While there were several successful self-published authors in the 20th century, one notable example is Richard Bach. He self-published his novella "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" in 1970, which became a massive bestseller. The book’s philosophical and inspirational themes resonated with readers, and it quickly gained a cult following. The story of a seagull named Jonathan who seeks to transcend the limitations of his flock and achieve spiritual enlightenment struck a chord with many people.
"Jonathan Livingston Seagull" went on to sell millions of copies worldwide and spent years on bestseller lists. It is often considered a symbol of the self-help and New Age movements of the time. The success of the book led to its adaptation into a feature film and a soundtrack album.
Richard Bach's self-publishing success story with "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is a testament to the potential for self-published works to achieve widespread acclaim and recognition.
Here are three more successful self-published authors of the 20th century.
Anais Nin: Anais Nin was a prolific diarist and writer known for her intimate and provocative journals that documented her personal and artistic life. She self-published her early diaries, which contained frank and exploratory reflections on her relationships, experiences, and self-discovery. These diaries gained a huge following and were eventually published by mainstream publishers, contributing to Nin's reputation as a significant figure in literary circles.
E.L. James: In the late 2000s, E.L. James self-published the erotic romance novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" as an e-book. The novel gained immense popularity and quickly became a cultural phenomenon, eventually leading to a major publishing deal and a highly successful series. While E.L. James gained prominence in the 21st century, her initial self-publishing success began in the late 20th century.
Irma Rombauer: In 1931, Irma Rombauer self-published "The Joy of Cooking," a comprehensive cookbook that offered practical recipes and cooking advice for the home cook. The book's warm and approachable style, coupled with its wide range of recipes, resonated with readers. Over the years, "The Joy of Cooking" has gone through numerous editions and updates, becoming a staple in kitchens around the world.
These authors, along with Richard Bach, exemplify the potential for self-published works to achieve significant success and impact in the literary world.