What famous authors, within the last 40 years, were self-published?
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):
- Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey (sold to Simon & Schuster for $.5M)
- Still Alice by Lisa Genova (made into a film starring Julianne Moore)
- The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (translated into 34 languages)
- Riyria Chronicles by Michael J. Sullivan (followup was sold for over $100K)
- The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton (bestseller in Canada)
- Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker (led to a successful career)
- Damaged by H.M. Ward (start of a series with 4M copies sold)
- My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking (made $2M on eBook sales alone)
- 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.
- 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.