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Blog > Understanding Publishing – Posted on April 22, 2019

The 12 BEST Self-Publishing Companies of 2019

Deciding to self-publish your book is both exciting and nerve-wracking — on one end, you’re the master of everything. Yet there are so many choices that you, the publisher, need to make that it can be overwhelming.

One such crossroads is the pivotal decision you’ll need to make when you decide which is the best self-publishing company for you. There are a lot of them out there advertising their services to self-published authors. And it’s tough to wade through them, especially when some are reputable and some are, well, not so much!

That’s where this post comes into the picture. We’ll guide you through the 12 best self-publishing companies in the industry and give you tips on which one to choose, so that you emerge at the end of the tunnel with a beautiful book ready to be read by the world.

What are your options when it comes to the best self-publishing company?

Self-publishing companies aren’t publishers. On the contrary, they’re the services that enable you to get your book out of a folder in your computer and distribute it to the world for people to read. Of course, it gets a bit more complex than that, since there are several types of companies that can realize this for you. Pretty much all of them fall into three basic categories:

  • Book retailers, such as Amazon and B&N Press, are the online bookstores in which your book will be discoverable and sold. Each big book retailer generally provides a branded eBook publishing platform for you to individually upload your book.
  • Aggregators, such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords, allow you to distribute to a bunch of book retailers all at once. This will probably save you time and energy, though you’ll need to pay an extra fee for their services.
  • Print-on-demand distributors are full-suite self-publishing companies that include print-on-demand services on top of distribution options. Naturally, they’re particularly useful if you’re planning to distribute a printed book!

As we mentioned, you really are your own publisher throughout this whole process. That means that you get to retain all creative control over your books, and you get to make all of the business decisions. Generally, you’ll get to keep most of the profits (most book retailers and aggregators won’t charge you until a copy of your book actually sells, and then they’ll take a cut of the royalties.) But what’s best for your book will depend on your personal situation, and we’ll get to that in the rest of this post.

Last thing before we plunge ahead: be aware that there are illegitimate self-publishing companies out there! Here’s an in-depth primer on all of the scams and publishing companies that you should avoid. With that said, we’ll now turn to the best self-publishing companies for you to choose from.

What are the best self-publishing companies of 2019?

Let's start with the four most prominent book retailers first. Book retailers are the stores on which you’ll actually sell your book to the public — which means that they’re pretty important as far as your self-publishing ambitions are concerned! Like we mentioned before, each retailer offers its own eBook publishing platform for authors to upload their books. Where they differ is in the cut that they take of your royalties, and their exclusivity programs.

1. Amazon KDP

💰 Pricing: Free to upload
💸 Royalties: 70% if the eBook price is between $2.99 and $9.99 OR 35% if priced is below $2.99 — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? Both

The titan of online bookstores, Amazon is the first retailer on which most authors think to sell their titles. And it’s for good reason: it’s the world’s biggest seller of digital eBooks and around 74% of all eBooks bought in the U.S. in 2015 were bought from Amazon.com.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s self-publishing platform (not to be confused with "Amazon Publishing" — their division that operates like a traditional publisher). KDP recently grew even bigger after its merge with CreateSpace. Any author can self-publish a book using KDP, though you’ll need to do it manually yourself.

Note that Amazon KDP is not the same as Amazon KDP Select. KDP Select is Amazon’s exclusivity program — meaning that, if you choose to enroll in it, you can only sell your book on Amazon. In exchange for this, Amazon will give you:

  • Access to Kindle Countdown Deals and free promotions. You can discount your book — and even set it to free on the Kindle store — for a certain period of days every 90 days. Learn more about the power of discounting (and the smart way to go about it) in this Reedsy Live.
  • Enrollment in Kindle Unlimited. KU is Amazon’s subscription service for readers, which allows members to read as much as they want. It’s very popular and a good portion of Amazon customers only read titles from KU these days.

If you’ve researched these perks and decided that KDP Select is the route for you, then there’s no need for you to read the rest of this post, as you’ve essentially agreed not to use any other self-publishing company 🙂 Instead, you can familiarize yourself with the KDP Select program with these resources:

2. Apple Books

💰 Pricing: Free to upload
💸 Royalties: 70% on most books
📖 Print or eBook? Both

Another big name that everyone should know, Apple founded its self-publishing arm in 2010. In 2012, Apple announced that 400 million books were downloaded on Apple Books (though it’s important to note that the number of downloads differs from the number of books sold, as The Digital Reader clarifies in this post). Though Amazon far eclipsed it as the foremost eBook reading platform since then, Apple Books still gets a fair amount of eyes.

