A short story of self-published hits like Michael Winker’s Grimmish

From Beatrix Potter to Marcel Proust, these authors have managed to find a large audience, despite the upturned noses of publishers.

(Image: Private Media)
(Image: Private Media)

Michael Winkler’s novel sinister became the first self-published book to be shortlisted for Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award. The phrase “self-published novel” has a certain flavor of illusion, but a look at the best (or at least the most successful) self-published efforts shows that this is not (always) the case.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Beatrix Potter’s illustrated tale of a mischievous rabbit and her family was initially turned down by publishers in 1901, in part due to Potter’s initial opposition to coloring her characters. A revised version, apparently featuring “dreadful didactic verse” by the wonderfully named Hardwicke Rawnsley (he would find fame, among other things, for co-founding the UK National Trust) fared little better. She privately published a run of 250 copies, which sold out – one copy ending up in the home of Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame.

Eventually, she reneged on her belief that the book should be in black and white, and it was commercially published. It sold tens of thousands of copies when it first aired and was a pioneer in associating merchandising with a character. Potter was reluctant to the idea of ​​a Disney adaptation: “They propose to use cartoons; it seems that a succession of characters can be juggled to give the impression of movement. I don’t think the images would be satisfactory …II don’t care!” We’re sure she would have been much happier with the 2018 adaptation featuring a CGI Peter voiced by James Corden.

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