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Self-Published Authors and Their Books


This list was compiled by Dan Poynter, author of The Self-Publishing Manual.  These authors became famous after self-publishing the now well-known books that first brought them to the attention of the world.  Getting published was no easier for them than it is for anyone else.  But instead of sitting around waiting for the magic to happen, they had enough faith in themselves and in their work to take the self-publishing route.  Though big publishing companies coined terms like “vanity press” and tried their best to make it difficult for authors to self publish, these writers did it anyway.

  • The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter has 132,000 copies in print after 12 revised editions since 1979. The publisher is Para Publishing (Dan Poynter). As a result of this book, Poynter has been called "the godfather to thousands of books."
  • A Time to Kill was self published by John Grisham. He sold his first work out of the trunk of his car.
  • Self publishing Life's Little Instruction Book brought H. Jackson Brown to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List where it sold over 5 million copies.
  • Twelve Golden Threads by Aliske Webb was rejected by 150 publishers. After self- publishing and selling 25,000 copies, she signed a four-book contract with HarperCollins.
  • After deciding to self-publish The Beanie Baby Handbook, Lee and Sue Fox sold three million copies in two years and made #2 on the New York Time Bestseller list.
  • L. Ron Hubbard chose to self-publish Dianetics. Now, it has been in print more than 45 years. 20 million copies are in print, and it has been translated into 22 languages. The book started a movement and later a church.
  • In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. He chose to self-publish and sold over 25,000 copies the first year. Then Warner picked it up and sold 10 million more.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White) was originally self-published for his classes at Cornell University in 1918.
  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer was self-published in 1931. Today Scribners sells more than 100,000 copies each year.
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. His manuscript made the rounds of the mainstream houses, and then he decided to self-publish. He sold over 100,000 copies out of the trunk of his Honda before Warner Books paid him $800,000. The number-one bestseller in 1996, it spent 165 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list. Over 5.5 million copies have been sold.
  • After publishing The One-Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson sold over 20,000 copies locally before they sold out to William Morrow. It has now sold over 12 million copies since 1982 and is in 25 languages.
  • Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth spent seven months on the New York Times bestseller list and sold 4.5 million copies in its original and premium editions.
  • Embraced by the Light published by Betty J. Eadie spent 76 weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Bestseller List and was sold to Bantam Books for $1.5 million.
  • Four Louisiana doctors and a former CEO published Sugar Busters! and sold 165,000 copies regionally in just a year and a half.
  • Joe Karbo published The Lazy Man's Way to Riches and sold millions via full-page ads in newspapers and magazines.
  • The 87-page book, The Christmas Box, took Rick Evans six weeks to write. After getting it published himself, it did so well he sold out to Simon & Schuster for $4.2 million.
  • How to Flatten Your Stomach by Jim Everrode sold out to Price\Stern\Sloan. Since then, the book has sold over two million copies.
  • What Color Is Your Parachute? was self-published by clergymen Richard Nelson Bolles. Now is has 22 editions, sold 5 million copies, and spent 288 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Other well-known self-publishers include:

  • Deepak Chopra
  • Louise Hay
  • Mark Twain
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Upton Sinclair
  • Carl Sandburg
  • James Joyce
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Mary Baker Eddy
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Thomas Paine
  • Virginia Woolf
  • E.E. Cummings
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Walt Whitman
  • Alexandre Dumas
  • William E.B. DuBois

 

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