Okay, okay. I admit it. I'm dropping names. I don't really know Andy that well. He's not MY friend, but he is a friend of a friend (if you know his old work and have read his Casey and Andy comic, I know the Casey that was based on). I've enjoyed a few post LARP Denny's meals watching he and Casey geek out about building trebuchets, joking about exploiting rules systems, or telling him ridiculous "No shit" stories about one of my vampire character who used a summoning power to cause another vampire outrunning a garbage truck to pause juuuuust long enough to be slammed into paste. I saw him recently at Kublacon, but I don't think he recognized me. (That's being generous; I couldn't even see a flicker of "Do I know this guy?" in his eyes.) Andy's big time now. He probably has way too many people telling him they knew him when, or trying to convince him they should know him.
I've watched his writing career with glee (and, yes, a particle of envy I can't deny). Most of his pre-The Martian work was published online. When he self published his book The Martian, and it took off, I was so happy for him. Not just because I had a few "I knew him when" stories, but because watching his non-traditional approach to publishing succeed was one more example of how a writer can make a career without gate keepers.
Let me say that one more time just in case you missed the money shot. Andy Weir SELF PUBLISHED The Martian.
Now his book is the number one book on the New York Times Bestseller List. The movie is the number one movie in America. Andy gets all the groupie threesomes he could ever want.*
It can be done folks. And there's no longer only one way to the finish line. Andy wrote for YEARS before he wrote The Martian, but he never gave up. He was a twenty-year overnight success. And when publishers didn't want his book, he self published it anyway.
There's a reason you keep seeing one "isolated incident" after another with self publishing and non-traditional publishing. If anyone tells you you can't make it--especially through self publishing--you laugh at them, think of how many "flukes" you've seen, and JUST. KEEP. WRITING!
[And I can't stress this enough: if you like science fiction--especially a bit on the "hard" side--you really have to read The Martian. It's quite good. I'm much more into the soft end of sci-fi, (and I was even dubious after the first few chapters of highly technical descriptions) but The Martian was so well done that it kept me riveted in a way not very many books have done in a long time.]