Nine Authors who Hit it Big with Self-publishing

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 through the ages have published their own works to get noticed.

When Charles Dickens miserably failed to popularize his book The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, 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.

Therefore, history tells us how traditional 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. But they too had taken their first steps through self publishing.

ASHWIN SANGHI
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.

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

SAVI SHARMA
One of the youngest 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.

E L JAMES
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 hot cakes 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 United Kingdom.

MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN
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
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 becoming a Hollywood movie of the same name.

JOHN LOCKE
John Locke began his career with self publishing. Every eBook that he has published has become an Amazon best seller. 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 P. YOUNG
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
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 grand success.

These tales of rags to riches in the world of art, 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.