Are You Self Published?

IMG_4053“Tell people you are a writer.” My publisher gave me this advice, so did my wife and about a hundred of my closest friends. That statement is the foundation of a platform (don’t you hate that word). Things should move on logically from there.

Strangers are supposed to ask, “What are your your books about?” So I’m ready with an ultra short synopsis or two. One thing leads to another and pretty soon they’re asking for my cards looking for my Amazon Author Page on their smart phones and promising to tell all their friends, who happen to be intensely interested in books exactly like mine.

What they actually ask is this: “Are you self published?” The tone and body language suggest it’s a shameful accusation, and when I tell them, “No, my books are traditionally OwlDreams_Frontpublished,” the look of relief on their faces is palpable.

The thing is, most people don’t have the slightest idea what publishing is all about. I consider telling them, “Many of my best friends are self published.” I don’t, partially because that sounds like the kind of insensitive remark I might have made about racial minorities in my insensitive past. Mostly I keep my opinions to myself because sometimes strangers do ask for a card or look up my Amazon Author Page and they probably wouldn’t if I sounded confrontational.

Owl Dreams and Popsicle Styx are traditionally published but here are a few much more successful books you might have heard of that at least started out as self published.

PS_coverFront_10-1-14-2 Wool Omnibus started out in 2011 as a series of science fiction novellas self published by Hugh Howey through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. The first stand-alone short was entitled, “Wool”. After the series grew in popularity, 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights. Howey signed a print only deal with Simon & Schuster for $500,000 but retained electronic rights for himself.

The Joy of Cooking was written by Irma Rombauer and illustrated by her daughter. Ms. Rombauer used half of her life savings to pay a local printing company to print three thousand copies. Bobbs-Merrill Company acquired the rights five years later. The book has sold over 18 million copies.

A Time to Kill began its literary life as a self published book. After 28 rejections, John Grisham published 5,000 copies through a small private publisher, Wynwood Press. Grisham eventually sold “The Firm,” “The Pelican Brief” and “The Client,” to Doubleday. After those books became best sellers, Doubleday acquired the rights and reissued “A Time To Kill.”

The Celestine Prophesy, James Redfield’s first novel, was self published in 1992. The author sold this book out of the trunk of his car until it was acquired by Warner Books. The Celestine Prophesy became a number one bestseller and has sold in excess of twenty million copies.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit, has certainly withstood the test of time. Beatrix Potter couldn’t find a publisher for this classic children’s book so she published herself in 1901. A year later, Frederick Warne & Co., picked it up. They published 22 more of her books over the next 40 years. Over two million Beatrix Potter books are sold annually.

Fifty Shades of Grey started out as fan fiction published on author Erica Leonard’s (E.L. James’) website. Encouraged by the popularity of her fiction, the author self  published Fifty Shades of Grey through a small Australian company, that released it as a print on demand novel and an e-book. Later on, he rights were acquired by Vintage Books.

More extensive lists and information about self published successes can be found here and here.

2 thoughts on “Are You Self Published?

  1. Self-published books shouldn’t be viewed as traditional “rejects”. Many authors today are choosing to self-publish because it gives them full control. As you pointed out, there are plenty of self-publishing success stories.

    • I totally agree. Some authors want total control over their intellectual property and that is something they do not have with any publisher, even the most flexible small press.

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