More and more authors today decide to self-publish their work rather than hand over the reins to a traditional publishing company for many reasons, from more creative control to a greater share of the book’s royalties, to the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that comes with getting your book published. So, which are the best self-publishing companies for you?
In this article, we have created a helpful list of the best self publishing companies to use, whether you are a first-time author or a veteran trying self-publishing for the first time. If you are feeling overwhelmed as a first-time author, do not worry. You have many options that can make it hard for you to choose or decide, but you will be able to make a more informed choice with this article.
First, let us look at the different types of self-publishing platforms. Understanding the different types of self-publishing companies will help you narrow down your options and make the best of your self-publishing journey.
Types of a Self-Publishing Company
Retailers, as the name suggests, sell your books. Though brick-and-mortar bookstores are still popular among readers, e-books have quickly become the format of choice for readers of all kinds. Retailers offer digital and hard copies of your books, depending on the user’s preference.
- Kindle Direct Publishing
- Apple Books
- Barnes & Noble
Aggregators are the best choice for print distribution. You submit your work to an aggregator, and they take care of distributing the book to brick-and-mortar stores and libraries. Aggregators are sometimes a more expensive option than other self-publishing companies. Print costs can set you back since they need hard copies to put on shelves.
- Apple Books
3. Author Services
As the name suggests, author services offer publishing services to authors. They may offer to edit, format, or even design your book to help it get ready for the shelves or online stores. You pay a fee to a professional to edit, proofread, or otherwise help you create your book and get it ready for publishing. Author services are not always necessary, as you can do much of the work yourself if you have time. These services are best for those on a tight schedule and with little money to spare.
4. Self-Publishing Educator
Publishing education resources are not retailers or aggregators. Instead, they teach authors about the self-publishing process through workshops and courses. The courses and workshops cost money, but the knowledge and skills gained through taking a paid course can be an invaluable resource for first-time authors, ultimately equipping you with the ability to self-publish your work in the future with ease. One example is Self Publishing School.
Best Self Publishing Companies
The list below contains some of the best self publishing companies available to new and seasoned authors today. Prices vary, as does the scope of distribution and availability of other author services.
1. Barnes & Noble Press
Barnes & Noble Press is a self-publishing powerhouse. A major player in the publishing world for decades, Barnes & Noble has successfully transitioned from a print-only retailer to one of the most successful e-book retailers worldwide. Barnes & Noble offers a simple publishing process. It is fast and user-friendly and will have your book up on the site and ready for sale within 72 hours. To begin, create a free account.
Once your account is created and verified, you need to choose the format of the book you would like to publish: print or e-book. Next, upload all relevant files, including your manuscript and cover. Once everything is uploaded, simply hit the publish button, and your book is ready. Once your upload is approved, it will be available for sale.
After upload and approval, you get to decide on some of the finer details of your book. Do you want print copies to be paperback or hardback? What tone and thickness do you want in your paper? With these decisions made, Barnes & Noble will show how much it costs to create one of your books. The customer covers publishing costs, not you.
Benefits of Self-Publishing with Barnes & Noble Press
- E-book sales offer up to 70% royalty.
- Print book sales offer up to 55% royalty.
- Stay up-to-date with order tracking and financial reports.
- Reach millions of potential readers.
- Quick Pay—you can expect payment within 30 days of a sale.
- Get promoted on the site and through marketing.
- A pre-order option for e-book and print is available.
- The customer pays for the print cost.
- Unlikely that your book will display directly on shelves in brick-and-mortar B&N stores.
- Only paperback and e-book formats are available, not hardback.
- Available only on B&N online store.
- Customer support is limited.
2. Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a self-publishing platform that every first-time author and self-publisher should know. Since around 80% of English language e-book sales happen on Amazon, it is hard to ignore KDP’s appeal. KDP is simple and helps you get your book ready for sale within 48 to 72 hours.
Benefits of self-publishing with Amazon KDP
- User-friendly experience. The process is simple. Sign up and upload your manuscript and cover in a straightforward process. You can even upload your manuscript in Word format, and KDP will automatically convert it into a Kindle-friendly file type.
- Low-cost. It is completely free to sign up to KDP and publish your work. As digital retailers, authors also save money on ISBNs. These are exclusive to print books and are not used in e-book sales.
- Stress-free. One of the most valuable and boast-worthy features of Amazon’s KDP is that the author can make small but important changes to the book after you have hit the publish button. That means typos, errors, or design changes you would like to carry out can still be done. You can alter up to 20% of the book post-publishing (after 20%, a second edition must be published).
