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Can a Self-Published Book Be a Bestseller?

Maximizing Your Income

To think that the only bestsellers come out of a small handful of big traditional publishing houses is actually ridiculous. This isn’t a monopoly folks (even though we love that game)! It’s 2023, and the Internet has changed a lot of things. Especially in the publishing world.

Can a Self-Published Book Be a Bestseller?
Table of contents

Yes.

Well, that was the shortest blog article ever!

Just kidding. There’s a lot more to the story. Some people, still stuck in the 1960s—or whichever decade was the golden era of traditional publishing—believe that the only legitimate bestselling books are those published by “real” publishing houses.

Think Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Random House.

Not true. There are plenty of bestsellers that have come from the pens of independent authors and started as a self-published book.

To think that the only bestsellers come out of a small handful of big traditional publishing houses is actually ridiculous. This isn’t a monopoly folks (even though we love that game)! It’s 2023, and the Internet has changed a lot of things. Especially in the publishing world.

Let’s look at some of the most popular self-published bestsellers. We’ll also shine a light on lesser known authors who are finding ways to use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing to make extra money and launch their literary careers.

Old-school vs. New-school Publishing

Old-school vs. New-school

Publishing has changed a ton in recent years. And a lot of that is thanks to platforms like Amazon investing so much and giving the little guy a leg up. With the rise of AI transforming even more elements of publishing, things will only keep changing—and we think for the better.

The old-school publishing method used to be the only game in town. Not anymore. And we’re thankful since the old ways were a grind. Here’s how it used to work.

If you were an author with a finished book you would have to send out desperate query letters to agents hoping they would pick you. Then, even if an agent did take you on, they would have to shop your book around to the big publishing houses, hoping they would publish it.

You don’t have to be an author! Today ,anyone can now publish their works straight to the masses with tools like Amazon’s KDP. They have more control over their work and end up saving time and producing more books since they’re not waiting around to be picked.

Here are some examples you might be surprised to learn are all self-publishing success stories.

Famous Self-Published Bestsellers

Self-published bestselling books are not actually unicorns. There are tons of books that sold millions of copies and started out as self-published works. It just goes to show that with an idea, or an awesome story, anyone can work toward their dream life in the publishing world.

Fifty Shades of Grey—Ever Heard of It?

We’re gonna keep things G-rated in this article, but this erotic romance novel was initially self-published in 2011 by author E.L. James. It grew to be massively popular and by 2017, the trilogy had sold over 150 million copies. In fact, Fifty Shades of Grey was the best-selling book of the decade (2010-2020)! Just the book’s movie rights were sold for $5 million. And the movies made a killing at the box office.

E.L. James originally wrote Twilight fan fiction and then branched out with her own stuff. Here’s how an article in Medium’s The Writing Cooperative publication describes her success:

“The Fifty Shades phenomenon would not have happened were it not launched as a self-published series. For decades, the publishing and literary world’s definition of ‘good’ was the only one that mattered. If the gatekeepers didn’t think something was good, it didn’t get produced. E.L. James has shown the entire industry that huge numbers of readers just want a really good story, and don’t care as much about how it’s presented. She was only able to prove this, however, because she self-published. Self-publishing grants authors certain advantages and abilities that traditional publishing simply does not, like absolute creative control over your work, control over your timing and marketing schedule, and the ability to quickly make your book available to readers across the world.”

So don’t listen to those who automatically think self-publishing doesn’t work. It does!

Matt Damon’s Stuck on Mars

Have you ever seen the movie The Martian with Matt Damon? Well did you know that movie was based on a self-published book by author Andy Weir?

Andy Weir self-published The Martian in 2011 (evidently 2011 was a good year for self-published authors). The science fiction novel about an astronaut stranded on Mars quickly started selling big-time. It received a ton of critical acclaim and led to Hollywood picking it up pretty quickly.

Apple TV’s Silo and Hugh Howey’s Wool Series

In the spring of 2023, Apple released a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller Silo on Apple TV. The TV series got rave reviews. But what many don’t realize is that it was based on a book series by independent author Hugh Howey. The science fiction series began as a self-published novella in 2011 and gained a dedicated fan base. The success of Howey’s book Wool led to further books in the series and eventually a traditional publishing deal.

