9 Best Indie Authors Who Will Inspire You to Begin Writing

Discover our guide to the nine best indie authors who will entertain you and inspire you with their grit and tenaciousness!

These best indie authors have gained success through self-publishing, either by releasing their books directly to the market or through print-on-demand and e-book platforms. Their success is inspirational, no matter what time period they lived in. These authors, including the legendary Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe, demonstrate that self-publishing has a long history and that even some of the greatest writers have taken this route to get their work into the world. If you’re interested in this, you might also enjoy our round-up of the best romance authors!

Here Are The Best Indie Authors

1. Edgar Allen Poe, 1809 – 1849

Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Most people are familiar with the works of Edgar Allen Poe, but few know that he was one of the earliest indie authors. Poe was born into difficult circumstances. His father abandoned his mother and sibling when he was only one year old. A year later, his mother perished with tuberculosis. Poe was reared by a couple named John and Frances Allan in Richmond, VA, who cared for him into adulthood.

Poe had to cut short his college education after a year because John Allan had gambled away Poe’s tuition money. Poe enlisted in the U.S. Army, during which time he self-published a collection of poems entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems, officially making him an indie author.

After a rocky time at West Point, where he eventually dropped out, he focused on becoming a writer. He proceeded to work for a series of periodicals and became known as a keen literary critic. He achieved acclaim with The Raven, which became nearly an overnight sensation. At the young age of 40, he died under mysterious circumstances, ironic since much of his work was dark and mysterious.

“And the deep thunder’s echoing roar came hurriedly upon me, telling of war, and tumult, where my voice, my own voice, silly child! was swelling.”

Edgar Allan Poe, Tamerlane and Other Poems
Tamerlane and Other Poems
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Poe, Edgar Allan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 46 Pages - 04/16/2016 (Publication Date)

2. Charles Dickens, 1812 – 1870

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Charles Dickens became a well-known and popular author in his mid-twenties. He wrote his first novelThe Pickwick Papers when he was just 24 years old, and the book was an instant success. It was serialized in a monthly magazine, and the public eagerly anticipated the publication of each new installment.

By the age of 31, Dickens was a well-known and popular author, but he was frustrated with how his publishers handled his works. He felt that they needed to give his books the attention and promotion they deserved and that he wasn’t receiving a fair share of the profits from their sales.

To retain more control over his work and ensure that he received a greater share of the profits, Dickens decided to self-publish A Christmas Carol. He paid for the printing and production costs and arranged for the book’s distribution. The book was an instant success, selling out its initial print run within a week and establishing Dickens as a major literary figure. Today, A Christmas Carol remains one of Dickens’s most popular and enduring works, and it continues to be a testament to the power and potential of self-publishing.

“God bless us everyone!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol - The Original Classic Story by Charles Dickens (Illustrated)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Dickens, Charles (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 02/15/2021 (Publication Date)

3. Mark Twain, 1835 – 1910

Mark Twain
Mark Twain via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Mark Twain was the pen name used by Samuel Clemens, born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri. Many of Twain’s works are based on his experiences as a youngster growing up in the south. Twain became a famous and financially successful writer, but his beginnings were modest. His first short story collection, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches was self-published.

Originally published as a short story in the New York Saturday Evening Post, the popularity of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County helped to establish Twain’s reputation as a humorist and storyteller. It also paved the way for publishing his other works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain lived a long and storied life, and his legacy lives on as one of the most talented literary geniuses ever.

“The feller took the box again, and took another long, particular look, and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate, “Well, I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog.”

Mark Twain, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Humorous Tales (Warbler Classics Annotated Edition)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Twain, Mark (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 110 Pages - 10/07/2022 (Publication Date) - Warbler Classics (Publisher)

4. Jane Austen, 1775 – 1817

Jane Austen
Jane Austen via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Jane Austen was born in Steventon, England. She was the seventh of eight children in her family and grew up in a close-knit, supportive home. Austen began writing at a young age, and she completed her first novelElinor and Marianne, by age 19. Elinor and Marianne was an early version of what would later become Sense and Sensibility.

However, Austen could not find a traditional publisher for her work, so she was forced to self-publish her final version of Sense and Sensibility in 1811. She paid for all the necessary expenses and sold the book directly to the public through her social network and ads she placed in the newspaper, to resounding success. Austen continued to write a series of successful and well-regarded novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma.

Many of Austen’s books have been made into movies, with multiple variations throughout the years. Austen was a prolific writer, and her works are known for their wit, humor, and social commentary. Her books are considered masterpieces of English literature and continue to be widely read and enjoyed by audiences worldwide. Austen died at 41, but her legacy lives on, and she is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of all time.

“By a former marriage, Mr. Henry Dashwood had one son: by his present lady, three daughters.”

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Sense And Sensibility
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Austen, Jane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 397 Pages - 07/17/2012 (Publication Date) - HarperPerennial Classics (Publisher)

5. J. A. Konrath, 1970 –

J. A. Konrath
J. A. Konrath via Wikipedia, Public Domain

J.A. Konrath is best known for his work in the thriller, horror, and mystery genres. He was born in Skokie, Illinois, and grew up in Chicago. Konrath began his writing career in the late 1990s. However, he decided to self-publish the work that earned him a reputation as an early pioneer of the indie author movement. Konrath was one of the first authors to embrace self-publishing as a viable alternative to the traditional publishing industry. He used his platform to advocate for the rights of self-published authors and promote the benefits of self-publishing.

