Jimmy Gownley's story is very inspirational. He started self-publishing his books and then got deals with Simon and Schuster and Scholastic.
Paper Wings has a nice podcast just up interviewing him along with some helpful links.
Super nice guy too, we met him at SPACE last year. http://chrisoatley.com/pw30/
Also be sure to look at the back catalog of interviews while on the site including recent interviews with Jenn Ely from Laika about designing for BoxTrolls.