Updated: Jun 16
Self-publishing has grown in popularity over recent years, yet still receives questions about its prestige. There is a looming myth around self-publishing that it is inferior in quality when compared to published work under traditional distribution. Myths and speculations can be daunting when trying to decide if self-publishing is the best option. Here we discuss the success stories of popular authors who decided to self-publish and reap amazing rewards because of it!
We have discovered these five incredible success stories from popular authors and titles you may be familiar with:
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian is a science fiction novel written by Andy Weir. It became a New York Times Best Seller and later adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Matt Damon. This popular read did not become a hit overnight, nor did it get picked up by a publisher right away. In fact, Weir was turned down by literary agents, so he opted to self-publish The Martian on his personal blog. As the book gained attention on his website from fans, he published the book on Amazon Kindle, and quickly made it to the top of Amazon’s best-selling book list. After selling 35,000 copies of the original self-published book, Weir was picked up by a Canadian Audiobook Company. Weir said in an interview with NPR, “I was surprised that anyone was interested. Remember, at this time, I didn’t think the book would have any mainstream appeal, so I thought it was just, oh, you know, a book by a dork for a dork.” This speaks to the power of writing about what interests you. With faith in your writing, your work will make a big impact in mysterious ways!
The Shack by William P. Young
The Shack is a Christian Fiction novel written by William P. Young. Young’s original intention for the book was to give it to his children as a Christmas gift in 2005. After distributing a handful of copies to friends and family, he was encouraged to publish The Shack for real. After 26 rejections from publishers, he decided to self-publish. He went on to create Windblown media with help of a few friends to publish The Shack. With little marketing (mostly by word of mouth) and hardly any funding, their small publishing company supported The Shack through its climb to the NYT Best Selling paperback list. Young demonstrates that among the challenges, setbacks, and rejections, there is light at the end of the tunnel if you don’t give up.
Rich Dad Poor Dad By Robert Kiosaki
Rich Dad Poor Dad is a financial self-help book with the perspective on how to make your money work for you. It helps people to understand principles of investing in the future to set up for financial freedom. In 1997, Robert Kiosaki printed 1,000 copies, selling 976 copies to his friend who agreed to sell them at his business. With this small success, Kiosaki climbed the NYT BestSeller making it the only self-published book on the list at the time. After getting the ground rolling on his own, Rich Dad Poor Dad was later picked up by Warner Books and has since sold over 32 million copies.
Sense and Sensibility By Jane Austen
Jane Austen began writing what we know today as Sense and Sensibility in 1795; however, It was not until 1811 that it was officially published. Austen’s father assisted her in her pursuit to becoming a published author by selling two other manuscripts, First Impressions and Susan, to Thomas Cadwell and Benjamin Crosby, respectively. To the Austen’s dismay, each was rejected. Frustrated, and determined to publish, Austen improved her first work of Sense and Sensibility. According to Austen Heritage, Austen used her own funds to be published on commission, guaranteeing her book would be published. Austen is a great example of an author taking full responsibility for their work and not wanting the fate of her success in the hands of others.
“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.” - Jane Austen
Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown
If you are a fan of the classic RomCom, you have most likely seen, or heard of, the film Legally Blonde. Did you know the hit movie starring Reese Witherspoon started out as a self-published novel? Amanda Brown published Legally Blonde in 2001 as a print-on-demand book through Authorhouse, a self-publishing company. Print on demand books are printed and distributed once orders are placed. It is a great resource for self-published authors to help manage inventory, making sure the author does not have too much or too little in stock. Brown later sold the rights to her hit book to Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam Publishing. While Brown’s publishing story is short, it shows the amazing opportunities that await after trusting the self-publishing process.
These experiences show incredible ways that popular authors climbed the bestseller charts after starting their journey through self-publishing. A major takeaway from each story is to not let rejection or setback stop you from pursuing your goals. These authors started with little funds, faced rejection after rejection, and had minimal resources. If you are passionate about your writing and want to make an impact on other people’s lives through your work, it is important to remember these little success stories to power you through hard times or uncertainty.
Contributor: Lauren Galloway