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Famous Self-Publishing Authors: Past and Present

The Alliance of Independent Authors is compiling a list of famous self-publishing authors: past and present (see below). If you know anyone who should be on this list, please write to us and let us know.

Though it took technology to spread it to the masses, self-publishing has a long in 1797 Austen tried to self publishand distinguished history, as this anecdote from Alison Baverstock's book The Naked Author: A Guide To Self-Publishing illustrates:

In 1797, a manuscript was submitted to a London publisher by the proud father of an unknown author. First Impressions, a three-volume novel. was offered for private publication; the writer's family would pay… to mitigate the publisher's financial risk. The publishing house turned it down. Revised and renamed, it was finally published fourteen years later to good reviews… [and is] today… a cornerstone of English literature.

She is talking, of course, of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

These writers fall into many different categories:

  • Writers whose self-published book failed at first, only to achieve belated recognition
  • Writers who put out earlier unpublished works themselves, when they become successful
  • Writers who published their book(s) as part of their day job
  • Writers who self-published unusual books considered not to have wide commercial appeal before hitting it big
  • Writers who didn't become famous for their self-publishing titles, but for other books, later
  • Writers whose work supported their family's publishing press
  • Writers who were later picked up by trade publishing corporations

We're not suggesting that by self-publishing a book that you will instantly join this pantheon of literary greats. We compile this list as a riposte to those who suggest that self-publishing is nothing more than vanity. It proves that self-publishing is something that sincere and dedicated, talented and literary writers have always done, even when it was far more challenging than it is today.

Famous Self-Publishing Authors: The List


Here are some of the more famous self-publishing authors:

  • Margaret Atwood
  • Frank Baum
  • William Blake
  • Ken Blanchard
  • Robert Bly
  • Beatrix Potter
  • Alfred, Lord Byron
  • Willa Cather
  • Julia Cameron
  • Pat Conroy
  • Stephen Crane
  •  e.e. cummings
  • Charles Dickens
  • Roddy Doyle
  • W.E.B. DuBois
  • Alexander Dumas
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Lisa Geova
  • Zane Grey
  • Thomas Hardy
  • E. Lynn Harris
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Robinson Jeffers
  • Spencer Johnson
  • James Joyce
  • Rupi Kaur
  • Stephen King
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Louis L'Amour
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • Rod McKuen
  • Marlo Morgan
  • William Morris
  • John Muir
  • Anais Nin
  • Thomas Pain
  • James Patterson
  • Tom Peters
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Alexander Pope
  • Beatrix Potter
  • Sergio De La Pava
  • Ezra Pound
  • Marcel Proust
  • Irma Rombauer
  • JK Rowling
  • Carl Sandburg
  • Robert Service
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • Upton Sinclair
  • Arthur Schopenhauer
  • Gertrude Stein
  • William Strunk
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Mark Twain
  • Andy Weir
  • Walt Whitman
  • Virginia Woolf
  • WB Yeats

Do you know any other indie authors of old that we could add to the list? Tell their story in the comments box below.


This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. Self-publishing has empowered many authors to share their stories with the world. Past authors like Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf self-published some of their works, challenging traditional publishing norms. Today, authors like Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking have found immense success through self-publishing, inspiring countless others to follow suit.

  2. Don’t forget Arthur Schopenhauer. His mother, who was a well published scholar, used to mock her son asking him how his book (published through the 18th century equivalent of a vanity press), The World as Will and Idea was doing. Today it’s considered one of the classics of philosophy!

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