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10 Self-Published Authors Who Made it Big

Talk about success stories!

This article first appeared on The Reading Room.

For those having difficulty breaking into print, self-publishing has long been a suitable alternative. However, some self-published authors do much more than get by. Self-publishing has proven to give many writers a jumping off point in an eventually illustrious career.  Some writers actual make their living (and quite a living) as self-published authors.  Here’s a list of ten writers who had exceptional success that all began when they self-published their first books.


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wool hugh howeyWool Trilogy, by Hugh Howey

Howey’s Wool Trilogy began with a short story he self-published through Amazon.  He decided to expand on the series and eventually sold it to Simon and Schuster for half a million dollars.  He also sold the film rights to the series.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.




still alice lisa genovaStill Alice, by Lisa Genova

Genova self-published Still Alice through iUniverse.  In 2009 it was reissued by Simon and Schuster.  Since then it has been translated into twenty languages, been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for over forty weeks, and been made into an Academy Award winning film starring Julianne Moore.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.



joy of cookingThe Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer

In 1931, Rombauer spent half her life savings to print copies of her cookbook.  Five years later her investment paid off when Bobbs-Merrill Company acquired the rights.  In total, the book has sold over 18 million copies.

Download on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.




celestine prophecyThe Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield

Redfield managed to sell 100,000 copies of The Celestine Prophecy out of the trunk of his car before it was finally published by Warner Books.  Since then the book was adapted into a film, expanded with three sequels, and spent 165 weeks on the NYT Bestsellers list.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.




death of dulgathRiyria Chronicles, by Michael J. Sullivan

When Sullivan wrote the Riyria fantasy series, he found an agent but couldn’t find a publisher.  So he decided to self-publish through a company his wife started.  His sales were so good that traditional publishers took note, and he sold his next novel for six figures.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.





wealthy barberThe Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton

In 1989 Chilton published his financial planning advice book, The Wealthy Barber, out of his basement.  It went on to become one of Canada’s all time bestselling books, spawning a sequel in 2008.

Download on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.




ten tiny breaths tuckerTen Tiny Breaths, by K.A. Tucker

Another Canadian success story, Tucker self-published a YA fantasy series, which gave her enough of a following that she was able to sell her adult novel, Ten Tiny Breaths, to Atria Books in 2013.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.





damaged wardDamaged, by H.M. Ward

Ward self-published her first book, Damaged, as an eBook on Amazon and it went on to become a #1 Bestseller in the New Adult category.  She has continued writing the series and has sold over 4 million copies, all without signing on with a traditional publisher.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.





hocking wisdomMy Blood Approves series, by Amanda Hocking

Hocking was one of the first self-published YA authors to make over two million dollars simply with eBook sales.  Though already very successful, Hocking signed a 2 million dollar deal with St. Martin’s in 2011.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.





Fifty-Shades-of-GreyFifty Shades of Grey, by EL James

Perhaps the best known self-publishing success story, EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series began as Twilight fan fiction.  She published it on fan sites and eventually decided to turn it into an original erotic trilogy.  She self-published the first book, and it took off.  The rest of the story you surely already know.

Download on AmazoniTunes, and Barnes & Noble.



Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!


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Featured Image: Sam Greenhalgh / Flickr 

Published on 11 Nov 2015

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