How these 3 Self-Publishers Succeeded

succesful self-published books

Signing a million dollar book deal with a leading publisher is the dream of many writers, but it’s not the only way to get your novel released and isn’t always the best. Self-publishing can give you increased creative freedom, a bigger share of the profits, and more power. Some of the most successful novelists have released their own books and their tales offer some excellent lessons for you.

riyria revelations book cover

Michael J. Sullivan – Get Help from Family or Friends.

Like many writers, Michael J. Sullivan fought and fought to get attention from publishers. And when he got knocked down he got up again, because they were never gonna keep him down. But after a decade of being killed with silence and refusals, Sullivan stayed down and while he was there he hatched a plan–in would self-publish his novel, Riyira Revelation, via his wife’s agency.

Riyira Revelation was released initially in 2008. It sold and sold and has continued to do so. The book has been translated into 14 languages (including Turkish, Dutch, and Japanese) and shifted nearly 100,000 copies as of 2018. Sullivan has also been recognized as being one of the most successful self-published sci-fi and fantasy authors, with 109 giving him the honor in 2012.

Now I hear what you’re about to say: “I don’t have a wife, husband, mother, father, neighbor, or friend I sit next to on the bus who owns their own agency.” That doesn’t stop you from learning from Sullivan’s example. If you don’t have a connection with a friend who has an agency or publishing house, be resourceful–call in a favor from a friend skilled in social media to help on the promotional side, beg a family member who knows tech to show you how to self-publish, charm a colleague with spare cash to help with funding.

If you have absolutely no one to turn to in the flesh, then reach out to the online community. Launch a Kickstarter campaign to drum up support and investment for your dream–even when you think you’re alone and helpless, there’s always someone you can turn.

Recommended reading: 10 Tips to Write a Book Blurb That Sells

amanda hocking switched

Amanda Hocking – Don’t underestimate Self-publishing on Amazon.

Amanda Hocking’s tale begins as a broke novelist and ends as a million-selling paranormal author, all because she used self-publishing.

The year was 2010, Hocking was living in Austin apartment so bare that minimalist designers would call her a zealot. She’d spent nearly a decade writing 17 books and pitching them to every publishing house she could think of – probably some she couldn’t too. Then Jim Henson stepped in and changed her life forever.

Henson is famed for creating the phenomenally successful Muppets franchise and Hocking had discovered an exhibition by him was going to Chicago. She needed to see the exhibition, she burned, she pined, she perished, but had no money. What could she do? In a moment of inspiration, she decided that self-publishing her book on Amazon was the answer.

Hoping to score a few hundred dollars from sales to her friends, Hocking added her book to Amazon (as you can do yourself by following this Amazon self-publishing guide from Jericho Writers). A matter of months later Hocking had sold 150,000 copies of her self-published books, turning her from a struggling author to a successful novelist.

Now Amanda Hocking is selling thousands of books every day and has earned millions from them. So, what’s the lesson from her story? If you want to catch a Jim Henson exhibition (or become a noted author) self-publishing on Amazon could be your answer, too.

Recommended reading: 9 Tips to Create an Ebook Cover for Beginners

marcel proust book cover

Marcel Proust – Pay to Self-publish.

Marcel Proust has been in the ground since 1922 and in the time following his death, he’s earned a place at the table of all-time literary greats–Graham Greene (author of Brighton Rock,) claimed Proust to be the greatest novelist of the 20th century. But it all could have been so different for Proust if he hadn’t published Swann’s Way his way.

Swann’s Way was released in between 1913 and 1927, with Proust paying Grasset Publishing House for the first edition to be made published. It has since gone on to sell millions of copies, but this came after the manuscript was rejected by many of France’s most important editors–indeed, Swann’s Way is said to be the most rejected novel in the whole of the twentieth century.

Proust’s travails may have come in the days when self-publishing was rarely the done thing, but the 21st Century is a different beast. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that there is a benefit to paying a publisher to release your book–you get access to the online presence of an established literary company (including all their followers), and give them a vested interest in your novel’s success (royalties).

This practice is known as vanity publishing and it’s long been adopted by authors to get their books released (with Jane Austin, Stephen King, and Mark Twain joining Marcel Proust in paying to publish their books.) However, not all vanity publishing houses have the best intentions and you must guard yourself against exploitation. So when speaking to a vanity publisher, make sure they’re giving not giving you unrealistic promises for your book (this article explains what a good vanity publisher will offer you.)


Amanda Hocking, Marcel Proust, and Michael J. Sullivan battled adversity, rejection, and despair to release their books and look where it got them—million-selling books and a place in the annals of literary history. Take a leaf from their book and self-publish your novel(s).

Read these posts.

The Basic Guide to Self-Publishing Ebooks

18 Tips to Become a Prolific Writer

Writers Conferences 2019

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