Stories of Self-Publishing Success

by John L. Hodge
BEATRIX POTTER: The Tale of Peter Rabbit has sold around 45 million copies since it was first published in 1901, making it one of the best sellers in history. But when Beatrix Potter, its author, tried to publish it, she was turned down by every publisher she approached. Some publishers recommended changes. But Ms. Potter knew what the book should look like and ignored the publishers’ recommendations. So she published the book herself, printing 250 copies for distribution to family and friends. A year later, Frederick Warne & Company published it. But it was her uncompromised self-published edition that started it all.
MARK TWAIN: If you do not like your publisher, create your own.
Mark Twain already had publishers. But he did not like them. They were too greedy and sometimes too slow. So he set up his own publishing company to publish his works. He named it Charles L. Webster and Company after his niece’s husband, whom Twain hired to run it. One of his company’s first published books was the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his most popular book and considered to be one of the Great American Novels.
MARGARET ATWOOD: Margaret Atwood’s chilling novel The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, has sold over 8 million copies and has formed the basis of a film, a television series, an opera and a ballet. In addition, she has published more than sixty works of fiction, essays, and poetry, and she has won numerous prestigious prizes. Her writing career began in 1961 with “Double Persephone,” a self-published booklet of seven poems contained in 16 pages. She couldn’t be bothered with looking for a publisher or an agent. She designed the cover and printed 220 copies herself with a flatbed press. There are still used copies of the original publication selling for thousands of dollars.