Know the best publishing companies of 2023 to stay ahead of the curve as an aspiring author.
No two companies are the same, so don't rely on trial and error when it comes to working with publishing companies as an author.
In a world of scammy vanity companies eager to take an author's money, you have every reason to be cautious.
It's more important to do your research and understand which traditional and self-publishing companies can actually help you publish a book that's high quality (without running your investment dry and selling you empty promises).
You’ve worked hard learning how to write your book. You want to make sure you choose wisely when it comes to setting up your book for publication.
So, at this stage, you’re asking, “What are the best self-publishing companies?”
Whether you want to publish a nonfiction book, fiction novel, or even if you're writing children's books, the path to becoming an author lies in researching which publishing companies are worth focusing on in your journey.
Want to skip the article and go straight to the assessment that will show you which self-publishing company is right for you?
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This Blog on the Top Publishing Companies Will Cover:
In today’s publishing marketplace, self-published authors are leading the pack. Now, as an authorpreneur, you have total control over the cover design, content, and distribution of your book. You get to choose when to publish and who to publish with.
You probably have lots of questions regarding self-publishing companies, such as…
- What are the pros and cons of each publishing company?
- Who is the easiest to work with when it comes to book formatting, distribution, royalty payments, or tech support?
- Do you just go with the biggest platform, like Amazon KDP, and call it a day?
- Is it worth it to publish with several other very reputable retailers and distributors to maximize your reach?
In this article, we'll introduce you to the best self-publishing companies for author, as well as the top traditional publishing companies if you choose to go that route.
By the time you are done, you will be clear on the direction your book needs to take and have greater confidence in yourself as an author, knowing your book is in the best marketplace for maximum results.
What do publishing companies do?
In the book industry, book publishing companies serve a wide variety of purposes, all related to the book's production process. Depending on the publishing route, a book publishing company's purpose can vary as well.
In a traditional publishing company, the author is given a book contract that basically sells their rights to the book to the publisher, who then oversees the production process.
In publishing companies that cater primarily to self-published authors, the purposes can vary as well, according to the company type. Learning how to self-publish can be daunting when you're first starting out, and each company has something slightly different to offer. We'll cover the main types of self-publishing companies in the next section.
What are self-publishing companies?
Self-publishing companies offer book publishing and production services to independent authors.
These companies work differently depending on the type of service provided, but ultimately each operates within the space of producing and publishing a book.
Here are the main types of self-publishing companies you can work with.
Types of Self-Publishing Companies:
|Publishing Company Type||Purpose||Use them if you…|
|Aggregator||Book distributor||Want hands-off book distribution|
|Retailer||Retail store that sells books||Need a platform to sell your book|
|Educator||Teach authors how to self-publish||Want to learn a proven process|
|Servicer||Provide author services||Need editing, cover design, printing, etc.|
Aggregator – Self-publishing company aggregators are platforms that distribute your book to several online retailers. With aggregators, the bonus here is it saves you time, energy, and money. You upload your book and aggregators distribute it to 30+ retail channels such as Apple Books or Google Play Books. An aggregator is your first step to publishing internationally.
Retailer – A self-publishing retailer company is a retailer platform that sells books exclusively through its own retail store. This includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Authors can upload books to these platforms and make book sales through these platforms. Retailers pay authors directly and some offer exclusive programs such as Amazon’s KDP Select program.
Publishing Educator – These companies provide author education programs, such as through self-publishing courses and coaching. Their mission is to help authors navigate the self-publishing process and build an author career. Some are free, but most are paid. Instead of paying college tuition, you're paying for an online course to teach you how to publish and market a book. An example of a publishing educator would be Self-Publishing School.
Author Services – These are self-publishing companies that are mainly in the business to provide self-publishing services to authors such as ghostwriting, book editing, formatting, cover design, illustration, and more. There are some reputable companies to work with, of which, we are one.
Self-Publishing Companies vs Traditional Publishing Companies
Self-publishing companies are different from traditional publishing companies, although both typically work by transforming an author's written manuscript into an actual book.
The difference lies in the publishing model that distinguishes self-publishing vs traditional publishing.