Howey is also credited as having a big role in partnering with Amazon to create their self-publishing KDP platform.

Here is how the website Self-Publishing Review describes Howey’s journey to self-publishing success:

“While finding some success in his novels and novellas, he gained massive success with the publishing of his short story Wool. An avid and creative writer, he quickly moved onto a new project as with previous work after publishing, until noticing that Wool – sold at only 99 cents on Amazon – was gaining ground and was already on its way to 1,000 copies sold by the end of its third month on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. He then made the decision to expand the series with several more short stories, and soon found international popularity as a result of his refined talent in the genre and an open attitude to his work, which has been directly attributed to a rise in self-publishing.”

Children’s Books, Too

Let’s not leave out the children. Author Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin wrote The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep and released it as a self-published work. The book gained attention for its unique narrative style that was designed to help children fall asleep. (Parents, you know you’d buy that. Every little bit helps!)

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep became a bestseller in 2014 and received a bunch of media coverage.

And long before Amazon’s KDP was even the faintest idea—way back in 1901—Beatrix Potter self-published the now classic children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It went on to become one of the most beloved and best-selling children’s books of all time. And it was self-published… That’s pretty cool!

These are just a few of the examples of famous self-published books. There are so many more that could have been included.

But did you also know that there are smaller self-publishers around the world who are making real money from their work? They might not be big names (yet!), but they’re making big dollars. And they’re developing passive income streams to build the life of their dreams.

If you’ve ever wondered if success was within your reach, we’re going to give you some real-life examples to show you that anyone can make money in self-publishing.

Dream Big

Everyday People Building Their Dreams

Let’s take a look at just three examples of people who started just like you. People who had an idea, combined with the motivation and passion to pursue their dreams.

Shannon Warner took our Publishing.com course on how to make money with Amazon’s KDP and released her book Wild Edible Plants in the Mid-Atlantic Region: Locate, Identify, Store and Prepare Wild Plants. Shannon makes about $800 a month in passive income from the sale of just this one book. Her book is ranked #50 in Amazon’s book category “Mushrooms in Biological Sciences,” #102 in the category “Natural Food Cooking” and #151 in “Hiking & Camping Instructional Guides.”

Pretty good for a self-published book with no fancy and big-name publishing house funding and marketing it!

Carli Jeffrey also took our course and self-published the book Repairing the Heartbreak of Pet Loss Grief: 3 Phases of Healing after Losing Your Best Friend. Carli’s book is ranked #15 in the category “Pet Loss Grief,” #34 in “Animal & Pet Care Essays” and #162 in “Grief and Bereavement.”

Ranking 162 in this last category might not seem like a big deal, but just think about how many books are out there on grief.

This is a huge accomplishment and Carli is bringing in about $1,300 a month from her book. And it’s totally passive income, meaning it’s income that comes in while you’re sleeping. Now that she wrote and published it, all she has to do is sit back and enjoy the fruits of her labor.

One more student success story.

Aurora Bloom wrote, produced and self-published Gut Health for Women: 6 Tips to Heal Your Gut, Optimize Digestion, Reduce Stress, and Balance Your Hormones Naturally. Her book has 137 ratings from readers around the world and an average of 4.7 stars out of 5.

And wait for it … Amber makes an average of $10,000 a month. Incredible!

Remember. These are people who never wrote a book. They took our course, published a book and started earning real profits.

You can do it, too!

Add Your Name to the List!

Imagine five years from now. What if you could look back and say this was the time in your life when everything started? When you took a new direction in your journey and started taking action toward building your dream life?

What if, five years from now, you could add your name to the list of self-publishing success stories?

Anything’s possible! It’s 2023, baby, and the Internet has opened up so many amazing possibilities for people to live the life they’ve always hoped for.

Wouldn’t it be an incredible feeling to put in your resignation letter at your 9-to-5 job? Wouldn’t it feel great to know you had multiple income streams giving you the ability to live as a digital nomad, working from anywhere in the world?

All this is possible. With the right education, creativity, some elbow grease and persistence, you can do it.

But it starts with educating yourself. That’s why we’ve created a free webinar that walks you through the steps to building an online publishing business.

Don’t put this off. Bet on yourself and change your future!

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