A couple of years ago, Amanda Hocking needed to raise a few hundred dollars so, in desperation, made her unpublished novel available on the Kindle. She has since sold over 1.5m books and, in the process, changed publishing forever
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman. I seriously can't believe this is the first Gaiman novel I've read (especially because I LOVED the films Stardust and Coraline based on his works). This grown-up fairy tale is a great intro if you've never read his work--it's short enough to read in an afternoon, but still gives you a taste of his amazing world-building capabilities.