Traditional publishing companies are more concerned with choosing which books to publish, buying the rights to the book, handling book production, and keeping some of the author's book royalties. In traditional publishing, the publishing company is listed as the publisher of the author's book.
Self-publishing companies help the author oversee the entire book production and publishing process, and aren't selective in the type of book being published. These companies usually charge a one-time fee rather than continuous book royalties. In self-publishing, it depends on which company you use whether they are listed as the publisher, or whether you are as the author.
What are the best options for self-publishing?
If you've decided to self-publish, there are now hundreds of publishing companies, from mega-retailers such as Amazon that sell everything, to smaller private publishers focused on specific genres.
In terms of knowing which is the best option for self-published authors, you'll need to consider what type of self-publishing company can best meet the needs of your specific book and the services you need to get it published in the market you want.
For example, we know that Amazon has over 80% of the book market share. But if you set up your book for wide distribution through an aggregator, you can tap into a huge international market. This could lead to other publishing opportunities such as having your book sold to foreign publishers.
Other companies sell and distribute books directly through their website. They have a long reach for international distribution so your book gets pushed into the pipeline for maximum selling power.
It isn’t a question anymore of “Will I get published?” But these days the big question is, “Who do I publish with first?”
This is a very good problem to have.
Our best advice: Do your research before publishing anything, and please, don’t sign that dotted line until after you’ve read this post!
There are plenty of scammy companies that are simply vanity publishers, meaning they like to call themselves publishing companies, but they do not deliver quality services and overcharge the authors who work with them.
Criteria for the Best Self-Publishing Companies
There are lots of companies out there to offer their services for publishing your book. Not all these companies are playing on the same level.
To make this list I have put together six points. Just because a self-publishing company didn’t make it here isn’t an indication you should avoid it.
Here's the criteria we used to rate the best self-publishing companies:
Book Publishing Volume: The amount of book sales volume this company has shipped is huge. They have proven themselves in the marketplace with high shipping volume and a business model you can trust.
Reputation and Trustworthiness: These companies are legit and come recommended. Cross-check with this detailed list put together by the Alliance of Independent Authors. These companies are NOT on the blacklist of publishing companies that have been red-flagged as dangerous.
Customer Reliability: A proven track record with authors as easy to work with and trustworthy staff and communication.
Helpful Resources: These self-publishing companies have a plethora of publishing resources for authors to get the job done. Some of these services and materials are free and some are not. But what matters is they are offering what you need to get published.
Affordable: You can publish your book within your budget. While there are expenses to self-publishing, it won’t break the bank.
Subscribers List: These companies have large email lists of thousands of subscribers to their newsletters or services.
You are about to embark on an incredible journey into self-publishing. You are your own boss, you make all the creative decisions, and how fast you get your book out there into the world is really up to you and how much time you can invest in your book project.
Still feeling it? Good! Let’s move ahead.
The 11 best self-publishing companies for authors
1. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
When people think about self-publishing a book, Amazon is one of the first companies they consider. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is a self-publishing platform where authors can publish their print and eBooks.
In the United States alone, Amazon makes up 40% of self-published digital books. So as an author, you can’t afford to ignore the power of Amazon in the book publishing space.
What makes Amazon so critical in the publishing arena? First, Amazon has a widespread reach that puts books in front of millions of browsers per day. They also offer competitive royalty rates.
For eBooks: 35% for books priced under $2.99, or 70%, for all books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.
For paperbacks and hardcovers: 60% royalties from the list price.
KDP Select Exclusivity
KDP has an exclusive program that sets it apart from the other retailers: the KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited programs for authors. There are perks to each one of these programs, such as special promotion programs, and Kindle Owners Lending Library enrollment.
The downside to joining KDP Select is that you are enrolled for 90 days in an exclusive partnership with KDP. This means you are tied to Amazon exclusively and cannot make your books available on other platforms.
So the big question is, will Amazon meet all of your self-publishing needs if you choose to do business with them exclusively?
The answer: It depends on your publishing goals.
Amazon has a big slice of the pie, but it doesn’t have the whole thing. For example, Joanna Penn mentions in this post that her book sales on the German platforms almost match Amazon sales.