While figuring out ways to monetize a book on Apple Books might be a challenge, it’s much easier to actually publish one. Apple Books provides a platform called iBooks Author for self-publishing authors to create their books. It’s relatively easy-to-use and uploading is free!

3. Barnes & Noble Press

💰 Pricing: Free
💸 Royalties: 65% on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 OR 40% for books priced below $2.99 — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? Both

As you might expect, Barnes & Noble Press (formerly known as NOOK Press) is Barnes and Noble’s self-publishing platform. Barnes & Noble Press has pretty infamously struggled for market share against Amazon. However, as for as interfaces are concerned, it’s easy to publish on B&N Press — and, similar to the other big retailers, it’s free to upload your book. Exclusivity is not required to publish with B&N Press.

It’s important to note that you can set your book for free on B&N Press. What’s more, Barnes & Noble is still working on innovating and adding new features for self-published writers. Just this January, B&N Press introduced an ad portal, making it easy for new authors to create marketing campaigns on the Barnes & Noble website for their books. Check out this page for more information on self-publishing on B&N press.

4. Rakuten Kobo

💰 Pricing: Free to upload
💸 Royalties: 70% on books priced more than $2.99 in the U.S. OR 45% for books priced below $2.99 — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? Print

Rakuten Kobo is the last big retailer that you should know. It’s a Canadian company (that’s a subsidiary of the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten) — as such, it’s got a strong reach in the international eBook market. However, it’s only the #5 store in terms of market share in the U.S., though it’s growing year by year.

Kobo Writing Life is Kobo's free-to-use self-publishing arm — and it's fairly simple to use! Kobo’s international focus is also a sweet bonus if you’re aiming to sell your eBook in countries outside of the U.S. Don’t forget that distributing to Kobo through Kobo Writing Life (rather than an aggregator) gives you several perks, too, one of which is access to some exclusive promotion opportunities on Kobo.

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Speaking of aggregators...if you’re getting a migraine just thinking about uploading your book onto all of these different book retailers by yourself, that’s when aggregators come into the picture.

Aggregators are capable of aggregating all of these markets: pushing your book to each retailer and centralizing it all into one sales report. With a single upload to, for instance, Draft2Digital, your book would be on sale on Amazon, B&N Press, Apple Books, Kobo — and even more smaller retailers.

Then you’d be able to track your sales across all of these retailers through Draft2Digital’s interface, receiving one royalty check a month. In exchange for this service, an aggregator will take an additional cut of your royalties — which means that this route is for anyone who wants to quickly save on time and doesn’t mind paying extra.

5. Draft2Digital

💰 Pricing: 10% of the book’s retail price per copy sold
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, Kobo, Playster, Tolino, OverDrive, Scribd, Bibliotheca — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? eBook

If you decide to use an aggregator, Draft2Digital is the one that we recommend at Reedsy. Why’s that? Lots of factors, including excellent customer support, an easy-to-use dashboard, and a sleek website design. Not to mention the extra perks that D2D packs into the deal: they do the formatting for you, whether you’re using eBooks or print copies of your book. D2D also:

  • Gives authors Universal Book Links (UBL). As its name suggests, these UBLs easily make books discoverable by allowing authors to generate a link to each of their books, which goes straight to the customer’s preferred book retailer.
  • Touts an “automated back matter” tool. This nifty service automatically adds your newly published eBook to the “Also by this author” section for your other books on every store.

Add the fact that it distributes to all of the major eBook stores, and you’ve pretty much got the whole package in Draft2Digital.

6. Smashwords

💰 Pricing: 15% of the retail price on Smashwords and 10% on other platforms per copy sold
📇 Distributes to: Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Kobo, Blio, the Smashwords store — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? eBook

The original aggregator, Smashwords was the undisputed king in town until Draft2Digial entered the picture. However, Smashwords is still very popular today.

On a simple side-by-side comparison, Smashwords and Draft2Digital offer similar pricing structures and royalties. Where Smashwords falls short is in terms of its user experience and ease of use (you need to do the formatting yourself on Smashwords, which definitely isn’t a piece of cake). Smashwords also does not distribute books to Amazon. That said, outside of Amazon, it’s got a slightly more extensive distribution network than Draft2Digital, so whether or not you want to sell your book on some of these more obscure retailers is up to you. Our friend over on Kindlepreneur, Dave Chesson, wrote an in-depth take on the differences between Smashwords and Draft2Digital, which you can read here.

