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Choosing your role models: Gemma Halliday

There are a lot of articles appearing on blogs and in newspapers these days about authors raking in thousands of dollars a month by putting their backlist or frontlist eBooks up online. Usually these articles are really interesting reading–especially since many of these authors are actually talking real numbers and real money–which is hardly ever done in traditional publishing. They’re also usually pretty inspirational and get me very excited about the possibilities that are out there in the wild, wild west of digital publishing.

But, I realize, I also have be careful, when reading these articles, to look at who’s writing them and what their background might be. For example, it’s amazing that Barbara Freethy just sold her one millionth eBook. Or that Maya Banks is banking $35,000 PER MONTH on digital sales.  And how many freaking books has Amanda Hocking sold now? (By the way – reading and LOVING Hollowland!! Currently free on Kindle or Nook.)

But those aren’t necessarily realistic goals for me. Barbara Freethy is a #1 NYT Bestselling romance author. Maya Banks is also a NYT Times bestseller and has been writing erotica ebooks for years through online publishers. Amanda Hocking started from nothing–she was completely unpublished and built her empire entirely through digital means. (Until recently when she scored a 7 figure contract from St. Martin’s and will add print to the mix.)

None of these authors have the same background as me, so it’s likely my experiences in the epublishing world will differ from theirs. So I try not to create goals based around these success stories. Instead, I look for authors with similar backgrounds. Midlist authors who still publish with traditional publishers but have delved into epublishing to put their backlist online and maybe started doing some frontlist on the side.

"Smart and Stylish!"

And I’ve finally found the perfect poster child! Gemma Halliday. She actually started publishing around the same time as me and though she does mysteries, we have a similar chick lit style. In fact, her editor asked me to do an author blurb for her first book, Spying in High Heels.  (Which I loved and called “Smart and stylish!”)

And lest you think Gemma is just a good writer–she’s also an amazing person. When my house burned down in 2005 and I lost everything, she volunteered to help coordinate a huge writer auction on my behalf. I owe her big!

Well, now it seems that good karma has come back her way. Last year, she put her backlist online as ebooks as well as some new frontlist titles and recently posted a huge milestone. 500,000 ebooks sold–in one year!!  So amazing! I’m really proud of her! (She talks about how she did it — really simply with no upfront expenditure! – here.) And just FYI, she didn’t quit print to do this. She somehow manages to keep up her print contracts and self-publish as well. Exactly what I aim to do.

Talk about a perfect role model. A girl who came from the same humble publishing roots as me. Probably suffered lost royalties from her publisher as I did. But she didn’t cry over spilt cash. She made it back…and then some! Now this is the kind of writer I need to emulate.

Will I be able to also sell 500k next year, just because Gemma and I have a similar background? Who knows? But at least I’ve found someone in my sphere to model myself after and look up to. Someone who has been there, done that, got the “publishing sometimes sucks” t-shirt–but didn’t give up. And is now living the dream.

So Gemma – congratulations on your milestone! I’ll be hopefully following in your footsteps soon! 🙂 And the rest of you? Go check out Gemma’s eBooks. I guarantee you’ll get a great read–and she’ll get closer to her next milestone. One million books!



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