Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

November 6, 2012

Best Sellers that Were Originally Self-Published

Filed under: Frank Remarks,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 10:11 AM

Can self-publishing make you a famous author? It’s possible. Many famous books were self-published by the author.

Here are some that did.

• What Color is Your Parachute by Episcopal clergymen Richard Nelson Bolles.
22 editions, 6 million copies, 11 languages and 288 weeks on the New York
Times bestseller list. Now published by Ten Speed Press.
• 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.
• 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. More than 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.

• 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. More than
5.5 million copies have been sold.
• The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson sold more
than 20,000 copies locally before they sold out to William Morrow. It has now
sold more than 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.

• A Time to Kill by John Grisham. He sold his first work out of the trunk of his

• Red Sky in Mourning by Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Susea McGearhart was
self-published and then sold to Hyperion for an estimated $500,000.
• Stephen King self-published an eBook titled The Plant and sold it online for

• The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer was self-published in 1931 as a project
of the First Unitarian Women’s Alliance in St. Louis. Today Scribners sells
more than 100,000 copies each year.
• How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir has sold 2.3 million copies
since 1969 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 publisher her future
• 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 was rejected by 49 publishers so she
self-published and sold 300,000 copies. She sold out to Bantam and they sold
8 million more. Since then, she has written 23 more books.
• 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
• 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. More
than 5 million copies were sold.
• The Jester Has Lost His Jingle by Barbara Salzman was turned down by
eight publishers. The glossy hardcover book made it to The New York Times
Bestsellers list.

BTW: Here are some famous books and how many rejections notices they received:
Dr. Seuss – 23 rejections
M*A*S*H – 22 rejections
Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections. It was first published in three articles in Private Pilot magazine.
The Peter Principle – 16



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