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What can writers learn from reading Freida McFadden?

By: Ginger on December 1, 2023

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

By: Ginger on December 1, 2023


Physician turned New York Times bestseller Freida McFadden is a beacon of self-publishing success, not only for writing wonderfully addictive books, but for making all the right moves to promote them as well. Any author looking to up their own game need look no further than Freida as an example of what to do right, which is exactly why Ginger has been studying her work.

In today’s blog, he’s taking us through what he’s learned with regards to what has made Freida so incredibly successful. Whether it’s her skillful use of suspense and masterful crafting of plot twists, or her domination of social media and marketing copy, McFadden’s methods offer a treasure trove of lessons for other self-published authors that are looking to leave their own mark in the world of literature.

While many of us self-published authors struggle to find success with our books, there are a good number of our peers who’ve succeeded beyond anybody’s wildest expectations – selling millions of books and topping the bestseller lists completely independent of the traditional “Big Five” publishing houses.

And there’s no author riding the current wave of self-publishing success better than New York Times Best-Selling Author Freida McFadden. A practicing physician who specializes in brain injuries, she’s published books both independently and traditionally – but it was her 2022 thriller The Housemaid that really sent her writing career into the stratosphere. A chilling and twisty tale of family secrets and unexpected truths has earned over 660,000 ratings on Good Reads and sent McFadden right into the best-seller charts.

Now, some might say that’s because she took advantage of #booktok – a hashtag on social media platform TikTok that has launched the careers of a number of social media-savvy self-published authors (we interviewed another #booktok phenomenon, Jennifer Millikin, on the Fully Booked podcast. When her 4-year-old book suddenly went viral on TikTok it exploded in popularity and even got optioned for a movie deal!)

However, the oldest rule of advertising is that it doesn’t matter how many pairs of eyes see your product. Advertising is only effective if they actually want to buy it – and in Freida’s case, people most certainly did! The Housemaid is still ranking #14 in the Amazon charts, and glowing new reviews are posted for it each and every day.

But why are Frieda’s books so wildly popular? And what can other aspiring self-published authors learn by studying them? In this article, I’m going to highlight some of the ways in which Freida McFadden has very clearly deserved all her incredible success.

#1 She has killer blurbs

If you visit the book’s Product Page on Amazon, it won’t take you long to figure out why The Housemaid experienced the massive, viral success that it did. The blurb is a masterpiece of copywriting – and as somebody who gets paid to write blurbs for other authors, I think I know what I’m talking about here.

The blurb for The Housemaid sets a creepy scene right from the get-go. A young woman is trying to escape her past, so she jumps at a welcome opportunity from a picture-perfect family that seems almost too good to be true. Then, the middle section of the blurb escalates the tension, as our protagonist experiences both dread and temptation as she uncovers more of this family’s secret. Finally, the end of the blurb is almost a twist-within-a-twist – because our protagonist has a secret of her own, and perhaps instead of being trapped with the family, the family might actually be trapped with her.

The whole blurb is a story in itself, and I defy anyone to read it and not want to learn more.

#2 She’s a great writer

The simplest rule of self-publishing success is also its most obvious – write good books. If you can write books that your target audience enjoy and want to read more of, you’ve got a foundation for almost unlimited success in digital advertising.

And it’s clear from the thousands of reviews on Amazon that Freida McFadden writes brilliant books. I’ll delve into other aspects of what makes these books so good a little later, but the foundation of it all is a clear, concise, and gripping style of writing. One reviewer describes her books as “an easy read” but that shouldn’t be taken as a criticism.

It’s actually a compliment – her books are fast-paced, clear and concise, and use punchy, short sentences which keep you flipping through the pages at breakneck speed. While flowery prose and poetic metaphors have their place in literature, McFadden’s books are the very definition of “good” writing. They elicit emotion, paint a mental picture, and keep the action moving in a way that’s accessible to every reading level. She’s a craftsman. 

#3 She gets the reader to feel things

At its simplest, a story is a journey. It begins by eliciting one emotion in a reader, then takes them on a narrative journey until the reader feels a different emotion. This is why it’s possible to tell a story in as short a format as a Tweet – and why those Budweiser commercials during the Superbowl – the ones with the puppies and the Clydesdales – always make me tear up when I watch them even if they’re less than a minute long.

Through her clear and concise writing, Frieda McFadden has become a master of eliciting emotion in her readers. The opening scene of The Housemaid has you shivering with dread before you’ve even turned the first page – and as the twists and turns of the book lead you on that “narrative journey” I mentioned earlier, you’ll feel many more intense emotions.

Generating an emotional response from your readers is the most powerful way to form a connection with them – and it’s why they might not be able to remember the plot specifics of a book they read twenty years ago, but they’ll always remember how it made them feel.

#4 Her books are absolutely gripping

Read the reviews of McFadden’s books and you’ll see readers say the same things again and again. “I couldn’t put it down” and “it kept me on my toes” and even just the succinct “riveting!” Take it from millions of readers – her books are eminently readable. 

The Housemaid is a great example. The powerful hook that I wrote about in the blurb is matched by riveting hooks throughout the tale – each one demanding that you find out what happens next. Aspiring authors could learn a lot by keeping the stakes of their story high, and escalating the tension until the satisfying release of the final pages.

#5 She writes killer twists

Speaking about the final pages, McFadden’s books are constantly praised for the twisty nature of their narrative – surprising readers with revelations again and again, but saving the most explosive of them for the end of the book. Many of her reviews feature readers who pride themselves on being able to guess the ending of the books they read – yet find pleasure in McFadden outwitting them!

And perhaps it’s no surprise. McFadden cites the iconic Gone Girl as one of her literary inspirations, and McFadden’s catalog of books would definitely deserve to sit on the same shelf as those of Gillian Flynn.

But writing twists isn’t easy, and what McFadden does so well is stick to the golden rule of twists – that each one should be totally unexpected, but seem completely inevitable in retrospect. It’s what makes each of them so satisfying!


Freida McFadden has most definitely earned her position among the elites of independent publishing. She writes terrific, twisty books that captivate everybody who reads them, and then packages them so professionally that it makes hitting the Buy Now button seem as inevitable as one of her plot twists.

By studying how McFadden keeps her writing tight, her narrative engaging, and her twists practically addictive, aspiring authors can most definitely help sharpen their own writing.

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About the Author

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

Ginger is also known as Roland Hulme - a digital Don Draper with a Hemingway complex. Under a penname, he's sold 65,000+ copies of his romance novels, and reached more than 320,000 readers through Kindle Unlimited - using his background in marketing, advertising, and social media to reach an ever-expanding audience. 

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  • A great post(as usual)! I love her. She is the reason why I am currently trying my hand at the thriller genre, especially now that romance is so flooded with books. As a reader, I do prefer books with a plot and twist as opposed to banter and some minor hiccup that could be resolved in two pages rather than 100.