Barbara Freethy hits bestseller lists by going digital with out-of-print titles

By BlueInk Staff

barbara freethyThe home page on romance writer Barbara Freethy’s website is filled with good news, not only about her new book, “Garden of Secrets,” which was just released Sept. 20, but also about out-of-print titles she has since self-published in ebook format.

In June, her ebook “Summer Secrets” hit #1 on the NY Times ebook bestseller list, overshadowing another Freethy title, “Don’t Say a Word,” which hit #24 on the same list. “Summer Secrets” also ranked #13 on the USA Today bestseller list, and “Don’t Say A Word” topped the B&N bestseller list for three weeks in May – amazing success for titles that, in another time, would have withered wherever out-of-print titles go to die.

In a world where authors rarely have the chance to celebrate one bestseller, let alone many, it’s no wonder Freethy’s photo features a smile so bright, it’s nearly blinding!

Freethy inherited her love of reading from her mother, who packed the shelves at home with books and provided her with the inspiration to write. “She was also the one who first came up with the idea of writing a romance and completed her first novel a few years before me,” Freethy tells fans on her website. One of her mother’s books featured a country western singer, “and she actually wrote song lyrics for the heroine.”

While her mother didn’t have luck selling her work, Freethy was successful right out of the chute. She sold her first romance, “Promise of a Marriage,” the story of a wedding planner who shares office space with a divorce attorney, to Silhouette Romance and was off and running. Twenty-five titles have followed, inspiring her readers to lavish breathless praise, such as “All you could ask for!” on her books. While Freethy still maintains a good relationship with her publisher, she is enjoying the freedom that self-publishing brings, as well. On that note, she answered some questions for us via email:

How many titles have you put on ebook now?

I have self-published 13 titles in ebook format.

What was the timeframe for each?

I put the books up as I got the rights back and after they were formatted and proofed and ready to go. When I started self publishing, there wasn’t as much information as there is now, so I was flying a little blind. I just wanted to make the books available as soon as I could.

What led you to put titles from your backlist out in ebook? Can you explain your thought process?

Many of my backlist titles had gone out of print, so they were no longer available for readers. The ebook format allowed me to bring those stories out again and to offer them to readers at great prices. I would like to put the books back in print at some point, and I’m looking into the options for doing that.

Why did you choose the Kindle format?

My books are available in all the ebook formats and sell across all platforms and all retailers.

Your ebook prices range from $0 to $5.99 (I believe — but correct me if I’m wrong). What did you consider when determining the price for each book? What was the rationale for charging $0?

I have offered one book as a free giveaway to give readers who’ve never had a chance to read my books the opportunity to do so at no risk.  It’s a short-time deal. The rest of my books sell between $2.99 and $5.99, and all the books are full-length novels of 100,000 words, so I think they’re a great value for the price.

Why do you think Summer Secrets caught on in ebook so quickly?

Summer Secrets is a good summer read, and I think it has an enticing cover and a great storyline. It seemed to have all the right elements to garner attention, and once the sales came, it got more exposure on some of the genre lists. But it didn’t catch on that quickly. It was actually up for several weeks before it started to really sell.

What kinds of promotion did you do for it? What did you learn from that first ebook launch that helped you get the word out about the others?

The only promotion I’ve done has involved Twitter and Facebook posts and some guest blogs. I’ve been really busy writing more books!

Do you think you your ebooks would have sold as well if you hadn’t already been so successful in the publishing world?

I do have a fan base, but many of the people who are writing me now are brand new readers and have never read any of my books. So I’ve definitely been picking up new readers in ebooks.

Did you have any concerns about selling books in digital format?

Not at all. I actually love all the e-readers like the Nook Color and the Kindle. I was a fan of print books and thought I would never want to read on an electronic device, but a few minutes was all it took to convert me.

Do you see any drawbacks in releasing books on ebook without the backing of a publisher?

Self-publishing is a lot of work. You’re not only the writer, you’re also the publisher, the marketing department, the cover artist, the sales force, and the formatting guru. I’ve had to learn about coding and e-readers and things I never thought I would have to know. You have to wear a lot of hats when you do it on your own.  But the flip side is that you have total control over your product and frequency of publication. However, not everyone wants to go it alone, and I completely respect those who don’t have the desire or the time. Of course there are advantages to having a publisher provide all that support for you, but one thing I know for sure is that no one will ever care about your book as much as you do.  But there are definitely pros and cons to traditional publishing and going it alone.

Many formerly traditionally published authors are now talking about self publishing. Could you see self-publishing original works, rather than backlisted titles, in the future?

Yes, I’m planning to self publish some original work in the future. But the world of publishing is changing so fast that I wouldn’t presume to predict any decisions that I might make six months from now.

What advice would you have for first-time authors who are thinking of self publishing digitally?

You need a quality product, both the book itself and the cover. If I were a first-time author, I would hire an editor to go over the book before publishing it. When you’re a new writer, you don’t always know what you don’t know until you get into it. I would also advise writers to think about the long term. It’s not about one book but about making a career as a writer. It may start out slow. The money may not be there instantly. You may decide that you want the support of a publisher to help you get the word out. Keep your options open and understand that the beauty of this new world of publishing is that you have more options now than writers have had in the past.

You have been so prolific. What is your writing routine?

I try to write every day because writing is like exercising. When you stop for a while, it’s really hard to get started again.

What appeals to you about the romance genre?

I love a good love story. I also enjoy other elements of other genre’s like mystery and suspense and fantasy. But I really like a love story at the heart of the book.

What does your husband do? Did you two meet in a romantic way? (I think romance readers always want to know if the writer was inspired by her own experiences in love…)

My husband is a general contractor, specializing in home remodels.  We met through mutual friends. My husband is wonderful, a terrific supporter of all my endeavors, but he’s not particularly romantic. So, no, I can’t say he gives me too many of my romantic ideas.

You have won so many awards and achieved bestselling success. What other goals do you have left to achieve as a writer?

I want to keep producing quality books that people enjoy. That’s really what it’s all about.

Readers can find more information on Freethy’s website.