7. PublishDrive

💰 Pricing: 10% of the retail price per copy sold OR subscription pricing
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, OverDrive, Playster, Odilo, Bookmate — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? eBook

PublishDrive might be the new kid on the block, but it’s definitely made the most of its time. Founded in 2015, it works with over 4,500 publishers and can connect you to over 400 stores today. It’s got all the workings of the other aggregators: a modern interface and regular sales reports to keep you up-to-date on your profits. What sets PublishDrive apart from the pack are:

  • PublishDrive’s subscription pricing options. If you just agree to pay $100 per month, you can keep all of your royalties, which might be a good fit for established authors in the industry.
  • Its distribution options. Along with all of the major Western retailers, PublishDrive also specializes in international distribution, giving indie authors access to foreign markets that were previously out of reach.

8. StreetLib

💰 Pricing: 10% of the retail price per copy sold
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Google Play, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, OverDrive, Indigo, Baker & Taylor — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? eBook

Another international distributor, StreetLib gives you even more options if you’re aiming to reach an international audience. It’s got a strong presence in Latin America and Europe, to the extent that its dashboard can be configured in English, Italian, Spanish, Hindi — and more! One more case in point for its international strength: in January 2019, it even began offering its services for authors in Egypt.

As you can probably guess, StreetLib was founded in Europe, but it’s been making recent strides in the U.S. and the U.K. As of April 2019, it distributes books to all of the major Western stores. It’s worth checking out for any author who’s particularly thinking about selling in European territories or elsewhere abroad.

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9. XinXii

💰 Pricing: 30% of net sales for books priced more than $2.49 OR 60% for works between below $2.48
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Hugendubel, Angus & Robertson, Thalia, Buecher, Whitcoulls, Indigo, Kobo, Livraria Cultura, Kobo, Scribd — more info here
📖 Print or eBook? eBook

XinXii isn’t actually Chinese — it’s based in Berlin. (Surprise!) As such, it offers authors foreign distribution channels that might not be readily available elsewhere. Note that it’s particularly got a strong presence in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, distributing to a number of important retailers in those countries. However, its customer support could be found wanting, and its user interface is a bit on the clunky side: trade-offs that the author will need to make to conduct business with XinXii.

Lastly, print-on-demand distributors will tout themselves as one-stop shops for all of your self-publishing needs, whether that’s book cover design, book distribution, or book printing. Their costs for eBook distribution can be on the steep side (you can check out their pricing models below), but if you’re aiming to print, publish, and distribute a book, they can be incredibly useful.

10. IngramSpark

💰 Pricing: Learn more here
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Follett, EBSCO, Booktopia, Kobo, Zola Books, 24Symbols, Bookmate
📖 Print or eBook? Both

IngramSpark, owned by Ingram, is simply the biggest book wholesaler in the world. For a promo code, read our IngramSpark review.

11. BookBaby

💰 Pricing: Learn more here
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Google Play, Vearsa, Apple Books, Kobo, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Books-A-Million
📖 Print or eBook? Both

Boasting an easy-to-use interface and reliable customer service, BookBaby is an option for many first-time self-publishing authors. To learn more about BookBaby, go to this review.

12. Blurb

💰 Pricing: Learn more here
📇 Distributes to: Amazon, Apple Books, the Blurb bookstore
📖 Print or eBook? Print

Blurb is one of the most well-known and trusted print-on-demand services out there. We particularly recommend it for visual works — such as magazines and photo books. For an in-depth evaluation of its user friendliness and pictures of the quality of its printed books, go to this review.

How can you choose the best self-publishing company for you?

So that brings us to the question: how do you choose which of these self-publishing companies is the best for your book?

Well, it depends on your needs. If you’re printing your self-published book (and selling printed copies), you might want to read this in-depth guide on print-on-demand services, which includes a recommended distribution setup for selling print books on online bookstores.

And if you’re only planning to publish an eBook, you’ll find everything that you need to know about eBook distribution in this complete guide, which includes a full analysis of Amazon exclusivity versus “going wide,” as well as a comparison of royalties by eBook publishing platforms and retailers and a recommended eBook distribution setup. 

Whatever option you choose, understand that it may take a bit of trial-and-error until you realize your perfect self-publishing system. There's no right or wrong way to go about it — which is all a part of the magic of self-publishing in the first place.


What's your experience with the best self-publishing companies? Share your thoughts in the comments below!