He’s written under the pen name Jack Kilborn and his name, using his initials. Konrath’s books include Whisky Sour, Endurance, Shaken, and Old Fashioned. Konrath is known for his innovative approach to publishing and marketing and remains a vocal advocate for the power of self-publishing to reach audiences and create impact.

“Detective First Class Herb Benedict hunched over a plastic tarpaulin, lifting up the side against the wind. His coat was unbuttoned, and his expansive stomach poured over the sides of his belt as he bent down.”

J.A. Konrath, Whisky Sour
Whiskey Sour (Jack Daniels Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Konrath, J.A. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 298 Pages - 02/04/2013 (Publication Date)

6. E. L. James, 1963 –

E. L. James
E. L. James via Wikipedia, Public Domain

E.L. James is the pen name of Erika Mitchell, born in Middlesex, England. She’s best known for her Fifty Shades Trilogy of erotic romance novels. She was born in London, England, and grew up in the South East of England. James worked as a television executive and producer before she began writing. She initially self-published her Fifty Shades Trilogy through e-book platforms such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

The Fifty Shades Trilogy quickly became a global phenomenon, attracting a large and devoted following of readers. James admits that she was shocked at how popular the books became. Although there has been a barrage of criticisms regarding the quality of the writing, the books were later picked up by a traditional publisher and released in print, and have since been translated into multiple languages and adapted into films.

“So young and attractive, very attractive. He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper-colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes a moment for me to find my voice.”

J.A. Konrath, Whisky Sour
Fifty Shades Trilogy Bundle: Fifty Shades of Grey; Fifty Shades Darker; Fifty Shades Freed
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • James, E L (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1953 Pages - 04/17/2012 (Publication Date) - Bloom Books (Publisher)

7. Amanda Hocking, 1984 –

While working as a group home worker, Hocking authored seventeen books in her spare time. Hocking quit her job as a group home worker in 2010 and began self-publishing at 25. Since then, she’s authored more than twenty novels, some of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. She began self-publishing her novels as e-books in April 2010. Unprecedented for self-published writers, she sold over a million copies of her first nine novels and made two million dollars from sales by March 2011. Beginning in 2011, Hocking sold an average of 9,000 books each day.

Hocking’s self-published works, which include the Trylle Trilogy and the Watersong Trilogy, have been widely successful, and she has become one of the best-known and most successful indie authors of all time. Her success has earned her a reputation as a leading figure in the self-publishing community, and she’s inspired many other writers to pursue self-publishing as a viable alternative to the traditional publishing industry.

“By the time the guests arrived, I’d already ripped off my shoes and plucked the bows from my hair. My mother came down in the middle of opening gifts, surveying the scene with her icy blue eyes.”

Amanda Hocking, Trylle Trilogy
The Trylle Trilogy: Switched, Torn, and Ascend (A Trylle Novel)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Hocking, Amanda (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 724 Pages - 12/01/2013 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Griffin (Publisher)

8. Mark Dawson, 1975 –

Mark Dawson is a British author best known for his self-published works of mystery and thriller fiction. He was born in England and grew up in the country’s South East. Dawson worked as a lawyer before he began his writing career, and he self-published his first novel in 2011. Dawson’s self-published works have been widely successful, and he has established a reputation as one of his generation’s best-known and most successful indie authors.

He’s particularly known for his “John Milton” series of mystery thrillers, the first of which is The Cleaner. The series has been praised for its fast-paced action, complex characters, and gripping plot lines. In addition to his writing, Dawson is a well-known and respected figure in the self-publishing community. He has leveraged his platform to educate and inspire other writers. He is also the host of his podcast, “The Self Publishing Show.”

“The car slowed and turned in towards the Renault. Milton held his breath, his pulse ticking up, and slipped his index finger through the trigger guard of the rifle.”

Mark Dawson The Cleaner
The Cleaner (John Milton Series Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Dawson, Mark (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 344 Pages - 01/03/2014 (Publication Date) - Unputdownable (Publisher)

9. Rachel Abbott, 1952 –

Rachel Abbott
Rachel Abbott via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Rachel Abbott is a very successful indie author born in Manchester, England. Before her writing career took off, she worked for an interactive media firm, which she founded, developing websites and software for the educational market. Highly skilled, she sold the company in 2000 for an estimated five million pounds, British sterling. A decade later, faced with multiple rejection letters for her first novelOnly the Innocent, Abbott decided to self-publish on Amazon using her pen name, Sheila Rodgers.

After working hard to market the book, it finally took off, along with Abbott’s writing career. Her first seven books, including No More Lies, have sold three million copies throughout her career. She was even named the 14th best-selling author on the U.K. version of Amazon Kindle in 2015. Looking for more? Check out our guide with the best comedy writing books!

“The quiet but inexorable breaking down of self-esteem is much more sinister – it’s violation of the soul.”

Rachel Abbott, Only the Innocent
No More Lies: 2023’s most chilling suspense novel yet from the queen of psychological thrillers
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Abbott, Rachel (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 426 Pages - 02/16/2023 (Publication Date) - Black Dot Publishing Ltd (Publisher)