- Access to exclusive features with KDP Select
- No marketing support. All aspects of marketing fall on you, the author, or anyone you hire to help.
- Only exclusive Amazon members can leave book reviews. If you give away your book for free for a limited time, people who read it but do not pay for Amazon’s exclusive services cannot leave a review.
- It can take up to two months to receive payment.
What is KDP Select?
Once you have signed up to KDP, you may enroll in the KDP Select program, an exclusive program requiring your book to only be sold on Amazon. In exchange for exclusivity, you can apply discounts to your book or mark it as free for a limited time. It may not seem like much, but these are clever and effective marketing tactics to boost your overall sales drastically.
3. Apple books
Along with B&N, Apple Books is one of Amazon KDP’s largest competitors. With Apple Books, you can share your work with readers worldwide, as long as they have the Apple Books app. However, you can only upload your work to Apple Books through iTunes Producer, which is only available on Mac. You can still get your book available for sale on Apple Books if you use Windows, but you will have to work with a third-party distributor or aggregator.
Benefits of self-publishing with Apple Books
- Potential customers can reach your book on the Apple Books app and iTunes store.
- Service is available in 51 countries.
- The publishing process is completely free.
- You can add coupon codes to your work to entice more potential sales.
- The iBooks Author feature simplifies the publishing process for you (you will need a Mac to use the feature)
- Apple has an incredibly large user base, which means your reach is millions.
- Royalties are at 70% regardless of the book’s price.
- There are no limits on ‘free’ offers.
- Apple Books is not as popular as Amazon or B&N. It only has around 10% of the U.S. and international market reach compared to other companies.
- Avid readers typically use other sites more often.
- Users need an Apple ID to download their books.
Kobo is a large international retailer based in Canada. It does not boast nearly as much of an audience in the U.S. as Amazon or Apple Books, but it has a strong reputation for non-U.S. sales. Kobo Writing Life is Kobo’s self-publishing service. It is an easy-to-use, straightforward platform that lets you publish for free. The upload and publishing come at no cost to you, and royalties come in at 70% for books over $2.99. Books under $2.99 offer around 45% in royalties.
Benefits of self-publishing with Kobo Writing Life
- Huge reach. Kobo’s service is available in over 190 countries. They also publish in 77 languages.
- When you publish through Kobo Writing Life (KWL), you gain access to a sales analytic tool that helps you track your book’s success.
- Free to create an account,
- Free to upload and publish.
- Non-exclusive. Unlike Amazon’s KDP Select program, KWL is non-exclusive, which means you can publish with Kobo and other self-publishing companies.
- You can promote through Kobo. Your book must first be approved for promotion, and then a fee will apply, but this allows you to broaden your reach even further.
- Weaker distribution and reach to U.S. customers when compared to KDP or B&N.
- Audiobooks are only available through aggregate platforms.
Draft2Digital is an aggregator that distributes globally and is one of the top online retailers together with Amazon, Apple Books, and B&N. They are among the most popular aggregators for a reason. They make it a way to get your book on multiple sites without going through that site directly, thus saving a lot of time and energy that could be otherwise used, perfecting your book and working on your marketing skills.
Benefits of self-publishing with Draft2Digital
- User-friendly experience.
- World-class customer service.
- Their service includes book formatting at no cost.
- Authors receive a Universal Book Link (UBL). Users can follow the UBL and see where your book is available to buy.
- Your book is available to customers within 24 hours of publishing.
- Pre-orders are available.
- No paperback distribution
- D2D takes 10% of sales on top of print costs.
Lulu boasts a title as one of the first self-publishing companies. Though Amazon and B&N are the major players in the game today, Lulu set the original standard. Lulu is undoubtedly a smart option with excellent print-on-demand (POD) service and printing options, from paperbacks to hardbacks to e-books, photo books, and calendars.
Benefits of self-publishing with Lulu
- Print-on-demand service is available.
- Hardback, paperback, and e-book formats are available.
- Self-proclaimed ‘world’s largest indie bookstore.’
- User-friendly process.
- You can make your book available for purchase on other platforms.
- 10% of book sales go to Lulu. The other 90% goes to you.
- Less popular than before, Amazon and B&N became more prominent players.
- Customer support is minimal.
- Other than publishing (free), other author services can be costly.
