Why should you know the best self-publishing companies available? Picture this:
You’re done. No more long nights and sleepless days. No more worrying about potentially gaping plot holes. All that’s left is to publish (and a victory beverage, of course).
Easy enough, right?
Wrong. Publishing–especially self-publishing–can be a very daunting task. There is a lot to consider and one false step can lead to a very poor introduction for your book into the world.
Don’t fret though. There are some great self publishing companies out there to give your book the fighting chance it deserves. But in order to ask “What are the best self publishing companies?”, you must first understand which type is best for you and some key differences between aggregators and marketplaces.
In this article, you will learn what are the best self-publishing companies for writers:
Let’s go ahead and learn the difference between the two types: retailers and aggregators.
Book Retailers vs Book Aggregators
Before we get into the list of best self-publishing companies, it's important to understand that there are two types of companies: Retailers and Aggregators.
Book retailers are markets that directly sell books. Through these, as an author, you can upload your book and directly sell on their market. Book retailers consist of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and more.
However, there is another self publishing company called ‘aggregators.' With these, you can submit your book, and they will send it out to all the other 40+ book retailers saving you time and energy. Some of the most popular book aggregators are Draft2Digital, Smashwords, PublishDrive and more.
So, Should You Choose a Retailer or an Aggregator?
Well, all of this depends on how you want to market your book. Just remember… with retailers, you get a bigger slice of the pie. But in theory, aggregators can help you put your work in front of a wider audience.
As you can see, Amazon rules to the roost with over 85% of book market share. However, that other 15% is pretty important. So, how do I self publish my books? Which market or aggregators do I use? Well, scroll down to the bottom to find out. But in the meantime, let's look at the top self publishing companies and see what type of aggregators or retailers are out there.
Best Self Publishing Book Companies of 2019
Owned by Amazon, KDP is the top dog when it comes to the best self-publishing companies. The amount of sales done through Amazon dwarfs the competition. All of it. This comes from their widespread reach to customers and lucrative royalty offers. KDP pays out 35% or 70% of the book’s price, depending on the option you choose.
KDP offers a very unique program with KDP Select as well. This is where you give Amazon 90 days of exclusive rights–meaning you can’t list it anywhere else for that time–in return for discount promotions and countdown deals. Also, if using KDP Select, your book becomes part of the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. Here you will get paid by the amount of pages your subscribers read. And here’s the best part: If you find success through KDP Select, you can re-enroll your book as many times as you want.
When publishing on Amazon, you must make sure that your eBook is formatted into an Amazon approved file format. This is a MOBI or AZW (or AZW3) format. Many eBooks are written in EPUB, so make sure that you use a program such as Calibre to properly convert your formats.
If you’re looking to put your book in front of the most powerful market out there, KDP is right for you. Now granted, the competition on Amazon can be rather fierce. That’s why it pays off to have a great marketing and release plan. This includes properly choosing your keywords and categories and establishing the best AMS ads you can. Luckily through the help of tools such as Publisher Rocket, you can effectively self-publish and launch your book!
Extra Resources for Kindle Direct Publishing
- KDP Tools and Resources
- Digital Pricing and Royalty Rates
- Is KDP Select right for you?
- Pros and Cons of KDP Exclusivity
Apple Books is Apple’s answer to Amazon KDP. Although it does not nearly have the retail power of KDP, it does have one major advantage.
Direct access to Mac users.
This is actually a lot bigger than you would expect. Mac users tend to focus more on brand loyalty. Mac users are more likely to have iPhones and vice versa. Apple tends to create a full user experience through their products and Apple Books is no exception. As a matter of fact, many Mac users start their eBook experience on Apple Books and are happy enough to not need to find anything else.
You must also be a Mac user in order to directly publish on Apple Books. If you are not, then you must go through a book aggregator to make your manuscript available on Apple Books. But if doing so, make sure that your book is formatted properly. This shouldn’t be too difficult however. Apple Books recognizes and accepts both EPUB and PDF formats.
When it comes to royalties, Apple offers a flat 70% rate.
Extra Resources for Apple Books
While it’s true that only a very small percentage of books sold in the US come from Kobo, it can still be an awesome platform to utilize. Why’s that?
It’s estimated that Kobo accounts for 25% of all Canadian eBook sales. That’s a sizeable number to compete with Amazon’s KDP. Based out of Toronto, this Canadian company has gone global as well. It is readily available in regions all over the globe.
If you’re interested in a global outreach, Kobo may be the best self-publishing company for you to choose from. It pays out a maximum royalty rate of 70% on all books listed for more than $2.99.
Extra Resources for Kobo
- How to publish a book on Kobo
- Selling more books on Kobo with Joanna Penn and Mark Lefebvre
- How to Set the Price on your Kobo
- Kobo Tips and Tricks
Previously known as NOOK, Barnes and Noble Press is the self-publishing platform of the aforementioned book retailers. This is another exclusive eBook retailer. All books published here are only sold via Barnes and Noble’s online and physical bookstore locations.
Barnes and Noble Press comes with the added benefit of Print-on-Demand services. This means you no longer need to have that stack of unclaimed paperbacks taking up a corner of your living room.
The royalty payout rates for Barnes and Noble Press are definitely competitive as all books priced over $2.99 receiving a 65% royalty.
