By Tarice L.S. Gray
When Farrah Gray was just 6 years old, he was already a “working man”. He held down a job selling lotion door to door for $1.50 a bottle. That same initiative led to him become an entrepreneur and, eventually, a millionaire by his 14th birthday.
Now 26 years old, Gray has built on the solid foundation he created as a teen. Although his business portfolio is diverse, having dabbled in everything from food production to platinum dealing, his most recent venture has gotten a whole lot of people talking, in books that is.
Farrah Gray Publishing launched about a year ago, and now has 80 celebrity authors including Public Enemy hype man and Reality TV star Flavor Flav. It’s among Gray’s proudest achievements and the veteran CEO is already looking forward to the next chapter.
TAP: You are not new to the publishing world. Your first book “Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out” came out when you were 19. What led to that first book?
Publishing actually started for me after I started my food company. With the money I got back I decided to invest. That’s actually my motto in life ‘don’t save, invest’. What I mean by that is, invest, put your money not under a mattress, which would be just considered saving, but put it somewhere it can accrue compound interest. That could be a savings account, could be fixed annuity, could be gold, platinum, or silver, but definitely not in a piggy bank.
When I was at the United States Department of Commerce [as a consultant], the seed for publishing was actually planted. I met someone who became a mentor, Percy Sutton. After meeting him at the department of Commerce we started talking about his broadcast company and his magazin ecalled INNERCITY magazine. They did an article on me and one thing led to another. I ended up buying 80 percent of INNERCITY Magazine.
I took it from a regional to a national publication. During that time, several different media outlets contacted me and one of the pivotal moments was actually [after I taped an interview with NPR]. The editor-in-chief of HCI Communications Inc, gave me a call after hearing the interview and said, ‘I believe you have a book inside of you. I heard you on NPR, we published Chicken Soup for the Soul which grossed $1.3 billion’. I called back and I said ‘thank you, but I don’t have a book inside of me.’ He said, ‘yeah you do.’ So that’s kind of how it started. He told me I had a book and he told me to just talk about my life, and the book became biographical, inspirational, and motivational.
You’ve been able to maintain a relationship with the publishing house HCI health Communications Incorporated. How did that relationship evolve from house author to now partnering with HCI as a distributor with your publishing house?
I actually left HCI and did two books and an audio book that were hugely successful. All of the books now are selling in twenty countries, translated in nine different languages. And I received offers from about five different majors to do another book. And at that point, I was at Book Expo America meeting with them, which is the largest book event in the world. And literally I stood in the middle of the floor and my Grandmother’s words hit me ‘why not me?’ So I said I can publish my own book whenever I want to if I own a publishing house. So I went to some of those same publishers and the majority of them said no, but two actually said yes, and when it got down to negotiations, HCI and Peter Vegso being the visionary there and founder, his terms were much better than the other publisher. We’ve been a grade A team ever since. This was in 2009.
The first release from FGP was ‘Dear Dad” by Ky-Mani Marley, son of Bob Marley. How was that book received?
Amazingly well. It’s actually selling now in ten countries. The Marley surname really perpetuates Jamaican royalty and it resonates worldwide. It’s the story of redemption, what his father spoke of. Coming from the streets to prominence and being born with the last name and really having no guarantees, made for not only an interesting story, but a very motivational one. People all over the world have been writing letters even thanking me as the publisher so it’s truly an honor.
You mentioned your authors are celebrities. There’s been a lot of press lately regarding one celebrity in particular, Flavor Flav, and his new book. Who else is in your pool of authors?
Prime time CNN anchor Don Lemon, Flavor Flav, Bubba Knight from Gladys Knight and the Pips. Toya Carter has a book and actually her reality show features her working on the book and it debuts in April. VIctoria Rowell from Young and the Restless, Tasha Smith, Richard Roundtree, Shaft he’s a bad mutha! My God the list goes on. It’s a total of 80 authors, plus contributing authors as well.