This article talks about Tracy Garvis Graves, whose romance On the Island sold 360,000 copies self-publishing. (And I'm happy because she didn't shaft herself with her pricing.) It also mentions Brittany Geragotelis, a young-adult writer who got a six-figure contract because she has a big following on Wattpad. And then they have this article on Seth Godin, who continues to tweak his self/trad/whatever-works strategy (which they more efficiently term a hybrid approach).
If you're still wondering whether you really can get a traditional publishing contract via self-publishing, or if the horrible stigma against it, which never really existed, still exists, I suggest you roll up a week's worth of paper copies of the Wall Street Journal and whack yourself in the head with it until you beat in a clue. With that accomplished, you can note that, not only can you get a contract this way, but it seems to be a good way for new authors to get really nice contracts, the kind that don't leave you angry, bitter, and impoverished.
I still think that, eventually, self-publishing will be the only way novelists get traditional publishing contracts. If you prove to a traditional publisher that your book sells, then that eliminates the guesswork and the risk--they know they have a hit. They will be able to pay accordingly, because they won't be losing money on books that can't flourish under their business model.
And whaddaya know! Other people think so, too! From the article on Godin:
For Mr. Godin, his hybrid approach—which essentially supplements his publisher's efforts with his own promotional work—could well become an industry template because it eliminates much of the uncertainty for booksellers and publishers deciding which titles to bet on.
"The pressure on the bookstore and the publisher is to pick stuff that will work," said Mr. Godin. "I'm saying 'Hey, Mr. Bookstore Owner, the world has spoken. There are lots of people talking about these books.' "....
Addressing the response to his new project, Mr. Godin, said, "What this shows is that if you build a tribe, you can use it to calmly build a publishing career that doesn't involve a roulette wheel experience where you only have a week to succeed."
Mr. Godin's experiment comes as publishers and authors alike seek out new ways to build stronger direct ties with readers.
"You have to go direct to consumers today because it's gotten harder to get attention from general media," said Dee Dee De Bartlo, a principal in the marketing and publicity firm February Partners. She herself is taking a direct approach in marketing a new title from Rodale Press, "The Starch Solution," which preaches the benefits of a plant-based diet. Her firm is targeting self-proclaimed vegans on Facebook.
Ms. De Bartlo thinks Mr. Godin's hybrid approach may appeal to other authors. "It's hard to convince publishers to take on some authors unless you can prove you have a fan base," she said. "This is one way to do it."