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When it comes to self-publishing your book, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which platform you’re going to use to print and distribute it. And while it’s possible to print a few hundred copies and take care of marketing, selling and shipping your book from your garage, it’s not a very romantic or practical option. Plus, if you read our article on self publishing vs traditional publishing, you’ll probably remember that one of the perks of self-publishing is that you won’t have to store boxes of books in your garage while you try to sell them. 

Thanks to improved technology and the ever-increasing popularity of self-publishing, you have the privilege of choosing from a number of online companies who use what’s called Print-on-Demand technology (or POD for short). This means that every time a book is ordered online, a new copy is printed and shipped to the customer. And you, the author, don’t have to do a thing!

When it comes to choosing which POD company to use for self-publishing your book,there are a few factors to consider. 

Firstly, not all self-publishing companies allow you to produce your book in every format, so you’ll need to decide which versions you plan to publish: paperback, hardcover, ebook and/or audiobook. If possible, we recommend offering your readers a variety of options, including one of the print books, plus an ebook and an audiobook. Unfortunately, this means you’ll likely need to use more than one distributor to make it all possible. 

Secondly, and related, it’s important to understand that self publishing companies fall under two categories: 

Aggregators — a platform designed to make it an easy, one-stop-shop for authors to upload their books and automatically distribute them to all the major retailers. 

Retailers — companies that sell books directly to consumers via their own platforms, such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

The big difference is that publishing with a retailer like Amazon, for example, means your book will only be available for sale on Amazon. Alternatively, if you publish with an aggregator, it will push your book to all the major retailers they are partnered with. However, there is some overlap of the two, as you’ll see below. For example, Lulu is both a retailer and an aggregator. 

Below, we discuss each of the most popular self-publishing platforms and their pros and cons.

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Print & Ebook Self-Publishing Companies

Amazon KDP

In addition to being the world’s largest retailer of books, Amazon has now become one of the biggest self-publishing platforms out there with it’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service. And while “Kindle” is in their name, they don’t only publish Kindle editions of your book. Amazon KDP now publishes paperback books as well. We use KDP to publish all of our books (in combination with IngramSpark), and highly recommend them for any author who wants a simple, professional self-publishing experience. 

The downside of publishing on Amazon KDP is that your book will only be available on Amazon’s sites (but it can be globally distributed) and the author royalties are lower than some of its competitors. 

Formats: Paperback and Ebook

Price: Free to upload

Royalty: 60% for paperback; up to 70% for ebooks priced between $2.99 – $9.99

Pros: 

  • They don’t require exclusivity so you can still publish elsewhere
  • Reach the largest audience of shoppers ready to buy, including global markets
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Free and easy uploading
  • Printing costs are inexpensive 
  • Good print quality
  • Good customer support

Cons

  • Your book will only be available on Amazon
  • You can’t publish hardcover or audiobook

Barnes & Noble Press 

For many authors, the thought of appearing on bookshelves in a big box retailer like Barnes & Noble is appealing. Barnes & Noble launched their self-publishing arm, Barnes & Noble Press, in 2018, giving Amazon a bit of big-name competition. The perk is that your book will be available in their online store, bn.com, but won’t necessarily be on their brick-and-mortar bookshelves, despite what many self-published authors are led to believe. 

Formats: Paperback and Ebook

Price: Free to upload

Royalty: 55% for paperback; up to 70% for ebooks

self-publishing platforms

Pros: 

  • They don’t require exclusivity so you can still publish elsewhere 
  • Free and easy uploading
  • Printing costs are inexpensive
  • Good print quality
  • Access to all shoppers on bn.com and Nook ereaders 

Cons: 

  • Your book probably won’t be on the shelves at Barnes & Noble
  • Your book will only be available via Barnes & Noble’s online store, not on Amazon or elsewhere
  • Little to no customer support 

IngramSpark Publishing

It might not have the name recognition of Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but in the book industry Ingram is a big player. In fact, Ingram is home to the largest catalogue of wholesale books, and it is where most retailers order their stock from. So, it made sense when Ingram Book Company decided to join the self-publishing trend as an aggregator, with IngramSpark Publishing. 

But there’s a secret. 

IngramSpark promises global book distribution to their self-published authors, which, in addition to being automatically published on Amazon and all the other major online retailers, is written in a way that sounds like your book(s) will be available in brick-and-mortar retail stores, libraries, schools, and independent bookstores. 

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but what this actually means is that your book will be made available to those organizations by being listed in Ingram’s popular distribution catalogue. 

Here’s how it actually works: the owners of independent bookshops use this catalogue to order virtually all the titles for their shelves at a discounted rate. It’s important for them to order books their customers will be looking for, which are generally books with wide appeal, huge media coverage, celebrity backing or otherwise well known. Very rarely will a bookshop, library, school or major retailer opt to order an unknown book from a self-published author, unless it’s by request. 

Once you understand that reality, IngramSpark is a fine platform to use, and they’re one of only a few that allow you to print a hardcover edition. 

