10 Self-Published Authors to Learn From

10 self-published authors

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It’s no secret that I love indie books. As the BookBaby Bookshop and BookBaby Reads blog editor, I spend a lot of time reading self-published titles, writing about them, and interviewing indie authors. BookBaby authors and their books both challenge and inspire me in different ways every day.

First, let’s establish what it means to self-publish a book. Self-publishing is when an author publishes their work without a traditional publisher. As a result, the author has control over all creative decisions, costs, and promotion. For clarity’s sake, remember that the terms indie, independent, and self-published can be used interchangeably.

You may wonder — How did you become so interested in indie books? It’s a valid question; fundamentally, my answer comes down to a pursuit of genuine and authentic content. No outside voices from traditional publishing houses can influence how an indie author tells their story. For that reason, indie books can be remarkably creative, personal, and meaningful.

For years, a stigma surrounded self-published books. Readers questioned the prestige of any title that did not come from the traditional publishing machine. But times are changing. In fact, the entire publishing industry is experiencing a revolution. Authors are learning that traditional publishing is not the only — or best — way to success.

Traditional publishing serves as part of the massive and diverse ecosystem of authors. On the other side of the aisle, readers are undergoing a similar sense of enlightenment and are diving headfirst into the wonderful world of indie books.

Myths surrounding self-publishing

There are plenty of myths surrounding self-publishing. Most are based on antiquated assumptions and naivety.

Myth #1: It’s less prestigious

Throughout the publishing industry’s long history, traditional publishing has been the gatekeeper of prestige. Why? Because for years, that was the most feasible (aka only) way to professionally publish and and distribute a book to readers worldwide. But times have changed. Now, companies like BookBaby offer all the resources authors need for a complete and professional publication: book editing, cover design, interior formatting, book marketing, bulk printing, eBook and audiobook conversion, and global distribution.

The self-publishing industry is evolving into a wonderful place where authors are empowered to choose the most beneficial option for their specific circumstances. It’s no longer about what is most prestigious; it’s about what is most practical.

Myth #2: It’s not as profitable

This myth is easy to dispel thanks to an abundance of data demonstrating how lucrative self-publishing can be. The most successful self-published authors are in an excellent financial position.

Traditionally published authors typically earn 12-20 percent in book royalties. When you work with a traditional publishing house, there are a lot of hands in the cookie jar. As a result, years of author earnings reports show that the number of indie authors earning five-to-six figures a year in book royalties is higher than the number of authors from the Big 5 publishing houses (Penguin Random House, Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster).

When you self-publish, there are fewer hands in the cookie jar, so the royalty rates are significantly higher. While traditionally published authors receive between 12-20 percent in book royalties, self-published authors earn up to 50 percent on print books, 85 percent on eBooks, and 70 percent on audiobooks. Self-publishing is a lucrative endeavor if done right. That’s why more authors are electing to remain independent instead of partnering with large publishing houses.

Myth #3: The standards are lower

There are millions of books in the market, and yes, some self-published books are poorly written and have bad book cover design. But they are not representative of this massive market. Authors now have access to the same level of quality in editing, cover design, and formatting with self-publishing as they do with traditional publishing.

Companies like BookBaby have set a new standard, so that the only way of knowing the publishing method is by checking the ISBN.

10 famous self-published authors

The Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Book LaunchBy this point, I hope you understand why self-published authors find themselves in an advantageous position. A self-published author is the CEO of an emerging business with full creative control, and if you work with BookBaby, you have a staff of dedicated employees on hand to help execute your product’s production and distribution.

But don’t just take it from me. Some prolific and well-known authors have taken advantage of being independent.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s claim to fame is her best-selling novel turned television series, The Handmaid’s Tale. But she also is a self-published author. Her most notable self-published book is her poetry collection, Double Persephone.

Beatrix Potter

Her writing is now considered iconic and timeless, but Beatrix Potter once struggled to reach a deal with a traditional publisher. Frustrated by rejection, she self-published her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

L. Frank Baum

Everybody knows The Wizard of Oz. But does everybody know that author L. Frank Baum self-published three books? He did indeed!

Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s work is cemented into the American literary canon. Interestingly, Twain was relatively famous when he elected to self-publish. Frustrated with previous publishers, he decided to be his own publisher. Making this bold decision in 1884, he was clearly ahead of his time. One of his most famous books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is self-published.

Andy Weir

Any Weir is a recent self-publishing success story. Weir’s science fiction novel, The Martian, was initially self-published in serial form on his website. His reading list grew and, eventually, his book became a best-seller and film that starred Matt Damon.

EL James

EL James is yet another self-published author who secured a movie deal. Her erotic romance Fifty Shades of Grey was initially a self-published work of fanfiction for Twilight that went on to become a massive best-seller.

Stephen King

Stephen King is one of our generation’s highest-grossing authors, and he began his career by self-publishing. The “King of Horror” self-published People, Places, and Things back in 1960.

Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki has sold over 40 million copies of his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad. After being turned down by several publishers in New York, he elected to self-publish it. Months later, his book became an international best-seller.

Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini started writing the now-famous young adult series, Eragon, when he was just fifteen years old. He self-published it when he was nineteen and now has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.

Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey was working a day job while writing Wool, now a New York Times best-selling science fiction novel. Seeking creative control, Howey began self-publishing it in eBook format through Kindle Direct Publishing. Today, his book series has taken the world by storm.

What we can learn from self-publishing authors

These iconic authors didn’t achieve success and notoriety by chance. If you’re planning to self-publish your book, you might look at these ten authors and wonder, What did they do right?

Prioritize project management

Project management… sounds like another day at the office, right? Basically, this means that you make strategic decisions about your book from day one. Before writing the manuscript, you should already have an idea of who your target audience will be. Answer the question, Who will be reading this book and how can I motivate them to invest their time and money into it?

Free guide offer for Promote Then PublishRemember, as an indie author, your audience means everything. This needs to be a story you believe in and there also needs to be a dedicated group excited to support it. Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, you can strategize how to tell the story.

After completing your manuscript, you should invest time and resources into the logistical side of the aisle — the cover design, the layout, the metadata, the release date, etc. The most successful self-published authors manage every part of the self-publishing process with strategy and purpose.

Think of your book as a small business — you’re starting a grassroots effort to grow it into something special. When you prioritize project management for your new self-publishing business, you will deliver value to your readers. Every successful self-published author applied these processes and methods to their own projects with wonderful results.


The goal is to achieve a positive return on your investment. Successful self-published authors are mindful of costs and what levels of effort are required to cover them and earn a profit. Obviously, you should be mindful of spending — but go deeper than that. Do comparative market research to determine your book’s price. Then, take advantage of opportunities to earn the highest royalty rate — like selling your book on BookBaby Bookshop.

Market and advertise

You might have written the next great American novel, but it won’t matter if you don’t market it. Behind every successful author is a successful marketing campaign. There are many tools at your disposal — particularly social media and now platforms like TikTok. Remember, you cannot market your book without knowing your audience. Always remain connected to your core group of supporters.


Last but certainly not least — you must communicate with your readers. Best-selling indie authors do this through newsletters, social media, and in-person events. In our post-pandemic society, I find in-person events to be a powerful way to connect with readers in an intimate, personal manner. Authors — especially those who are building their brand — absolutely must build relationships with readers. Over time, this grows into a dedicated audience.

Start your journey with BookBaby

It’s an exciting time to be a writer and a reader. If you are a writer looking to share your work with the world and be a part of the self-publishing revolution, you can start your journey today. Our team is here to support you no matter where you are in the writing process.

If you already have a print book available, consider self-publishing an audiobook and reach even more readers! Visit the BookBaby website and take advantage of our free resources and learn more about our services.

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  1. Getting a book published by an independent publisher and self publishing are two very different things. While I understand the benefits of blurring these two categories in order to promote your business, from my perspective, that’s really not very honest. Thank you.


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