Once upon a time, there was a writer.
She wrote beautiful, honest poems about love, death, and female empowerment.
She performed them at poetry slams.
She noticed how people listened and paid attention when she spoke, so she started sharing her poems on social media.
More people noticed. They started having conversations and opening up about difficult topics, things they didn’t feel safe talking about anywhere else.
She continued to write and perform her work.
After shows, people would ask her, “Can we get a copy of your book?”
She didn’t have a book. But that question lit a spark.
She thought, “Why don’t I have a book?”
She asked her creative writing professor for advice. Her professor shared a common opinion: that traditional publishing is the only way to go. Anything else is “self-published” and less valid.
This professor said, “Self-publishing isn’t a good look. It bypasses the gatekeepers. You’re better off picking a few poems and submitting them to anthologies, journals, and literary magazines.”
So this writer did.
But she got rejection after rejection. She realized that she wasn’t representing her body of work properly. Everything needed to stay together, to be read cover to cover, as one big collection, to be fully appreciated.
Inspired by another self-published (aka author-owned) poet, Lang Laev, this writer decided to write, illustrate, and self-publish her collection of poems.
She enlisted the help of her family and friends. Together, they sold copies of her poetry collection at events and asked local stores to stock her book.
A few months later, a publisher reached out and said, “We want to take your book worldwide.”
This writer is Rupi Kaur. Her book, milk and honey, was self-published in 2014. It has sold more than 11 million copies and has been translated into more than 40 languages. It became a New York Times bestseller.
Self-publishing didn’t make Rupi’s work any less valid. It launched her career — and has helped writers and books around the world land incredible book deals.
Writers everywhere — especially writers from underrepresented backgrounds often overlooked by the industry — can publish their work without an agent or a publisher. They can control the distribution of their work. They can set their price point. They can retain rights to their intellectual property.
You might get a book deal. Or you might not. Either way, self-publishing empowers you and lets you share your work with the world — and that’s what really matters.