As we will see in the rest of this post, there are other publishing companies that focus on pushing your book into a wider market and that means increased sales and subscribers to your platform.
Now, having said that, we know KDP is a “big deal” in the self-publishing business. But, publishing exclusively on Amazon and ignoring the other self-publishing companies could put you at certain risk as well.
What happens when Amazon decides to change something, and you suddenly lose half your income overnight?
As a first-time author, you might consider staying with Kindle Select for at least the first 90 days to build momentum for your eBook. But if you push forward and write a series of books, go wide and expand your global reach.
That is why the rest of this post introduces you to the other self-publishing companies.
2. Barnes & Noble Press
Barnes & Noble Press [Nook Press] is, according to their website, “a free, fast, and easy-to-use self-publishing service that enables you to publish and sell directly to our millions of readers.” Barnes and Noble has been a leader in the book industry for many years.
The name implies the brick-and-mortar retailer for books, but in the age of digital publication, B&N now has a premium eBook platform that can compete with the rest of the growing eBook market.
While getting your book onto the physical shelves of Barnes & Noble proves to be a challenging task, you can set up your eBook and print book through Barnes & Noble Press.
Important things to consider with Barnes & Noble Press:
- Books published with Barnes & Noble Press retail only at their online and physical bookstores.
- Royalty rates range from 55% to 70%, depending on the price of the book.
- Resources. Barnes and Noble has many resources for authors to help with the publishing process, and they have strong affiliations with some of the best service providers in the industry.
- Partnered programs. Barnes & Noble Press has partnered with Reedsy for editorial, 99 designs for cover design, Inkubate for marketing solutions, and Girl Friday Productions for publishing resources.
- Free to upload. You can take advantage of the cheaper printing costs with Barnes & Noble when you publish directly to their site instead of going through 3rd party.
To get started with Barnes & Noble Press, simply set up a free NOOK account, register as a vendor, and work through the steps to create your book for publication on NOOK. Your book will then be live within 72 hours of hitting publish.
Note: The B&N Press platform is available for use by authors and publishers only in the following countries: United States, U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium.
I have a confession to make: I am Canadian.
I publish primarily in the U.S. store and, if it weren’t for Kobo, I would have very few sales in the Canadian store. Why?
Founded in 2009, Kobo is a Canadian-based company out of Toronto and a subsidiary of the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, the world’s 14th largest Internet company.
Kobo is an open platform that supports the most popular formats, including EPUB, EPUB3, and PDF, and allows readers to buy and read digital content from various sources.
Kobo’s marketing power makes up an estimated 25% of all eBook sales in Canada. That’s huge!
Important things to consider with Kobo:
- Cost. It's free to upload your book to Kobo.
- The royalty rate is 70% on books priced more than $2.99 in the U.S. OR 45% for books priced below $2.99.
- International power. As an international book retailer and one of the largest eBook stores, Kobo should definitely be on your list for publishing. It operates in 16 countries outside the U.S. and has over 5 million titles available in 77 languages.
- Kobo Writing Life. A great feature of Kobo is the self-publishing platform called Kobo Writing Life [KWL]. This site features an easy-to-publish platform for your books, as well as a detailed sales analytics tool to allow authors to track sales in real-time.
For more information on getting started with Kobo, check out the Kobo FAQs here.
4. Apple Books
Apple launched its self-publishing platform in 2010. The self-publishing platform for authors is Books and is relatively easy to upload your book.
Publishing on iBooks Authors is free and the royalty is a flat 70%.
Although Amazon has the longest arm of retail sales, Apple fares very well with its direct marketing approach to Mac users, making it the 2nd largest online retailer of eBooks. Why? It targets Mac users, and according to Apple Insider, there are now 100 million Mac users worldwide, making up a significant slice of the 1.8 billion active Apple devices in 2023.
Important things to consider with Apple Books:
- You have to be a Mac user to publish directly to the Apple Store. If not, use an aggregator such as Smashwords or PublishDrive
- Free to upload and publish your book.
- The royalty rate is 70% for most books sold through Apple only.
- No browser reading. With Kindle you can read the books in the browser. Not with Mac.
