A brief history of self-published successes like Michael Winker’s Grimmish

From Beatrix Potter to Marcel Proust, these authors have managed to find broad audiences despite editors’ upturned noses.

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

The novel by Michael Winkler grimmish became the first self-published book to be a finalist for Australia’s most prestigious literary award, 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 Pedro Coelho

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

Eventually, she reneged on her conviction that the book should be black and white, and it was commercially published. It sold tens of thousands of copies in its first print run and pioneered tying merchandising to a character. Potter resisted the idea of ​​a Disney adaptation: “They propose using cartoons; it looks like a succession of figures can be played out to give an impression of movement. I don’t think the images would be satisfying… !” We’re sure she would have been a lot happier with the 2018 adaptation with a CGI Peter voiced by James Corden.

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