6 Inspiring Self-Publishing Success Stories (That Aren’t ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’)

Carson Mell’s Saguaro may well be the best originally self-published title to come out this year. Thanks to the folks at Electric Literature, the book finally has a more traditional publisher, and is available now for your reading pleasure.


We invited Mell to give us a rundown of his favorite titles that were originally self-published — and asked him to please leave out Fifty Shades of Grey if at all possible.

Here’s how he responded:

When I finished writing my first novel, Saguaro in 2006, I was proud of it. I was happy with it, and I wanted more than anything to share it with the world. I even managed to find a literary agent. But no one wanted to publish it. Here I was, having finally written something that I liked, but was told I wouldn’t be sharing it with the world, at least by traditional means. So I self-published it. I found a cheap printer, printed up 250 copies, and sold them over the course of a year. Lots and lots of trips to the post office. But it was worth it. Some of the people who bought the book — strangers — wrote me emails telling me they liked it, that it’d touched them. Those emails made me, for lack of a better word, feel like a “real” writer. I didn’t make much of a profit, but enough to print more copies. I sold out of those as well, and eventually found a publisher to work with to make the book available to a larger audience. But the priceless confidence I gained from printing the book, and hearing back from people who enjoyed it, I owe to self-publishing. When I finished my second novel, The Blue Bourbon Orchestra, I had a bigger, more respected lit agent. We sent it out to every major publisher. Again, nobody wanted to publish it. So I self-published again.

I’m at work on a third novel, and I would have no problem whatsoever if I have to self-publish it again. It’s almost become a part of my artistic process. Below are six awesome self-published works that wouldn’t have reached their audience had their creators not taken that final step to get the work to their readers.