Ten Authors who Made it Big with Self-publishing

Successful Self published Authors

The popular belief is that the concept of self-publishing emerged when traditional publishing began to fumble in handling a large number of manuscripts that were coming their way. Self-publishing today is widely known as the new wave in the publishing industry. But it has always been there. Several authors have become best-selling authors after self-publishing their books. Here we share with you some self-published authors success stories, self published authors who made it big.

When Charles Dickens miserably failed to popularize his book The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzle wit, he decided to self publish, A Christmas Carol, which later became a huge success. From Marcel Proust to Martin Luther, from Emily Dickinson to Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, self-publishing as an option to assert one’s voice has been in fashion down the ages. Walt Whitman too did the same with the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

History tells us how the traditional form of publishing often failed to acknowledge the potential of works that later proved to be path-breaking. Even today, when self-publishing has carved out a firm niche in the world of publishing, many authors hesitate in choosing between traditional and self-publishing. This article aims to highlight some authors who went ahead and proved their worth by consistently topping the bestseller charts, they achieved success with self-publishing. They too had taken their first steps by publishing their book/novel via the self-publishing model. Here are ten self published authors who made it big and 10 self publishing success stories.


Is a poet based in Canada with Indian roots, with all three books in the NYT Bestseller list.  She says in an interview, “I was trying to get my book published, I was constantly told there is no audience for poetry. They said don’t self-publish because the literary world will look down on you. I laughed because I don’t think they understood that the literary world didn’t even see me. I was a 20-year-old, brown, Punjabi Sikh woman from a working-class immigrant family who didn’t grow up with many financial resources and networks.  So, I self-published. Social media proved that there is an audience for poetry. I sold almost 10 million copies.” Read the full interview.

When Ashwin Sanghi first introduced his brainchild The Rozabal Line, he tried to create a historical/mythological thriller genre in India that Indian writers had not so far explored; nor were the Indian publishers ready to accept such an ambitious project. At the Jaipur Literary Fest’15, Sanghi said: “Nobody was publishing my book, I had to publish it myself.” With his first book hitting the bestselling charts, Sanghi who was once told by someone that he writes well, but should stop at the tenth page, became one of the most popular authors in India. Just goes to say – belief in your work, work hard and all else will follow.

After being rejected by book publishers for more than twenty times, Amish Tripathi decided to self-publish his first book,  mythological fiction, The Immortals of Meluha. He actively took part in the publishing processes including the marketing aspects and succeeded.  Today, Amish’s Shiva trilogy is considered as one of India’s most successful series.

One of the youngest and for long a best-selling authors in India, Savi Sharma left her CA studies to become an author. She self-published her inspirational novel “Everyone Has a Story”, which soon became a bestseller, making her India’s first successful female self-published author. Today her book is published in many languages. After writing a novel that was vetted by many, she went ahead and self-published the book and went hammer and tongs with marketing it. We all know what came next – self-publishing success story.

E L James began writing Fifty Shades of Grey as a fan fiction series in response to the vampire trilogy – The Twilight Saga. She initially posted it on her website and other fan fiction sites. She was a bit hesitant about publishing her story, but later went on to self publish an entire trilogy! She did not have to wait long. Soon her book started selling like hotcakes and Vintage Books took control of the rest. A few years later, the sales figures of the trilogy saw James top the Forbes’ list of the highest-earning authors. According to reports, Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world and by June 2015, over 125 million copies were sold worldwide. It has been translated into 52 languages, and it became the fastest-selling paperback of all time in the United Kingdom.

Having completed the Riyria Chronicles fantasy series, Michael J. Sullivan couldn’t find a publisher. It took him quite some time to fathom a way to get his work noticed. Then he decided to self-publish them through a company his wife started. And since then, he has not looked back! His sales were so good that traditional publishers took note, and he sold his next novel in six figures. Today he is one of the best-selling authors in America and has a series of novels, short stories and anthologies to his credit.

John Grisham’s first novel A Time To Kill was rejected by many publishers before an independent American publisher Wynwood Press eventually granted it a 5,000 copy printing which he sold himself from the trunk of his own car. The novel went on to become a huge success. Today the novel has acquired quite a number of feathers to its hat, from consistently being the best-seller for more than two decades to become a Hollywood movie of the same name.

John Locke began his career with self-publishing. Every eBook that he has published has become an Amazon bestseller. He went on to become the first self-published author in history to sell one million eBooks, which made him one of only eight authors who managed to touch such a huge mark. He is widely known for his Donovan Creed novel series. He etched his name forever in history as the first independently published author to join the “Kindle Million Club”.

William Paul Young’s first manuscript, The Shack, was intended only for his six kids and for a handful of close friends. Young initially printed just 15 copies of his book. Two of his close friends encouraged him to get it published, and assisted with some editing and rewriting in order to prepare the manuscript for publication. Having been rejected by 26 publishers, Young and his friends self-published the book under the name of their newly created company Windblown Media, in 2007. Today the book has been sold to more than 10,000,000 people and also has a Hollywood movie made out of it.

Christopher Paolini’s world-famous Inheritance trilogy took time to acquire the fame it has today. The first book Eragon was self-published by his parents who owned a small press, and after its initial success, the book fell into the hands of Carl Hiaasen who got it republished by his publisher Knopf. Later, not only the book but also the movie made out of it turned out to be a grand success.

These most successful self published authors tales of rags to riches in the world of writing, clearly suggests that rejection is not the end of the road. The only way to make your skills visible to the world is to get your words published. History tells us that rejection from traditional publishers never means that the work lacks potential. Hence, the only mantra to get to the top is to have faith in one’s own ability and get the works self-published, where no single author will ever go unnoticed and all the work, irrespective of their genres or content, will get equal and unbiased attention.