8 Successful Self-Published Authors Who Made It Big 

As writers, doors are slammed in our faces the whole time. For instance, a wonderful friend promised to read your book and provide feedback but never did. A family member gave negative feedback about your book, an editor that wants to change almost everything or a publisher that rejects your application.

Little by little, these slamming doors, destroy our confidence until we don’t see any other choice but to quit. But what if we look at it from a different angle? Could that slamming door also be a good thing, maybe a motivational tool? Could we even go so far as to say that sometimes it is a necessary evil?

Let’s look at a few people who carry the facial scars caused by slamming doors with pride. These are the self-publishing authors that just wouldn’t quit and are now reaping the benefits of their persistence. In no particular order, we will now look at self-published authors that made it big.

Lisa Genova 

Maybe you have seen the Academy Award Winning film, Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore. The film was released in 2014 but the story started long before. Lisa Genova wrote Still Alice but was constantly rejected by numerous publishers. Finally, she had enough and self-published it in 2007.

After the book started taking off, Simon Schuster approached her and republished the book in 2009. Today, the book is available in over 20 languages, has been on the New York best sellers list for over 40 weeks, and was adapted to an Academy Award Winning film.


Andy Weir 

Here is another success story involving an Academy Award-nominated film. The Martian, starring Matt Damon was an instant international hit in 2015. Andy Weir was a successful programmer and only wrote stories on the side as a hobby. He had a website where he published chapters of The Martian to a small niche audience for fun.

After he received feedback from readers who requested him to upgrade his website or publish it on Amazon so that they can read it on their e-readers, he listened. He upgraded his site and he put the works on Amazon, only to help the readers gain access to his stories with ease. And that is how he became a bestselling author. A 99c book on Amazon's self-publishing platform exploded into a successful movie that grossed over 630,000 million worldwide and today his book sold more than 3 million copies.


A.G. Riddle 

A.G Riddle was a tech consultant that helped startups get off the ground, but his real passion was writing. He spent two years writing his first book called The Atlantis Gene which he self-published in 2013 after deciding to avoid the traditional publishing route. Not only did he write it, but he formatted it, let his mom do the final editing, and even designed his own cover.

His wife marketed the book on social media and it all took off from there. He sold over 4 million copies of his novels worldwide in 24 languages and many of his works are in development for feature films. In fact, four of his seven books are in development for feature films.


E.L. James 

Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fan fiction.This self published author used to publish her stories on fan sites and saw that there was interest from the public in the story. She changed some characters and tweaked the story a little and then she proceeded to self-publish the first book of the trilogy in 2011.

Within one year, she received a deal from a publishing company and continued to sell over 100 million copies worldwide. Today it is the most successful self-published book of all time. It remained on the New York Times Bestseller list for 133 consecutive weeks and three feature films sprung from the trilogy which generated 570 million dollars to date.

Not bad for a self-published author!


L.J. Ross 

Six years ago, this lawyer quit her job and became a writer. The interesting part is that she never published a single book before leaving her job. Today she has 19 bestseller books on Amazon and sold over 5 million copies, all without the help of a publisher or marketer.

She made history in 2020 by becoming the first self-published author ever to be nominated for a British Book Award, which makes her an exceptional self publishing success story. She was offered a publishing deal but turned it down after he husband showed her that the royalties were more on KDP.

Her advice to upcoming authors is to let your readers know about yourself so that feel connected to the person behind the stories.


Amanda Hocking 

Amanda Hocking needed a little bit of extra cash so that you could take a road trip and go see a Muppet exhibition in Chicago. All she needed was 300 dollars to pay for gas, accommodation, the ticket, and food and she thought she could get that from selling her books on Amazon.

Since she was young, she dreamed of being a writer. She completed her first novel at 17 and continued to write more books but she was always rejected by publishers and never made a cent from her finished works. Intending to get 300 dollars for her road trip, she published her first book in 2010. Within six months her self published book made $20,000. Way more than the 300 dollars she was aiming for. In March of 2011, she signed a contract with St. Martin’s Press for four books and got 2 million dollars for it.

Amanda keeps all her rejection letters from publishers in a shoebox. She gave up countless times after another rejection, but then started writing again when inspiration struck. She had 17 completed but unpublished books before she put the first one on Amazon.


Robert Kiyosaki 

In a different genre, Robert Kiyosaki struck gold with his self help book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad in 1997. It sold over 40,000,000 copies in over 50 languages in 109 countries and was on the New York bestseller list for over 6 years.

Robert had no major publishing success before Rich Dad, Poor Dad and he was rejected time after time. No book publisher, agent, or distributor bought into the idea and he was told to rather give up trying. Kiyosaki decided to self-publish his book and it turned out to be the most lucrative decision of his life.

The success of the self help book inspired him to build a whole empire around the idea. Most of his income is now generated by seminars and courses that his company presents, or that is done through franchising. It is estimated that his net worth is around 100 million dollars today.


Hugh Howey 

Before becoming famous as a writer, Hugh Howey had jobs as a yacht captain, a roofer, an audio technician, and a book store clerk. He decided to publish his first book, Wool on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system because he didn’t want the confinements set by traditional publishers.

The popularity of the book increased and Hugh realized that he was onto something big. He continued to expand on the series and then he sold it to Simon and Schuster for 500,000 dollars and he sold the film rights to 20th Century Fox.

In 2015 Hugh moved to South Africa, lives on a boat, and writes full time. He has published multiple series, novels, novellas, and short stories since and continues to do so today.


What they all have in common 

Becoming a successful self-published author is not like winning the lottery. There are many success stories out there and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform allowed for an increase in such stories over the last decades, but there is more to it than sheer luck.


1. Perseverance and persistence are key. 

You need to accept that there will be rejection and a lot of it. Whether it is from a publisher or low sales figures on Amazon, all the success stories start with rejection or ‘failure’. Only the ones that didn’t give in and didn’t accept no for an answer were the ones that made it. Remember, JK Rowling was turned down by 12 publishers before Harry Potter was finally published.


2. Keep writing and expanding 

All the successful authors continued to write. Some continued to write, even if they had not published a book yet. Your readers are eager to find fresh material and you need to look after their hunger or they will go search for it elsewhere. Most successful writers on Amazon KDP turn their books into series or create spin-offs from the original. Whatever it is, you need to continue creating content and do it consistently if you want your brand to grow.


3. Connect with readers 

Another visible characteristic of successful authors was that that they make effort to connect with their readers. They either do so in person through appearances, communicate online or publish information about themselves. It is vital for readers to connect with you as an author on a personal level as it will generate loyalty and boost future sales.

Your own mind could be your own worst enemy when it comes to reaching for new heights or chasing a dream. You are not alone, there are many out there that are in the same position as you are.


Schedule a no-obligation, free discovery call with us, and let’s talk about your successful way forward and what concerns you regarding self-publishing.

About the author

Denis Caron

I help you build a loyal fanbase who enjoy and appreciate your books through 1-on-1 and group coaching. Learn more.

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