when they do. You can take reviews as one piece of the pie but having an editor go through your work before you publish it is the most important.”

Biggest mistake

“Misplaced loyalty. Early on I wanted to write a different series and take my brand a different direction but my agent advised against it. She told me my publisher would be unhappy if I didn’t deliver exactly what I delivered before. I went along with it because my agent told me that’s the way you build a career in publishing.

There are instances where loyalty doesn’t get repaid so you really have to follow your instincts. I wish I hadn’t followed her advice because I saw other authors doing what I had thought of doing. I thought I’d missed my opportunity. When I took control of my own career I did all of the things I wanted to do before when I was working with a traditional publisher.

I brought my books out more frequently because that’s what you do to build momentum. I could make all the corrections I wanted because now I had charge of my business. I sold well in traditional publishing but I never hit the New York Times bestseller list until I self published. I believe it’s because I knew what the readers want and what they were asking for.

I knew how to cover my books. I’m focusing on myself while a publishing house is focusing on thousands of authors. Every author gets a very small piece of that pie starting from the top on down. When you take charge of your own career and everything is focused on how you increase your sales and your brand… I could really brand my books as well without having to worry about an art department that said this type of suspense book doesn’t sell because X., Y. and Z. books didn’t sell.

I could just say this is the right cover for this book and I believe it is going to sell. I was proven correct because the first title I self published, Summer Secrets, hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. This was the first time any independent author or publisher had hit number one on the New York Times and the publishing houses were just shocked.”

“There have been many independent authors to put their books on the New York Times bestseller list since mine reached there.”

Favorite part of entrepreneur’s journey

“It’s having total control over everything. I didn’t realize how good I was at being an entrepreneur until I actually had a chance to do it. I found when I focused in on a particular thing and work really hard, it works out great. It’s been fun to pick the price, pick the cover, write the book I want to write and also being able to work directly with the retailers. Retailers are so fantastic. Being able to meet and partner with them and take my books globally is tremendously exciting.

I went to the London book fair last year and met with global retailers and foreign publishers. There is a huge market globally for English-language books and also translations. I’ve begun putting some of my books into French, German and Spanish. Also, I’ve gone out into audio. It’s exciting being at the forefront and leading the way into a new era of publishing. Everything is groundbreaking and history making and that’s really fun to be part of.”

“Being able to adapt is the biggest thing you can learn in business. I have one publisher who stopped buying my books because they said romantic suspense was dead. I had to reinvent myself. Perhaps because I came through those trenches, when this digital revolution came around I was happy.

This was another opportunity to try something different and do something different. Believing things will stay the same, you’ll always be proven wrong. We don’t have records or even many CDs or DVDs anymore. Things keep changing as technology grows. To really be successful you have to adapt and reinvent yourself if you need to.”

Amazing and exciting

“There’s a whole part of writing where it’s just you, your characters and your computer. Then when you’re a publisher you have to go out and be a marketer, the promoter and meet people. It accesses lots of different sides of your personality.”

“I enjoy meeting people and talking to readers. I also really like just getting back to the book. The core of my business is that book so I try to not ever forget that. Because I think some writers do. They write one book and spend like two years promoting it, instead of writing the next book which is really what builds the readership.”

“I have so many writers who write just one book and want to know how to sell it. They just spend so much time trying to sell it. I tried to explain to them that what’s going to sell the next book is the book you’re writing right now. The more books you have the, less time you have to spend promoting. The fewer books you have, the more time you have to spend promoting. There’s definitely a direct correlation. The best advertisement for any writer is to put your book in someone’s hands and let it go from there.”


“I wrote traditional, straight contemporary romances that were not super sexy like 50 Shades that were just really strong novels. That market had disappeared for a long time. Publishers, like TV and movies, tend to hang things on sound bites.

When something is hot, everything that’s published is related to that. Then other books die off because they don’t fit into that mold. I ignored the wisdom that said those books aren’t going to sell. Then everyone either wants super sexy or if they want suspense they want 1 million dead bodies and really gritty.

I wanted to write books that had some suspense and some romance and some family relationships. I wanted to put it all together. I did that and I covered them that way attempting to give that sense of broadness. It worked exceedingly well for me. I think because the market had been hungry for those kind of books because they’d only been getting trend books for a while.

There are like five big publishing houses. They sell to 4 national buyers. When you look at how many people are making the decisions of what gets put out there on the bookshelves it’s a very small number of people. So they tend to go with what they know is going to sell because this is the trend.

When you self publish, I can go against all of that traditional thinking. I think there is a market for these books and I think they’re going to sell and they did. I think that’s what people have to realize that just because something isn’t the hottest genre in the world at the moment, there are a lot of other people in the world who want to read other things.

It’s probably true in a lot of other businesses where they get stuck in trends.”

Bad conventional wisdom

“Believing you can farm a lot of the work out and get the same results. In the publishing business there are a lot of support companies that have sprung into action in the last four years. They offer to do it all for you and take a cut. Or you can pay them to do it all for you. Some are legitimate and do what they say they’re going to do. There are also scam artists. They are selling people a dream.

I want people to beware. When I started self-publishing, there wasn’t the same kind of information. I had to learn it myself. I think knowledge is really empowering. You have to understand the different parts of your business in order to run your business well. Even though I no longer format my books into epub files, I actually do know how to do it. I know how to make a cover even though now I use a designer.

A lot of those early learning experiences I did like watching tutorials on Photoshop and learning how to make files, and understanding every little piece of the process of publishing has now come back to help me be more successful. Because I know what it costs to get things done. I know when someone is offering value for a service and when they are not. My keeping control and focus on really key points of my business is why it’s successful.

When you farm that out, you become one of many people to what that company is doing. You don’t get the same attention. You’re trading less work for also less attention. Sometimes people are just afraid they can’t do it. There are things you’re not going to be good at and you should farm those out. Don’t put too many middlemen between you and whoever your market is.”

Learn more about Barbara Freethy:

@barbarafreethy on Twitter