Whether it is remodeling a bathroom or learning graphic design, our culture is increasingly embracing a do-it-yourself (DIY) mindset. Instead of sitting passively, waiting for opportunities to fall into our lap, we seize the reins and make life happen on our own terms.

When it comes to book publishing, DIY is alive and well, embodied in the growing popularity of the self-publishing model. However, lest you are still under the mistaken belief that a bestselling self-published book is a pipe dream, let’s go ahead and explore some real-life self-publishing success stories. Read on!

9 Famous Self-Published Books

It isn’t easy to buck the established traditional publishing pathway toward authorship. For decades and decades, there has been one acceptable route to follow — selling your manuscript to a traditional publisher. In exchange for a modest advance, authors, giddy to have landed a book deal, were more than happy to sign over their publishing rights.

All that changed when self-publishing appeared on the horizon, offering an alternative path for independent authors to forge their own way. Consider these examples of bestselling self-published books. These authors not only achieved immense success with their self-published bestseller, but some of them also landed lucrative movie deals:

  • The Shack by William P. Young. William P. Young calls himself an “accidental writer.” He had written a story called The Shack and made fifteen copies of it at the local Office Depot to share with family members. Soon these family members were sharing it with friends, and Young was receiving positive feedback. After meeting with a pastor friend, who then shared it with two of his friends, they decided to form their own imprint and self-publish the book. It has since sold 3.8 million copies, and a movie based on the book was released in 2017.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Erika James, also known as E.L. James, actually started her journey by writing a fan-fiction piece that was drafted off the Twilight series. After modifying characters and settings, Fifty Shades of Grey became one of the most famous self-published books ever. James’ huge commercial success was catapulted by her savvy use of Facebook to connect with fans. As the popularity of the book spread, she was able to sell the publishing rights to Vintage Books in 2012, and the rest is history.
  • Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Christopher Paolini was a home-schooled fifteen-year-old when he began writing the fantasy tale Eragon, which eventually became the foundational book in the Inheritance Cycle series. Paolini, with the support of his family, self-published the book at age nineteen. The successful launch focused on in-person appearances, where the young author would sometimes sit at a table dressed in character to sell his books or perform readings at various venues. Eragon went on to make the New York Times Children’s bestseller list for 121 weeks, was released as a movie in 2006, as well as a video game that same year.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir. Andy Weir started his self-publishing journey by penning short portions of The Martian on a blog. As interest mounted and the blog’s followers multiplied, Weir decided to self-publish the full manuscript on Amazon, where it became a bestseller. The book went on to sell over 3 million copies, as well as being adapted to the screen as a successful movie that grossed $630,000 worldwide.
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist by profession, graduating valedictorian, and self-published her novel about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. As the book gained traction, it was eventually picked up by Simon and Schuster. Ms. Genova went on to publish three more novels, and in 2014 Still Alice was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore.
  • Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. Jamie McGuire has carved out a successful career as a bestselling self-published author in the romance genre. She self-published her first four books, and when one of them, Beautiful Disaster, proved highly successful, she accepted a contract with a publisher. However, she self-published subsequent books because she learned she could make higher profits by retaining her rights.
  • Wool by Hugh Howey. Hugh Howey self-published his science fiction series, Wool, through Kindle Direct Publishing and quickly became a bestselling eBook author. His five-book series generated $150,000 per month and caught the attention of the big publishing houses. He was able to negotiate a hybrid deal, receiving a six-figure advance from Simon and Schuster, while being able to retain his digital self-publishing rights — an unheard-of deal at the time.
  • Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown. Amanda Brown became inspired to write her bestselling self-published book, Legally Blonde while going to law school. It was published in 2001, and later became the basis for the film of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon, followed by the musical in 2007. Ms. Brown has gone on to self-publish subsequent novels since.
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Renfield. James Renfield tried the traditional publishing route but was unable to land a contract, so he decided to self-publish his nonfiction book, The Celestine Prophecy. He sold copies out of the trunk of his Honda, and eventually, due to the book’s success, landed a deal with Time Warner for $800,000. The self-published bestseller has sold over 5 million copies.

Give Self-Publishing a Shot

As self-publishing success stories continue to emerge, aspiring authors are becoming more open to the idea of retaining control over their literary works and choosing this path to publication. Advancements in technology continue to create a multitude of tools to aid the self-published author, bringing the possibility of writing a bestselling self-published book within reach.

Partner With Gatekeeper Press For Your Self-Publishing Journey

If you are intrigued by the possibilities that self-publishing offers, why not optimize your chances of success? Team up with the self-publishing professionals at Gatekeeper Press for all your editing, design, formatting, and distribution needs. Schedule a free consultation with us today!

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