Top Self-Published Authors

We discovered a great list of some of the most famous self-published authors.  We bolded a few of our favorites:  

  • What Color is Your Parachute by Episcopal clergymen Richard Nelson Bolles. 22 editions, 5 million copies and 288 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Now published by Ten Speed Press.at first brought them to the attention of the world.
  • The Beanie Baby Handbook by Lee and Sue Fox sold three million copies in two years and made #2 on the New York Time Bestseller list.
  • In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. Over 25,000 copies were sold directly to consumers in its first year. Then it was sold to Warner and the publisher sold 10 million more.
  • Real Peace — Richard Nixon in 1983.
  • The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. His manuscript made the rounds of the mainstream houses and then he decided to publish himself. He started by selling copies out of the trunk of his Honda — over 100,000 of them. He subsequently sold out to Warner Books for $800,000. The number-one bestseller in 1996, it spent 165 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list. Over 5.5 million copies have been sold.
  • The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson sold over 20,000 copies locally before they sold out to William Morrow. It has now sold over 12 million copies since 1982 and is in 25 languages.
  • Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth spent seven months on the New York Times bestseller list and sold 4.5 million copies in its original and premium editions.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White) was originally self-published for his classes at Cornell University in 1918.
  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham. He sold his first work out of the trunk of his car.
  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer was self-published in 1931. Today Scribners sells more than 100,000 copies each year.
  • How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir sold over 2 million copies and led to the establishment of a publishing company.
  • Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun by Wess Roberts sold 486,000 copies before selling out to Warner Books.
  • Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie spent 76 weeks on the New York Times Hardcover Bestseller List, 123 weeks on the Paperback List and was sold to Bantam Books for $1.5 million. The audio rights brought in another $100,000. Then she established Onjinjinkta Publishing to publish her future projects.
  • Sugar Busters! by four Louisiana doctors and a former CEO sold 165,000 copies regionally in just a year and a half. Then they sold out to Ballantine Books.
  • The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton has sold over a million copies in Canada (second only to the Bible in Canada) and two million in the US.
  • When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple has been through the press 42 times for 1.5 million in print. It allowed Sanda Haldeman Martz to build Paper Mâché Press.
  • Mary Ellen’s Best of Helpful Hints by Mary Ellen Pinkham became a bestseller and then she sold out to Warner Books.
  • The Macintosh Bible by Arthur Naiman has become the best-selling book on Apple products with over 900,000 sold.
  • Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard has been in print more than 45 years, 20 million copies are in print and it has been translated into 22 languages. The book started a movement and later a church.
  • Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan sold 370,000 copies before it was sold to HarperCollins for $1.7 million. It was sold to two book clubs and the foreign rights were sold to 14 countries.
  • Feed Me, I’m Yours by Vicky Lansky sold 300,000 copies. She sold out to Bantam and they sold 8 million more.
  • The Encyclopedia of Associations by Frederick Ruffner led to the establishment of Gale Research Company, with 500 employees.
  • The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches. Joe Karbo never sold out and never courted bookstores. He sold millions of his books via full-page ads in newspapers and magazines.
  • The Christmas Box by Rick Evans. The 87-page book took him six weeks to write. He published it and promoted it himself. It did so well he sold out to Simon & Schuster for $4.2 million. It hit the top of the Publishers Weekly bestseller list and was translated into 13 Languages.
  • Twelve Golden Threads by Aliske Webb was rejected by 150 publishers. After self-publishing and selling 25,000 copies, she signed a four-book contract with HarperCollins.
  • Life’s Little Instruction Book was initially self-published by H. Jackson Brown. Then it was purchased by Rutledge Hill Press. It made the top of the New York Times Bestseller List in hardcover and soft at the same time. Over 5 million copies were sold.
  • The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by David Salzman was turned down by eight publishers. The glossy hardcover book made it to The New York Times Bestseller list.
  • Let’s Cook Microwave by Barbara Harris sold over 700,000 copies.
  • Juggling for the Complete Klutz by John Cassidy has sold over two million copies and it led to the establishment of Klutz Press with over 50 award-winning books.
  • Ben Dominitz published Travel Free and then founded Prima Publishing. Prima now has 1,500 titles, 140 employees and does $60 million a year.
  • How to Flatten Your Stomach by Jim Everrode was self-published before he sold out to Price\Stern\Sloan. Since then, the book has sold over two million copies.

Other well-known authors who started as self-publishers include:

  • Deepak Chopra
  • Louise Hay
  • Mark Twain
  • Ken Keyes, Jr.
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Zane Grey
  • Upton Sinclair
  • Carl Sandburg
  • James Joyce
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • Ezra Pound
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Stephen Crane
  • Mary Baker Eddy
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Anais Nin
  • Thomas Paine
  • Virginia Woolf
  • E.E. Cummings
  • William Blake
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Walt Whitman
  • Alexandre Dumas
  • William E.B. DuBois
  • Robert Ringer

This list was compiled by Dan Poynter of Para Publishing and the author of The Self-Publishing Manual.

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