- Format. iBooks authors use the ePub format that is not compatible with most other platforms.
- Availability. iBooks Authors is available in select countries only.
- Contracts. Authors can discount books for free at anytime, and there are no exclusive distribution contracts to weave through.
You can visit Apple Support here to get the steps for formatting and uploading your book to Apple Author. But one unique feature is that you can publish your book using Pages.
I would recommend you visit the Apple Books Publisher User Guide and download the checklist to make the publishing process as easy as possible.
5. selfpublishing.com (Yes, that's us!)
When it comes to online learning for self-publishing, we have a whole gamut of resources available for you. Our CEO, Chandler Bolt, a seven-time bestselling author, has made it his mission to change the publishing industry and tilt the tables in favor of the author. Our site provides tools, author education, author services, and coaching that help you navigate the entire self-publishing process. In our online curriculum, we also offer templates, checklists, and guides, as well as open office hours and group coaching sessions every day of the week so you get questions answered fast.
Since late 2014, our company has helped over 7,000 authors become published.
Reedsy is a company that provides authors with a number of self-publishing services. It has a powerful outsourcing platform that connects authors with editors, proofreaders, formatters, cover designers, marketing strategists, and ghostwriters.
Authors need lots of help getting a book ready for publication, and Reedsy makes this process simple with one-stop outsourcing. You can get an editorial assessment of your work, or a query letter review for authors looking to publish the traditional route.
The freelancers outsourced through Reedsy have profiles easily visible and this builds instant trust with authors.
Reedsy is not an aggregator or book retailer but focuses on providing educational materials and services for authors.
They do this by hosting a platform that provides reliable resources for authors to write better and prepare a book for publication.
This saves a lot of time and banging your head against the wall because you just hired another outsourcer that totally messed up your book formatting.
Lulu has been around for a very long time, and is one of the oldest publishing platforms, when they began publishing and distributing eBooks in 2009. By 2014, the publishing giant had produced 2 million books.
The process for working with Lulu is relatively straightforward. As an author, you upload your book to Lulu, and authors can purchase their own books through Lulu.
By acquiring an ISBN, your books can be distributed to online retail outlets such as Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Apple’s Bookstore.
Important things to consider with Lulu:
- Royalties. The author receives an 80% royalty for print books and a 90% royalty for eBooks after sale.
- Cost. Lulu’s eBook conversion, publishing, and distribution services are free, but they sell a variety of author services including editing, cover design, formatting, promotional services, and book marketing.
- Resources. Lulu has a plethora of education and information and houses a large platform to help authors with every step of the publishing process. Lulu has its own bookstore to sell and distribute books.
Lulu is a one-stop-shop for everything and, with the services they have, you can feel confident you’ll get your book published after using their services.
When it comes to wide distribution for print-on-demand, this is where IngramSpark comes sliding into home base.
Before Createspace was acquired completely by Amazon, it was the main storefront for authors setting up print books. But now, KDP and IngramSpark work closely together to print and distribute hard copies through print-on-demand.
IngramSpark has made huge strides in the last couple of years. As part of the Ingram Group, they boast to be the industry’s largest global book distribution network to over 39,000 libraries, bookstores, online retailers, and schools and universities. Ingram also distributes to the top online retailers: Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, and Nook.
Important things to consider with IngramSpark:
- Formats and Quality Print. Ingram “prints everything” from novels and graphic novels to children’s books and business textbooks. Ingram offers hardcovers as well as paperbacks and high-quality print jobs, an option that KDP doesn’t have.
- Pricing. $49 for print & eBook together. Or, $49 for each if you do it separately.
- Royalties. For distribution orders, Ingram Book Company takes 15-25% from the wholesale discount, and the rest goes to the retailer. You receive a 40% royalty when selling through IngramSpark only. But, opt out of Amazon, and you will receive a 45% royalty of the list price.
- ISBN required. Learn how to get an ISBN for your book if you plan to publish with IngramSpark.
Should I go with IngramSpark or KDP?
Suggestion: Both KDP and IngramSpark are recommended. Here are 3 reasons why…
- KDP charges less for print books and it is free to upload and publish.
