What famous authors, within the last 40 years, were self-published?

  • 2
    would you please define the criteria you expect to be used for the term "Famous"?
    – Malachi
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 14:14
  • 4
    Also, can you please tell us what would make one answer to this question better than another answer? If user X posts an answer listing five authors meeting the stated criteria, and user Y posts an answer listing five different authors also meeting the stated criteria, what might make one of these answers better or worse than the other?
    – user
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 16:21

2 Answers 2


Here's a list of nine writers who had exceptional success that all began when they self-published their first books (within the last 40 years):

  1. Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey (sold to Simon & Schuster for $.5M)
  2. Still Alice by Lisa Genova (made into a film starring Julianne Moore)
  3. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (translated into 34 languages)
  4. Riyria Chronicles by Michael J. Sullivan (followup was sold for over $100K)
  5. The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton (bestseller in Canada)
  6. Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker (led to a successful career)
  7. Damaged by H.M. Ward (start of a series with 4M copies sold)
  8. My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking (made $2M on eBook sales alone)
  9. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James (worldwide bestseller, made into three movies that have grossed a combined total of over $1.5B).

Additional notes on what makes each of the books/authors successful/famous are included in the link below.

Source: 10 Self-Published Authors Who Made it Big.

  • 2
    Who are any of these people? They my have gotten rich but that doesn't mean they got famous, or left a lasting impression.
    – Ash
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 13:13
  • 1
    @Ash en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_(film_series) "Worldwide, the series has grossed $1.320 billion, making it the fourth highest-grossing R-rated franchise of all-time." // Robert - you might want to edit into your answer a brief note on why these books are considered successful. Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 15:26
  • 2
    @Ash I have to agree with Chris, the OP didn't ask if the books were any good or made a lasting impression, just whether the authors were famous and E.L. James is certainly that. As for the others, I guess it depends on your definition of fame, but I've certainly heard of these other authors even though I haven't read all of these books. And Still Alice made a lasting impression on a lot of people, either through the book or the film starring Julianne Moore. Sorry, I have to ask, but where have you been for the last ten years??? :)
    – GGx
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 18:14
  • 2
    @robertcday - If you don't mind, I'm going to edit a few of these factoids into your actual post to support your (already strong) answer. I'm also going to ask for this comments thread to be deleted, it's become clear Ash is just trolling us. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 14:07
  • 2
    @robertcday Sure, on hold questions still appear in the archives and in searches. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 14:16
  • Christopher Paolini - Eragon (Bestseller.)
  • Richard Paul Evans - The Christmas Box (#1 Bestseller.)
  • Mark Danielewski - House of Leaves (cult classic, initially self-published online, it was issued in print by Pantheon Books.)
  • Catherynne M. Valente - The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Inaugurated a best-selling series. Initially self-published online, later issued in print by Feiwel & Friends.)
  • Becky Chambers - The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Critically acclaimed SF novel. Originally self-published it via a Kickstarter campaign; it was subsequently re-published by Hodder & Stoughton.)

It's worth noting that while critical reaction to these books has been mixed (mostly bad for Paolini and Evans, mostly good for the other three), they all share one important trait --their authors were all exceptionally good at promoting their own work. As I've said repeatedly, that's the one most important trait for a successful self-publisher.

In point of fact, the three internet-published authors all successfully built a community of engaged fans as the book was being written. That certainly seems like a new model for a successful self-publisher, the modern equivalent of the newspaper serials that built Dickens' fame.

  • Upvoted for House of Leaves
    – De Novo
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 18:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.