Spartacus by Howard Fast was a best seller and a blockbuster movie was self published.
Bestselling Canadian author Margaret Atwood self-published her first volume of poetry Double Persephone in 1961.
Richard N. Bolles originally self-published What Color Is Your Parachute
Before selling rights to Putnam, Julia Cameron self-published her bestselling The Artist's Way. The book has sold more than a million copies now.
Deepak Chopra vanity published his first book and then sold the rights to Crown Publishing. The book went on to become the first of many New York Times bestsellers for this author.
British journalist Stephen Clarke originally self-published in France his travel adventures, A Year in the Merde.
American poet e.e. cummings self-published No Thanks, a volume of poetry financed by his mother. On the half-title page, he listed the thirteen publishers who had rejected the book, which became one of his classics.
In 1933, Charles Darrow invented the game of Monopoly. Parker Brothers had originally rejected the game because of “52 design flaws,” so Darrow produced the game himself and quickly sold 5,000 games to a Philadelphia department store. Okay, it is not a book but I thought it was interesting.
Mary Janice Davidson began by publishing her romance novels as e-books at www.ellorascave.com. A friend of hers brought her novels to the attention of an editor at Berkley, who liked one of them enough (Undead and Unwed) to offer a three-book deal.
French novelist Alexandre Dumas, author of such swashbuckling romances as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, self-published some of his first books.
Nobel Prize-winning poet T.S. Eliot, author of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land, paid for the publication of his first book.
At the age of 26, Ben Franklin, using the pen name of Richard Saunders, self-published his Poor Richard's Almanack in 1732 and continued to produce the almanac for another 26 years.
Greg Godek sold more than 750,000 copies of his 1001 Ways to Be Romantic before selling the rights to Sourcebooks Trade.
Zane Grey, the father of the adult western novel, originally self-published. His first successful novel, The Heritage of the Desert, earned enough money that he was able to move his family to California from Ohio.
British novelist Thomas Hardy, author of such classics as Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, paid for the publication of his first book.
Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, author of such classics as The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls, paid for the publication of his first book.
In 1958, Clifton Hillegass borrowed $4,000 to self-publish a guide for Shakespeare's Hamlet. He sold 58,000 copies of the first Cliff Notes in that year. He went on to publish hundreds of Cliff Notes booklets that high school and college students came to rely on for helping them to study and write reports. He eventually sold his company to John Wiley for millions of dollars.
In 1968, after taking eight years to write his novel about the Korean War and after getting more than a dozen rejection letters, Capt. Richard Hornberger chose to self-publish M*A*S*H under his pen name of Richard Hooker. In 1970, his novel was made into a movie, with a screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. and directed by Robert Altman. The movie was the third highest-grossing film of 1970.
Irish author James Joyce, author of Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, and many other novels, paid for the printing of Ulysses in 1922 with the help of bookseller Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Company in Paris, France, and some of their friends (this is called patronage or subscription publishing). Beach contacted writers and arts patrons throughout Europe pre-selling copies of the novel. When they collected enough money, they published the book.
Robert Kiyosaki sold more than a million copies of his self-published Rich Dad, Poor Dad in less than three years.
Todd McFarlane formed Image Comics with six fellow artists and proceeded to self-publish the Spawn comic book in 1992. The first issue sold 1.7 million copies!
Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly & Associates, started out as a self-publisher of books on UNIX. He now runs the fourth largest trade computer book publisher, which grew out of his self-publishing efforts.
In 1776, Thomas Paine self-published Common Sense, a 46-page pamphlet that sold over 500,000 copies and helped to draw more people to fight for the American Revolution.
18-year-old Christopher Paolini self-published the first book of his fantasy trilogy, Eragon, with the aid of his parents in February 2002. He spent a year hawking the book at various festivals, schools, and bookstores, often selling 100 or more copies. When the book began attracting a lot of attention, Paolini sold rights to the entire trilogy to Knopf Books for Young Readers in a major deal worth half a million dollars. These books are intricate and amazing high fantasy so I was blown away to read he had self-published the first book!
Business consultant Tom Peters self-published In Search of Excellence and sold more than 25,000 copies directly to consumers in the first year. He then sold the rights to Warner, whose edition has gone on to sell more than 10 million copies.
When publisher Frederick Warne rejected The Tale of Peter Rabbit because of the costs of printing the illustrations, Beatrix Potter self-published a limited edition of 250 copies in 1901.
James Redfield sold over 80,000 copies of his self-published book, The Celestine Prophecy, from the trunk of his Honda and then sold the reprint rights to Warner Books for $800,000! The book, the #1 bestseller in 1996, has gone on to sell 5.5 million copies.
Irma Rombauer used $3,000 from her husband's estate to self-publish The Joy of Cooking in 1931. Since then, this cookbook has sold millions of copies.
M.J. Rose self-published an erotic thriller called Lip Service. Within three months, it became Amazon.com's highest ranked self-published novel. In 1999, it became the first self-published novel acquired by the Literary Guild book club. A few weeks later, after a heated auction, the hardcover rights were bought by Simon & Schuster for its Pocket Books imprint.