How Three Self-Published Authors Found Mainstream Success

self-published author

Of course, not every self-published author is going to hit the bestseller list. But, you have a better chance if you apply some of the lessons taught by those who have.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Updated March 2023.

Although it seems like a pipe dream to many self-published authors, over the last few decades, a variety of independent writers have gone on to experience mainstream success on a big scale.

Mike Omer

Mike Omer is a relatively unknown author who, over the course of Amazon’s “Prime Day” last July, sold more books than industry heavyweights like J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, and Stephen King. He did this with the first in his Zoe Bentley mysteries, a book called A Killer’s Mind.

A 40-year-old Israeli computer engineer and self-published author, Omer found initial success with his first eBook, Spider’s Web, and its sequels. Those sales caught the attention of Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint, which signed Omer to a distribution deal. In fact, it was Thomas & Mercer that published A Killer’s Mind.

Omer later told The Atlantic that he now makes more money from his books than he ever did as a computer engineer.

Andy Weir

Another example you may be more familiar with is Andy Weir. Weir initially failed to sell his first book, The Martian, so he began posting free chapters of it on his personal website. Later, he put a 99¢ version on Kindle. By 2013, the book had become so popular that Weir received an offer from Crown Publishing to buy the book for $100,000.

Meredith Wild

Meredith Wild, meanwhile, wrote the erotic Hacker novels, a series that follows young businesswoman Erica Hathaway and her relationship with billionaire and rumored hacker, Blake Landon.

Wild self-published the series’ first four books before scoring a $7 million publishing deal with Grand Central Publishing’s “Forever” imprint. The series has gone on to sell well over one million eBooks and over 200,000 print-on-demand trade paperbacks.

Examples of this sort of self-publishing success are numerous. But the question for those seeking the same is, how did these authors do it?

The three P’s

There are, ultimately, three components every successful independent author possesses. Here at BookBaby, we call them the three Ps.

Professionalism. By definition, self-published authors must invest in the content, design, and packaging of their books. That means hiring a professional editor to thoroughly work the manuscript. Next comes a book formatting expert to enhance the reading experience with an attractive book layout, be it a printed book or an eBook. And finally, your book deserves the services of a professional graphic designer for the cover. If you want success, your self-published book must look and present itself as professionally as the best sellers from the big publishing houses.

Platform. All authors need to have some kind of marketing platform from which to launch their online literary careers. That platform should exist primarily online, as nearly 80 percent of all books are purchased through online retail sites or direct-to-author pages. From Twitter and Facebook, to blogs and BookShop pages, independent authors need to cultivate a captivating online presence.

Perspiration. Finally, good old-fashioned sweat goes a long way in the successful promotion of a book. Very few books ever get picked up in a viral storm of sales. Successful self-published authors understand how much energy is needed to adequately promote their work.

How self-published authors find success

This might seem like a lot, but the authors who follow this formula garner more widespread success. In fact, the success of Weir, Omer, and Wild might not have been possible via traditional publishing.

This is evidenced by the data. According to, independent publishers are gaining readers as quickly as traditional publishers are losing them. The self-published share of paid US eBook units increased from 44.7 percent to 46.4 percent between 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, the traditionally published share of paid eBook units decreased from 45.5 percent to 43.2 percent.

It used to be quite rare for a self-published author to experience breakout sales. Every few years, the public might hear about some unknown author zooming up the best-seller lists like the occasional comet in the sky. But it was far from common.

Now, that’s all changed. In 2017, 284 of the top 1,000 best-selling eBooks in the US were written by independent authors. Not all are as famous now as Weir, Wild, or Omer, but they’re busy writing and selling books and building a career.

At the end of the day, not every independent author is going to hit the bestseller list, but you have a better chance if you apply some of the lessons taught by those who have.

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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and President Emeritus of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self-publishing service provider. After a successful career with companies including Mattel, Hasbro, and Pinnacle Orchards, Steven joined AVL Digital in 2004 as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. The native Oregonian was tapped to lead BookBaby, the company’s new publishing division, in late 2014. BookBaby’s growing book-printing operation is located outside Philadelphia, PA, and employs over 100 book-publishing experts across the United States to meet the printed and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Steven retired as brand President in 2022 and continues to contribute via weekly emails, industry guides, and posts on the BookBaby blog. He’s in the process of relocating full-time to southern France in early 2023. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


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