But there are other best-sellers that also started out as self-published books. Here we list some of them for you – and watch out, there are a few surprises:
- At number one, 50 Shades of Grey is the best-known self-publishing success story, as the intro says. EL James’ story started out as fan fiction in tribute to the Twilight series and she posted it on fan fiction sites and her own website before developing it into a trilogy. The first book was self-published as an e-book and print-on-demand book.
- James Redfield’s spiritual journey The Celestine Prophecy was self-published in the 1990s, with the author selling copies out of the back of his Honda. When he’d sold the first 100,000 copies, Warner Books agreed to publish it. The book is believed to have sold more than 20 million copies world-wide.
- Romance novels tend to do well in self-publishing. HM Ward’s Ferro family saga has sold more than 4 million books since her debut in 2011. Her first book, Damaged, became a number one best seller in Amazon’s new adult genre. Ms Ward is still a self-published author.
- The film attracted attention this year with Julianne Moore’s Oscar win for her main character role, but Still Alice by Lisa Genova began life as a self-published book. The story – about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s – was picked up by Simon & Schuster in 2009 and it spent more than 40 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
- Here at Comely Bank Publishing, we’ve mentioned Hugh Howey and his Wool trilogy once or twice because we’re keen on self-publishing success stories. Whilst Howey did opt for a traditional publishing deal such was his power that he was able to negotiate the terms of that deal, turning down a seven-figure sum for a six-figure one so that he could hold onto the digital rights.
- Amanda Hocking started publishing her rejected paranormal fiction books on Amazon to raise $300 so that she could pay for a visit to an exhibition about Muppets creator Jim Henson. In six months she had made $20,000 and some two years later, $2.5 million. (Her last rejection letter, which she didn't keep, had been from a UK literary agent she recalls…)
- John Grisham’s first novel was influenced by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird – and rejected 28 times. He then published 5,000 copies through a small private publisher. Later books were published by Doubleday which led to the re-issuing of his first novel, A Time to Kill.