Global distributor IngramSpark is a popular first-time author who wants to self-publish. Publishing with IngramSpark is incredibly straightforward and saves time that can be used on marketing and other aspects of broadening your book’s reach.
Benefits of self-publishing with IngramSpark
- Royalties with IngramSpark can reach up to 70%.
- Global book distribution. Even wider than Amazon’s KDP.
- Online sales tracking and analysis.
- Free ISBN for an author that uploads a print title (only available to U.S. authors).
- A wide variety of formats is available.
- Unlike most other platforms mentioned in this article, IngramSpark charges an upload fee.
- It is a less user-friendly site than other platforms.
PublishDrive is a young company compared to others on this list, but do not let that deter you. Founded in 2015, PublishDrive already distributes to over 400 stores. An aggregator, PublishDrive, can help you put your book in the access of millions of readers worldwide.
Benefits of self-publishing with PublishDrive
- International and wide distribution.
- Multiple author pay channels: PayPal, Payoneer, Wise, and bank transfer.
- Publish e-books, print, and audiobooks.
- Sales tracking and analytics services are available.
- The upfront cost required is $9.99 for a basic plan and $99.99 for a Pro.
- Sales payments can take up to two months.
StreetLib is a smart choice for authors seeking to reach a wider international audience, mainly in Europe and Latin America. It is also a major player in the U.K. and U.S., making it accessible and practical to authors from almost anywhere.
Benefits of self-publishing with StreetLib
- Format and distribute e-books in any language.
- Print-on-demand service saves money on unnecessary printing costs.
- Pay a subscription fee (around $100 per month) to keep all of your royalties.
- The dashboard is available in many languages.
- StreetLib keeps 10% of each sale.
Self-Publishing: Is It Worth It?
“The good news about self-publishing is you get to do everything yourself. The bad news about self-publishing is you get to do everything yourself.”Lori Lesko
Why would an author choose to take the self-publishing route instead of reaching out to a traditional publisher? Many benefits to self-publishing are simply too hard to ignore if you want to profit from your hard work. Some of the most common benefits of self-publishing your work include:
Pros of Self-Publishing
Most of us who choose to publish our work, or at least begin learning how-to, often do so for the following reasons:
- Complete creative control over the publishing process. If you were to take the traditional publishing route through an established publishing house, they could influence the content and themes of your book to their preferences. When you self-publish, no one can tell what or what not to create and publish.
- Authors can earn more royalties than they would through traditional publishing. Self-publishing companies offer different royalty rates, and some even let you keep all of your royalties when you pay a monthly subscription.
- No external deadlines. Your time is flexible when you choose to self-publish. It removes the pressure that would otherwise be there if you used a traditional publishing house.
- Adaptability. When you self-publish, and your book is an e-book, you can easily tweak and edit it if things need to be changed or you have a better idea. If you have not printed any books yet and choose to print on order, you will not waste money on hard copies that are no longer relevant.
While the benefits of self-publishing are hard to ignore, there are also some disadvantages to the self-publishing process. Consider these disadvantages and weigh them against the advantages to determine if the self-publishing route is right for you.
Cons of self-publishing
The inevitable downsides to the self-publishing route, ones that deter people, are:
- Time-consuming. Unlike traditional publishing, all of the admin details fall on you. You need to oversee the entire publishing process and liaise between editors and designers (if you hired some).
- The need to upskill. This is a disadvantage at first but quickly becomes an advantage once you have got the hang of it. Self-publishing means you need to oversee most of the marketing for your book. That can be time-consuming and frustrating if you have not got the right strategy. Still, once you learn more about marketing and how to do it effectively, you can apply that knowledge to all future works published.
- Even though most self-publishing services are free to upload, you may still need to cover design costs if you outsource an illustrator or other designer.
Ultimately, there is more work in self-publishing than in traditional publishing methods. You need to think about more aspects of your book’s creation, such as its format and design, but that creative control makes self-publishing such an appealing route to take.
“I’m outselling a bunch of famous, name-brand authors. I couldn’t touch their sales in print.”Joe Konrath
Like coming up with ideas, writing your book, designing it, and editing, self-publishing is something you can learn. It takes some time to get the hang of it, and it is up to you how much work you want to put in.
Many self-publishing companies offer built-in author self-publishing services to take some leg work out of the overall process. Still, the more skilled you become at managing the minor but important details and steps of self-publishing, the more of a powerhouse you become as an individual author. In a world where the individual author needs marketing skills more than ever, now is a great time to learn as much as you can about what it takes to become a self-published author.