Self-publishing Success Stories: How to Propel Yourself Into Fame & Success

self-publishing-success-storiesBehind most Self-publishing success stories, there’s a trail of rejection. Some writers – including very successful ones – like to add “luck” as one of those things that played a part. Much like Hugh Howey – author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga along with the best selling WOOL series.

However, it’s not just “luck”. If it were, most lucky people would be authors by now. It’s just that persistence coupled with hard work somehow paves the path to success.

For self-publishing enthusiasts, if there’s one thing more important than writing and preparing manuscripts, it’s sheer persistence. It’s the self-learned love for rejection. It’s about knowing that success lies beyond these nasty “turn downs” and “constant disrespect to your creation”.

Many now-famous writers had to take the traditional route to publishing. Self-publishing defies this route and embraces the digital distribution model.

The medium changed for sure; but the stories remain. The path to success is still the same.

Consider this: Stephen King’s first novel Carrie was thrown into the waste paper basket 30 times. Chicken Soup for the Soul scores about 140 (if the number of rejections can be a “score”) and Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell passed through the hands of 38 publishers. James Joyce’s Dubliners only happened after 18 rejections and 9 years of agonizing wait.



You’d only have to read Ronald H. Balson‘s post on Huffington Post for a huge list of writers and their respective Journey through rejection. Read the self-publishing success stories here.

The publishing scene is changing. Many aspiring writers do an about-face and take it out on their own. Publishers either signup with emerging talent or lose out.

Judith Gille – founder and owner of City People’s stores in Seattle and also the author of The View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond The Border (Davis Bay Press, October 2013) — decided she wanted to be on her own after a visit to Writer’s Digest Conference. She wasn’t just dreaming, since there was potential.

According to Alison Flood of The Guardian, at least 18 million titles were purchased in 2013 (valued at 300 million). The self-publishing books’ share in the UK market alone grew by about 79%. Meanwhile print industry continues the journey south. Self-publishing gives you the complete control to write your book, publish it, learn from it, and then write again.

Write as many times as you like. No agents. No publishers. No complicated contracts.

Here’s a list of how a few aspiring writers made it big in self-publishing:

James Altucher

Can a traditional publisher ever have the guts to publish a book (a cult classic) like Urine Therapy: How to Drink Your Own Urine by Craig Smith? You can well imagine how many rejections Craig would get then and how editors would go berserk.

But James Altucher has a point: that’s exactly the kind of muscle self-publishing flexes.


James Altucher – author of Choose Yourself – sold more than 100,000 copies by the end of 2013. The book managed to get on Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list, stayed on as #1 on Amazon’s non-fiction category. James published 11 books in total (5 in print, 6 as self-published). He continues to write even though he apparently loses money on most books he’s written.

After his recent success with Choose Yourself, he isn’t exactly starving. He isn’t going to stop either.

Mike Michalowicz

It’s hard to know what mainstream publishers really want. Even good ideas get shelved for no reason. Mike Michalowicz wanted to write a no-nonsense, in-your-face guide to entrepreneurship in 2008 but publishers didn’t want it.

So he self-published The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur: The Tell-it-like-it-is Guide to Cleaning up in Business, Even If you are At the End of Your Roll. He thought he was going to sell a million copies.

He didn’t even sell a single copy on day one. Yet, he got Penguin to buy hardcover rights for his first book and published another one called The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field.


In an Interview published on [], he explains how he sold his books thinking like a new-age entrepreneur. He went full steam on digital marketing (including using split-testing software, boosting sign-ups, writing copy, blogging, etc.).

Mike believes that:

“Publishers don’t market you at all, and that’s your job as an author”


“I am stepping into a new frontier of authorship – ‘blend publishing,’ where you do some of your work directly with the publisher, and some self-published.”

Are you ready to work on your fan base, build up momentum for your book, and do what it takes?

Kevin Bohacz

Would you succeed as a self-publisher when the markets were still nascent and self-publishing was perceived as a fad? Kevin Bohacz did just that.

He is the author of two bestselling mystery novels (with 5-star reviews from PW Select) titled Immortality and Ghost of the Gods – both with exploding sales on Amazon in the techno-thriller and Sci-fi categories.  Although he’s been writing and selling books traditionally (even after a one-year debut on Kindle), it’s Amazon that changed his life.


After receiving a pile of rejections and hitting brick walls every now and then (he was already a published author, by this time) Kevin made the decision to go the self-publishing route. In an interview with Adam Boretz on Publishers Weekly, he quotes:

“I knew Immortality was a good, marketable novel. Extremely successful literary professionals including a famous writer had read it and told me they loved it. So, here I was, a published author unable to get any of the gatekeepers to read my new book. I tried everything to avoid self-publishing given the stigma of failure that went with it back in 2006, but I had no choice.

So, by the time I decided to self-publish in 2007, it seemed that self-publishing was not necessarily the right choice, but my only choice, my last best chance to get noticed by the gatekeepers.”

He also quips that marketing, as a self-publisher was one of his biggest challenges.
But you do know that marketing is a problem that you can solve, don’t you? Hundreds of rejections and years of wait aren’t realities that you can do much about.

tune-in-tokyoTim Anderson

What happens when marketing smarts meet self-publishing aspirations?

A raging success story, that’s what.

Tim Anderson’s memoir Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Dairies is a “true-life tale of a slacker, gay, viola-playing, sardonic English teacher” as Henry Baum of Self Publishing Review puts it.

That success, however, didn’t happen overnight. Tim self-published the book in 2010 after realizing that it was hard to get noticed until PW select review called his book “laugh out loud funny” which led to the eyes of an Amazon acquiring editor to finally see the book with an Amazon Encore imprint. Tim later published Sweet Tooth.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of self-publishing success. There are so many out there, and each one is inspiring on its own.

The question, for you, is this: if there is success, and that’s just a book away, would you take a shot at it? Would you mind going through the motions? Will you write like an author, publish like a publisher, and market like a marketer?

Self-publishing success is about all skill and finesse with guts, determination, and pure persistence thrown in.

Tell us what you think. Who inspires you?

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