Mia Freedman becomes bestselling author after Roxane Gay fat-shaming incident

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A fat-shaming media storm has done nothing to diminish Mia Freedman’s brand or bottom line.

The 45-year-old digital publisher is now a bestselling Australian author after sales figures obtained by Fairfax Media reveal her latest book has sold close to 17,000 hard copies. An accomplishment literary experts deem “a fast and successful book”.

Last week Work Strife Balance became a No.1 bestseller within the Biography/Autobiography: The Arts category, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which monitors book sales through almost all outlets except Kindle and Kobo, who refused to comment when approached by Fairfax Media. 

The memoir, which retails for $34.99, is her fourth foray into long-form writing and after just 15 weeks on stands it is already her most successful book having sold 16,988 copies.  

Her previous self-confessional style tome, Mama Mia: A Memoir, first published in 2009 has sold 17,101 copies over eight years. The New Black, her debut novel released in 2005 – two years before she launched her women’s website, Mamamia – sold just 7583.

To make it onto the famed New York Times Best Sellers list it is widely speculated an author must sell 9000 copies in the first week of sale. More than 1132 copies of Work Strife Balance have been sold every week since launch. 

The former editor of Cleo made international headlines last month after an interview with renowned feminist Roxane Gay was overshadowed by Freedman describing her guest as “super-morbidly obese” before making a series of claims about the “planning” that went into accommodating Gay. “Will she fit into the office lift?” Freedman pondered in a since retracted story.

The incident then saw Freedman make a number of clumsy apologies which were widely criticised. 

Gay, a New York Times bestselling author, highly regarded academic and feminist, agreed to take part in the initial interview to promote her new book, Hunger. (Due to its recent release, local sales figures were not available at the time of publishing). 

Freedman’s latest title, was released in March amid a flurry of printed excerpts and endorsements from high profile fans such as the Prime Minister. 

“You know John Howard used to call this the barbecue stopper issue. What you’ve explained here is that of course, it’s impossible to achieve the ideal balance. Everybody has to approach it in their own way,” Malcolm Turnbull said at Work Strife Balance’s daytime launch party held at the Surry Hills headquarters of Freedman’s media company.

“The business you’ve created here, we’re surrounded by all of your team, is an example of somebody that decided to break out of the mould, to do her own thing, to set out on her own path on her own terms.” 

Marketing specialists say Freedman’s increasing book sales correlate with her growing influence.

Andrew Hughes, a lecturer at the Australian National University’s Research School of Management, said Freedman’s tell-all style and catch phrases like: “My wheels fall off regularly” is why she is one of the most successful brands in Australia.

“Mia has highlighted how to build a brand quite quickly which is based on accessibility and two-way communication thanks to social media. She has a very loyal following because people can see themselves in her, she shares her stories which helps people have a high-order emotional response to her,” Hughes said.

Make-up free selfies and videos of her IUD insertion and mammograms are her schtick.

“#Relatable” is a concept this Ascham Old Girl, who lives in a $12.5 million Bellevue Hill pile, has built an empire on.

It’s also a strategy her former employees, such as commentator Jamila Rizvi and writer Rosie Waterland, have employed. As well as her son, Luca Lavigne, 19, who is now on staff at Mamamia.

“They have a profile because of her. Mia’s brand gave them authenticity,” Hughes said.

International derision aside it’ll take more than an internet pile-on to dent Freedman’s popularity at home. 

“If she starts filming too many glossy videos, that could see her come unstuck,” Hughes said.

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