Extra Resources for Barnes and Noble Press (NOOK)
- Barnes and Noble Press Royalty Rates and Calculator
- Self-Publishing Services for Barnes and Noble Press
- Barnes and Noble Print on Demand Services
- Getting your Self-Published eBook Sold in Barnes and Noble as a Physical Copy
Smashwords is one of the top eBook aggregators. It supplies books to almost all of the major book retailers and world’s largest distributors of self-published eBooks. So, if you are trying to market to the widest amount of markets, this may be just for you.
However, the biggest drawback that Smashwords has is that it DOES NOT distribute books to Amazon. This means that the Kindle universe is off limits through Smashwords. Also, Smashwords does not help with eBook formatting. This, however, is only a minor issue. Since Amazon is the only major retailer with exclusive formatting guidelines, it makes sense that Smashwords moves in other directions.
Smashwords only takes a 15% cut of what is sold through their personal retail channel. But if they sell your book through another retail channel, Smashwords takes 10% on top of the retailer’s original fees.
Extra Resources for Smashwords
The debate that often arises is Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital. Smashwords is the original eBook distributor and aggregator for Indie authors. And Draft2Digital is ready to dethrone the king.
D2D and Smashwords are very similar in nature…but with one major difference: D2D distributes directly to Amazon. This is pretty monumental and an absolute game-changer for those authors who must be on Amazon’s KDP platform.
Another advantage to D2D is that they provide formatting services free of charge. This in itself is not necessary but is a very welcome quality of life change. As far as commissions go, D2D takes a 15% piece no matter where your book is sold.
Extra Resources for Draft2DigitalAggregator Schmeggregator...which is best and why authors might need them for your books.Click To Tweet
If there ever was a fully complete one stop shop for self publishing, BookBaby would be the one.
BookBaby goes above and beyond when it comes to your journey of self-publishing. Their goal is to make everything as simple as possible for you. From formatting, to publishing, to distribution, to social media promotion, and more!
BookBaby distributes to both the eBook and print markets. Their partners include all the major retailers including Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.
On top of all this, BookBaby also offers print on demand services and cover design services as well.
You can figure out pricing using their user-friendly calculator to ensure that you stay within your budget. They also offer complete package deals (and I mean COMPLETE) for eBooks starting at just $1699.
Extra Resources for BookBaby
PublishDrive is a relative newcomer to the self-publishing world and is already one of the best self-publishing companies available. Established in 2015, Kinga Jentetics wanted to find a way to reliably publish her master’s thesis. She and her team now operate in over 75 countries in 75 different languages.
Publish Drive works with all major online retailers including Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.
Perhaps, the most unique feature about Publish Drive is their pricing options. Whereas most companies offer royalty options, Publish Drive also offers another option: Subscription pricing. With their subscription, you get to retain 100% of your royalties. You simply pay $100 per month to maintain this. This is an excellent option for well-established authors.
They do keep a standard royalties system in place for those who want to use it. They collect a 10% rate on sales.
Extra Resources for PublishDrive
With over 15 years of Self-Publishing and Print on Demand experience, I cannot in good faith construct this list without IngramSpark. Their Ingram Content Group is the largest distribution network in Self-Publishing right now with over 39000 separate marketplaces in 195 different countries. If you're looking to extend the long arm when it comes to your self-published titles, IngramSpark may be the company for you.
For those of you considering offering Print on Demand…IngramSpark should definitely be an option. They deliver one of largest selections of print formatting available and with a quality that is second to none. Looking for clear, crisp text? Or more vibrant colors for your illustrations? IngramSpark is the Print on Demand service you need.
One thing to note is that IngramSpark is not the cheapest Print on Demand service available. And they don't claim to be. But their quality is worth the price.
For your ebooks, you can have one of two rates for royalties. You receive a 40% royalty when utilizing the full strength of IngramSpark. However, if you choose to opt out of Amazon, you will receive a 45% royalty of the list price.
Extra Resources for IngramSpark
Which of These Self-Publishing Companies Should You Use?
If I had to define one clear-cut winner, I simply couldn't. Each have strengths distinctly unique to them. And nobody said that you couldn’t use more than one.
Let’s say I wanted to release a book in the US market. KDP and Amazon would absolutely be on my list. It is the largest retail market for books on Earth. If I were to forgo the option of enrolling in KDP Select, then I could also take advantage of Draft2Digital or Smashwords.
Let’s say my major market is in Canada or South Africa… Is Amazon going to be the most beneficial for me? At this time, I would probably focus more efforts into Kobo. Once again, I could couple this with a book aggregator to maximize my reach.
What if you just wrote a book and know nothing about self-publishing? What if you would rather just have the joys of self-publishing with some of the benefits of traditional publishing? Then perhaps BookBaby’s complete package deal is right for you.Self-publishing doesn't mean you have to do it all alone...but you do need the services that are right for YOU. Click To Tweet
What Do I Personally Do?
Here are my sales in the different markets at the time of writing this article:
As you can see, I've made the most of my sales through Amazon, but I've had a significant amount of sales thanks to aggregators as well. Although the information above is lifetime values, here is my current layout of the self publishing companies I use for my books:
I personally upload to the following retailers:
- Kindle Direct Publishing
- Barnes & Noble
Then for the rest of the retailers (there's over 40 others) I use the following aggregator:
Why D2D? Well, I spell that out here. However, I've been in contact with PublishDrive and I'm REALLY impressed with what I've heard. Pretty soon, I'll be writing an article about them and if they deliver on half the stuff I've heard, then I might just become a PublishDrive fan. We'll see, so stay tuned.
Choosing one of the best self publishing companies is not about selecting the company with the biggest reach for the most niche sales. It is about finding out what is best for your book and your situation.