- KDP has expanded distribution but it is through Ingramspark. The distribution services of Ingram are definitely above and beyond the rest.
- IngramSpark has far better quality and offers superior book bindings and hardcover printing.
A relatively new company, PublishDrive is making big strides as a core aggregator. Created by Kinga Jentetics when she was looking for a way to publish her master's thesis, PublishDrive was created to help other authors launch their dreams. Kinga Jentetics was named by Forbes magazine as one of the top female entrepreneurs under 30 and one of the top 100 female founders.
“With PublishDrive you can focus on the most important job: creating beautiful content, meanwhile the rest of the operational work is handled by PublishDrive.”
PublishDrive is an Apple-approved aggregator and Google partner, making it a powerhouse for global distribution.
Important things to consider with PublishDrive:
- Cost. Most retailers or distributors charge a royalty rate for sales. PublishDrive charges a monthly subscription rate and you keep 100% of sales. If you choose not to go with the monthly subscription PublishDrive charges a flat rate of 10% on all sales.
- Distribution Power. It has over 400 stores worldwide with direct distribution to Apple Books, Kobo, Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble Press, and Google Books.
- Support Team. PublishDrive has a core team of specialists with 24/7 support.
For more information about PublishDrive, check out the PublishDrive FAQs.
Draft2Digital (D2D) is a self-publishing aggregator company.
The website states: “As a writer, you want to write. So when it comes to publishing, you could use a little support. We make it easy. Keep writing. Keep your rights. We'll help with the rest.”
D2D provides a very easy method to upload your book within minutes and have it live on the site within 24 hours.
When it comes to aggregators, whereas Smashwords was once the King of the Hill, D2D has since acquired Smashwords and taken over the top spot. Draft2Digital is the preferred platform for many self-publishers now.
Important things to consider with Draft2Digital:
- Cost. On Draft2Digital, there are no fees for using their service.
- Royalties. As an author, you keep approximately 60% of royalties. D2D keeps 10% of all sales and the stores keep 30%.
- Formatting. D2D handles the formatting for free and that makes this a huge selling point when compared to Smashwords.
- Distribution. D2D distributes to Amazon, whereas Smashwords doesn't. If being published on Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, is important to you this feature is huge.
- Universal Book Links. One major feature of Draft2Digital is they provide authors with access to International Book Links. This can be a major advantage for readers not shopping on Amazon for their favorite books. As an author, instead of having to create links for all the sites, D2D provides you with one link for the book.
For more information on Draft2Digital check out the FAQ page.
StreetLib is an Italian-based distributor with a strong presence in Europe, mainly Latin America and Europe.
With its expanding international reach, in February 2019 StreetLib launched digital portals for authors and publishers in 20 countries across 6 continents, with 5 in Africa.
Similar to the other aggregators on this list, StreetLib is aiming to distribute books wide to all international markets but the site does have a unique feature: The dashboard is configured for multiple languages such as Italian, Hindi, English, and Spanish, and they are adding more as they grow.
In my opinion, this is a site to watch because it is showing exponential growth as Streetlib now moves into the African continent and is building out a distribution channel across all of Europe as well as the Western countries.
StreetLib distributes to all of the major retailers: Amazon, Google Play, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, OverDrive, Indigo, Kobo, Tolino, and Google Play Books.
You can check out the StreetLib pricing here but basically, they take 10% of each eBook sale and you get 60%.
If you are looking to break into the European market [and beyond] StreetLib is definitely worth investing in.
