Contrary to popular belief, self-publishing isn’t new.
Authors and poets have been doing it for centuries to share their writing with the world when publishers have said no…some times even before they’ve had chance to.
Nowadays, of course, it’s easier than ever for writers to self-publish and reach our readers.
Back in Dickens’s day (yes, he was self-published too), there was a whole lot of touring involved just to get your work noticed. These days, all you need is a social media presence and some money to spend on advertising.
In the end, how your book is published doesn’t really matter. What matters is the connection you create with your audience.
Nothing beats talking to someone and discovering that they love your creations as much as you do.
Here are five famous—and bestselling—books you didn’t know were self-published.
Milk and Honey—Rupi Kaur
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4 years ago i self published a book called ‘milk and honey’. mostly for myself. i was going through a rough time. i thought maybe some of my friends and family might even buy it. i don’t know how. or why. but the universe decided to catapult this heartfelt project made in my living room- to a book that’s reached the hands of millions. it’s been sitting on the new york times bestsellers list for over two years in a row. this is beyond me. a magic way out of my hands. to celebrate year 4- i am releasing this clothbound hardcover edition of ‘milk and honey’ with a foreword written by yours truly. starting today it is available everywhere. this one is for all the lovely people i run into on the streets telling me that their paperback copy is worn and torn from keeping it in their bags. or under their pillows. it’s for all the folks that said they want a lifetime edition to keep on their bookshelves. i love meeting you. i love speaking with you. i love you for connecting. i love you for making my dream come true.🥛&🍯 ❤️❤️❤️
Rupi Kaur built her platform on Instagram.
Now, she’s a well-respected poet that’s toured the world with her words.
And it all started with a self-published poetry collection.
Milk and Honey has sold over 2.5 million copies and was on The New York Times Bestsellers list for over a year.
She’s now represented by Simon & Schuster.
Fifty Shades of Grey—E.L.James
Regardless of what you think of the quality of her writing, E.L.James started out as self-published.
Because of the popularity of her book, traditional publishers found her and acquired the rights to her book.
From there, well, you know what happens…
The Martian—Andy Weir
The Martian is different to the rest of the books on this list in that it wasn’t first published as a book. It started out as a blog.
The writer didn’t intend to make any money from it. He wrote it simply because he enjoyed it.
A traditional publisher found the book, bought the rights, and it became a film starring Matt Damon.
I have to say, this is my favourite story on the list. Many authors don’t see the value in blogging, but it shows how making your blog about your readers, not about you, can make a real difference.
Swann’s Way—Marcel Proust
The last two books on our list prove that self-publishing isn’t a new concept.
Publishers didn’t want to touch Swann’s Way because they didn’t think it would sell. (A story that many authors still hear today.)
So, instead of abandoning the story, Proust published the story himself.
It did so well that traditional publishers picked it up and published the rest of the series. (You’d be surprised how often this part of the story happens, too.)
The Tale of Peter Rabbit—Beatrix Potter
Yep, that’s right—the world-famous children’s author originally self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit because they didn’t believe a woman could write a book.
While this sounds absurd, this kind of discrimination still happens in the literary industry.
Women are told to change or adapt their names because boys won’t read books by women (J.K.Rowling didn’t even have a middle initial until she was told to come up with one); female authors are given books with swirly, chick-lit style covers even when what they write is much darker.
But Beatrix Potter had the last laugh.
Her books have sold millions of copies in hundreds of languages and are still in print today.
You may love some of the books mentioned above and hate others.
That’s not the point.
The point is that whatever you write, you can self-publish it.
If you want to.
Self-publishing gives people of all backgrounds the chance to reach readers without the stigma, prejudice, and pressure of traditional publishing.
Instead of focusing on short-term sales, you can focus on long-term success.
Instead of it being about the number of books sold, it’s about the depth of the connection you create with your readers.
And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?
Bestselling books don’t have to go through traditional publishers.
Loyal fans will be loyal to you regardless of how you choose to publish your work.
Self-publishing can also be a way to get your work noticed by traditional publishers.
Many agents and publishers scour the internet for self-published works to buy the rights to. If you want to build your author brand and get your writing seen, self-publishing is one way that you can do just that.
How you choose to publish your work is completely up to you. What matters is that you make the right decision for you.
Thanks to Andrew & Pete for the post idea!