Deciding on the right self-publishing platform is an exciting time for any author.
When you reach this stage in the process, your book is so close to being enjoyed by readers. All of the time and energy you’ve invested is about to bear fruit. All that’s left to do is choose the best way to make your book available to the world.
Choosing a platform isn’t something you should rush. Your choice will impact the number of potential readers you are able to reach. It also determines how much you can charge for your book and the royalties you receive.
So what are your options? Which self-publishing platforms are available, and how can you choose between them?
Read on to discover our guide to twelve options available to independent authors today.
This guide to self-publishing platforms covers:
- Amazon KDP
- Apple Books
- Barnes & Noble Press
What is a self-publishing platform?
Before we delve into our list of self-publishing platforms, let’s stop and consider exactly what the term refers to.
A self-publishing platform is simply a service that allows you to offer your book to the world.
Broadly speaking, you have two types of self-publishing platform available:
Retailers are stores such as Amazon that allow people to browse and buy books.
Aggregators are specialist services that allow authors to distribute their books to a large number of retailers through a single service.
Choosing an aggregator involves a trade-off. You can save time and effort by not having to manually upload your book to multiple retailers and monitor its performance, but you will have to pay for this convenience in the form of a one-off fee per book, a monthly subscription, or a portion of your royalties, depending on the retailer.
Now that the basic idea of a self-publishing platform is clear, let’s take a closer look at your options!
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service is the dominant platform in today’s self-publishing marketplace.
Offering your book on Amazon should be an easy decision. It’s the platform where most people go to buy new reading material. Amazon also offers the Kindle device and app, giving customers another way to discover your book that doesn’t exist on some other platforms.
For self-published authors, there are plenty of benefits to being on Amazon. You can easily offer print and audiobook versions of your work. You also have the ability to create a hub where readers can discover more about your work via the Author Central service.
If you decide to offer your book on Amazon exclusively, you gain access to special programs like Kindle Unlimited. Every author should evaluate if that’s a choice that makes sense for their situation.
Whether or not you decide to publish on Amazon exclusively, you should make its platform part of your approach to publishing. Otherwise, you’re missing out on a vast number of potential readers.
Apple Books might not account for the same level of sales as Amazon, you would be unwise to dismiss it.
There are plenty of iPhone, iPad, and Mac users out there who prefer to stick to apps made by Apple wherever possible. Apple is known for frictionless integration across its entire ecosystem, so this preference makes sense.
Aside from access to devoted fans, Apple Books has a number of other benefits. A 70% royalty rate is on offer no matter the price of your book, so you don’t need to go through the price constraints imposed by Amazon. Apple also offers authors more control by not engaging in automatic price matching, allowing you to know your book’s price will remain stable.
While Barnes & Noble might be one of the biggest names in the publishing world, the company has struggled to compete with Amazon’s success. However, they provide an easy to use platform for self-published authors, meaning there’s no harm in offering your book there if you decide to avoid Amazon exclusivity.
Barnes & Noble Press supports both ebooks and print books, and also has the benefit of promoting titles to customers of its Nook device and app.
One final benefit to choosing Barnes & Noble Press is that all of the platform’s print books can be ordered by request to any physical Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Although Blurb is most famous as a major provider of print on demand services, the company also offers the ability to create eBooks using either its own tools or 3rd party options like Adobe InDesign.
When you decide to use Blurb as a platform for creating a print or eBook version of your book, the company lets you sell it through either its own retail service, or via its partnerships with Amazon, Apple, Ingram, and even Kickstarter.
If physical books are an important part of your approach to self-publishing, you should check out Blurb further. In addition to print on demand you also have the option to order a large batch of your book with a lot of options relating to design and format.
BookBaby is one of the powerhouse players in the self-publishing world, offering not only one of the best-known aggregator services out there, but also its own retail store.
Authors who choose BookBaby as their self-publishing platform benefit from the size of its distribution network. The company claims to have the widest reach, partnering with over 60 retailers from across the globe.
If you’re willing to invest money upfront, and you need the full range of services provided by BookBaby, it’s a platform worth exploring further. However, if all you’re looking for is a simple retailer or aggregator, BookBaby probably isn’t the best fit for your needs. You can learn more here.
Draft2Digital is one of the most famous aggregators out there, distributing books to almost all of the major retailers, including Amazon, Apple, and Kobo.
As well as its aggregation service, Draft2Digital offers authors help with formatting and promotional abilities such as Universal Book Links. One of the major reasons to choose Draft2Digital is the company’s lack of upfront fees. Instead, Draft2Digital makes money by taking around 10% of the retail price each time a copy is sold.