|Amazon's KDP||Retailer||Upload and sell your book on Amazon's platform, Kindle Direct Publishing||Robust platform that dominates the U.S. self-publishing space|
|Barnes & Noble Press||Retailer||Publish your book on Barnes and Nobles online and physical bookstore locations||Exclusive retailer that has competitive royalty rates and a convenient POD service|
|Kobo||Retailer||Upload and sell your books on an international platform||Powerful for selling books internationally. Open platform that supports the most popular formats|
|Apple Books||Retailer||Make your book available on Apple's platform||Specific self-publishing platform for Mac users|
|selfpublishing.com||A mix||Learn a proven framework to successfully navigate the publishing process||Comprehensive curriculum, coaching, author services, and community that teach authors how to publish and build a book business|
|Reedsy||Author Services||Find quality freelancers to provide book publishing services like editing, cover design, formatting, and more.||One-stop outsourcing with comprehensive learning resources and tools|
|Lulu||A mix||Mainly providing author services, Lulu can also distribute books and has its own online bookstore||Easy, convenient process for hands-off publishing, but costly|
|IngramSpark||Aggregator||Book distribution and high quality print on demand services||A huge distribution network with over 39000 retailers and libraries.|
|PublishDrive||Aggregator||Book distribution that reaches international markets||Monthly subscription option as opposed to royalty rate per book sold|
|Draft2Digital||Aggregator||Book distribution that handles formatting||Delivers to Amazon, and provides access to International Book Links|
|StreetLib||Aggregator||Italian-based distributor with a strong European presence||Dashboard is configured in multiple languages, and is constantly growing|
Other Book Publishing Companies
While this article covers the best self-publishing companies to work with, it can be helpful to know what other publishing companies are out there, so that you can know the book publishing industry well.
Top Audiobook Publishing Companies
The two primary places to publish audiobooks are ACX (which publishes audiobooks to Amazon's Audible platform) and Findaway Voices (publishing audiobooks wide to multiple platforms).
There are also up-and-coming audio companies like Soundwise and Lantern Audio, which allow you to make audiobooks for their platform.
Authors Republic also allows you to fully and independently publish your audiobook so you can decide where you want to distribute it.
As audiobooks become more popular with each passing year, it is important to give these companies a look. As always, you'll want to make sure you retain the rights, earn as high of royalties as possible, and have control over pricing and such.
Top Traditional Publishing Companies
The traditional publishing space is dominated by five publishing companies, which hold the majority of the market share, commonly known as The Big 5. These companies hold a lot of power and prestige in the traditional book industry, but they are also extremely difficult to land a book deal with. These companies typically only publish authors who already have a strong social brand and following.
- Penguin Random House. This American publishing company was merged in 2013 from Random House and Penguin Group (part of Pearson). It has published over 15,000 titles annually under its 250 different divisions and trade names.
- Harper Collins. This publishing company is part of NewsCorp, and is headquartered in New York. It has many other trade names, or imprints.
- Simon & Schuster. This American publishing company is part of the CBS Corporation, and was founded in 1924. This company publishes over 2,000 titles annually under 35 different imprints.
- Hachette. This traditional publishing company is owned by the largest publishing company in France, which is Hachette Livre. It is also the 3rd largest publishing company for trade and educational books.
- MacMillan. This global publishing company has offices in 41 countries worldwide, and operates in 30 others. It is widely known for its education textbook publishing, but it has various divisions and imprints.
How to Best Leverage Book Publishing Companies
Publishing wide means getting your book out into as many stores, platforms, and online retail shops as you can.
And the most effective way to publish wide and scale up your book's success means leveraging different self-publishing companies for different purposes.
That's why we recommend using a combination of self-publishing companies to scale up and maximize your book sales and success.
Here's an example of how to use the best self-publishing companies:
- Enroll in an author education program to work with a proven plan that walks you through the steps to launching a bestseller.
- Sign up for our program, get the author services you need, and work with a personal coach to walk you through the steps to launching a bestseller.
- For first-time authors, enroll in KDP Select for the first 90 days to gain traction on your book. But then, building out your platform, look at setting your book up for long-term success in deeper international markets.
- On IngramSpark, reaching a global audience with Ingram’s wide distribution network.
- On Kobo, you are tapped into the Canadian market and taking advantage of big book sales there.
- PublishDrive is distributing your book to Amazon, Apple Books, Google, Barnes & Noble, and local distributors.
- With StreetLib you are branching out further into the European markets and the African continent.
Ready to Start Your Self-Publishing Journey Today?
I know this looks like a lot of work, and you could expend tons of effort without seeing much result at first. But I promise it will be worth it if you put in the work and follow a proven process.
Now that you have a solid list of the best self-publishing companies there are today, what is holding you back?
The decision to publish and make a living as a bestselling international author is now up to you. If you're ready to take the next step with your book, click the button below.