Formats: Paperback, Hardcover and Ebook

Price: $49 per print title, plus $25 per revision

Royalty: 45-65% 

Pros: 

  • Printing costs are inexpensive
  • Good print quality
  • Hardover options available in a variety of styles
  • Your book will be listed in the catalogue all major retailers use
  • They offer bulk discounts 

Cons: 

  • The platform isn’t very user friendly
  • Setting up royalties is confusing 
  • There is a fee to upload your files 
  • Your book won’t actually be in bookstores or major retailers
  • No phone support

 

Lulu Self-Publishing 

A popular player in the self-publishing industry, Lulu has been around for over a decade and has built up a decent reputation. Their services have also grown from a retail and distribution site, to now offering full author services such as cover design, layout, etc. Lulu is perhaps best known for it’s high print quality and the flexibility it offers authors, with things like bulk orders, hardcover options and great photobook options. Their global distribution expands to over 150 countries, and they will distribute your book on their own site as well as on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Ingram catalogue (which is not as enticing as it sounds; see note under IngramSpark).  

Perhaps the biggest thing to consider when it comes to Lulu self-publishing is your author royalties. While the numbers are in your favor if you sell your book directly on Lulu (you can make up to 50% royalties), the reality is that most readers don’t go to Lulu to shop for books. And if they find your book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble instead, you’ll lose more money per sale than you would if you just published directly on those two sites.  

Lulu can be great if you have a large email newsletter list or social media following that you can direct to Lulu’s site. If not, you might want to reconsider.  

Formats: Paperback, Hardcover and Ebook

Price: Free to upload

Royalty: 35-50% for all formats

Pros: 

  • Good print quality
  • Your book will be available on Lulu, Amazon, IngramSpark and Barnes & Noble
  • It connects with your shopify store for direct sales on your website
  • Higher author royalties for books sold on Lulu (50%)
  • Bulk ordering discounts 

Cons: 

  • Printing costs are slightly higher than KDP and IngramSpark
  • Low traffic
  • High distribution fees (it will cost more to sell your book on Amazon via Lulu, for example)
  • Uploading requires specific formatting
  • Little to no customer support

Apple Books Publishing 

There’s some debate about who’s number two in ebook sales between Barnes and Noble and Apple, but many argue Apple’s iBooks is climbing the chart more quickly. With large amounts of ereaders searching the platform for their next good book, it would be a shame not to list your ebook on Apple. The question is if you want to upload it directly to Apple, or use a distributor. 

If you’re already a Mac user, it might not make much difference to you. If you’re not, you’re pretty out of luck since they do require you to use a Mac computer to upload your files. Since you can only publish your ebook version here, there’s very little reason to bother with their difficult uploading system….unless of course, you’re publishing only an ebook and you only want it to be for sale exclusively on Apple. 

Formats: Ebook

Price: Free to upload 

Royalty: 70% 

Pros: 

  • They’re the second largest ebook retailer 
  • They offer several file options to upload
  • You can give books away for free

Cons: 

  • It’s only for ebooks
  • You need an iTunes account
  • You need a Mac computer to upload 
  • Not all books will be accepted 
self-publishing platforms

Audiobook Self-Publishing Companies

So, you might be asking, where do you publish the audiobook we encouraged you to create? The bad news is there’s no one-stop-shop if you plan to offer an audiobook, but the good news is there are a couple well-known platforms that make it super easy to upload and connect your audiobook to your other retailers.  


Amazon ACX

It’s a shame most platforms don’t allow you to publish your audiobook alongside your print and ebook versions, but Amazon does have a different platform called ACX where you can upload your audio files relatively easily by using the same account information you use for KDP and your personal Amazon.com profile. It’s worth mentioning again that Amazon has the largest market share for all books, and with their acquisition of Audible, the top audiobook app, your book will automatically be listed on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. 

 Formats: Audiobook

Price: Free to upload

Royalty: 25-40% 

Pros: 

  • 40% royalty if you list it exclusively on Amazon, Audible and iTunes
  • Easy to use platform
  • You can link your audiobook to your other formats on Amazon 
  • Amazon shoppers can listen to sample

Cons: 

  • ACX is very strict on what should and shouldn’t be recorded
  • Long review time (up to 30 days)
  • If you choose non-exclusive distribution, you’ll only retain 25% profits
  • Exclusive distribution require a 7-year contract 

Findaway Voices

Findaway Voices has been quite competitive in the audiobook industry for a while now, and the biggest perk of publishing your audiobook with them is they don’t require exclusivity. They’re connected with over 40 major retailers, including ACX, Audible, Google, and Ebsco, which is where libraries order their audiobooks for distribution. One thing to keep in mind is that Findaway Voices promises an 80% royalty no matter where your book is sold….but this is calculated after the distributor fee is taken out of the equation. In short, if you list your book for $10, it will cost $5 to distribute it to ACX, and you’ll make 80% of the $5 leftover, which is $4, or the same 40% you would earn if you published exclusively on ACX. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that unless you’re going to market in other countries, having your book available in those countries won’t necessarily be an advantage. The same is true for libraries. 

Formats: Audiobook

Price: Free to upload

Royalty: 80%

Pros: 

  • No contract commitment
  • They distribute to 40+ retailers, including ACX
  • You’ll have access to libraries

Cons

  • The distribution fees can be high
self-publishing platforms

This list is far from exclusive, but choosing between these popular publishing companies will give you the widest distribution and highest earning potential possible. We use a combination of Amazon KDP and IngramSpark for our self-publishing clients. To learn our specific formula and how we arrived at it (after a decade of experience), check out our self-publishing online course, where we explain why we’ve chosen the platforms we use for our authors every day, and walk you through every step of the process with video and written tutorials. 

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