Before you settle on Draft2Digital as the right aggregator for your next book, take a moment to read in more detail how the service compares to Smashwords.
IngramSpark is a good option if you are looking for an aggregator with global reach that offers excellent customer support.
Authors who decide to use IngramSpark as a self-publishing platform tap into one of the largest worldwide distribution networks possible. As well as the major book retailers IngramSpark’s titles are available to libraries, universities, and indie stores.
You need to pay an upfront fee to publish via IngramSpark. The company supports both eBook and print formats and you get a discount if you will only be offering one type or the other. Check out our full guide to IngramSpark here.
Rakuten Kobo, commonly referred to as just Kobo, is one of the biggest international book retailers on the market. As well as its retail operations, the company provides a self-publishing platform known as Kobo Writing Life. Like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kobo also offers a physical eReader device.
Kobo distributes books to more countries than the vast majority of other platforms, claiming over 190 nations at the time of writing.
The ability to set your own pricing, the backing of parent company Rakuten, and the lack of an exclusivity requirement are some of the major reasons to think about publishing with Kobo.
Like a lot of the other aggregator platforms featured in this guide, PublishDrive boasts of the wide reach of its international distribution network. However, while offering everything you would expect, PublishDrive also has some rarer features that help it to stand out.
A lot of aggregators support print and eBook formats, but PublishDrive also supports audiobooks. Also, PublishDrive offers you control of how you want to pay for their service. Most platforms either charge a flat fee per book or take a slice of your royalties. PublishDrive operates on a subscription model where authors pay a monthly rate depending on the number of books they have.
If you’re trying to decide between different book aggregators, it’s worth crunching the numbers and seeing how many copies you would need to sell to cover PublishDrive’s monthly subscription. Depending on your popularity, PublishDrive might make a lot more financial sense than giving up a portion of your royalties.
Smashwords is one of the oldest and most famous book aggregators out there. For many authors, the choice of platform comes down to weighing up the pros and cons of Smashwords and Draft2Digital. So what are they?
Draft2Digital is widely considered to be an easier and more intuitive service than Smashwords. The Smashwords interface is older and looks a little dated. Smashwords also doesn’t provide the formatting capabilities found at Draft2Digital.
Also, one thing to be aware of is that Smashwords doesn’t distribute to Amazon. It has a wide reach other than that, but it’s something to keep in mind. We feel that most authors will prefer Draft2Digital to Smashwords after weighing up both options.
If international publishing is a big part of your approach to self-publishing, you should check out StreetLib.
An international approach is baked into everything StreeLib does. For example, its dashboard is available in a wide range of languages and the company website has dedicated pages for almost any country you can think of.
StreetLib distributes audiobooks in addition to print and digital. You can access all of your worldwide sales data directly within the StreetLib dashboard, removing the need for any external sales tracking service.
If you’re based outside of the USA, or are an American author who wants to sell books around the world, take a closer look at what StreetLib has to offer.
XinXii is another example of an internationally-focused book aggregator. So what are the key facts you need to know about XinXii?
This aggregator offers support for eBooks and audiobooks only. There is no print on demand option, so if you are looking to sell physical copies of your work, this isn’t the right service for you.
Although XinXii has a wide range of international distribution partners, there isn’t anything that really stands out about their service. If you don’t care about the lack of print book support, and you particularly like the markets XinXii distributes to, you might want to explore further.
What is the best self-publishing platform?
So now that you have a good grasp of the different self-publishing platforms, how can you determine which is the best fit for your needs as an author?
Overall, there’s no single best platform. Different companies have various strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about asking the right questions to narrow down exactly what you’re looking for.
To help you determine the right self-publishing platform for your needs, take the time to ask yourself these questions:
- Am I looking for a retailer to upload my book to directly, or an aggregator service that will distribute to multiple retailers on my behalf?
- What formats do I want to offer my work in?
- Would I rather pay an upfront fee for aggregated distribution, a portion of my royalties, or a monthly subscription?
- How important is international distribution to my book marketing plan?
- Do I need help with formatting and other services, or do I want a simple distribution platform with no added extras?
Want the “fast pass” to finding the right self publishing company for you?
You now have everything you need to choose the best self-publishing platform for your book
Will you decide to be exclusive on Amazon to take advantage of their special author programs? Or will you go for the widest international reach possible with a powerful aggregator?
No matter what type of platform you end up going for, we wish you and your book every success!