You want to become a published author. Maybe you’re on this journey because you have a story to share and you want to share it with someone who needs to hear it.
Maybe you want to publish your book for free without agents, contracts, or publishers. Or, maybe you even want to sell your book and create a sustainable passive income stream for you or your family.
As the co-founder of BookWorthy (a self-publishing course for aspiring authors), I’ve talked to hundreds of people like you.
And I know the story all too well . . .
You feel inspired. You’re ready to become a published author. But you’re overwhelmed with all the technicalities self-publishing. Particularly, which self-publishing platform you should use.
That’s why I wrote this article. I wanted to provide a birds-eye-view of the seven best self-publishing platforms available—and what you should know about them.
Note: All self-publishing platforms I mention below are true self-publishing platforms. They’re not vanity publishing companies. Read more about one of our student’s experiences with vanity publishing in 3 Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Self-Published Author.
Below, I’ve given an expert review of each self-publishing platform that’s worth your consideration.
I’ve also rated each platform on a scale of 1–5 on three key factors to consider:
KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is a self-publishing platform that allows anyone to publish and distribute both ebooks and paperback books for free. Once you publish, your books are immediately available on Amazon.com and are eligible for distribution in global bookstores.
KDP is (hands-down) the cheapest self-publishing platform because they don’t require you to print any physical books before publishing. They use print-on-demand (PoD) technology so that you only have to pay to print once someone’s already purchased. They do allow you to purchase a handful of author copies at print cost.
While Apple Books is best known as an iOS reading app, it’s also a self-publishing platform. Millions of readers that use their app every day—and no doubt some of those readers are looking for a book like yours. But here’s the catch: unlike most of the self-publishing platforms on this list, you can only publish ebooks on Apple Books. If you only want to self-publish an ebook, then you’re in luck!
My recommendation is that if you’re interested in exploring Apple Books, first self-publish your book on KDP. Then use Apple Books as an additional distribution channel to get your ebook into more readers’ hands. Get started with Apple Books here.
Barnes & Noble Press is Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform. The platform used to be called Nook Press, but they recently rebranded to distinguish between the Nook reading device and their self-publishing platform.
Like IngramSpark, Barnes & Noble Press will help you reach millions of readers as they own the largest retail bookseller in the United States, with over 650 bookstores throughout the country, plus 700 college bookstores. The downside is that if you self-publish through Barnes & Noble Press, your book is only available on BN.com and Nook. If your book becomes a bestseller on these platforms, you might get invited to pitch your book to B&N store buyers.
Blurb is a self-publishing platform for every step along the journey. They’ll help you format both print and ebooks, produce it how you want to with layout tools and templates, and distribute through KDP, Ingram, Apple Books, Kickstarter (or even their own bookstore).
Blurb is different than KDP and Apple Books because they’re focused on book production while KDP and Apple Books focused on sales and distribution. The downside is that Blurb (as well as a few others on this list) want you to print books with them instead of utilizing print-on-demand technology. This is why I rated Blurb’s pricing at a two.
IngramSpark helps self-published authors create and manage print-on-demand and digital content all within their dashboard. Plus they offer open access to Ingram’s global distribution network, Ingram Content Group. They distribute to more than 39,000+ retailers, libraries, schools, and distribution partners in 195 countries.
For self-published authors who are primarly looking for surefire distribution outlets, IngramSpark provides a competitive edge. What makes IngramSpark than other platforms like Blurb and Lulu is that they’re not looking to help you distribute your book on Amazon. They’ll help you sell and distribute on their own distribution channels.
Like Blurb, Lulu is a one-stop self-publishing shop. They’ll help you create your book from scratch—and you can find editors, printers, and even illustrators to help you fine-tune a finished book. You’ll find that Lulu is very similar to Blurb. But on the flipside, Lulu is different than IngramSpark, Lulu utilizes their own limited-distribution channels while leveraging Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram.
Smashwords is the ultimate ebook distribution platform. Smashwords distributes your ebook across tons of channels like Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Walmart, OverDrive (over 20,000+ public libraries), Gardners (reach hundreds of small ebook stores and 2,000+ public and academic libraries), and more. Your book will also be available on their own Smashwords Store where millions of people come to buy and read ebooks.
Choosing the right self-publishing platform can be a difficult decision when there are so many factors to consider. What I’ve found is that the platform you choose depends on your vision for your book.
Below, I’ve listed a few questions to consider. My hope is that these questions will help you chose if which self-publishing platform you use.
Publishing is only one part of the self-publishing journey. In fact, most self-published authors we work with don’t have much trouble publishing at all. They often get stuck long before they even consider which self-publishing platform they’re going to use.
Your answer to this question will make a big difference on which platform you should use.
Take a close look at each of the stages of self-publishing your book and identify which stage you’ll need the most help with. The answer to this question might lead you right into which self-publishing platform is the right choice.
There’s no doubt that more people are buying ebooks than ever before. We’re becoming a digital culture. And it’s hard to beat the convenience of having all your favorite books in your pocket.
But print books aren’t dead yet. PewResearch published a survey in January 2018 that proved print books are still more popular than ebooks. Their study showed that almost three-quarters (74%) of Americans have read a book in the past year. And 67% of those readers consume books in print form. Furthermore, roughly 40% of Americans won’t even touch an ebook but prefer reading print.
You can read my article on Ebook vs. Print for the full picture on this topic. But, the important thing is how you answer this question will help you know which self-publishing platform is right for you.
While “going to press” sounds like every author’s dream, there’s also a lot of risk in buying hundreds of copies of your book in bulk. Like, what if nobody buys your book?
That’s why we recommend our students use Amazon KDP to self-publish their book. KDP uses print-on-demand technology so that you don’t have to worry about buying copies of your book before anyone buys. With this route, you don’t incur any risk. If this sounds nice to you, I’d recommend using Amazon KDP or IngramSpark.
If your heart is set on “going to press” and ordering copies of your book, you might want to consider using a platform like Blurb or Lulu. But it’s worth weighing the cost of printing through one of those platforms or ordering a few author copies through Amazon KDP.
If you’re ready to become a self-published author but you’re overwhelmed with all the details of choosing a self-publishing platform, consider registering for BookWorthy.
Our team has been here before. We’ve spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars making mistakes you don’t have to make. Let us give you a plan. We’ll show you every step of the way so you never feel lost, confused, and alone.
A year from now, you will wish you would’ve started today. There’s power in your story. Let us help you share it. Register for BookWorthy today.
Simon Villeneuve is the Co-Founder of BookWorthy.com. He's also a marketing consultant who helps organizations tell a better story that inspires their customers to action.MORE ARTICLES