In this post, Writers Write looks at self-published books that were later traditionally published.
Self-publication and traditional publishing are different creatures.
Publication relies on things like economic climate and editorial mood. Just because a publisher isn’t interested now, does not mean it’s a bad manuscript (or that publication should wait).
A publisher’s rejection can be a step to success.
8 Self-Published Books (That Went Big)
Here are 8 self-published books (that went big)
Jamie McGuire is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author, but every rich writer has a debut first. Beautiful Disaster was first published through her own company called Jamie McGuire LLC in May 2011.
It was later published by Atria Books in August 2012, less than a year after its self-publication.
Beautiful Disaster has since been adapted into a Hollywood movie.
The beloved tale of Peter Rabbit almost wasn’t.
Writer Beatrix Potter came up with the tale to entertain a young boy, and then pitched the idea (without success) to publishers.
Potter would self-publish 250 copies.
Traditional publishing would buy in a year later, with an estimated 20, 000 copies in the first year. Today, it’s one of the bestselling books ever written.
The Martian could be one of the best space movies out there. First, the story was in print. When its writer, Andy Weir, couldn’t get a publisher for it, he went with a blog – and later an ebook.
Only after its self-publication mainstream publishers showed an interest. The story shot to the Amazon #1 book spot. The movie rights to The Martian were sold soon after.
Even if you hate 50 Shades Of Grey, admire its start (and movie deal). Writer E.L. James begun the story as a Twilight adaptation, and would later create her own twists that made the story its own.
First publication was made through The Writers’ Coffee Shop in 2011.
Publishing house Vintage Books bought the rights in 2012.
The rest of the story is one, huge pay check. Traditional publishing would secure a deal with several books, and later film adaptations of the trilogy.
Author Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon at 15. First copies were self-published by his parents, and then life happened.
The manuscript was rediscovered by Alfred A. Knopf publishers. New editions of Eragon were reprinted, and a further several were traditionally published.
The fantasy-tale of Eragon went huge. The story became a book series, a movie, and a video game.
Rombauer’s The Joy Of Cooking is one of the most popular culinary texts in the United States, equalled only by The Art of French Cooking.
While popular now, it was much harder for Irma S. Rombauer to find a suitable published in the 1930s. After one rejection after the next, Rombauer would publish a first run herself in 1931 with printer A.C. Clayton.
When publisher Bobbs-Merrill Company saw its success, they bought the rights in 1935.
The Joy Of Cooking is still one of the bestselling cookbooks.
Can you imagine if she didn’t take that first step?
No Thanks by writer-poet E.E. Cummings is a collection of poetry, repetitively refused by publishers.
Its content (and especially, its title) is a play on rejection. Cummings would self-publish this, and bind it at the top like a notebook… Just, we guess, because he could.
W.W. Norton and Company published later editions, and either appreciated the irony, or ignored it.
Legally Blonde is a famous legal-comedy movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Here’s the surprising part of the backstory: most of it is based on an autobiography by Amanda Brown.
After publishers didn’t bite, she ran with the idea and published it on her own.
This one, too, was later published by a larger house and achieved instant bestselling status.
If you think that you have a great story, sometimes you can let the readers decide now (and publishers decide later).
The Last Word
We hope that this post helps you to get inspired, and get published! Read some of our other posts about writing and self-publication.
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:
- The Art Of The Complaint Letter
- 6 Bits Of Writing Advice From Authors’ Letters
- The Art Of Writing Fiction With Fewer Settings
- 8 Statistics About The Writing Industry (You Should Know)
- 5 Incredible Story Beginnings & Endings
- 7 Tips For Writing Competitions
- Writing The Vampire Tale
- Writing Advice From Twitter
- 9 Tips For The Artful Interview