The popularity of e-books and Amazon’s self publishing service influences many rookie writers to publish books with the goal of creating a steady income for themselves for the first time.
Other authors self publish books with the goal of making it big, and some do exactly that.
And even successful authors in the traditional publishing arena are forgoing that profitable route to self publish.
The reason all of this is funny to me is there used to be a stigma against self published authors. Now the tide has turned and it’s better to self publish because it’s cheap, you get more money, and enjoy the freedom of working for yourself.
Plus, it’s often more profitable and efficient for writers to gain total control of their book publishing.
As you will see below, these 10 famous self published authors went without a commercial publisher at some point in their journey and are richer because of it. Take a look for yourself.
Famous Self Published Authors
1. James Altucher
Altucher is an entrepreneur and former hedge fund manager who has started 20-plus companies, his blog has attracted more than 20 million readers, and he has authored 17 books. After having moderate success with traditional publishers where he says his books made little to no money, James Altucher decided to self publish Choose Yourself and it became a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Because this went so well, he continues to self publish his books on Amazon. (If you’re interested, here’s how to self publish a book.)
2. Barbara Freethy
Barbara Freethy is one of the authors I mentioned in the introduction who had an accomplished career in traditional publishing—she’s a #1 New York Times bestselling author—before crossing over to self publish. She got started by self publishing her older books that went out of print. And she enjoys the idea that her e-books won’t ever be left in obscurity like the fate of many print only books.
3. Amanda Hocking
After struggling for nine years to get signed by a legacy publisher and after she had 17 books rejected, Hocking decided to put her books into e-books and sell on Amazon on a whim. She didn’t have much faith this would work, until it did to an astronomic amount. I even used Hocking as an example of those who broke through the roof to make a lot of money in self publishing, because she’s made millions. That’s the dream!
4. E.L. James
The classic famous self published author is E.L. James (actually a pen name), who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey. This book began as fan fiction based off of the Twilight series that she published on online forums and her website. Then she received good feedback, gained a following, and decided to first self publish the work as an e-book. One thing turned into another, and this book eventually turned into a bestseller and major motion picture across the world.
5. Lisa Genova
Where some people move from signing with a commercial publisher to self publishing, others run the opposite course. Lisa Genova is one who originally self published her book Still Alice in 2007 after paying $450 to iUniverse and selling it to independent bookstores. Two years later, she signed with a division of Simon & Schuster and Still Alice spent a long time on the New York Times Best Seller List.
6. K.A. Tucker
K.A. Tucker used Amazon’s self-publishing e-book service to get her author career off the ground and running. She initially wrote a few young adult pieces. Tucker then moved on to write an adult contemporary novel—titled Ten Tiny Breaths. Shortly after this time, Atria Books (part of Simon & Shuster) signed Tucker to do a series. Now K.A. Tucker is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 books.
7. H.M. Ward
The author of the Ferro Family saga, H.M. Ward began publishing her own new-adult genre books in 2011. And since then she has sold more than 10 million copies. No big deal. H.M. also owns her own publishing press, H.M. Ward Press. And not to be outdone by these previous achievements, Ward turned down a traditional publishing deal of a over a million dollars to self publish. You go girl!
8. Hugh Howey
Mr. Howey (pictured above) self published part of his bestselling science-fiction series titled Silo. He chose to self publish and use Amazon due to the flexibility it offered. As he wrote more parts of the story, his popularity and readership grew with time. Hugh continued to publish books, but then got involved with soliciting international rights to his books and even selling film rights to 20th Century Fox. Needless to say, his career blossomed from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system.
9. Rachel Abbott
Rachel Abbott is the pen name of Sheila Rodgers, a British self publishing author who has sold over a million copies of her first three books alone. After her first book on relationships and crime did well, Rachel stuck to the thriller theme and continued to write major hits. Her books—Only the Innocent, Stranger Child, and others—have done so well that she’s ranked as the top e-book author in Amazon’s thriller and crime section.
10. John Locke
Recognized as the first self published author to sell more than one million e-books on Amazon.com, John Locke is a rockstar among authors. While he found gold in his writing of the Donovan Creed series about a former CIA assassin, it’s amazing that every e-book he has published has gone on to become an Amazon best seller. Locke credits his success to writing multiple books with relevant content to one another and also his loyal list of fans through his blog.
In the success stories of these 10 famous authors, you’ll notice that no one became an overnight sensation.
Each author first started by learning how to write a book. Then they continued to put in hard work, learned from their mistakes, and took advantage of opportunities that presented themselves.
Looking at this message with an internal perspective, don’t get down if your first e-book doesn’t sell off the charts and you don’t get favorable reviews.
Keep writing, learn new strategies, and you’ll get better over time.
When you put enough time and energy into being a successful author, don’t be surprised if you become a famous author that winds up on a list like this one.
Did any of these famous self published authors surprise you? Would you rather self publish or get a book deal with a publishing house? Why so?