Stephen King rocked the publishing world when he began distributing books online in 2000. J.K. Rowling roiled the industry again in 2011 when she decided to self-publish her Harry Potter series through her own platform, Pottermore. Such big names join thousands of others who are self-publishing books -- though many do so because it's their only option.
More than 235,000 books and e-books were self-published in 2011 in the U.S., four times the number in 2006, according to Bowker, an agency that assigns books unique identification codes. The really explosive growth has come in e-books, which went from 7,000 to 87,000. "Not long ago if you said you self-published you weren't taken as seriously as other authors," says Beat Barblan, a director at Bowker. "That's no longer the case."