The decision to self-publish can be an extremely difficult one to make. Even though you manage to convince yourself that you will be able to work hard and dedicate a huge amount of time to the process, to be honest it is still scary. The thought that you’d be putting out a work you’ve created, without the help of a known publisher and at your own risk, can be very intimidating. The feeling of self-doubt and discouragement can easily engulf you in such situations and even cause you to give up your plans to self-publish. In such situations, reading about self-published authors who were once in your shoes can be inspiring. Here is a small list of authors, whose experiences and stories can help you through this difficult phase.
Known for her erotic romance trilogy, the Fifty Shades series, EL James began writing these books as Twilight fan-fiction under the name Snowqueen’s Icedragon. When she saw the Twilight movie, she became interested in the novels and finished reading them in the span of a few days. After this, she sat down to write for the first time in her life — she wrote a fan-fiction for the series she liked a lot. At the time, she didn’t realise the scope of the fan-fiction world and only after writing two such books did she find out the underlying potential. This was what inspired her to put up her books on Kindle and start the Fifty Shades series. In August 2013, around four and a half years after she began writing, she topped the Forbes’ list of highest-earning authors. The success of her series has surprised her the most.
Louise Ross quit her job as a lawyer before she started writing. She used to work 17 hours sometimes before she could finish her exhausting work day. In order to relax, she would read or scribble down ideas for her stories. Needing a change, she left her job, and with the encouragement of her husband she started writing. Her first book, Holy Island, inspired by the picturesque Lindisfarne, was rejected multiple times as a draft. After numerous tries to get a publisher to put out her book failed, Ross got frustrated. Her husband suggested she self-publish through Kindle and she gave it a try. She asked her friend to help with the editing while her husband handled the marketing side of things. In a few months, her book went on to top the Amazon UK chart and sold over 100,000 copies. Today, she is a full-time writer and has more than 12 novels to her name.
Amanda Hocking is one inspiring self-published author you can learn a lot from. While she was employed as a group home worker, she wrote around 17 novels in her free time. For years, she tried getting her books published through the traditional method. When nothing worked out, she decided to publish them as e-books. In 2010, she put up her first book for 99 cents on Amazon. Over the course of half a year, she raised more than $20,000 from her sales and by March 2011, she’d sold 1.5 million copies. She handled the freedom of being a self-published author very cleverly. She listed her first book for a low price, confident in her work. Once readers were hooked to her stories, she sold the rest of her books for a higher price and consequentially bagged a $2 million dollar deal with St. Martin Press, a major publishing company. When asked about her choice to turn to sign with a traditional publishing company in an interview, she said, “I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation. I am spending so much time on things that are not writing.”
Mark Coker did not set out to be an indie author. When, in 2005, Mark and his wife, Lesleyann, co-wrote Boob Tube, their only dream was to see it on a shelf in Barnes and Noble. The book was about daytime television soap operas and due to the poor sales of opera-themed novels, no publisher was ready to put out Boob Tube. Their agent suggested self-publishing in 2007 and Mark liked the idea. After continuous research, Mark realised the importance, scope and advantages of self-publishing as well as the hardships thousands of authors face trying to get their work traditionally published. Mark thought about the potential of the e-book and wished for a platform where e-books could be self-published easily, quickly and for free. That was what gave birth to Smashwords, a platform that gives every author the freedom to publish and the reader, the freedom to choose what to read. So here is an author who decided to come up with a whole new platform to give authors, who could not find a traditional publisher, like himself an opportunity to show their work to the world.
Michael J Sullivan
During his early years of writing, Michael faced more than a hundred rejections from publishers. He had written around thirteen novels and none of them were picked up for publishing. This was what made Michael quit. Almost a decade later, he had this story in his head that was spilling out and just had to be penned down. He started writing on the condition that he’ll never look to publish this work. He wrote for his family and friends, especially for his dyslexic daughter who had difficulty reading. With her in mind, he created a fantasy series and started writing again. By the third instalment of it, his wife suggested that they try to publish it as it was really good. For the next few years, they struggled with publication. The publishers they signed with faced difficulties and Michael had to find a way to self-publish. The initial years of self-publishing was not profitable at all, but as the fourth instalment was put out, things started to look up. Michael considered publishing in New York and finally signed with a publisher. His debut series written in the years 2004-2008, were put out by traditional publishers in 2012. Today, Michael J Sullivan is a New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post bestselling author. All this despite once vowing never to write again!
You can read all about his publishing journey here
There are many authors out there struggling with self-doubt and hesitating to self-publish. I hope this article helps you pick up your spirit. I’m planning on putting out a second part to this with more authors who self-published. Let me know what you think.